Andrew Starkie’s Ashes Diary (10)


Entry 10

Monday December 27, 2010

Alighting at Jolimont, I inserted my Christmas present digital Walkman to discover Strauss had won the toss and elected to bowl.  Again.  Nassar shook his head and walked away.

‘Strauss has put the Aussies in.  I can’t believe it,’ I said to the nearest person who happened to be a friendly Englishman in a St. George cap.

He was halfway through some silly uneducated response about capitalising on early swing and seam on a green pitch, when I interrupted smugly with what I thought was pretty sound and valuable local knowledge that he needed to know.

‘This is Melbourne, mate.  It’ll be flat.  Get through the first hour and we’ll be right.’

He was too polite to say any more.  He looked like an IT specialist.  We wished each other well for the day.

Queues were stretching away from the ‘G into the carpark and merchandise and corporate tents were doing solid trade.  Dunk a Pom was popular.

I took my seat at mid on to the right-hander, front of the top tier, members’ reserve and got chatting to the bloke beside me.  He was a veteran of many Boxing Days and used to come with his mother and siblings and sit near Bay 13.  He recalled days of a baking sun on bare skin, full eskies, abused Poms, few ejections because the cops wouldn’t brave going there, and one particular occasion when an esky full of ice was dumped on the poor fella working the sideboard.  Today, the Barmy Army had captured that part of the ground.

Watson and Hughes took block on a blotchy green pitch in cool, overcast and blustery conditions.  The ‘G was two thirds full when play started.

Watson was dropped twice in the opening two overs before Tremlett, reinvigorated after spending Christmas hunting game in the Kruger National Park (check out the photos on facebook), got one to take off, found the edge and Pietersen took the catch in the gully.

Anderson’s line was impeccable.  He gave Hughes little outside off, instead pinning him down with well directed bowling at his hips and ribs.  Cook waited at short leg.  The strike wasn’t being rotated, enabling Tremlett to target Ponting’s leg stump.  Out of form and confidence, Punter couldn’t find an edge, let alone send the ball crashing into the pickets behind square where it belonged.  His frustration was obvious.

Early dangers appeared to have been weathered – I reflected on my conversation on the Jolimont platform  – when Hughes flashed at the first ball he faced from Bresnan, who had replaced Finn, and was also caught by KP.  Ponting received a beauty from Tremlett that left him slightly.  Swann, a brilliant slip fielder, took a smart catch.  Anderson slid the ball of the day across Hussey who feathered to Prior.  It was Mr. Cricket’s first failure for the series.  Smith survived one ball before rain brought an early lunch at 4-58.  The Army were giving it God Save Your Queen.

I hooked up with a few friends during the delay and we retired to a crowded and lubricated bar.  Designer jeans, Tommy Hilfiger shirts and RM Williams boots were the fashion of the day.  Talk was all about Here we go again and Huss can’t save us.

The lights were turned on and Smith went quickly after the resumption.  Clarke, Haddin and Johnson were all out with the score on 77 and any hope of another middle order recovery was gone.  Siddle and Harris both made double figures, however, the damage was done.  All out 98.  Australia’s lowest Ashes score at the ‘G.  The next lowest occurred in the first ever Test in 1877.  The Army offered Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer.

Solid and accurate seam bowling to inadequate batting and a lack of defensive application, brought ten catches behind the wicket.  Anderson and Tremlett claimed four each, with the former bowling particularly well.

Smith and Hughes are either not good enough or ready to play at Test level.  If this match is lost in a few days and with it, the Ashes, Ponting’s captaincy must also be seriously considered.  Can a captain survive three losing Ashes campaigns?  Maybe only a lack of confidence in the anointed heir will save him.

The sun greeted Cook and Strauss and the pitch now offered little for Australia’s bowlers.  The openers were undefeated at Stumps and had given their country a lead of 59.  Only the second time in Test history a country had a ten wicket first innings lead after day one.

I had left before the day was over, hoping to avoid the friendly Englishman on the platform.

Sidds has claimed both openers and Hilfy is finding KP’s edge under another heavy sky.  I’m off to the ‘G.  Hope springs eternal.


  1. John Butler says

    A nice description of a grim day Andrew.

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