Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Where I was when we won The Ashes

I’d been to the first three days of the match glued to my seat and not missing a ball. England had been pretty dominant but, as always, and especially against the Aussies nothing could be taken for granted. Australia, chasing 546, were 80 without loss overnight and if they batted for two days they would win. At Cardiff they’d batted us out of the park: 674 - 6 declared in 181 overs with four (nearly five) century makers. These boys could bat and the pessimist in me said that all records are made to be broken. But for me, whatever happened, this wasn’t to be an “I was there” moment. Every year we have a week in the Lake District and Sunday was to be the first day of that week – the day that we drove north for five hours or so to our timeshare near Keswick. There was no choice – we would have to miss the day’s play and rely on Test Match Special.

Now I am a good spectator when I am actually at an England match but a very bad watcher on television or listener to the radio when the match really matters. And nothing matters more than The Ashes especially when we have a chance of regaining the Urn. I’d watched much of the final day at The Oval in 2005 from behind a settee and I wasn’t likely to be a nerveless listener in the car this year either. We are somewhere on the M25 as play begins and Aggers is off. Katich and Watson seem to be coping alright in the first couple of overs. Then huge noise from the car speakers - LBW appeal from Swanney “Looked plumb to me” I cry – it was! Aus 86-1. Three balls later Broad traps Watson – I flash my lights at oncoming cars to let them know that the Aussies are two down! But then Ponting and Hussey dig in to some effect. I try turning off the radio and listening to Puccini to try and induce a wicket but they are still there at lunch. 170-2.

We’re making good progress and are somewhere near Stoke. I’ll turn TMS back on after “Nessun Dorma” in Act3 - "Nobody shall sleep...” sings Pavarotti – “well I bet they aren’t sleeping in Kennington” I quip nervously. On goes the radio – thirteen post-lunch overs bowled and still no wicket then pandemonium in the ether – Fred has run out Ponting! Follow that! Strauss does and Clarke goes for a duck and the car veers dangerously towards the hard shoulder, 220-4 and England are surely now on their way. And so of course it proves. We arrive in Keswick just in time for the last rites, Harmy’s two in two balls, the celebrations and Strauss’s well-urned moment in the sun. Time for Pavarotti again I think –“Vincerò! Vincerò! Vincerò!”

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