Third Test, Day 4: Painful memories of Hollies Stand flood back on day of Rudilotto

By Peter Flynn
After play was delayed by one hour due to a damp outfield, Australia finally dismissed England for 376 and were a precarious 2-88 in reply at stumps on day four. With the prospect of fine weather on day five, England will fancy their chances of going up two up with two Tests to play. Australia will need to bat beyond tea to be safe. Another intriguing day’s play beckons.

For most cricket aficionados, the name Eric Hollies is associated with preventing Bradman from averaging a ton per innings in Test cricket. For this punter, the mere mention of the Hollies surname causes physical symptoms that include cold sweats, heart palpitations and an allergy to bananas. It also conjures up painful memories of English fervour and triumphalism. Why do I have this recurring affliction and why bananas? I watched the first Test of the ’97 series from The Eric Hollies Stand (cheap seats square of the wicket). Nascent Almanacker and old china of mine John Sandy is a Hollies Stand veteran and can attest to this Birmingham bug. When this parochial stand is full, it feels and sounds like a football stand. It helps make Edgbaston the Poms’ strongest home ground advantage. Well-lubricated lads chant the maddening En-ger-land En-ger-land incessantly. In 1997, a derogatory song about Warney sharing a bed with an increasing number of men and a flossy  was a crowd favourite. We saw on day two of this test match in ’97 what can happen when the Hollies Stand crowd gets involved.
With Dizzy’s dismissal during the first session of the opening Test match of the series, Australia had slumped to a barely believable 8-54. The top order was skittled comprehensively by Goughy, Malcolm Devon (thanks Ted Dexter) and “Singlets” Caddick. The partisan Hollies Stand was in a state of unbridled delirium. Elvis impersonators were dancing Burning Love style. Rick Parfitt lookalikes were streaming up and down the aisles triggering many a rendition of Rockin’ All Over the World (Birmingham has more Rick Parfitt doubles than any city in the world). After a wicket fell, Maria Sharapova could have been grunting next to me and I wouldn’t have heard her 100 decibel verbal offerings. The joint was pumping and it was intimidating for Aussie passport holders.
During the ninth-wicket stand of 56 between that fine foot soldier M.S. Kasprowicz and cynosure of twirl S.K. Warne, I remember standing up and yelling “shot Warney” after he played an upper cut over slips for a much coveted boundary. I was duly pelted with bananas from some of the Hollies Stand patrons. My worst enduring memory, however, is the thirty or so cover driven boundaries by “Pappadam Fingers” Hussain in his magnum opus of 207. Most of these drives reached the Hollies Stand boundary rope.
It was during the Saturday of this ’97 test that I witnessed the best worst Test hundred by an Australian. M.A. Taylor had come into this test with no form to speak of. In the last tour match before the first Test, against Derbyshire, Taylor was dropped at first slip by the Derbyshire captain D.M. (Double-hundred Madras) Jones when not many. I am convinced that Jones dropped him on purpose. Taylor went on to make a scratchy fifty. There was talk of Taylor getting the Tijuana brass as he walked out to bat facing a first innings deficit of 360 runs. He scratched, scraped, poked, prodded and willed his way to a hundred. It was a gutsy effort that probably saved his Test career.

