Possibly our most exciting day in Adelaide, started with sunshine and clear skies. Unfortunately, we split down male/female lines again, as Sue and Sarah preferred to visit the Adelaide Aquatic Centre and swim in the large variety of pools it offered.
Sam, Chris and I went instead for me free guided tour of Adelaide Oval. This two hour feast was excellent fare for anyone interested in cricket, architecture or social structure. Included in the tour were the Bradman Stand, the scoreboard, the members area and the ground itself. I was fascinated at how the ground so truly reflected the staid nature of the membership, which in turn reflects the Adelaide aristocracy. A perfect example of this is the eastern side of the oval, where the Victor
Richardson Gates are the only structure rising to any height. On a ground where stands only occupy two sides, the question was asked as to why no stands existed on the eastern side of the oval. Our guide informed us the membership would never approve it, as it would block their view of the Mt Lofty Ranges when they woke before tea, from their afternoon nap !
The playing surface is the longest in world cricket and possibly the narrowest. At 191 metres from north to south and 127 metres from east to west, it makes an elongated ovoid. There is a fall of 1.8 metres in height from the south east to the north west corner of the ground and eight pitches are located on the centre square. Given these dimensions, it is not surprising square-of-the-wicket players such as David Hookes, have found it easy to score quickly on this ground.
The score board is a dinosaur which harks back to an earlier era. Built in 1911 and then updated in the
1930's under the direction of Victor Richardson, it flies in the face of technology available even twenty years ago. It is almost exclusively manually driven, by the four or five members of the ground staff who man it on match days - man being the operative word, as this is a women exclusion zone. Our guide was horrified at the thought a female might be turning the rollers ! The only "technology" which was apparent, was an electric - not electronic - switchboard which is used to illuminate a bulb beside the players' names as they field the ball or take strike, and a glorified calculator used to work out the run rates in one day games. The structure is wooden framed and covered with galvanised iron sheeting. The lack of insulation means match days in January are extremely uncomfortable for the workers. However a love of the ground and one of its best vantage points are the benefits which outweigh the negatives of heat and time pressure.
The photographs and artifacts on show in the Chappell Bar were outstanding. The bar is named for Ian and Greg Chappell, South Australian brothers who captained their country and were two of its finest players .
The Bradman Room also hosted a fine collection, including photographs of Bill Woodfull and Bert Oldfield being struck bg Harold Larwood in the 1932-33 Bodgline Test at this ground. I commented to the boys that the ground was nearly invaded by irate spectators when Oldfield was struck. Our guide looked decidedly cross and chided me, saying if the match had been played in Sydney or Melbourne, there would have been an invasion - no doubt alluding to the greater control over their emotions people of Adelaide had.
Visits to the player's dressing rooms, the committee rooms and the viewing areas for special VIP's, werealso included in the circuit of the facilities.
Despite some small rewriting of history - born of years of pomposity - the guide offered an excellent tour of two hours duration and we felt honoured so much had been shared with us.
The lads and I retrieved the girls from their waiting vigil in the Aquatic Centre car park and returned home for another relaxed afternoon, further armed with videos.