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The Ashes: Australia at England Day 2

22 August 2009 No Comment

When we decided to plan a trip for Europe, the wife checked U2’s tour schedule and realized they were playing in the United Kingdom the week we would be in London. She immediately wanted to attend a show. There were four shows to choose from – Friday, August 14 or Saturday, August 15 at Wembley Stadium in London, Tuesday, August 18 in Glasgow, Scotland or Thursday, August 20 in Sheffield, England. Ideally, we would have attended a show in London so we would not have to travel within the UK. However, that would mean we would need to leave Chicago two days earlier to attend the show on Saturday night in London. When I realized that Australia and England were playing the 5th test match of the Ashes at the Oval beginning Thursday, August 20 and running through Monday, August 24, Sheffield, England was the winner.

Day 2 of the test series started on Friday at 11 am. Thus, Nicole and I were on the 7:41 am train from Sheffield back to London – our estimated arrival time was shortly after 10 am. When we arrived in London, Nicole headed to our friend’s apartment where we were staying and I took the subway to the Oval.

Obtaining Tickets
Earlier in the week, my friend, British Mick, had warned me that tickets to the Ashes could run between 250 and 400 pounds. That price point was high for me, so I chose to do some research. I had assumed ticket prices would be like the India at England test match I had attended at the Oval in 2007 where I paid 20 pounds for a Sunday ticket.

Some Friday tickets for the Ashes were going for the price Mick had stated, but a majority of tickets were selling between 100 and 200 pounds – a much more reasonable amount.

As I arrived at the Oval I just missed buying a ticket from some Australians. I saw them sell their 65 pound ticket to someone for 85 pounds. I spent about 10 more minutes walking around and did not find any other extras.

I was about to walk back to where the ticket touts hang out by the Oval tube station, when I found what appeared to be a random fan who said he had an extra ticket – face value 65 pounds. He showed me the ticket and told me he had actually paid 140 pounds for the ticket. I offered him 100 pounds believing his story and we agreed on 120 pounds (a price British Mick stated was very good). The guy and his friend walked me to the entrance and said they would be in later. I never saw them again, so I was not sure whether they told me a real story or if they were ticket touts. Either way their story was believable.

Concessions at the Oval
One type of food that you do not find at concession stands in the United States is Indian food. Of course, you cannot Mexican food at an English stadium.

In what is a more liberal alcohol policy than United States venues, fans can buy up to four beers or an entire bottle of wine in a single purchase. However, since cricket lasts for hours (Friday’s match lasted close to eight hours), the alcohol sales stop twice during the day – once between 2:15 and 2:45 pm and again between 4:30 and 5:00 pm.

The Match
With the test series tied at 1-1 with two draws, the fifth test match was the decider – like game seven of the World Series according to British Mick. With that in mind, I was prepared to see some intense cricket. I saw the last two wickets of England’s first inning (which had started on Thursday) as England put a total of 332 runs on the board. Most of the writers in the paper had hoped England would score more than 400, so 332 runs were somewhat of a disappointment.

After a short break Australia came to bat around 11:30 am. Australia’s first two batsman, Shane Watson and Simon Katich, had 61 runs with zero wickets as the rains came three minutes before the scheduled lunch at 1 pm. The match was delayed for about an hour after lunch due to the continued rain fall and the teams gathered back on the pitch around 2:30 pm. Watson and Katich combined for 73 runs before Watson was out lbw (leg before wicket) by Stuart Broad. A run total that appeared Australia would eventually top England’s 332.

Next up was Australia’s #3 batsman, captain and supposedly the best batsman in the world – Ricky Ponting. Ponting only had eight runs before Broad threw a cutter that hit the ground then hit the wicket – Ponting was out and England’s day was looking promising. Broad got Australia’s #4 batsman Mike Hussey out lbw before he could even score one run. I had a feeling I was seeing something special even though I am not an expert at cricket in any means.

In the next over, Michael Clarke was dismissed for Broad’s fourth wicket within an hour as Broad bowled through Australia’s main batsmen. Within the next 20 minutes two more wickets were taken from Australia and Broad had five wickets during the inning (and within 80 minutes for that matter). During lunch I noticed a plaque at the Oval commemorating bowlers who had recorded five wickets within one inning – now I knew I was seeing something special.

Tea was scheduled for 4:30 pm – a much needed break for the Australians who only scored 133 runs with eight wickets. However, tea did not seem to help as England held Australia to a total of 160 runs in their first inning and came to bat again at the end of the day. Australia’s 160 run first inning total was Australia’s lowest test first inning since 1997 and their lowest first inning run total at the Oval since 1912.

England ended the day with 58 runs in their second inning with three wickets (15 total wickets were taken on the day) and appeared to be on their way to returning the Ashes to England by the end of the test series.

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