6.00am I get up and wake the family. They have to drive me over to Charlestown to get a lift from church friends to travel down to Sydney.
The trip down was quick. We were listening to 2BL and they were promising hot sausages at their tent outside the SCG. We arrived there just as the last sausage was consumed.
We arrived in time to see both sides training. The rain began to softly fall as we began to berate both sides for playing football, touch, softball and even tennis to warm themselves up. Our group was situated in Row J of the O'Reilly Stand. The stand is okay except that it gets the afternoon sun from about 3.00pm onwards. Straight behind us there was the bar and the obligatory food stalls selling overpriced and underquality goods.
The rain came again, but unlike last year it stopped enough for play to start sometime after 11.00am. Since Justin Langer had announced his retirement as well, we all knew that we would be seeing at least one of our retiring heroes play. As it was, Freddie won the toss and elected to bat - much to the crowd's delight to see Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne bowl.
Then we had to endure Human Nature singing the National Anthem.
I don't know if it was the pitch or the quality bowling or the stodgy batting, but the first session was slow. McGrath bowled over after over and was unlucky in some areas but you could tell he was now past his best. Lee, of course, is not my favourite player - but he got the crowd going in his first over when he attempted to castrate Cook with a vicious delivery aimed at the groinal area. Cook survived, and he and Strauss put on a valuable little partnership before Lee eventually got Strauss caught behind. At lunch England were 1/58.
Then we had to endure some opera singing guy singing a tribute to Langer, McGrath and Warne.
During the first session a number of us began to wonder where the "Barmy Army" was. There was not a peep of singing or yelling or chanting from the colourful England supporters. We couldn't even tell where they were in the ground.
One group that was visible was the Aussie "Fanatics", who all wore yellow tops and sat under the scoreboard. They attempted to sing a number of Aussie songs, but they were just too loose and soft for most people to hear. Shannon, the teacher I lived with in Griffith from August until December, was a member of the Fanatics and, after phoning each other on our mobiles, I decided to go over and visit the group at the Lunch break.
The first thing you hit when you descend the stairs in the O'Reilly stand is the main corridor underneath, which was choka-block full of people. England and Aussie supporters, men and women, all cramming together to try and go somewhere - the bar, the food shop, the toilet or, like me, trying to exit the stand altogether.
As I was standing crammed in amongst all these fans I managed to talk to a member of the Barmy Army. He said the group was spread around the place - they were there, but they weren't singing.
Then Phil Tufnell walked by in the crowd. "Hello Mr Tufnell" I said "How are you today?". "Very well thankyou!" he said, smiling, and continued walking. He was dressed in a suit and was taller than I expected. The last time I saw him was in 1994.
After managing to exit I found my way into the fanatics area. I searched for about 20 minutes but Shannon had obviously gone somewhere (probably to get a drink). I walked up to the O'Reilly stand for the post lunch session.
Soon after lunch, Clark picked up Cook. Both openers had stuck around for a while but had not gone on with the job. The slow scoring indicated some sort of war of attrition going on in the middle. Kevin Pietersen then came in and we all expected something good from him.
Pieterson and Bell were scoring slowly but surely. The crowd was quiet. Suddenly from the Hill came a familiar bugle sound - the Barmy Army bugler! The effect on the crowd was electric. Within half a second the crowd (perhaps 30000) began cheering wildly as the Barmy Army started their chanting and singing.
You have to hand it to these guys - they were very entertaining. My favourite is their rendition of God Save the Queen - God save your gracious queen, long live your noble queen... long to reign over YOU!!!! and at that point the Barmy army would all point in the direction of the Aussie fans (in this case, the fanatics). It was stirring stuff. They had around a dozen different chants that they repeated throughout the day - many of which were borderline ribald.
Meanwhile, back at the cricket, the Aussie bowlers continued to toil away without luck. Pietersen and Bell continued their scoring and eventually put on a century partnership. It wasn't pretty cricket - Pietersen looked stuck in second gear and curbed his scroing rate to play it safe. Bell simply nicked and nudged his runs - no mess, no fuss, no charisma. At tea England were 2/149.
By this stage I had consumed one $6.00 glass of white wine, one $4.50 hot dog and an $8.50 fish and chips pack. I really need to bring my own food next year.
After tea things began to swing Australia's way. Pietersen, always a quick scorer, tried to pick up the pace. But he tried hooking McGrath and managed to spoon it to Hussey for a good catch. Pieterson out for 41. Finally! McGrath gets himself a wicket! One over later and Bell, 71, gets a doozey from McGrath again and the ball hits the top of middle stump. I have to say, there is nothing like a crowd cheering as one after seeing the stumps rattled.
Two new batsmen were at the crease. Collingwood and Flintoff, the England captain. Then it became quite dark and cloudy so they turned the lights on.
The above photo was taken as I snuck down to the fence to take pictures of Justin Langer, who was fielding near the O"reilly stand. Here's some more:
And here's a cropped version which I will probably add to his Wikipedia article:
And here's a photo from the stands where I was sitting:
And here's Johnno and Tom, who were at the game with me.
Tom enjoyed today's entertainment much more than last year's.
Flintoff hit a six off Clark that I completely lost. After that point the Army began singing the praises of Flintoff, singing
We love your gorgeous wife,
...your chain smoking,
...your beer drinking,
...your slips catching,
...your seam bowling,
...your six six hits.
But the six didn't bring about either an increase in runs overall or any wickets. Collingwood and Flintoff remained at the crease when Billy and Aleem offered the light at 6.30.
And then off home again. It took about 45 minutes to get the car out of Moore Park but once we got onto the Harbour Tunnel it was easy peasy all the way back to Novocastria.