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First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
Boxing Day Test. MCG. 90,000 people. Pretty easy decision. Ever since watching England destroy the Aussies here three years ago I've been looking forward to this Test, although it would have been better if the Ashes were still up for grabs. Although, it is of course 3-3 in the mega-series so this Test was vital for both sides.
Having been born and raised in England it follows that I passionately support my national team - even travelling halfway round the world to see them! Even though the series was gone, I was hoping for England to show some pride and fight in this game. It's been a pretty easy ride supporting England over the past five years, so I suppose it's time for us fans to stand by them.
This could go to any of the five England bowlers, who all bowled with the consistency and control we expected at the start of the series. But, for me, the key performer today was undoubtedly Stuart Broad. He bowled a brilliant spell to Steve Smith in the afternoon from the Members end. It was a supreme example of control and raw pace. The Aussie fans ribbed him all day long, but if anything it inspired Broad to bowl faster and with more aggression.
The interplay I enjoyed
James Anderson v Michael Clarke. Despite his poor series, Anderson is still one of the best bowlers in world cricket and his battle with (probably) the best batsmen in Test cricket is always exciting. For a batsman of his class, Clarke has been clean-bowled on too many occasions and often by Anderson. To be fair to Clarke, he usually gets a good ball and it was the same at the 'G today. Anderson set him up beautifully with a couple of balls that nipped away and then gave him one that came back in to clip the top of off stump. If we can't win the Ashes we can at least try and show some fight.
With England in the field for most of the day, the Barmy Army had plenty of players to encourage them into action. Kevin Pietersen spent the most time in front of the Barmy Army and local fans. Needless to say he loved the attention, orchestrating the Barmy Army and blowing a kiss to the baying Aussies. There was also a rush from autograph-hunters when Monty Panesar came to the fence at fine leg, proving that he still has a cult following amongst both England and Australian fans.
Shot of the day
Well, the shot of the day, unfortunately for England was actually the worst shot of the day. Pietersen's wild hoick at a ball from Mitchell Johnson was truly terrible. Yes, the ball swung in a little, but the shot was inexcusable. There was a job to be done and Broad, who was at the other end, is no mug with the bat. You really do have to question KP's decisions sometimes. He is the most infuriating player in the world to watch.
If yesterday's record-breaking crowd produced a wall of noise then today's crowd of 75,000+ provided a lyrical contest between the two sets of supporters. During the mid- afternoon lull the Barmy Army struck up its traditional chorus of "Everywhere we go" and the Aussies responded with their "imaginative" offering of "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie". The singing battle lasted for most of the afternoon session and really added to the atmosphere. It was the Barmy Army who came out on top. With England grabbing the vital wickets of Smith and Chris Rogers while the songs were in full flow, the scorecard should have read "c Bell b Barmy Army"!
The main entertainment came at tea time as I, along with thousands of others, made my way to the MCG nets to watch Piers Morgan attempt to survive an over from Brett Lee. The talk-show host has been bemoaning England's efforts during this Ashes series and in particular how they have fared against the fast bowling of Johnson and Co. To be fair to him, Morgan did stand up and even charged Lee as he bounded in as if it was 2005 all over again. The crowd was sensing blood as Morgan fended off an over from Lee, but he came through unscathed if a little terrified.
A superb day that shows why Test cricket still attracts such large crowds. This is exactly the sort of day we all thought would be commonplace during this series with England playing attritional and hard-fought cricket. A great day at the 'G. England finally came to the Ashes party here in Australia, and I hope they can finally win a game on this tour.
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Jack Vittles is a 20-year-old aspiring cricket journalist currently studying history at Cardiff University. He is a fervent supporter of England and Somerset and spends his spare time taking tail-end wickets with filthy left-arm long hops. He blogs about cricket here.
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