Bris­bane 2002: Could Eng­land have got off to a worse start?

He called right but then he called it wrong... Richard Ed­wards on Nasser’s coin toss and the hor­rors of Bris­bane 15 years ago...

The Cricket Paper - - FEATURE -

Si­mon Jones pauses be­fore de­liv­er­ing his an­swer... “Nasser was an as­tute cap­tain, tac­ti­cally very good,” he says, be­fore adding: “Well, 99 per cent of the time.”

Rewind, and it’s Novem­ber 7, 2002 and Jones, along with his team-mates, is wait­ing for the Eng­land skip­per to re­turn to the dress­ing af­ter per­haps the most im­por­tant coin toss of his ca­reer.

In the stands, ex­pec­tant Aus­tralians are bay­ing for blood. Af­ter a typ­i­cally dis­mal start to a tour Down Un­der, the massed ranks of the Barmy Army are sim­ply hop­ing for the best.

The coin goes up and Hus­sain calls cor­rectly. Steve Waugh, his op­po­site num­ber, be­gins men­tally pre­par­ing to take to the field for the first day of an Ashes se­ries that sees his side start as sig­nif­i­cant favourites. Michael Vaughan and Mar­cus Trescoth­ick are al­ready men­tally strap­ping on the pads.

“We’ll have a bowl,” says the Eng­land cap­tain. Cue stony si­lence in Eng­land’s al­ready ap­pre­hen­sive dress­ing room.

“I’m re­ally not too sure what hap­pened,” Jones tells The Cricket

Pa­per, al­most 15 years on. “The Gabba is al­ways a good wicket and if you win the toss then, gen­er­ally, you have a hit first up. I’m not sure what Nasser was think­ing. He had a bit of a brain fart.”

Safe to say that Justin Langer and Matthew Hay­den couldn’t be­lieve their luck, as they strode out in bright sun­shine to take on an in­ex­pe­ri­enced English at­tack on a ground they hadn’t been beaten on for 13 years. When the stumps were drawn on day one, Aus­tralia were sit­ting pretty on 364 for 2, with Hay­den on 186 not out.

Ricky Ponting, mean­while, had his feet up in the dress­ing room, grin­ning broadly af­ter scor­ing an equally dom­i­nant 123.

Jones, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen...

Shortly af­ter lunch he had em­barked on a rou­tine chase on the Gabba out­field be­fore slid­ing to pick up the ball. It would be his fi­nal ac­tion in an Eng­land shirt for al­most two years.

“I’d had a pretty good day up to that point,” he says. “I had just wanted to get out there and get on with it.

“There’s noth­ing worse than spend­ing a day and a half, two days, just watch­ing the game.

“I was rar­ing to go. I felt fit, I felt strong and I had bowled re­ally well in the warm-up games.

“I had got the wicket of (Justin) Langer, which was nice be­cause he was an an­gry lit­tle man.

“To get that wicket was a great feel­ing be­cause I had worked in­cred­i­bly hard just to get on the tour af­ter pick­ing up a side nig­gle on my de­but (the pre­vi­ous sum­mer against In­dia).

“The an­noy­ing thing for me was that, in all the warm-up games we had played, the out­fields were like bil­liard ta­bles.You slid on them and they were like glass... you just kept on go­ing.

“For some rea­son, we weren’t told about the na­ture of the AFL pitch they had there (in Bris­bane), and it came back to bite me hard.

“I felt this im­mense pain in my right knee, and I in­stantly knew my tour was over. I knew there was no com­ing back from it.”

Jones’ re­ac­tion to what looked at first to be a reg­u­la­tion stop im­me­di­ately sparked alarm bells, with his team-mates rush­ing to the Glam­or­gan quick as he lay in a crum­pled heap on the out­field.

A stretcher was whis­tled up, with Ja­son Gille­spie and Steve Harmi­son do­ing the hon­ours around the grounds perime­ter. It wasn’t a smooth pas­sage back to the chang­ing room.

“I was in agony,” says Jones. “Harmy and Gille­spie were the guys with the stretcher and a guy from the crowd de­cided to chip-in and chuck a can of lager at me be­fore call­ing me a weak pom­mie b**tard. That wasn’t ideal – ‘Harmy’ nearly dropped me to go into the crowd and give him a piece of his mind.

