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So, now that we don't need the salt any more for the roads lets send it Down Under to rub in Australia's wounds, an impressive test victory at the MCG sealing the return of The Ashes. Not only did Strauss boys turn them over in front of 85,000 home fans but the innings and 157 run victory was the biggest since the days of Jim Laker and uncovered wickets, a very big win indeed, the end of an era for Australian cricket.
Melbourne (1998), of course, was the last time England won a test match in Australia before this series and that was a dead rubber, England already 3-0 down. But this was an emphatic test victory you can get to secure the Urn Down Under after a 24 year wait and wont be forgotten by those who were there. Australia are not the fourth best test team in the world for nothing. With just India and South Africa above England now we can start to think the unthinkable, England number one in the world. Steyn and Morkel and Tendulker and Dravid will be a big test to get past but we can get close next year.
I have been to Australia twice, once for a two week holiday to watch cricket and once for a year out there, which I also spent following cricket, including attending the memorable World Cup Final in front of 80,000 fans, mostly English. We lost to Pakistan that day but I had bet on them at 11-1 at the start of the tournament so it softened the blow. We also joined the teams 'commiseration' celebrations in the hotel bar after, where Gladstone Small, he of no neck, did the Gladstone Small shoulder dance on top of the bar.
The stadium is a huge concrete bowl, the size of Australia's ego when it comes to sport and cricket, the largest stadium in Australia and holds the world record for the highest light towers at any sporting venue, heating it up even more, 110 degrees the last time I was there. It's so big that its yearly admittance is more than the people who live in the city. If you are up in the nose bleeds then the pitch is the size a stamp. Ticket prices forcricket when I was last there were very cheap, just $40 Aus dollars (£16) to watch the World Cup Final. Test match prices were around $60 this test I understand.
Located close to the centre the MCG is also remembered as the centerpiece stadium of both the 1956 Summer Olympics and the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Throughout the autumn and winter, it serves as the home of Australian Rules Football (the one with the silly tiny shorts), with at least one game-sometimes more-held there each round. The stadium fills to capacity for the AFL Grand Final in late September and quite an atmosphere. What the groundsman make of that is another thing, cricket booted off the square for the first Aussie Rules game as early as April! No less than four Aussie rules sides play their home matches there. No wonder Warney got so much rip there! It's well worth taking a game of Aussie Rules in if you're out there in the autumn winter period. It is a very violent sport and non stop action.
The MCG is often referred to by locals as "The G" and has also hosted other major events, including Gaelic footy, Rugby union and State of Origin rugby league, as well as soccer matches, FIFA World Cup qualifiers and International Friendly matches brining in huge gates. It's also used for rock concerts and the like. According to wikkipedia David Cassidy played the first ever gig there back in 1976; 'Slick' the support act. Some of you will remember those two cuties.
Up until the early 1970s, 120,000 people plus could cram in - the record crowd standing at around 130,000, bizarrely for a Billy Graham evangelistic crusade in 1959, followed by 121,696 for the 1970 VFL Aussie Rules Grand Final. Redevelopments have limited the seating capacity to just over 100,000. This makes it the tenth largest stadium in the world. If 90.900 plus had attended the test last week it would have broken the seated world record for a cricket match. The previous highest was Aussie V West Indies in 1961, 90,821 seats purchased. The record should have fallen last week but for the Australian Cricket Board forgetting to sell the remaining tickets MCG members didn't want to Barmy Army fans.
It was the location for the first ever test match back in 1877 (1862 saw the first ever cricket international) and also the worlds first ever one-day international, a 40 over affair back in 1971 between England and Australia and, of course, it was the scene of the famous centenary test back in 1977. NSW ran up the highest ever first-class score of 1107 runs in an innings here in the 1940s. It was also the ground that Shaun Tait bowled the fastest ever delivery in cricket and where the Chappell brothers contrived to bowl an under arm delivery so the batsmen couldn't hit a six off the last ball to win a one-day international back in 1981. Controversial umpire Darrell Hair also called Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing here, resulting in neutral umpires appointed for all further tests around the world. Muttiah was legally allowed to carry on bending his arm whilst Hair carried on chasing headlines, resulting in that annulled test match in England. Oh and Merv Hughes famously came second in a Merv Hughes look-alike competition here at David Boons benefit.
-The Big Match-
If Perth was a traditional Aussie wicket then Melbourne was Pom conditions, a bouncy fast track replaced with a slow English style seamer, a toss you didn't want to lose in front of 86, 456 punters. The Aussies had momentum and so asked the groundsman to leave a bit of grass on, keeping their battery of four quickies from Perth, but Strauss winning the spin and putting Aussie in on it and so negated that advantage.
