England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval, 3rd day

That morning-after feeling

Andrew McGlashan watches the clean-up operation at The Oval

Roving Reporter by Andrew McGlashan

September 10, 2005

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Andrew Flintoff: feeling rather like the Oval at 7am? © Getty Images
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The day had barely dawned but The Oval was already a hive of activity early on Saturday morning. While most sane people were enjoying a lie-in, preparations at the ground were in full swing ahead of another day's play, almost four hours before the players were due to lock horns again. There is no such thing as a leisurely weekend when the Ashes bonanza comes to town.

It is an impressive feat to turn around a ground that has hosted over 20,000 fans one day and prepare it all for the same again. I don't generally make a habit of doing very much at all at 7 o'clock on a Saturday morning so walking into the ground even before Michael Vaughan and Co. had tucked into their portions of bacon and eggs - or more likely croissants and orange juice - was an interesting experience.

The ground felt - and smelled in parts - distinctly hungover. Imagine a huge night out, with all the alcohol and the "it-was-a-good-idea-at-the-time" takeaway food which goes hand in hand. When you wake up in the morning the beer cans are strewn across the living-room and a half-eaten pizza or kebab is sitting on the dining table, suggesting it would make a decent breakfast.

Multiply that by a few thousand and you get a rough image of the rubbish pile that members of the Kennington Borough Council were piling into their lorry. Never mind the EU food mountain; this was The Oval rubbish mountain. The three guys wheeling the huge bins backwards and forwards to their truck certainly didn't have the most glamorous job attached to a day at the Test. A definite case of rather them than me.

The rubbish men provided only a small piece of the behind-the-scenes action that the punters will rarely see, but without which a Test would not be half as much fun for them. Cleaners worked feverishly to give the pavilion its polished look before the dignitaries arrived for another day of wining and dining, while the catering vans were being well stocked to fuel those who had to fend for themselves. Underneath the pavilion a brewery truck was being unloaded with crate upon crate of beer and there is little doubt that it will all be consumed by the end of the day.

Whatever the performance of England on the field, the crowd will never let the side down by leaving a ground with a surplus of drink. Anyhow, watching this Test series has left fans in serious need of a drink. As David Graveney has proved by taking up smoking again following his efforts to quit before the Ashes, this wasn't the best summer to try and cut down on any vices.

While the ground was prepared for the latest day in its starring role, the build-up on TV screens and radio stations to the third day's play was already in progress. This final Test has been the most sought-after location for news and sports programmes over the last four days. Even at 7am the media centre was buzzing with cricket chat as TV and radio shows hosted their breakfast programmes from the ground.

So as the spectators began to file into their seats from 9.30am, patiently sitting under their umbrellas, they had little idea that the third day had swung into action while most of them were still tucked up in bed. And when the next 20,000-plus people had arrived, that hangover was well and truly cured. Just as you and I feel better after a wash and a few hours to pull ourselves together in a morning, so does a cricket ground.

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo

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Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.

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