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Steve Waugh

Sterner Test awaits India at Adelaide

December 12, 2003

Strategies have been unveiled, mini-battles won and lost, but the scoreline hasn't changed as we head off to Adelaide to do battle at one of cricket's great Test match venues.

Both teams could claim to have won in a close points decision in Brisbane, but the reality is that it was a match of fluctuating fortunes and momentum changes that saw neither team take command.

Adelaide should provide the spectators with a result because it offers everyone a chance to showcase their skills. It gives assistance to the quick bowlers early on, then generally flattens out into a batting paradise before the spinners come into their own late in the match.

We have discussed the Brisbane game and concluded that there are areas we can control better than we did. True, we lost momentum because of the rain interruptions, but I still felt that we lacked some intensity in the field. The combined effect of having Jason Gillespie return from a long break, Nathan Bracken making his debut, and Andy Bichel not really bowling to potential gave India an opportunity. It is to their credit that they maximised on these factors to cross our total comfortably.

At Adelaide, we will certainly visit the option of having Brad Williams in the side. His style is more suited to short-pitched bowling and that will add a much-needed dimension to the attack. I am still confident that if we play they way we have over the last couple of years, it will be very difficult for the Indians to stop us.

As far as our batting is concerned, I feel confident that we will be able to cope with Zaheer Khan & Company in the sunny conditions at Adelaide. While he did bowl very well on the second day at Brisbane, the conditions were also tailormade for his brand of bowling. The Adelaide Oval really eases out into a beauty after the initial movement and this makes it one of the most challenging wickets in Australia from a pace bowler's point of view.

The Adelaide Oval is a venue that inspires quality play with its outstanding surface, tastefully blended grandstands, as well as the timeless beauty of the ancient wooden scoreboard and aesthetic beauty of the distant cathedrals. It makes you want to get out there and do the business.

One aspect about Adelaide that never changes is the sight of the legendary 'Nugget' Rees, a mentor, motivator, and great friend to all of us, whose presence always inspires and lifts those around him each and every day he joins us in the dressing room. Nugget is so one-eyed that he has to wear cricket gloves when he's supporting us, otherwise his clapping can lead to temporary deafness for those in his vicinity.

The Adelaide Oval also means to me that famous lunch of fresh chicken fillets in plum sauce, which has been a constant over the past 18 years and the secret to why I have kept playing! I have always said I would finish if this item was taken off the lunch menu and thankfully for all the other players, it's outlasted me.

This is a great cricket venue and one of my favourites, and as always there will be that special Test match buzz on Friday morning as the crowd goes deathly quiet before the first ball is bowled. Without doubt my most enduring image over all the years playing here is that famous one-run loss to the West Indies, which was probably the hardest loss of my career to digest.

After battling so hard and for so many years to defeat the Windies, a victory in Adelaide would have given us the series and an historic moment for our captain Allan Border, who had never been in a winning side against a team that had dominated world cricket for a decade. I recall every team member watching that last intense hour from the viewing area, each one too scared to move in case they jinxed the outcome of what was happening in the middle. Border, as he so often did in those situations, was tossing a cricket ball from hand to hand. It used to be known as his 'worry ball' and acted as a security blanket when things got tense.

Unfortunately, Craig McDermott gloved a Courtney Walsh bouncer onto his grill before it sailed into the safe hands of Junior Murray, sending the Windies straight into party mode, a stark contrast to our camp. The 'worry ball' was thrown into the ground so hard it bounced up and hit the roof, which was about the only noise that emanated from our dressing room for the next hour.

Thankfully, there have been many happy memories to compensate for this one. My 164 against South Africa after coming back from a hamstring injury is one that sticks in my mind. Technically it was one of my better Test hundreds, given the quality of their attack and that the series was still alive.

The controversial decision on South Africa's next tour involving brother Mark caused much debate at the time. After being struck on the arm, he clipped a bail off with his bat after his arm went dead. It was obviously not part of his shot, but the South Africans and in particular Hansie Cronje were incensed as a victory was denied.


Previous column: The stage is set for a titanic battle

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