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

Frayed nerves and chewed nails

Andrew Miller joins the frayed-nerves brigade at The Oval

Roving Reporter by Andrew Miller

September 12, 2005

Text size: A | A



Some people went the extra mile ... © Getty Images
Enlarge
England's day of reckoning dawned cloudy and anxious. "Last fight of the Poms" screamed the rousing headlines in the tabloids, but there was more flight than fight in the body language of the early birds at The Oval. It's a truism of sport that the more it matters the less you're likely to enjoy it, and that was indubitably the case today of all days.

"I'm very, very, very anxious," murmured Helen, an off-duty nurse from South London, sat chewing her nails in the Peter May Enclosure. "It's not going to be a pleasant day at all. I'm on the edge of my seat already."

Despite her anxieties, there was never any danger that her chance to witness history would be passed up. "This man here," explained Helen triumphantly, waving three seats down the row, "bought ten tickets last November. He's one of my friend's brothers, and I love him!"

Did Alex have any temptation to flog them on Ebay? Maybe, but he might just have been lynched. ""This vacant seat here is Jenny's," added Helen. "She got back from holiday seven o'clock this morning, and she's in Tooting at the moment.

"That guy down there is wearing his work clothes, which is where he was at 9.30 this morning. But a few cancelled meetings later and here we are. And I've been working a nightshift at Guys. But I will stay awake no question. It's going to be a long day and my nails are already quite short!"

"Ian Bell is due an innings," chirped up Alex, demonstrating that his foresight wasn't always of Mystic Meg proportions. "I haven't seen McGrath bowl really well and I don't think he will, but Lee and Warne have been so competitive and it's a real worry they'll turn it on, get us out, and then it's game on. But Freddie's a matchwinner and I hope he'll do it again today."

"It'll go down to the wire, no question, but we're quietly confident," added Haas from Milton Keynes, despite an equally premature opinion of McGrath's demise. Haas had also bought his tickets months ago, but he was never going to let them out of his sight. "We resisted temptation, but there were no shortage of buyers!"



The queues outside The Oval ... with more than a few people on office sickies © Getty Images
Enlarge
One of those might have been Robert from Birmingham. "I got my tickets in the ... err ... unapproved fashion," he whispered. "I paid £40, which I thought was pretty good." Jerry from Rickmansworth shelled out rather more for his seats - £100 - but then, he had no doubts that the end result would be worth it. "I'm supremely confident," he announced. "If you can't bat two-and-a-bit sessions on a good track, you need help." Better ring for the ambulance ...

Such bravado was the exception, not the rule, however. Bill and Martin from Chelmsford were "nervy, extremely nervy," while a white-faced Trevor from Rochester admitted he had come within moments of giving his ticket away. "I figured if we won, it would have been worth not watching it," he explained with the sort of tortured logic that only a sports fan can understand.

Only a smattering of Aussies dared to express their sentiments. "Of course I'm confident," shrugged a rugby-shirted girl as she trotted past to her seat. "All over by lunchtime!" Meanwhile, hope sprung eternal for Brian, once of Down Under, now from Ruislip. "The odds favour England," he conceded, "but you can never stop hoping! Warney's always been a sporting legend, so it'd be the perfect swansong for him to come out with something special on his last day."

By the end of the first hour, the confident had morphed into the anxious, and the anxious had become the terrified. As for the rest, it was simply unbearable to watch any longer.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

RSS Feeds: Andrew Miller

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Andrew MillerClose
Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
Related Links

'He's got no real weaknesses'

Modern Masters: Rahul Dravid and Sanjay Manjrekar discuss Jacques Kallis' terrific record in all conditions

    'You don't decline the Australian captaincy'

Seventy-nine-year-old Ian Craig talks about the "next Bradman" tag, and how Jeff Thomson caused him to retire young

    India's opening conundrum

Numbers Game: In the last three-and-half-years, India's opening combinations have averaged 18 per partnership overseas, with only one 50-plus stand in 35 attempts

    In Larwood country

Diary: Our correspondent makes his way from Trent Bridge to Nuncargate to find out more about one of England's most fearsome fast bowlers. By Sidharth Monga

Are you born to captain?

Nicholas Hogg: Are some people just made to lead and the rest to follow? Let's examine the case of the two Captains Cook

News | Features Last 7 days

Defensive captains' extended test

The duration of the Test series will allow Alastair Cook and MS Dhoni to reassess the strategies, or provide enough time to get thoroughly exposed

India look for their Indian summer

Billboards are calling the series England's Indian Summer, but it is India who are looking for that period of warmth, redemption after the last whitewash, for they have seen how bleak the winter that can follow is

India's bowling leader conundrum

The present Indian bowling line-up will tackle its first five-Test series without the proven guidance of Zaheer Khan, their bowling captain. India had unravelled without him in 2011. Will they do better this time around?

South Africa face the Kallis question

Accommodation for a great player like Jacques Kallis should be made with careful consideration and South Africa cannot get carried away with sentiment

Bevan's best, and a combined Indo-Pak team

A look back at five high-profile exhibition matches

News | Features Last 7 days

    India look for their Indian summer (87)

    Billboards are calling the series England's Indian Summer, but it is India who are looking for that period of warmth, redemption after the last whitewash, for they have seen how bleak the winter that can follow is

    India's bowling leader conundrum (44)

    The present Indian bowling line-up will tackle its first five-Test series without the proven guidance of Zaheer Khan, their bowling captain. India had unravelled without him in 2011. Will they do better this time around?

    South Africa face the Kallis question (43)

    Accommodation for a great player like Jacques Kallis should be made with careful consideration and South Africa cannot get carried away with sentiment

    What spinners should know about bowling in England (35)

    Bide your time, put your body behind each delivery, and play with the batsman's mind

    Five key head-to-heads (33)

    From two embattled captains to the challenge for India's openers against the new ball, ESPNcricinfo picks five contests that could determine the series