Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 3rd day December 5, 2010

Anything but the cricket

As England piled on the runs with a Kevin Pietersen double hundred, the local supporters were grateful for other attractions at the Adelaide Oval

Adelaide is the best ground in the world for not watching cricket. Barbados and Antigua have their pools, and Perth has its neighbouring race track, but at Adelaide Oval there is lawn and marquees. Which is just as well, because this is a game Australian fans don't want to see.

But if you've bought a ticket or a membership, it's rude not to turn up. So while the Barmy Army was magnetised to every ball aimed at the pads of Kevin Pietersen, thousands of the South Australian members were out the back of their new stand, pretending they were at the races instead of a demolition derby masquerading as a Test match.

"Bring back Warney," one unhappy local said as he sought relief from the torture. Warney was actually in the nets at the time, but he was there batting in a tea-break hitting contest, largely content in retirement. No amount of sponsorship or hair plugs could entice him back to bowl at an enemy that is no longer submissive.

Four summers ago England scored 551 in their first innings and it wasn't enough. This time they have 4 for 551 and already it is plenty, thanks to Australia's inadequate first-innings of 245 and a diligent but ineffective attack. The bowlers ran in, the England batsmen waved them away, and the drinkers in the bars tried to talk about something else.

"Four for 500-and-***ing-20," another disbelieving home supporter slurred. England weren't even close to being finished and only summer rain, with drops the weight of champagne corks, was able to stop the day's carnage. When the weather closed in it was possible to smell the dust which Australia have been ground into over the past three days, or six, if you count Brisbane.

The lawns out the back of the members' area are not as lush as the Nursery End at Lord's, especially after the weekend of heat and trampling, and the crowd is not as genteel. But the bars serve Pimm's, an ideal drink for a regatta, or a wedding, or discussion of anything but cricket. In other tents the sippers enjoyed bottles of Knappstein followed by a nap. Seen one KP boundary, seen them all.

Mitchell Johnson was working in the nets after lunch with his failing bowling coach Troy Cooley. He was disappointed to be dropped, but has been saved another week of punishment. Johnson was used as a fielder, fulfilling his 12th man duties, but even if Australia were allowed another bowler it would not have helped.

Even England supporters who have been through the Down Under disasters of the past two decades were showing restraint. Just like the Australians on the trips over there, I'm sure, in '89, '93, '97 and '01. Mostly it was better to talk about the weather, or the exchange rate, or the oysters, or the match here four years ago, which was being replayed during the rain. Anything but this game, Australia's fast-bowling problems, or Xavier Doherty's inaccuracy.

Have you heard the music out the back? Or visited the beautiful gardens behind the Chappell Stands? What about the new statue of Jason Gillespie, which already has a cup of beer in his left hand? Or have you hidden under an umbrella to escape the heat - and a Pietersen double-century.

At the back of the Western Stand, a big television screen sits on the tray of a truck offering the members a chance to watch if they want to. When Pietersen ran his single to mid-off to bring up his double-century, there was a smattering of applause from those around the tents. They are a knowledgeable lot, the South Australian members, and that's without including the former Test players, such as Greg Blewett, who were in their ranks.

Still, it's possible for them to go a whole day without watching a ball live. On days like this it's hard to blame them. As the Eagles almost sang in Hotel California, "Some drink to remember, some drink to forget". On the grass under the hill, the Barmy Army fans were setting their photographic memories, but out the back in the marquees it was easier to be blind.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo