South Park Conservatives
Adelaide Oval is routinely, if not rather unimaginatively, considered the most picturesque of Australian cricket grounds. Indeed, it takes that status rather for granted, and like a self-regarding beauty queen has been rather letting itself go these past few years. The Eastern Stand has damn all to recommend it; the profusion of canopies apparently inspired by Jean Paul Gaultier’s famous bra – think Madonna, on her ‘Blonde Ambition’ tour - don’t do much for the eye either. At least, though, the ground is not hemmed in by the skyscraper stands so popular elsewhere. Its communal benches and grassy verges defy the trend to one-bum, one-seat tyranny, while the 1912-vintage scoreboard provides a pleasing sense of continuity. Cricket in Adelaide, too, will always sound enchanting on radio: with bowlers operating from either the River or the Cathedral Ends, you could almost be listening to a broadcast from England.
In all, it is a ground on a scale and of a character a little more congenial to English visitors. There is something for Andrew Flintoff’s team to build on here, too, even if the conjecture about Glenn McGrath’s injury seemed like something calculated to help the Barmy Army’s morale, rather than seriously to incommode Australia. They had the better of the game against South Australia. The pitch will probably not deteriorate fast enough to deviate significantly for Warne: benign weather in the mid-20s is expected. We’ve even had a little rain, which briefly rinsed the outfield yesterday, the ground staff hastening to protect the pitch and the sponsors’ symbols on the outfield – fortunately in that order.
So, with a favouring breeze and a ration of good fortune, England could work their way back into the series here tomorrow. The toss may not even be quite so loaded as it was in Brisbane. The team batting second has led at half-way in three of the last six Tests, and Australia lost here three years ago despite making 556 in their first innings, 400 of them on the first day. The alternative? If England lose in Adelaide, at least Michael Vaughan can stop worrying about a comeback to Test cricket in this series. There won’t be any point.
Gideon Haigh is a cricket historian and writer