Lovely Adelaide and some Matthews memories

Nets at The Adelaide Oval

If cricket at The Gabba was a car park BYO, the Adelaide Oval is a classic country wedding in Shiraz territory. While redevelopment has robbed the Oval of a little of its charm, the new West stand is a relatively tasteful affair, a Georgian Town house in comparison to events at Old Trafford. Adelaide is a place that makes sense when the sun shines, and The Oval is the centrepiece – fans roaming the stands and sprawling on the grass banks on this most pleasant of warm-up days.

More change is afoot for one of the most beautiful grounds in Test cricket. The South Australia government has pledged $535 million to a project to upgrade the grounds facilities, which would see Australian Rules Football return to the ground, hosted alongside cricket, which would require a drop-in pitch. A survey by the South Australian Cricket Association revealed eight out of 10 members were behind the scheme, which will not affect the famous view of St. Peter’s Cathedral, protected by its status as a Heritage View. SACA members vote early next year on whether to approve the redevelopment.

I spoke to former Australia all-rounder Greg Matthews for TWC last week, about the Australia v New Zealand series in 1985-86. He bristled at questions regarding the quality of that mid-80s Australia side weakened by the retirements of Rod Marsh, Greg Chappell and Dennis Lillee and the rebel tour suspensions. Matthews spoke with great passion and colour of the excellent players Australia did have at their disposal then, not least their opening bowlers around that time – Merv Hughes and Craig McDermott (although Hughes didn’t play in that series).

Matthews cited their final Test wickets tallies (McDermott 291, Hughes 212). It got me thinking – Matthews was looking forwards to look backwards. Hughes and McDermott would become great bowlers, but struggled for consistency in the early stages of their Test careers (up to the start of 1988 Hughes averaged 41 with the ball and McDermott 33).

Is there a parallel there to this series? In years to come people may look back and say, “Broad and Finn played in that series – two of England’s greatest ever bowlers, Anderson and Swann were ok too, England must have been brilliant”. Yet in the present, they have struggled to and will do very well to manage 20 wickets regularly throughout this series.
It’s the same way we look back on Graham Gooch’s presence in the 1981 team with tinted specs. He would become a very different player. History and scorecards never quite relay the learning curve young players follow to get to the top.


2 thoughts on “Lovely Adelaide and some Matthews memories

  1. Pingback: Lovely Adelaide and some Matthews memories (via Chasing Australia) | The Ashes 2010 – 2011

  2. Interesting. And for the most part right I think.

    Some additional thoughts:

    1. This clearly applies to players esp bowlers picked young. SFor example look at how Flintoff struggled after being picked so early.
    2. It applies more to Englishmen than other countries. English bowlers often think they are better than they are as wickets are more conducive to taking wickets and therefore get found out on the flatter pitches used in most tests and have to learn more at international level
    3. Sub continental bowlers who have learnt on hard wickets don’t appear to me to start as badly – see amir and asif
    4. It is also true that you can assume players are better than they are looking back at scorecards after their peak. See later Vaughn or Atherton for example. Gillespie also falls in to this category as abowler.
    5. Sometimes it doesn’t matter being past your peak, Steve Waugh on Botham in 87 ashes Australia collapsed to 141 all out with Botham and Small taking five wickets each. Steve Waugh said: “The worst part was that Botham took five wickets on his reputation alone . . . long hops were nicked to the keeper or chopped on to the stumps; it was the presence and aura of a great cricketer that had us spellbound.”

    N.b. while crowd favourite, would anyone say Merv was an Aussie great? Sometimes you can get a lot of wickets just by being among the best available for a long period of time, see the King of Spain (143 wickets) against Simon Jones (59 wickets)

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