|The Ashes, First Test -
Hussain wins toss but lost the plot
The England Captain
|England's players arrived in Australia
full of hope, excitement and anticipation.
Unfortunately the Ashes Tour was still in its infancy when they
realised it could turn out to be the longest three months of their
If any were in doubt about the strength of an Australian side being
toted as arguably the greatest in history, they left Brisbane realising
that their task could not be much harder if they were asked to climb
| wearing swimsuits and flip-flops.
Australia are that good, but I know that we are not as bad as the
scorebook suggests following the worst possible start to the trip
Talking to the ISM Players
I spoke to all the ISM players before the match and believe me they
were all up for it - all eager to make a quick and lasting impression
while aware of the enormity of the task against the world's best
side of this generation and possible any other. I shared that anticipation:
looking forward to seeing our own Marcus Trescothick and Michael
Vaughan walk down the pavilion steps after Nasser Hussain won the
toss and elected to bat.
It was with bated breath that I awaited the midnight hour and then
Hallelujah, the toss went our way. My former Lancashire colleague
Paul Allott, now a Sky cricket commentator, asked Nasser what he
was going to do and he seemed as dumbfounded as the rest of us when
the captain replied: 'We're going to bowl'.
There's nothing wrong in bowling first if you have the right answers.
There might be a bit in the wicket and wanting the team to settle
into the series, is just not enough to justify the decision. It's
easy to look back and criticise, but Nasser's pre-match comments
did not give credence to his decision to bat. After eight overs,
I was painfully aware of what was coming. There was hardly any swing
and precious little movement off the pitch while Matthew Hayden's
bat looked three feet wide.
The day and the match were just 40 minutes old when I called it
a day. It would not make pleasant viewing. I awoke the following
morning to have my worst fears confirmed.
Second day of the Test
At least we fought back admirably on the second day to take eight
for 120 and end the day on 163-1. There were higher scores, but
the highlight for me was Vaughnie's assault on Glenn McGrath, the
best fast bowler in the world. McGrath was on the back foot and
that doesn't happen very often. Indeed, the Aussie was probably
in short pants the last time it did. With Marcus looking solid and
Butcher weighing in, we had clawed our way back into the match.
We might not have re-claimed the game, but at least we had sent
out some positive signals.
The third day
The third day would bring another false dawn for our hopes. A couple
of quick wickets and Australia regained the initiative by lunch.
John Crawley will have been delighted to have seen runs against
his name because he was under pressure to deliver and when you are
coming in at No.6 it's not always easy particularly with a tail
as long as ours. Inevitably he ran out of allies.
Australia put the match out of reach thanks to another Hayden ton
and an ominous statement of intent from Adam Gilchrist, who followed
his second ball duck of the first innings by smiting the first of
his second for six. Plenty more runs followed, as they will throughout
We were left with an impossible task and it could not have been
a mouth-watering prospect seeing cracks in the wicket big enough
to put your bat in with McGrath pawing the ground 50 yards away
and Shane Warne sharpening his rapier. It was a question of being
positive, playing session by session and trying to get to the end
of the fourth day still in with a chance of saving the match. To
be blown away for 79 in 26 overs was horrific and put the whole
task of the next two and a half months into perspective.
No wonder our players were gutted afterwards, but they must be ready
by the time they reach Adelaide. Australia will.
We have to be positive and take all the negatives out of our thoughts.
There were things to be taken out of the defeat not least Vaughanie's
assault on McGrath, Caddick's six wickets and a first innings where
four players went past 50. But even though we had plenty of half
centuries not one, unlike the Australians, went on to make a century.
It is essential that potential big scores are converted.
It need not be all doom and gloom for I believe if we take the game
to the Aussies then all is not lost. But if we go to Adelaide suffering
from an inferiority complex then the next 10 weeks will seem like
a life sentence.