Cricket: History of hard labour

Adelaide may be beautiful, but it is also a tough battleground.
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The Independent Online
THE BEAUTY of the Adelaide Oval, overlooked by the twin spires of the Cathedral, the Moreton Bay fig trees, the venerable Victor Richardson Gates, the splendid new Bradman Stand and, in the distance, the Mount Lofty Ranges, may be lost on England's cricketers next week when they try to make up for their defeat in Perth.

It is a ground of unremitting hard labour for bowlers. The pitch is flat and easy-paced and it will be a big surprise if England are able to bowl Australia out twice next weekend on such an unyielding surface.

The Adelaide Oval has seen mixed fortunes for England sides. There was a time, in the Thirties, that whenever Australia played in Adelaide, Don Bradman made a double century, against all-comers. In 1946-47, he was bowled by Alec Bedser for nought while Arthur Morris made a hundred in each innings for Australia and Denis Compton replied in kind for England in a drawn match.

England won their first two Test matches there, in 1884-85 under Arthur Shrewsbury. When W G Grace was asked who was the cricketer in England he most wanted to have with him, he replied, "Give me Arthur," and WG himself was in charge in 1891-92 when England won by an innings and 230 runs with Johnny Briggs taking six wickets in each innings.

A E Stoddart's sides lost in 1894-95 and again in 1897-98; Archie MacLaren was no more successful in 1901-02 and Plum Warner also lost in 1903-04. Frederick Fane was England's unlucky captain in 1907-08 and England had to wait until 1911-12 for another victory when, under J W H T (Johnny Won't Hit Today) Douglas, Jack Hobbs made 187 and Sidney Barnes took eight wickets.

Australia were back in business in 1920-21 with Arthur Mailey picking up 10 for 302 with his leg breaks, and Australia's 582 remains the highest second-innings score in an Ashes Test. Hobbs made his third hundred in Adelaide in 1924-25 when Australia won by 11 runs, but made only 74 10 years later when England won by 12 runs after Walter Hammond had made a hundred in each innings and Archie Jackson had scored 164 on his debut for Australia.

Clarrie Grimmett's leg breaks were a part of the Adelaide Oval's pre- war magic but this lovely ground attracted the sound of gunfire in 1932- 33. Douglas Jardine's bodyline tactics came to a head when Bill Woodfull was struck over the heart by Harold Larwood who then fractured Bertie Oldfield's skull as he tried to hook. After the match, which England won by 338 runs, the governing bodies of both countries exchanged hostile cables and for a time the future of the tour was in the balance. The second day of the match was watched by 50,962 people, far more than would ever fit into the ground today.

Bradman's 212 assured Australia of victory over Gubby Allen's side four years later. Then, in 1951-52 the West Indies beat Australia on Christmas Day, the first Test match ever to be played on 25 December. In 1974-75 Alan Knott became the second wicketkeeper after Les Ames to make a hundred there in an Ashes series.

And the story continues to this day... Mark Waugh made a hundred against England in his first Test, in 1992-93, the West Indies won by one run and, only last year, Hansie Cronje, South Africa's captain, broke a dressing- room door when Mark Waugh was not given out for hitting his wicket.

All these stirring deeds have been enacted on one of the two or three loveliest Test grounds in the world.