Out in the middle at the Adelaide Oval yesterday the bowlers bowled and the batters batted in a light summer breeze coming off the River Torrens. It was perfectly pleasant and nearly as meaningless.
What was happening in the area behind the Bradman Room was more fascinating and more important. Much more important. This is the location of the ground's nets and the scene of significant episodes. For two sessions, Stephen Harmison, England's injured fast bowler, went through his paces. Pace was the operative word.
For 40 minutes early in the day and then for another 30 in the evening when the match had been despatched, almost laughably, to the first-class records, Harmison approached top speed. If it was heartening for England, it was also essential. It may still be too little. On Friday morning, Harmison had withdrawn from the third and final warm-up match of the tour with a recurrence of a niggle in his left side. Since he is a central figure in England's campaign to retain the Ashes (it is almost in the "if he can't play they may as well come home" category) the need to have him bowling anywhere again was obvious.
After a cortisone injection he bowled on Saturday and again yesterday. The batsman during the final stint after stumps were drawn on the official proceedings was his captain and friend Andrew Flintoff. It was as if Flintoff, who had already batted, wanted to ascertain for himself Harmison's fitness.
Whether of his own volition or under orders Harmison was at the ground two hours before the start. This injury has not gone down well with the rest of the squad and not because they are sympathetic.
Nobody close to the team has said anything (indeed by so doing they have probably spoken volumes) but the feeling is that they would have preferred Harmison to play here. It was his final chance to get some overs under his belt before the Ashes. Overs in the nets, no matter how fearsome, do not equate to overs in the middle. Actually, the more fearsome they are the more worrying. What for instance if he had broken Flintoff's arm? There exists the belief that Harmison should have bowled through the injury - which could not be identified by scan - so close to the Ashes.
In his newspaper column yesterday, Harmison said he had been carrying the niggle all tour and had bowled through the pain barrier with it at the Oval last summer. He wrote: "As long as the medical people say my condition won't get worse by playing, I'll take any painkiller they want me to, and I'll get myself on the field." The consensus may be growing among his team-mates, however, that the sort of pain barriers Harmison burst through are made from gossamer.
None of this is good for the much vaunted team morale at this late stage. Of course, if Harmison turns up at the Gabba on Thursday and takes advantage of the pitch's extra pace by knocking over Australia's top order all this will be swiftly forgotten and his wisdom in nursing his injury properly will be commended.
He was not the only sight for sore eyes in the nets. There, too, for over after over after over with his remodelled action was the left-arm spinner Ashley Giles. When Monty Panesar was selected for the South Australia match ahead of Giles, it was automatically assumed that his place in the Brisbane Test was nailed on. Not so, it would appear.
By playing, Panesar might have harmed his prospects. In neither innings was he particularly adventurous and he again bowled too flat yesterday. The advantage he enjoys over Giles is his flight, lovely to watch, deceptive to the batsman, but he has not shown it enough.
Giles, meanwhile, the holding, over the wicket bowler, has used his long absence from the game with a hip injury to redesign his action. It would be no surprise if he played at the Gabba.
England, these major matters apart naturally, leave for Queensland in as good a shape as could have been expected. Flintoff extended his innings yesterday without ever looking in the soundest of nicks. But the two-and-a-half hours he spent at the crease were more useful than the runs accrued.
Geraint Jones, the new wicketkeeper, stayed around just long enough to matter and after England were all out 168 ahead, the bowlers put it there or thereabouts without disturbing the South Australia openers. James Anderson took a sterling catch at midwicket, leaping to his right, to give Panesar a wicket.
The game ended in a draw and handshakes all round at 4.30pm with South Australia on 164 for 2, an entirely sensible conclusion, though it did not seem entirely in accordance with the tenets of Law 16 (9) (b) (i and ii) about cessation of play.
Flintoff had other matters concerning him and dashed off to face his high-speed pal, Sore Side Steve, in the nets.
Adelaide Oval: scoreboard
Final day of three; South Australia won toss
South Australia - First Innings 247 for 7 dec (D S Lehmann 99, C J Borgas 73).
England - First Innings
(Overnight: 303 for 6)
A J Strauss lbw b Tait 0
A N Cook c Deitz b Gillespie 12
M J Hoggard c Deitz b Tait 10
I R Bell c Lehmann b Tait 132
P D Collingwood c Deitz b Bailey 80
K P Pietersen b Gillespie 32
*A Flintoff b Bailey 47
ÝG O Jones c Cosgrove b Cullen 33
S I Mahmood st Deitz b Lehmann 41
J M Anderson c Deitz b Bailey 9
M S Panesar not out 0
Extras (lb4 w5 nb10) 19
Total (124.1 overs) 415
Fall: 1-5, 2-29, 3-34, 4-212, 5-282, 6-282, 7-348, 8-401, 9-415.
Bowling: Tait 25.4-6-87-3; Gillespie 24-7-38-2; Bailey 28.1-0-128-3; Harris 13.2-7-24-0; Cullen 28-3-122-1; Cosgrove 1-0-3-0; Lehmann 4-0-9-1.
Australia - Second Innings
D J Harris not out 71
M T G Elliott c Anderson b Panesar 55
C J Borgas c sub b Pietersen 27
C J Ferguson not out 7
Extras (lb1 nb3) 4
Total (for 2, 46 overs) 164
Fall: 1-94 2-137.
Did not bat: C B Bailey, M J Cosgrove, D J Cullen, ÝS A Deitz, J N Gillespie, *D S Lehmann, S W Tait.
Bowling: Hoggard 9-0-32-0; Anderson 10-3-26-0; Mahmood 5-1-29-0; Panesar 13-4-34-1; Flintoff 6-1-18-0; Pietersen 3-0-24-1.
Umpires: A R Collins and S J Davis.Reuse content