Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Back in Blighty with memories of the Ashes

Two things that become abundantly clear about Australia when you spend anytime out there. Even when it's not all that sunny, the weather is good and they are very, very good at cricket.
On my first whole day in Oz, I went to the Syndney Cricket Ground to watch the penultimate day of the Ashes series. And it was off to the perfect start as Hussey edged one through to Chris Read in the second over of the day. Then came Gilchrist to spank the bowling around. Andrew Symonds (the bloke with the daft hair and the Coco the Clown protective lip salve) lost his wicket giving Monty the charge bringing in the maestro Warne for his last ever test innings. First ball slog sweeps Monty for 4. Second ball slogs sweeps Monty for 6. Soon after Monty gets his own back forcing Warney to glove one to Read and that's game over for Warney. Or not. The umpire (can't remember which one) gives it not out. Fate levels out when Billy Bowden gives Gilchrist the dreaded hooked finger of doom, caught behind to one he very, very clearly missed. Brett Lee, to my mind the most-overated test cricketer around at the moment, is in and out in quick order, only for Stuart Clark to bludgeon a quick and frustrating 35. Seriously any good ball outside off he swung ad missed, yet anything on target was duly deposited to, or over, the boundary. Clark eventually got out and McGrath came in for his lat innnings - a typically classy 0* as Warne gave Monty the charged missed and was stumped by a huge margin (equivalent in size to KP's ego).
And then the England collapse. Cook out hooking shockingly. Bells caught behind slashing. Strauss plumb lbw. Collingwood caught sharply by Hayden. Freddie stumped off the bowling of Warney. And stick a fork in her, England's done.
The next day, England duly meekly caved in. And 5-0 to the Convicts. However, I am not all doom and gloom. It is increasingly easy to poke fun at England, to deride her efforts and for ex-professionals to come out of the woodwork and criticse every element of English play. Although, it is not only the ex-players but a large chunk of the fans who are the worst culprits. England is blessed with the Barmy Army, the most impressive, dedicated and imposing travelling support of any cricket nation. Yet what you don't hear of is the other Pommies. I was sitting in the family enclosure, something I would voluntarily never choose to do and had the pleasure of some real moaning bastards behind me. These folks were the kind of plummy arses who sounded posher than the Radio 4 Test Match Special team. Every England bowler who comes on is slagged off to the hilt, the most sustained target being Saj Mahmood. They are the kind of people who are not happy unless England win every test match. And even then it should have been by an innings.
So it was with immense joy and satisfaction that, at luch, I upped sticks, left the family and went to enjoy a couple of beers (albeit lights - the only sold at the SCG) wit hte Barmy Army. Wearing a Sheffield Wednesday topped I was greeted by loads of Weednesday fans and was surprised to see how many footie teams were represented (Liverpool, Manchester City, Aston Villa, Burnley, Notts County, Leyton Orient, Coventry and Newcastle) and there was one Piggy Bastard (Sheffield United fan to the uninitiated) who was blessed with layers of fat and hairy molls.
All in all the day was a great experience. And to see Shane Warne's last test innings, a breezy 71, was an honour and a privilege I shant forget. On one last note, I got quite badly sunburnt at the SCG and my knee was very burnt - an ailment I named Sydknee.

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