Back to matters at hand. Play finally commenced at midday under overcast skies on a pitch that appeared to have greened up under the covers. Hilfenhaus and Siddle started with three maidens on the trot. Conditions were not easy for batting early on (rarely seen in Test cricket these days). The ball was still swinging. At 2-120, Siddle appeared to trap Bell lbw with an inswinger. Rudi gave him not out. A decision surprisingly supported by Hawkeye on height grounds. It looked out in real time. Rudi’s inability to make a correct umpiring adjudication is akin to former Adelaide race caller Ron Papps’ (aka “Wrong Perhaps”) inability to call a photo finish accurately. What used to be called Pappslotto in TABs around Australia, I am now calling Rudilotto when an appeal to this incompetent umpire is made.
Strauss waltzed to 69 before he played an injudicious cut to a lifting delivery from Hilfenhaus. He was cramped for room in playing the stroke and nicked it through to debutant custodian Manou. At 3-143 and in Johnson’s first over of the day, The Sherminator was lucky to survive yet another big shout for lbw. Replays showed he got a faint nick on it and Bell again benefited from Rudilotto. England went to lunch at 4-159. In what turned out to be the last ball of the session, Collingwood drove a Hilfenhaus outswinger to Ponting who took a comfortable catch at second slip.
In the immediate overs after lunch, England were tied down by a tight spell of outswing bowling from Hilfenhaus and a promising mix of late inswing and short-pitched bowling from Johnson. 4-168 became 5-168 when the previously tin-arsed Ian Bell finally lost a game of Rudilotto. Bell, 47 runs short from becoming the first Warwickshire batsman to post a hundred at Edgbaston, played across a full inswinging delivery from Johnson and was shown the slow rising finger. Bell had taken off his gear and was in the shower by the time Rudi’s finger reached its apex. The decision in the affirmative for Johnson arrived two days later than it should have.
A bearded Flintoff joined the industrious Prior and they regained the ascendancy with a counter-attacking sixth wicket partnership of 89 constructed in the blink of an eye. At 5-197, Siddle replaced Johnson and at 5-201 Watson replaced Hilfenhaus, who bowled a disciplined spell procuring 2-38 from 14 overs. These two bowling changes released the pressure valve and proved to be the pivotal moment of day four. Watson’s bowling vindicated the decision to play him as a specialist batsman. His spell of right arm ordinary went for 23 off three. His bowling should be consigned to Point Wilson (Geelong’s sewerage ends up there). Surely spin from one end and Johnson from the other end at Flintoff early in his innings was the obvious modus operandi. Johnson was grossly under bowled in the second session.
At 5-257, Prior gave his wicket away playing a poor pull shot to mid on. Prior to Prior losing his wicket, Siddle’s line and length was all over the place. Flintoff levelled the scores on the first innings with a lofted shot for six off Hauritz. His fifty (off 53 balls) came off a swept four from Hauritz’s next offering. After Prior’s dismissal, Siddle’s bowling and Ponting’s captaincy deteriorated markedly. I suspect Siddle may have bowled his way out of the side. He bowled in a similar fashion to B. Lee at The Oval in 2005. Too short and lacking in tactical acumen.
On the stroke of tea, Hauritz removed the influential Flintoff for 74 (off 79 balls) with a delivery Jim Laker would have been proud of. It spun square, bounced viciously and hit Flintoff on the glove not offering a shot. The ball was caught comfortably at slip by Clarke. Incoming batsman Swann would have licked his lips.

Flintoff again proved the difference between the two sides, performing when he was most needed. At tea, England had bludgeoned their way to 7-316, a handy lead of 53 runs. Momentum, that most valuable of commodities in sport, was all with England. Worryingly for Ponting, Australia’s over rate was again appalling. Will he be in charge at Leeds?
The carnage from the England lower order continued after tea. 32 runs were carved out in the first 4.3 loose overs with the second new ball before Johnson went around wicket and fooled Swann with a slower ball. Swann was caught at cover for a breezy 24 off 20 balls. Soon after, 8-355 became 9-355 when Anderson was caught behind off Hilfenhaus for a single. It was his 52th consecutive Test innings without scoring a duck. Extraordinary. Broad took advantage of some tired bowling to put the icing on the cake with a rapid 55 from 64 balls. He was caught and bowled by Siddle, who gained a consolation wicket. Hilfenhaus was the pick of the bowlers and Manou showed promise behind the stumps.
Australia’s inability to knock off England’s tail quickly has again proven to be costly. What is even more galling is that England does not seem to rate Australia. The Aussies were bullied from 5-168 onwards. It is my understanding (not verified at this late hour) that all of England’s current XI average over 20 with the bat in the series, with Bopara at the bottom of the list with an average 20.8.
Katich and Watson saw off Flintoff, who struggled with his dicky knee, and Anderson, who troubled Katich outside the off stump. At 0-32, Onions replaced Flintoff. An eventful first over ensued where Watson played a cracking pull shot and a sumptuous cover drive. Onion’s riposte was to nearly snare Watson twice, gloving a hook just out of the reach of the keeper and very nearly getting him caught in the gully.
At 0-47, Onions again made the initial breakthrough tempting Katich on 26 to play an ordinary crab-like drive. The resulting nick was taken gleefully by Prior. Ponting was roundly booed from the football element of the Hollies Stand as he made his way to the wicket. He did not last long, making just five. Swann bowled two brilliant balls to Ponting in a classic over of off-spin bowling. Ponting won Rudilotto on the first ball. Two balls later, the skipper was beaten comprehensively and bowled between the gate.
Hussey just survived making a king pair. An inside edge onto the pad was nearly pouched on the follow through by a diving Onions. After this early scare, Watson and Hussey safely negotiated Australia through to stumps at 2-88, Watson unbeaten on 34 and Hussey on 18. There was much banter between the combatants during Anderson’s final over.

