Australia v South Africa – Adelaide Test, Day 1: The Mid-Strength on the Hill

Adelaide Oval, Day 1 – nothing quite like it, even if it is a Thursday. Many in South Australia plan their year around being in Adelaide for the Test. And who can blame them? Whether you are dressed to the nines out the back of the members or jealously guarding seats looking over the bowler’s arm at the Southern end, the Adelaide Test is special.

Of course there’s another special place on the oval. When I first started coming to the Adelaide Test in the mid-’80s, the 1986 Ashes Test to be precise, the hill underneath the scoreboard had its very own West End soaked aura and rhythm. Sitting in the bays in front you could turn to observe Australian maleness at its most ocker. The first session would start with a flurry of drinking with the only trouble meted upon any young women walking along the concourse in front. As the afternoon commenced and progressed, things would become progressively more rowdy. The evictions would start as the one too manys led to increasingly undesirable behaviour.

During the tea break the scoreboard attendants would have to shut all the viewing holes as the occupants of the hill mercilessly pelted it with empties. The last session would ebb and flow with mayhem as the really bad cases had already been evicted but the occasional one too many would hit home. Sometimes even cricket would be watched. Right there was laid bare many of the divisions in our society. Much of what’s wrong with Australian manhood, many would argue, and everything that was right, would others.

So of course on this gorgeous spring afternoon I prop myself on my elbows and take in the hill with a couple of old friends. Much like Twitter, observation does not necessarily equal endorsement.



South Africa win the toss and choose to bat. The calamity will have to wait at least a day. Steve Smith gives off the least convincing “it’s exciting” since Big Kev met St Peter. A gentle waft of blokey BO passes the nostrils. It could not be more appropriate if that particular fragrance sat on a bus staring at strangers.


Session 1

Cook’s footwork is immediately unconvincing against Starc as the pink ball is unfamiliar but easy to pick. It is nipping about at both ends but the South African openers are having no troubles picking the ball on length. Starc gets Cook plumb as you like except for the small matter of a no ball. How are professional cricketers still doing this?

Wicket – Elgar – c.Khawaja b.Starc 5    FOW 1-12

Elgar never looks settled against Starc and nicks through to Khawaja at third slip in a cordon that looks reasonable despite its lack of time for cohesion. They stay close to each other as Smith and Wade tell Renshaw exactly where to stand.

Wicket – Amla – c.Renshaw b.Hazlewood 5    FOW 2-36

Amla really struggles with Hazlewood’s bounce and nip off the pitch and provides rookie Renshaw with the opportunity to take a very good catch at first slip, which he eagerly accepts.

Wicket – Duminy – c.Wade b.Hazlewood 5    FOW 3-44

Hazlewood is rewarded for some fine bowling with his second wicket, again finding a South African edge. Wade takes a regulation catch. Australia has already grabbed the honours in a rewarding first session. Faf du Plessis comes out to the best natured booing you have ever heard in your life. It could only be more pantomime if the crowd shouted “HE’S BEHIND YOU” as he strolls to the crease.

Tea: South Africa 3-88 – Hazlewood is clearly the best bowler but batsmen are constantly unsettled by Starc. Bird is largely ineffective – less tin-eared selection would see Chadd Sayers playing this test and causing all sorts of problems for the South Africans on this pitch with this ball. Just imagine the crowd’s reaction. While BBL can often be criticised for focusing on ‘entertainment’ this is a perfect example of where Test cricket can be accused of the opposite. Nonetheless, atmosphere on the hill is convivial as the action burbles along.


Session 2

Wicket – Cook – c.Smith b.Starc 40    FOW 4-95

Cook’s dodgy footwork (first movement is the back foot backwards and away) returns and he edges through off Starc.

Wicket – Bavuma – c.Wade b.Bird 8    FOW 5-117

It’s clear, despite his success in the series, the Australians are confident they can target Bavuma’s weaknesses; particularly a tendency to play uppishly on the leg side. After a period Bird finally gets him with a regulation edge to the keeper.

50 – du Plessis

To another smattering of venomless boos, du Plessis brings up a disciplined 50, picking the balls off his hip and playing straight. Meanwhile de Kock is yet to show his hand down the other end (aren’t you glad that sentence wasn’t the other way around?)

