At tea time, the red carpet was rolled out at the Waca and there was a smiling Wally Edwards and a perspiring Giles Clarke, Australia and England's respective chairmen of the boards, to induct Adam Gilchrist into the International Cricket Council hall of fame. Gilchrist, perhaps the most lethal wicketkeeper-batsman of all time, accepted the honour before walking off briskly, as if he had just nicked one to the keeper.
Then he settled down to watch his successor do his damnedest to ensure Australia regain the Ashes. In this series, Brad Haddin is proving to be as deep a thorn in England's side as Gilchrist ever was. And that is saying something.
Haddin has notched up 320 runs at an average of 80 with four consecutive innings over 50, and they have been vital runs. They have often been dismissive runs as well. Haddin has won all of those “moments” the players are always talking about. The match is in the balance; the Aussie first innings is faltering. But with the door ajar, there is Haddin helping to jam it shut.
In Brisbane Australia were 132 for six, all out for 295, with Haddin last man out for 94; in Adelaide Australia’s 257 for five became 570 for nine declared, with Haddin last man out for 118; in Perth, 143 for five became 267 for six by the time Haddin fell for 55.
Gilchrist would have been proud of him. Haddin is not quite so saintly; he is less devoted to walking and he does not quite strike the ball as crisply – but who ever did? Although six years younger, he is a more old-fashioned Aussie, tough, straight-talking with none of the fashionable psychobabble.
Nonetheless there are many similarities with Gilchrist. He had to wait to a ripe old age to win his first Test cap. Gilchrist was almost 28 which meant he was just about the finished article. Haddin, Gilchrist’s replacement, was over 30 on debut.
Haddin has always been a pragmatic keeper, sometimes untidy but usually catching the ones that matter, and a silkier cricketer with the bat.
He also knew his game upon arrival at Test level. Like Gilchrist's, it is aggressive. His instincts are to attack and they have served him brilliantly in this series. By his own admission he has been lucky. In Adelaide England kept dropping him; Ben Stokes dismissed him with a no-ball.
But how he has relished rubbing English noses into the dry Australian dust. The Aussie engine room in the middle order has overwhelmed the English equivalent. The tourists’ sixth and seventh wicket average is less than 12 in this series. For Australia the figure is well in excess of 90.
Haddin had some luck yesterday. Indeed there was the temptation to plaster the message boards or the websites with “Haddin fails” after he was dismissed for 55. However his partnership with Smith had swung the pendulum again: 124 runs in heat that might even have had Alastair Cook perspiring.
Haddin looked distinctly dodgy when he came to the wicket early as a consequence of wasteful, impatient batting rather than incisive English bowling. Stuart Broad peppered him with bouncers. Haddin was clearly inconvenienced . The ball took his glove and went nowhere. Haddin mis-hooked a Tim Bresnan bouncer but the shot did not quite reach Broad on the long-leg boundary.
Then he sparkled. He lofted Graeme Swann over midwicket. He popped Bresnan back over his head as if he were a gentle medium pacer. Haddin purred along to a deep-set field until his luck ran out. He was caught, mis-pulling a short ball and this time Stokes’s front foot was a millimetre or two behind the line.
Off strode Haddin briskly, the mood of the match transformed. He may be 36 but he remains one of the freshest combatants in this Ashes series. To England's despair, Haddin plays as if it is a simple game and he is having fun.
– Guardian Service