Australia seek series win in flood-ravaged Brisban
The floodwaters had receded but the devastation was still easy to see around Goodna, west of Brisbane, where the Australian cricketers did their bit to give the community something to smile about during time at a local school. They now hope to give Queenslanders some joy by securing the one-day series against England with victory at the Gabba on Sunday.
This was the first time the squad had returned to Brisbane since the flooding - although Shane Watson went to his hometown, Ipswich, two weeks ago just as the recovery work began - and they visited schools and shopping malls around some of the worst-affected areas west of the city. The swollen, murky brown Brisbane River which snakes through the city is a reminder of how recently the disaster unfolded.
Australia are now aiming to make this the city where they seal the series after giving England a lifeline at Adelaide and Watson believes the local support will make a huge difference. "It's going to be a very emotional day and hopefully that can help pull us over the line and win the series," he said.
England have made their own donations to the flood appeal during this series and are aware of the motivating factors involved in this match for Australia. "Our hearts have gone out to the people. Seeing those things on TV is pretty shocking," Chris Tremlett said. "The England team have been fully behind it. I imagine it will be a very emotional time for people on Sunday and we are glad to be part of it."
Watson has previously spoken about how his mind has often been on events in Queensland during the one-day series, yet he has been able to maintain his consistent form with a match-winning 161 at Melbourne and 64 at Adelaide. But while his success for Australia gives him great pleasure these past few weeks have given him a sense of perspective.
"There's no doubt that during the period when you didn't know the extent of devastation, around Ipswich especially, it was something that took my mind off the cricket," he said. "After the disappointment of the Ashes series it put my life into perspective for sure. It's just great I was able to score runs during that period but life is bigger and greater than cricket, even though I love playing it."
Although the Suncorp Stadium, which is used for rugby and soccer, was flooded, the Gabba was largely unaffected and recently staged back-to-back Big Bash games. Kevin Mitchell Jr, the Gabba curator, has no concerns about the pitch for Sunday's game despite the horrific weather of a few weeks ago.
"It's looking pretty good with nice even cover of grass so should play uniformly," he told ESPNcricinfo. "With all the rain, we're not too bad. The only way the Gabba gets flooded is if the stormwater and the tide from Norman Creek occur together. Since the redevelopment of the ground it's happened four times. The wicket block is never affected."
Mitchell Johnson's occasional state appearances now come for Western Australia, but he was born in Townsville and retains a strong connection to his home state. "Just driving through now and seeing where the levels were, Shane [Watson] showed me some photos of the water. It does blow you away and it's hard to believe," he said. "The Queensland spirit is nice and strong and we are sticking behind each other. The day after it all happened you saw the pictures of everyone lending a hand, digging that mud up, and doing everything they can."
Johnson, who struggled during the Ashes apart from his matchwinning performance in Perth, has been a frustrated watcher during the last three matches due to a throat infection. He hopes to return to the side in Brisbane and build form ahead of the World Cup in what he believes will be a memorable occasion.
"I'm certainly looking forward to getting back and playing again," he said. "It was hard sitting back on Australia Day and not being able to play, it's one of the ones you want to take part in. Coming here on Sunday, back on home turf, hopefully I'll get a game and be able to raise some more money."