First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
Nothing draws a crowd to the WACA ground like an Ashes Test. We joined the milling mob as they descended upon the WACA like ants returning to the nest. Despite the large number of people the line through the bag search area progressed quickly and smoothly and we were seated just in time for the start of the day's play.
Although the forecast maximum was only to be 33 degrees Celsius, the day was already hot by the start time of 10:30am. The lack of wind meant that there was no relief from the bright Australian sun. Despite the conditions, or perhaps unbelievably, because of them, many spectators had removed their shirts.
Judging by the respective cheering, it seemed that a large proportion of the crowd was made up of England supporters. The Australians outnumbered them slightly (at least in volume) but such equality is rare at international fixtures.
The English certainly had more cause to make themselves heard at the beginning of play. Having dismissed Australia the day before for the seemingly low total of 268, each run scored by Cook and Strauss was warmly applauded.
Each run disheartened the Australian fans, mindful not only of the lack of English wickets in the first two Tests, but also keenly aware that if England got away in the morning session then they would take with them any hope that Australia had of regaining the Ashes.
The heat was such that I was keenly watching the flags on top of the scoreboard for any indication that the sea breeze - known locally as the Fremantle Doctor - was coming in. The few gusts of wind there were, however, were coming from the complete opposite direction.
Face-off I relished
With the conditions remaining still, Cook and Strauss scored at a brisk rate. The introduction of Mitchell Johnson into the attack did nothing to unsettle England initially. But then the flags stiffened in the breeze, not the much desired Doctor, but from the north-east. From the end which Johnson was bowling, the wind was blowing from left to right, helping Johnson move the ball away from the left-handed Cook and swing it into the right-handers, Trott, Pietersen, and Collingwood.
Cook's dismissal was met by cautious optimism but a couple of overs later with Trott and Pietersen back in the shed, the crowd could barely stay in their seats.
Aye for UDRS
There has been much said about the decision review system but for a jubilant crowd the excitement and tension of watching a decision review on the big screens around the ground is an exquisitely involving experience. Everyone stands and cranes their neck, watching every piece of footage intently, cheering or otherwise in anticipation of official confirmation when they see something conclusive.
Whether it was the heat, or a big first day, or simply because the day belonged to Australia, at any rate the famed Barmy Army were noticeably quiet, so much so that we saw no sign of them until the last session. Even then their singing was sporadic and short-lived.
The second day at the WACA was action-packed, which, given the way the first two Tests unfolded, was much appreciated by the large crowd. The standout performance of the day was Mitchell Johnson's six wickets. But runs also flowed and the highlight was the large number of hooks and pulls played, however unconvincingly. The crowd was good-natured and both sets of fans had plenty to cheer.
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Dylan Copeland is a PhD student from Australia who prefers the long version of the game.
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