England were brilliant, bowling the same nagging line outside off stump with swing and angle, Australia all-out for a catastrophic 98, every single dismissal caught behind the wicket, a record six for Prior. Andersen and Tremlett were immaculate, as was Bresnan, the shell-shocked Ponting sneaking off in front of those 88,145 fans with his head held low. It was Australia's lowest Ashes score against England at home since 1938, and the lowest against England at the MCG in the grounds history, clearly not Plan A. Its 45 years since we bowled the old enemy out for less than 100. If that was impressive then how about 157-0 at the close at four an over, both Cook (82) and Strauss (69) set for hundreds, the Ashes all but secured.
Day two saw 67,456 people see Siddle nip out the openers early with the final lick of movement on the ball before Pietersen (51) and Trott get in and shared a near 100 stand to take the game further away from Australia. Another wobble saw the middle-order get out cheap, England at 267-5 and hope for OZ, before keeper Prior (85) joined Trott (168*) for another big stand (173) and that was that for an Australian win, England posting 513, Siddle cleaning up the tail with 6-75, the only bowling plus for team Aus this series. Ricky Ponting was fined 40% of his match fee for arguing with the umpire as his frustration boiled over as accepted the likelihood that he would be the first ever Ashes captain to lose three Ashes series.
Australia's reply started well after lunch on day three, 99-1 making you think - well what if the Aussie batting fires this time? But once Watson fell Lbw for 54 they quickly collapsed to 158-6, the splattering of Ponting's stumps a suitable metaphor for his chances of keeping The Ashes and the captaincy. Australia had a late and resigned whack in front of a mainly English crowd on day four with Haddin finishing unbeaten on 55* and Saddle making 40, before Bresnan nipped out the final one to reclaim The Ashes, the final moments missed by anyone listening in on Radio Four4 as the ubiquitous Shipping Forecast was being called. England celebrated with the sprinkler dance and headed for the beach and bars. Ponting refused to resign. With him being rested for the final test I don't think he will ever play again.
There's no coming back from being bowled out for 98 and giving the Pom's the perfect English conditions to bowl on was crazy. A flat wicket five day consolidating draw was what was required and so on to Sydney for the thrilling decider. Conceding 500 three times in the series is all you need to know about Australia's bowling without Warne and McGrath. The likes of mercenary Trott have been the difference in the England team years and this series victory feels hollow to me and we have just too many Saffers in the side to call them England. He is second only to the great Tendulker in test runs scored this year.
England beat Australia by an innings and 157 runs.
If you want to be naughty and watch free Ashes cricket online then accidentally click this link below.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground or MCG is home to both cricket and Australian Rules Football for Melburnians and visitors alike. The stadium is huge by anyone's standards and has a capacity of over 100,000.
For Australians, football doesn't refer to soccer, but rather Australian Rules Football - a mish mash of rugby and bare knuckle boxing! Depending on the time of year (March to September) the MCG is home to footie and matches are generally raucous affairs with plenty of fights and action (mostly on the pitch!)
In the Australian summer (October to February) the MCG is home to cricket and will be home to one of the Ashes games later in the year. Regardless of which sport you go and see, I can heartily recommend a visit here, as the noise made by the amount of people in this intense arena is really impressive.
If you don;t fancy catching a game at the MCG (or "G" as its further abbreviated!) the ground is still worth a visit and one of the guided tours is well worthwhile. There are three tours available - the MCG tour, the National Sports Museum tour or both!
The MCG tour takes in a trip to the room where the players sit to watch the game, and allows access to the pitch itself so that you can imagine what having 100,000 eyes peering at you would feel like. It is generally conducted by one of the elderly but well educated MCG members who give you a comprehensive feel of the place and its history.
The National Sports Museum tour takes in the Olympic Museum home to photographic displays and numerous bits of Olympic memorabilia. There are also some intersting interactive pieces here too, allowing you to "take part" in various events. The tour also takes in Sport Australia Hall of Fame, Australian Cricket Hall of Fame along with much more, including the Melbourne Cricket Club Museum.
The respective tours cost $20 and $15 admission for adults but a combined ticket for both is $30. Booking isn't necessary and the tours are available in normal daytime hours.
I was really amazed at the size of this place having visited huge English sporting grounds such as Wembley and Old Trafford in the past. It really is massive and whether you choose to visit it for an actual sporting event and take in the atmosphere, or just enjoy a more serene tour, this is definitely a place worth visiting.
If you have any sort of sporting inclination head for the Melbourne Cricket Ground (better known as MCG or the 'G). From February to September you can go to the Australian Rules - a couple of hours of mayhem with three dozen men in nylon pants and vests, mullets and moustaches kicking the **** out of each other. And from October to January you can catch the cricket - the Boxing Day test and the 1 dayers in Jnauary being the highlight. The ground holds over 100,000 and if you can make a top game you'll be amazed by the atmosphere. The Great Southern Stand alone holds more people than most sporting stadiums in the world (around 50,000). You can also catch a tour of the pavillion and ground and will be taken round by one of the old guys. This ends in the Olympic Musuem which commerorates the 1956 Games which the ground hosted.