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Jumping for Joy
By Peter Cornwall
Former Australian Test captain and legendary commentator Richie Benaud called it an “astonishing game”. Australian skipper Ricky Ponting described it as “the best Test win I’ve ever been a part of”. And Mike Hussey, who hit the winning runs at the end of a rollercoaster clash, recalled “that was the best feeling I have ever had on a cricket field”.
It was dubbed the Amazing Adelaide Test. And that was hardly surprising as the second Ashes clash of 2006-07 delivered all that is great about Test cricket. Climaxing with a grandstand finish after five days of fluctuating fortunes, England had taken an early stranglehold on the Test only for the Aussies to snatch an unforgettable win as the shadows were stretching out across Adelaide Oval at 6.43pm on the last day.
Ponting’s Aussies had scored a crushing first Test win at the Gabba as they set their sights on regaining the Ashes. But they were up against it as England powered to 3/468 on the second day of the next Test. Paul Collingwood made a double-century and Kevin Pietersen was finally run out for 158, the famous Barmy Army in full voice at a packed Oval. Champion Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne was reduced to mere mortal with figures of 1/167 as England finally declared at 6/551.
But the Aussies were on a roll – on their way to 16 successive Test wins – and with a batting line-up of Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Ponting, Damien Martyn, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey and Adam Gilchrist and an attack featuring Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Warne that was hardly surprising.
Ponting and Clarke, always right at home at Adelaide Oval, where they both averaged more than 60 in Tests, plundered centuries, while Hussey made 91 and Gilchrist a cameo 64. Australia had edged within 38 runs of England’s massive tally but by now it was late on day four, so surely a draw was a mere formality.
When England had reached 1/69 on the final morning the Aussies looked out of it. But Warne was about to turn the Test on its head. The champion leg-spinner was at his tantalising, accurate best, spinning the ball viciously as he bowled unchanged through two sessions from the scoreboard end. He picked up the key wicket of Andrew Strauss for 34 to start a collapse, his standout dismissal being Pietersen bowled around his legs by a ripping leggie for two. The Englishmen played into Warnie’s hands by going on the defensive. He claimed 4/49 from 32 overs, England was bowled out for 129 and the Aussies – needing 168 from 36 overs – were right back in it.
Openers Langer and Hayden were dismissed with just 33 runs on the famous old Adelaide board and the Barmy Army was starting to make some noise again. But Ponting (49) put the Aussies on the right track before Hussey again showed why he was known as Mr Cricket. He timed his run perfectly with an unbeaten 61 from 66 balls, stroking paceman Jimmy Anderson through the covers to clinch an astonishing win, leaping and punching the air in jubilation, sparking scenes of celebration in the dressing room and around the ground.
And, back in Adelaide for the first Test of the 2020-21 series against India, Hussey said: “Hitting the winning runs in that Test, it doesn’t get any better than that, in a Test match when no-one – including myself – gave us a chance to win.”
Hussey said he still reflected on that magic moment often and there was plenty of chance to do so considering there was a photo of him hitting the winning runs on his study wall.
“It was pure emotion and elation,” he said of his huge victory leap. And it’s not just because of this magic moment Hussey has enjoyed regularly returning to Adelaide Oval. “I just love this Test match,” he said. “It feels as though the whole city comes out for the Test. You would turn up as a player and it would be all throughout the whole newspaper – it would be all about the Test. It would be all over the radio, there are the marquees out the back … it just felt like for that week it was all about the Test match.”
It certainly seemed like that as Australia edged towards a stunning victory in an emotion-charged atmosphere. “The crowd just kept building up as the day wore on and we were getting closer and closer,” recalled Hussey, “just to be the lucky one to to hit the winning runs was amazing.”
No wonder it’s called Amazing Adelaide.