Australia v England, second Test, Adelaide, 2006 August 22, 2010

The thrill, the magic, the horror

When Warne took a Test match from dullness to unimaginable menace

It was supposed to be a quiet day at work. Seven hours of watching the second Test drift to sleep while typing a few words for the Guardian over-by-over report. It turned into the most unforgettable day's play imaginable: a numbing, traumatic and downright magical defeat. The vivid sensation of the day was exacerbated by the fact that I was alone in a huge office in the mezzanine hours, bleary-eyed yet simultaneously manic on free coffee; wondering if my eyes were deceiving me; desperate to share the wonder of Warne with anyone.

Of course, the main reason the memory endures is because of the astonishing performance of that rogue psychiatrist Warne, who got England on the couch and drove them doolally with demons that didn't even exist. Warne only took four wickets, two of them lower-order batsmen, but he got inside England's heads, numbing them into submission. And he was responsible for the moment the day snapped viciously into the horror genre, like the scene in the film when the wide-eyed teenager walks round the corner and into a swinging pickaxe.

That occurred when Kevin Pietersen was bowled round his legs - having boasted in his autobiography that such a dismissal would never happen. Even after claiming Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell, you suspect Australia did not really believe they would win, but the symbolism of Pietersen's dismissal changed everything. England were four down and suddenly every single delivery crackled with unimaginable menace.

England held on grimly through the afternoon session, and Paul Collingwood's strokeless defiance brought a lump to the throat, but throughout it all there was the grisly awareness that there could be no happy ending for them here. A glorious era of English cricket died that day, and many fans can't even say the Macbethian word "Adelaide", referring instead to the "South Australian ground". Yet we should forget the parochial and marvel in one of the great days of sport, a heist that makes no more sense now than it did then.

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