Wicket – de Kock – c.Wade b.Hazlewood 24    FOW 6-149

Biiiggg wicket – de Kock worries Australia more than any other South African and he is brought undone by Hazlewood’s outstanding line, length and just enough movement, as he was starting to look dangerous. Advantage Australia… if such a thing exists anymore.

Wicket – Philander – c.Wade b.Hazlewood 4    FOW 7-161

Did I mention Hazlewood was bowling well? Well, yes, he is. Philander reviews a call on the basis it hit his thigh pad. It did but snicko suggests it hit something else too.

Dinner: South Africa 7-165 – Australia more than happy with that session. The first yahoo is evicted from the hill in what remains a happy old gathering. Another convoy heads off to the one “Craft Beer Bar” for a decent ($10) beer. The sun starts to think about setting (cue montage)


Session 3

South Africa put up fierce resistance – the ball still moving off the pitch but they are making it through a reputedly difficult time to bat.

Wicket – Abbott – lbw.Bird – 17    FOW 8-215

The first wicket not caught behind the stumps falls as Bird traps Abbott in front. No review – du Plessis is keeping that for himself.

100 – du Plessis

As Rabada hangs on, du Plessis registers a century as much to spite the crowd as to help his team. Greatly impressive but again it appears based on post-day comments that the South Africans have significantly misread the situation. They keep picking fights with Australia and Australians when barely one has been offered. The scoreboard is there for you to point at, Faf.

Wicket – Rabada – st.Wade b.Lyon – 1    FOW 9-220

Perhaps Lyon just gets the bit of luck he needs as the third umpire determines none of Rabada’s foot is behind the line on a frightfully close stumping. A man coming out of the members is escorted off as he is discovered with two little bottles of red in his backpack, smuggled out of a hospitality box. High crime in the last session.

Declaration – South Africa 9-259

Meanwhile, Shamsi puts up an attacking, bat twisting in hand, No. 11 innings before his mint sucking captain cruelly brings his maiden innings to an end with a sneaky declaration. In particular attacking David Warner who is off the field receiving treatment, therefore unable to open the innings.

What follows is, maybe, a new Australia. Khawaja and Renshaw bat out 12 overs competently and without risk. Only a few false shots where the ball did too much off the pitch but no waving the bat at junk outside off stump. This is one of the few times in the series that du Plessis has challenged the Australians and they have not folded like a rubbish poker player made of origami. Maybe taking Warner out of the opening partnership was the worst thing he could do, let alone cruelly depriving Shamsi of a Test batting average.

Stumps: Australia 0-14

And as for the hill, the game has changed… for the better. The atmosphere was simply convivial as people had fun, chatted, intermingled. People enjoyed the cricket – little is dying that doesn’t deserve to be dead.

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About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"


  1. Dave- I remember one-dayers from the mid-1980’s too. Play started at 10am after gates were opened at 8am. The bars commenced trade then too and I heard that steam-train whistle from the scoreboard bar one Sunday morning at 8.08am as the spear was eased out of the first empty keg- not sure if it was a ten or an eighteen gallon. The roar from the hill set the day’s tone. We used to sit on the grassy mound in the south-eastern corner, in front of a bed-sheet painted with “The Duck Pond.” Happily, light and mid-strength beer hadn’t been discovered. I do wonder how long before the southern end of the ground is developed, or at least, seating is put in.

    Today should be compelling. It’d be great if we could bat all day and force the test to day 4.

  2. Good job, D Brown.
    Are you going back for more?

    I wonder how does one discern the timbre of an ironic boo, or a pantomime boo, from the more traditional hostile boo?
    The South Africans are in siege mode.
    Much like Australia on many international trips, since AB’s 1989 tour.

    Tremendous knock from the Faf.

  3. “Steve Smith gives off the least convincing “it’s exciting” since Big Kev met St Peter.” LMAO.

    Enjoyed your observations on the evolution of the hill Dave. Definitely changed for the better I think.

  4. Cathryn McDonald says

    Nice and evocative writing. Yesterday was very convivial and relaxed… I liked it! But I suspect many people are saving themselves for the more traditional party nights tonight and tomorrow.

