Ah, Adelaide. Australia’s most beautiful town. City of the churches, home of Australia’s most picturesque test venue. And the scene of England’s most painful defeat in living memory.
The events of 2006, when we scored 551-6 declared in the first innings and still managed to lose by six wickets, sent a generation of England cricket fans into therapy. Post traumatic stress disorder is a horrible thing – and it’s the reason why so many England fans, four years later, remain neurotic wrecks.
England cricket teams have endured all kinds of humiliation over the years, but proving Glenn McGrath right in 2006 was surely the lowest ebb. Although the 5-0 reverse wasn’t confirmed until Sydney, it was the Adelaide test that seemed to make the whitewash inevitable.
I thought we’d win after the first innings. I really did. It’s not every day Paul Collingwood makes a double ton. It’s just a shame things didn’t go well in the field. If only the admirable Hoggy had got more support …
But when we began the fifth day on 59-1 (a lead of 97) a draw at least seemed guaranteed. Even Bangladesh would’ve escaped from that position against the great West Indies team of the 1980s.
Unfortunately however, we’re England. And we were playing the great Australian team of the noughties. I should have seen the writing on the wall.
The day didn’t start too badly. I was snug under the duvet with a cup of cocoa (or was it a large brandy?) smug in the knowledge that KP and Co would see us to safety. In fact, the possibility we’d lose never really crossed my mind.
However, Strauss got out, then Bell, then Pietersen – and I remember thinking that we hadn’t actually scored too many runs. I couldn’t remember the last boundary – and Australia soon pulled the plug on our trickle of singles. Surely a daring counter-attack would break the shackles? It never came. The bottom line – we batted like drips.
Of course, Shane Warne was the tormentor in chief. It didn’t seem to matter that all he could bowl was leg-breaks at that stage of his career. He was still far too canny for Strauss, KP, Giles, and Hoggard.
We’d played him pretty well in the first innings. KP got on top of him, and Collingwood had one of those rare days when his footwork was as nimble as his fielding. But as Warney got his tail up, the rotund leggie bounded to the wicket (or should that be ‘bounced’ to the wicket) with increasing menace and his nauseating grin widened. Oh crap.
I turned the telly off when Geraint Jones got out. We were six wickets down and only 132 runs ahead. Defeat now seemed a certainty – and back then England cricketers seemed to have the same pessimistic streak as their overanxious supporters.
When I woke up there was a split second when the mind had forgotten. Temporary bliss. But slowly reality dawned – and my hope it had all been a bad dream seemed, well, hopeless.
A quick glance at teletext confirmed my worst fears. Our tail had capitulated like a French infantry unit and the bloody Aussies had knocked off the runs to seal a famous victory – or in England’s case, a dismal, pathetic, soul destroying, traumatic, mentally scarring (I could go on) defeat.
Never let it happen again. Therapists are too bloody expensive.