Our Man At The Oval reports
Thu 15-Sep-2005 
 

Islingtonian & Pacific CC left arm opening bowler , James Smith, recalls events as they unfolded." This is my hazy summary of Mondays play – I was well toasted and havent seen the highlights, etc. In fact if anyone has them I’d love to see what really happened! Still….as W.G. proclaimed all summer on the TV - VICTORRRRY was ours as the mighty mighty England prevailed on a tense sunny Monday at the Oval.

The fact a five match test series was being decided on the very final day was not lost on anyone as we waited to enter the ground – the nerves hung in the air – everyone knew the day would be a massive test of spirit and strength.

The beers were opened nice and early and these cans alongside some thick edges from Vaughan seemingly eased the early tension. It was amazing to feel the pressure rise during every Warne over – it felt like a different game was being played from the Vauxhall end. This felt like a key time and like something had to give – and their strongest double act came through once again. Warne tied it up with pressure and McGrath took the wickets – the first to an amazing catch – Gilchrist reaching back a good four feet to take it well behind himself. That was a key wicket as Vaughan had begun to look quite assured with his trademark cover drive. Bell departed next ball and left the field with the slowest plod I’ve EVER seen. After the Bell delay it was McGrath on a hat-trick and the Aussies in the crowd absolutely loving it – I felt sick. Pieterson at the crease – and after his first innings slog not the calming influence the stands needed….OUT first ball – caught slip…sickener. BOWDEN. Saviour! Nasty. Tension through the roof – more beers please. We. Cannot. Screw. This. Up.

Warney senses the door is open and starts to give the ball a proper rip to Tresco – I might’ve had a few jars but it looked like he turned it off the adjacent square and it was still missing leg stick. KP dropped at slip by Hayden when on nought. Ooooh dolly – no it flicked Gilchrist – lucky lucky. Amazing. The charged atmosphere was only broken by the howling appeals. They were again hunting in pairs – this time Lee was on at the Pavilion End and working up good pace. Trescothick got another right angled delivery that kept low – and up went the one armed Bandit – OUT. Element of doubt to the batsmen there Ump? No replay until the Lunch break – wonder why! Another scalp for Warne. Freddie gets the biggest reception you could imagine – no pressure here then fella! Seems to playing Warne well from the off – nice and straight – not beating the field but restrained batting. Hits a sweet four – he’s looking good. Tries to force the drive – OUT – C&B….Warne again! Gutted – that was loose. Total shock.

In comes Colly – will the extra batsmen make a difference? It had better because this is a definite England wobbly - it appears a failure is imminent once again….we’ve seen this all before - Euro 96, Italia 90, etc. But wait. Lee to KP. Dropped at slip again. A real chest high dolly. Warne cant believe it – neither can we. KP decides its his day and flogs a couple of slogged sixes off Warne but Lee isnt letting the pressure off that easily. No way. Lee pumps up his boots and gives it plenty – really working over KP – daring him to trust his instincts and hit out – playing watchfully goes against his instincts and he gets a good 97mph dusting over. Lee to KP. Hit him HARD. Lee to KP. Gloved over slip – how did he not fall on his stumps?. Lee to KP. Hit him again. Lee to KP. Toe crunching yorker. WOW sustained pressure….top cricket. Exhilarating stress. Lucky England to only be six down. Lunch brings real respite and a chance for some cold first aid for us all! Blimey – what a session. Aussies definitely on top – are the ashes really coming home? Seems distant.

C’mon the lads – be strong….the crowd sing hard for the boys when they return onto the battlefield. We need to win this session. We have to win this session – this is the biggest session of the series. It is ON. Its us or them. Right here and now we need to make a stand….the crowd senses the tension and starts giving the Aussie fielders a bit of lip. Tait gets it in the neck from us lot at fine leg – bet you never knew Harold Bishop was his dad. Lee to KP. Massive six – rows back – instantly the atmpshere changes from tension to aggression. EVERYWHERE WE GO. Lee to KP. Massive Six. PEOPLE WANNA KNOW. Lee to KP. Four. WHO WE ARE. Pieterson takes it to Lee and forces Warne to bowl around the wicket. SHALL WE TELL THEM. Ponting tries to force the issue but Colly is playing the perfect foil with resolute determined defence. We get louder. WHERE WE COME FROM. KP takes the initiative. Wild slog missing the ball by two feet – next ball a forward defensive to the biggest cheers. He must feel his responsibility. The aussies tighten it up again. KP stranded on 72 for an age….don’t slog don’t slog don’t slog. Colly caught off the glove – Warne AGAIN the man to deliver the goods. Well played Colly. Will Warne ever get tired – he’s been on all day. In come Jones. Theres goes Jones’s off stump cartwheeling at least 15 feet from the crease – Tait answers the baiting crowd all with a 90mph scuttler.

The Aussies can smell blood again. But WE ARE THE ARMY. KP gets off 72 with a sweet drive through the covers – Lee looks weary. The King of Spain looks resolute. A crashing six over deep square head. THE BARMY BARMY ARMY. Warne looks tired – at least one loose delivery per over now – the odd pinched single get Gilo in the mood whilst The Skunk moves into the nineties. But not for long – McGrath stroked through the covers – he’s there for a thumping ton. He really made the most of his extra lives – seems ironic that their best and most competitive player finally dropped the ashes. WE ARE THE ENGLAND. Australia looked tired in the field. The whole ground is shaking with cries of 5-0, 5-0, 5-niiiil….McGrath just smiles and bows – top bloke. KP goes onto a fiery 150 with shots all around the ground – amazing batting – is there anyone in the world who has this type of power to so many different shots? McGrath remains stoic and removes his off stump. He really brings a different mentality to the team – and deservedly milks the applause for all its worth. Gilo doesn’t care – as the crowd sing for him – he smashes McGrath back past him for an amazing fifty and huge reception…this is the nail in the coffin for this ashes series. THE MIGHTY MIGHTY ENGLAND. Warne picks up a couple more to end the innings – the Aussies don’t fancy it much as Harmy sends down a few looseners. The light is the same as it was all afternoon…but the Umpires see the opportunity to hog some limelight and take them off. Nobody knows whats going on until we hear the draw has been agreed. What a day. MICHAEL VAUGHAN’S BARMY ARMY.

Lap of honour. Sing your heart out for the lads. They deserve it - head in hands – can cricket give you more ups and downs than this? BARMY ARMY BARMY ARMY BARMY ARMY. It will live long…watching them celebrate it felt like an England team had truly shown grit, determination, aggression and confidence to fight it out. They had backed each other no matter what the situation and unlike so many recent England teams before them they didn’t wilt in the face of aggression or pressure. They had represented us all in gaining respect from the public, the media, and most importantly their opponents. But how close they had come to throwing it all away…all in all - not bad for a tenner! "

Stunning report James - makes me wish I was there even more.