Travelling tittle-tattle, tall tales and shameless name-dropping by Jon ‘Don’t Call Me’ Norman

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Thursday, 25 November 2010

Welcome to the Gabbatoir

I walked away from my 23rd consecutive day of Ashes cricket in Australia with the thought that very little changes. Another day in the sun another day under the cosh. Considering how the day had panned out though I was in surprisingly chipper mood as I walked the 45-minute journey back to my hostel with laptop, camera, recording equipment and broken sunglasses weighing me down. No wonder I end up losing weight on these trips. By the time I’m posing for my wedding snaps I’ll have shed at least a stone.

No matter how you look at it - it had been an exceptional day of cricket. England won the toss to spark wild scenes of abandon in the press box by the Aussie journalists. After Nasser Hussain’s Brisbane moment in 2002 & Ricky Ponting’s Edgbaston nightmare in 2005 they knew full well that whichever captain called correctly would have no choice but to bat first. And with the overcast conditions this could backfire.

The hoots of derision re-appeared minutes later when once again England’s unremarkable start to Ashes campaigns began with Strauss departing third ball to stun us all. It was a moment that saw us playing catch up for the first two sessions. Although I think we did so admirably. There’s a lot of mental toughness within this set up. And we’re going to need it if we’re going to win a Test let alone the series. But a stunning piece of bowling in the final session a’la Broad at The Oval last year swung the contest decidedly Australia’s way.

Up until Siddle’s divine intervention the game was still in the balance and England in as good a position as I fear they will be in again in this match. After lunch I’d joined my mate Nathan in the stands and with the sun burning down on the Gabbatoir it looked as though we’d survived what is usually a testing first session and could almost dream about a decent total around the 350-mark. I then made the mistake of saying that KP looked in ominous form shortly before he airily drove at a full ball from Peter Siddle.

The following over and Collingwood also departed and my mood flattened. For the first time I seriously contemplated having to trawl round Australia watching another England whitewash. It was deflating stuff.

Chewing my knuckles back to the bone I fidgeted in my seat under both sun & rain as beach balls bounced about us from all angles. I’d forgotten how the Aussies amused themselves when the action was slow pitch side. And as tea approached England seemed to gain some control as Cook and Bell appeared comfortable. However it was the birthday boy who’d have the final say.

I have to say that as Siddle walked back to his mark and Matt Prior back to his dressing room part of me wanted to see him take a hat-trick. The crowd had generated an atmosphere that had even managed to perforate the enclosed, air-conditioned press room. 35,000 fans were on their feet, clapping, shouting and demanding a third wicket. There wasn’t a beachball in sight as Siddle turned on his marker and began running in.

Afterwards he admitted he was aiming for the top of off he ended up hitting Stuart Broad flush on the toe and the subsequent referral only gave the Ausssies a second chance to celebrate a breathtaking piece of bowling.

And a bumper day of action meant I had much to muse on as I strode home amongst some serious pissed people. It seems hat-tricks have a positive effect on you it seems even when they’re against you. And as I finally made it back to my hostel with aching back I expected to find Nathan in similar spirits.

When I’d left him he was waxing lyrical about Ian Bell and how only a lack of partners would prevent him getting a century. He was nearly right on that one. But the Nathan I now found was crestfallen and dare I say it, ready to chuck the towel in? On his long walk home he’d already decided not to bother with the £300 fare to Perth. He’s only been in the country two days and is already thinking of going home. That’s the effect watching England play cricket in Australia can have on you.

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