“It was nice that Shane Warne and some of the Aus­tralian leg­ends came into the chang­ing room to check that I was OK, but the re­al­ity re­ally hit when I was sat in there on my own.

“I started gath­er­ing my thoughts and I just knew I was in a world of trou­ble.

“The most un­be­liev­able thing was that I was get­ting taken out to the am­bu­lance and an Aussie re­porter was wait­ing there with a camera and a mi­cro­phone want­ing to know how I felt. “If she had waited 24 hours I would have done an in­ter­view, no wor­ries. But to try and grab me at that mo­ment in time was shock­ing.” Jones would spend an­other 10 days in Aus­tralia wait­ing for the swelling on his knee to go down so he could travel back home for an op­er­a­tion that would, ul­ti­mately, save his ca­reer. Back at the Gabba, a Jones-less Eng­land were lurch­ing to de­feat against a ram­pant Aus­tralian side that had been ut­terly dom­i­nant since Hus­sain made his call on the open­ing morn­ing. De­spite an Eng­land fight­back early on day two – Aus­tralia’s last eight wick­ets fell for just

The Gabba is al­ways a good wicket and if you win the toss, you go and have a hit first up

114 runs – while the tourists at one stage found them­selves 170 for 1, there was no com­ing back from an open­ing day per­for­mance that set the tone for a dis­mal se­ries for Hus­sain’s men.

An ex­cel­lent 72 from Mar­cus Trescoth­ick, cou­pled with a bat­tling 69 not out from John Craw­ley, got Eng­land up to 325 but they were still 169 runs short of the Aussies’ first-in­nings to­tal.

And from day three on­wards, it was men against boys.

Hay­den fol­lowed up his mon­u­men­tal first-in­nings ef­fort of 197 with an even more praise­wor­thy ef­fort of 103 sec­ond time around. The Aussie rated it as a bet­ter in­nings than his first-in­nings dig, which he be­lieved was blighted by lapses in con­cen­tra­tion as a re­sult of not eat­ing enough due to first-day nerves.

Eng­land were left con­tem­plat­ing what might hap­pen if his ap­petite for food matched his in­sa­tiable greed for runs.

The Aussies even­tu­ally put Eng­land out of their mis­ery at 295 for 5, a lead of 465. Any dreams Eng­land had of a record run-chase were soon put to bed, with both Trescoth­ick and Vaughan fall­ing within two overs.

Jones would not watch the denouement of an all-too-pre­dictable col­lapse, ad­mit­ting that cricket was the fur­thest thing from his mind as he wres­tled with what lay ahead.

Eng­land, too, must have feared for their im­me­di­ate fu­ture as Aus­tralia skit­tled them for just 79 in 28.2 overs of un­re­lent­ing ag­gres­sion. Glenn McGrath took four wick­ets, while Warne chipped in with three.

Hus­sain was a cap­tain un­der fire fol­low­ing his de­ci­sion to in­sert the home side on day one.

De­fend­ing him­self in his Sun­day news­pa­per col­umn, he wrote: “I did not do so (put them in) in the ex­pec­ta­tion that the wicket would play like a seamer’s green-top and we would bowl them out in a cou­ple of ses­sions.

“What I was hop­ing for was that we could make enough use of the con­di­tions in the first ses­sion or two to limit Aus­tralia to 300 for five or six wick­ets by the end of the first day – not an un­re­al­is­tic ob­jec­tive.”

With Jones fir­ing, he might have been right. Fate, though, dic­tated that both men would live to re­gret an open­ing day that will live long in the mem­ory.

For all the wrong rea­sons...

Day-one won­der! Damien Mar­tyn con­grat­u­lates Matthew Hay­den on his cen­tury

Wrong call: Nasser Hus­sain

PIC­TURES: Getty Images

Bro­ken: Eng­land physio Kirk Rus­sell at­tends to the in­jured Si­mon Jones af­ter Jones had made an early im­pres­sion with the wicket of Justin Langer, in­set

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.