Comments

  1. johnharms says:

    Another very engaging piece PF

    You seem to have spent most of your life pursuing top sport, amber fluid, and transcendence.

    By 1998-99 the English songsters had Warney in bed with various barnyard animals. Mainly to the tune of Went to Mow a Meadow.

    Ron Papps was magnificent. My favorite was Ron having climbed the steps to the box at Mildura. Couldn’t get a word out.

    Not my favourite though. You must remember Vince Curry, educated by the nuns at St monica’s Convent, Oakey.

    JTH

  2. Peter Flynn says:

    Thanks John.
    I went to the 1998/99 Sydney test.
    Famous for the Gough hat trick and an underrated Slater innings of 120 out of 180 in the Aussie 2nd dig.
    Funky Miller was the hat trick ball. We saw him later that night at The Orient Pub. A good bloke who was happy to be part of cricket history.
    He could of dropped a sitter at mid off/on early the next day?

    As a real youngin’, I remember Vince Curry used to feature as the Brisbane correspondent in Best Bets.
    My favourite caller was Bill Collins. At the Moscow Olympics, he called each track event like a trots race at The Showgrounds. Coe’s in the death seat etc.
    Has SA ever produced a great race caller?

  3. johnharms says:

    PF

    I saw all five days of that Sydney test. Warney’s comeback.

    brilliant opening morning. England could have drawn the series coming off a mighty win in melbourne after the longest day in test cricket. Boof Lehmann showed he wasn’t ready for test cricket then.

    England had aust at 3/50? Then the waughs consolidated. I called Ghem grumpy and Dopey and the only way they were goignt ot be dismissed after the ball stopped moving around was run out. And there were nearly half a dozen run outs. Can’t rememeber how the partnership was broken. Then D. gough took the late-in-the-day hat-trick.

    Slater’s innings was superb. Slater had many many attributes as a batsman one of which was to size up the state of the wicket and apportion doses of risk accordingly. That day he knew it was going to be hard to make runs so he used the lofted drive from the outset, carving big slices over extra cover. He was probaly run uot early though. Pommy fans were ropable.

    The final morning was one of the best I have ever seen. It was so tense; so quiet you could hear warney talking to Ian healy. You could hear birds chirping in the stands. You could hear Jim Maxwell from the commentary box.

    the MacGill got on top of them.

    JTH

  4. John Sandy says:

    Nice one Flynny, this past week has bought back some memories of sitting in the EHS in ’97

  5. John Sandy says:

    John, I watched all days at Melbourne and Sydney that summer. That final day in Melbourne went forever. Matthew Nicholson’s only test. Memories of the Barmy Army shouting ‘Deano’. Absolutely stunted, Australia failed in a small run chase for the 2nd time against the Poms in 18mths.

  6. Peter Flynn says:

    JK, were we at the Sydney test together? How’s my memory going?
    In Sydney, the Aussies had to be 3/50 in the first innings.
    That was the score that Tugga often came in at.
    There were a number of near run outs in that Waugh partnership.
    I don’t reckon Steve was ever going to be run out though.
    The Poms were 2/100 at stumps on day 4 and fancied themselves.

    I remember us watching the test in Melbourne. That finished around 7.45pm.
    Great memories John(s).

  7. johnharms says:

    PF

    At the end of that test match I was to give a speech to the Australian Cricket Society dinner which was held at the White Hart Motel somewhere around barkers Rd?? The audience, mainly over 70, had spent that long day at the MCG. I stood up to speak after dessert to see abuot three-fifths of the audience rosy-cheeked and asleep.

    JTH

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