NASSER ON THE ADELAIDE OVAL, PARKING FINES AND ASHES MEMORIES
Those entasked with updating the glorious Adelaide Oval faced an onerous assignment. Set amid parklands and gardens of fig trees, with its wonderful view of St Peter’s Cathedral and its exquisite, manually operated scoreboard, it was one of the most beautiful grounds in the world. The fact that it is still one of the most picturesque proves that the architects were successful.
England have fared better there, with its true surface, than at other venues in Australia. They celebrated memorable wins since the Second World War in 1955, 1979, 1995 (that match is credited as the birthplace of the Barmy Army) and 2010.
This winter’s Test at Adelaide, the second in the series, from December 2-6, will be extra special – it will be a day-night clash with pink balls. The epic sunsets famous at the ground promise to be even more spectacular.
“Memories of Tests there in my era were certainly mixed,” admits Nasser Hussain, who was a player in 1998/99, and led England in 2002/03. “It was usually hot, we usually lost the toss, Australia usually got loads of runs!
“Justin Langer got 179 not out in 1998/99. I remember ‘Bumble’ (coach David Lloyd) having us at the ground two hours before the start in 50 degree heat and we were doing an hour’s warm-up, and half an hour before the first ball the Aussies turned up in shorts and T-shirts, looking at us thinking, ‘mad Englishmen, what are they doing?’ We then spent about two days in the field!”
Hussain believes that the Adelaide Oval is a great place to play: “Especially as a batsman for a start – it was a magnificent place to bat. It was short square of the wicket (third man could have been a bit shorter for me, I’d have enjoyed that) and there were good facilities if you were on tour. You’d have all the nets out the back of the ground, magnificent dressing rooms. It was a magnificent ground, too – old-fashioned, picturesque, and it was something that worried me when they said they were going to change it – but I have to say, the way they’ve changed it has been absolutely magnificent. You’d have thought they couldn’t make it any better but I would say they have made it better, actually: the old and the new (a bit like Lord’s) have been combined perfectly. They had that recent day/night Test there that looked magnificent, and the whole complex and facilities (the bridge leading into town) are superb.”
As a commentator, Hussain also recalls the 2006/07 Test. England somehow lost despite declaring their first innings on 551 for 6. “I was thinking, ‘that’s either going to be an England win or a draw on that flat pitch’, but then Shane Warne came along on that last day with his magical spell. England were mesmerised.”
Warne also claims – and I’d have liked to get some proof of this – that walking off after England got 551 for 6 he said to the team, ‘come on boys, we can win it from here’, and he was the only one who believed it. We’d like some Aussies to come up with some proof of that! One thing is for certain, you know Shane would believe that they could win, and that spell he bowled on the last day when he bowled KP round his legs – you remember the celebration – was magnificent. England were mesmerised: there were run-outs with Belly and everything, and then Mike Hussey just knocked them off easily.
"Again, the facilities there [as a commentator] are brilliant, apart from once involving Botham – I had a little snooze at the back of the box and took my shoes off as it was about 40 degrees, only for my shoes to go missing for 48 hours because Botham had hidden them in the freezer! I was shoeless for a day and a half."
"I love the place off the field. I played grade cricket there for six months (I think I got more parking fines than runs!) and played for Adelaide University. They had this system where you’re not allowed to park your car against the flow of traffic – and no one told me that – so I used to park, and every time I used to work out, ‘why am I getting these parking fines?’ Eventually someone explained, I got about eight parking tickets and they were all to do with parking in the wrong direction!"