Strauss' Ashes ecstasy, framed
I've decided to jump on the Andrew Strauss bandwagon. He retired from all professional cricket just last week. I photographed his first and his 100th Test match and many in between, probably about 90 of them. In fact, I'll attempt to throw in a photo of Straussy taken at Lord's just after his first Test as a bit of a bonus (it should appear relatively small in the middle of the blog if those lazy, useless ESPNcricinfo subs have decided to do things correctly for a change*). Two things to notice in the 'bonus' photograph - Strauss's luxurious 2004 mane, sadly no longer with us, and Nasser Hussain's disgustingly filthy socks.
The 2009 Ashes series was fiercely contested and England eventually triumphed when they won the final Test of the series at The Oval. I remember very clearly being out in the middle for the coin toss for that pivotal fifth Test. Ricky Ponting called either 'heads' or 'tails' (Okay, I don't remember it that clearly), and after the coin landed his face suddenly changed and he looked as if he had just witnessed his beloved dog being run over by an articulated lorry.
From that moment, after witnessing this amazing face change, I fully expected England to win the match and they duly did. It was also to be Andrew Flintoff's final appearance for England and his direct throw to run out Ponting on the final afternoon caused Ponting to recreate his squashed-dog-after-lorry-altercation expression.
Strauss is a delightful man. I don't recall ever hearing anyone say anything negative about him and that is extremely unusual in the cricket world. He attracts respect rather than going around and demanding it.
There is usually a very long wait for us photographers at the end of a series, when we have an opportunity to shoot the celebration picture. The players leave the field of play, workers suddenly appear and erect a large branded stage - makes you wonder what these chaps have been doing for the previous five days…
Once the stage has been assembled some old, has-been cricketer like Atherton or Hussain will make their way to the platform and they'll conduct a series of interviews primarily for the television audience. Eventually a trophy will be handed to the winning captain and champagne will fill the air.
I have looked up exactly how long we had to wait for this photograph on that evening: Alastair Cook took the final catch at 17.51 by my camera settings and the celebrating with the urn picture was taken at 18.23. That's 32 minutes. You could watch a whole episode of Fawlty Towers in that time.
(If you haven't heard of Fawlty Towers you have my permission to stop reading now and go to your favourite search engine and type the words "Fawlty" and "Towers" in any order that you wish and watch some of that programme. The Mrs Richards scene in 'Communication Problems' is a good place to start - Basil: "Well, might I ask what you expected to see out of a Torquay hotel bedroom window? Sydney Opera House, perhaps? The hanging gardens of Babylon? Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically...")
Anyway, back to the photograph. There were probably about 40 photographers present to shoot the presentation of the urn. When I say 'the' urn, I really mean 'an' urn, a replica urn as the real fragile urn is not leaving the Lord's museum for a photograph. Not a chance. The light was pretty nice at 18.23 but I had to be careful and make sure the lens hood was on the lens, as there was a danger of flare since I was almost shooting directly into the sun. Fortunately, I had a central position among the photographers and was really pleased when I edited the series of snaps a few minutes later and noticed that Strauss is staring straight into my lens in every frame.
I really like the way Matt Prior is covering Strauss's cap with champagne and quite a lot of happy faces are visible. I think it's symmetrical. Celebration photographs with liquid flying about can be really messy and it's unusual to have the main subject smiling as he is getting covered in expensive alcohol.
I did well with these photos; I had the photo reproduced as a wraparound on a well-known tabloid and it was also used on the front cover of Andrew Strauss' 2009 book.
I hope Andrew Strauss stays in cricket in some form. He's a top man.
(Dries eyes with hanky and exits.)
*Actually, I love all the marvelous ESPNcricinfo subs, they're fab.
Specifications: Nikon D3 camera, 70-200mm lens at 130mm, shutter speed 1/1000th, aperture f5, ISO 500
An Australian freelance cricket photographer based in England, Philip Brown has photographed over 150 Test matches around the world