The anguish of Adelaide

I often enjoy Simon Barnes’s pieces at The Times and he’s produced a really crisp and imaginative recollection of the nightmare of the 2nd Test at Adelaide.

It was cricket as it might have been written by Kafka: a hideous punishment, as unjust as it was incomprehensible, inflicted on people who had earned the right to expect better things from life. It was like playing cricket against the Gestapo: cricket as a form of atrocity in which resistance is useless. It was cricket as torture, in which pain and hatred become distorted into a loving and grateful submission to the torturer.

I shall never forget the streets of Adelaide afterwards, the numb shock of the England supporters. These things don’t happen. We couldn’t have seen that. Brains simply refused to process the information they had received. The England press corps, a more resilient bunch on the whole, were to be found the next day at the airport, each with the thousand-yard stare of the Vietnam vet.

That the torture only lasted an hour was something of a reprieve for us, for England. It was quick – still painful – and violent, and will never be forgotten. Like someone slitting a capillary on their wrist, England bled fatally. Barnes even goes as far to say that “it was the most extraordinary passage of cricket I have seen and one of the most shocking things I have witnessed in any sport”. I’m not sure I can quite agree, but nevertheless it was a period of play which must go down as one of the most captivating (or unwatchable, depending on which side of the fence you sit) in modern times.

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