    How do you discern the timbre of different types of boo? I think this is roughly how it works at Adelaide Oval –

    Ironic: short, melodic almost like a Bronx cheer, synchronised
    Pantomime: higher in tone, many individual jeers, accompanied by laughter and sledges
    Hostile: lower in tone, synchronised, sustained, with whistling

    Faf’s was definitely a “slap on the wrist” boo… encouraged by the brilliant program seller at the South Gate who made mint comments all pre-game!

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I saw Big “I’m excited” Kev once in the flesh at the 2001 AFL GF, with a female companion half of his age and a quarter of his mass. His shirt was very loud.

    Your old-time scoreboard mound observations are spot on Dave, although my two trips to that end for recent Crows games both had their less than convivial moments.

  6. You paint an enticing picture of the occasion Dave. I need to get myself organised for next year.

    Good point about the Aussies at the end – Faf challenged, and for once we answered.


  7. Thanks for the read and the comments, all. I’d be surprised if there is a push to put seating in that end any time soon, Mickey. The reaction would be fierce. Yep, really looking forward to today – can the Aussies muster anything in resistance to South Africa?

    Back to the cricket but probably not the hill today, ER. Not sure my ageing limbs can hack it. Faf will find out the difference between a pantomime boo and a hostile boo when he comes out to bat in the second innings. Yep, the South Africans are in siege mode, but there’s absolutely no need to be. They have treated all of the ICC’s actions as acts of Australian hostility completely misreading general sentiment which was up until that point appreciative of victories won through hard graft. Very easy for me to say but they could have left the shores as popular victors by playing their cards a little differently.

    You might be right Cathryn. We’ll find out tonight I suppose.

    For the most part my footy mound experiences have been similarly jovial Swish. More likely to have idiots going off (and out) however.

    Yep, an experience well worth having John. Will be interesting if they stick with twilight for the Ashes.

  8. No wonder they could only just beat the entire Perth attendance on the first day, what a stupid time of year to play a Test at AO. Every farmer in the state out on the tractor bringing home some much-needed bacon, or grain! Put it on at the proper time and watch the crowd go up.

    I started going solo on the mound in the 1965 GF, Port v Sturt and had to push 2 inverted Halls drink bottles into the grass to be able to stand on and see over the crowd, due to being 12 years old. I gather this practice may no longer be allowed?

  9. Good one Dave. I have many bad memories of full strength beer on the Hill near the scoreboard at Adelaide Oval. Good days but bad morning afters.
    Perhaps you could have called your piece “The Hill on the Light”?
    My first test at Adelaide Oval was Simpson and Lawry’s 244 run opening partnership versus the Poms in 1966. Went to see the wunderkind Doug Walters who predictably made a blob (broke a 10 year old’s heart). My last (to date) was Mark Waugh’s debut ton against the old enemy in 1991.

  10. Yes have spent many a enjoyable day on the hill ( even got a mention from,Merv in his book for best sledge he ever copped when I yelled out how many wickets you taken since Perth when he had taken 13
    he responded by giving me the fingers I replied not only you can’t bowl you can’t count ( it was 1 )
    Dave very clever re the De Kock line a complete and utter farce that,Sayers isn’t playing even more so that the very reliable word is he was unofficially told he was in the side mindbogling inept.
    A enjoyable day geez it was cold during the night session and,Bucko is spot on thanks,Dave

  11. THanks for the comments. Yep, Bucko, drove down the Horrocks highway earlier in the week and there is such much good looking grain along there, way too hard for many farmers. But young recently privately schooled folk can spend all day on the green on mum and dad’s associate memberships, so there you go. Bottles you say. What are they?

    A worthy suggestion PB. Little more disappointing than when you’ve come to watch one person bat and it doesn’t happen. AB never had a really good innings in my presence although Dean Jones’s double ton and Merv Hughes’s (yes, that’s right) 70 something against the West Indies were good childhood batting memories for me.

    After day three, Rulebook, I’m still mystified about Sayers’s non-selection. He would be almost unplayable in the night session and offers much more variety than Bird. That said, having done my Test dash for the year, three really enjoyable days of competitive cricket.

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