Ashes Poetry - cricket

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David Fine, Ashes poet in residence in Australia 2006-7

England vs Australia.
Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney 2006-2007

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Brisbane Day 4 Fight Back

Each day I aim to get here early to soak up the atmosphere and sun block, and each day for a variety of reasons I arrive a little later. Tomorrow will be different. I aim to have breakfast in the City Park café which beats grabbing a latte from the ground. There's a bit of confusion as someone takes the latte I've paid for. 'It's going to be a long old day,' I say. 'Yes, and it's only just beginning.' All England hopes exactly that, the longest day they'll remember.

Pointing has just made it shorter, by batting on. Conspiracy theorists would have it that the decision not to invite the follow-on wasn't made by the captain, nor indeed the manager, John 'Chinese Lessons of War' Buchanan, but by Cricket Australia itself. "Punter, thrash the bastards, but don't do it in three days, it'll cost us millions."

Maybe not. For some strange reason, possibly due to some obscure interpretation of an obscure Chinese lesson of war, or possibly fear of Indians, Red or Asian, the Punter bats on, running the risk that in burying the Poms so far underground, that they might be able to bat their way through the centre of the earth to safety back to England. Talking of which this could Ponting's worst decision since inserting England at Edgbaston to lose by two runs four innings later.

Last night the film The Hill came to mind. Sidney Lumet’s great black and white 1965 movie about a British Army punishment camp. Soldiers have to dig up earth from one side of the hill run up and down it carrying what they’ve dug up, to deposit it on the other side. Then reverse the process. The hill never gets bigger or smaller, just moves about a bit as the soldiers wear themselves out. This is what England had done yesterday. They started about six hundred behind and finished about six hundred behind but with one innings less. Mount Gabba intimidates from all angles, camera or otherwise.

Not when Ricky bats on. You sense a different feel in the England team. Hoggard starts with a maiden. They stand more proud. They feel insulted. Being asked to make six hundred odd is bad enough, to see the Australians’ bat on goes against their pride. ‘You’re having a laugh, aren’t you?’ they must be thinking. Yet at the same time, it makes their task half-an-hour easier. And there is rain.

Andy and I met up on the first day. ‘You’re a Coventry City fan,’ I said, clocking the small Coventry elephant on his top. ‘So am I.’ We don’t talk too much soccer, just as City don’t play that much either. I mention the chap who came to sit by me at the hotel computers before breakfast while I was printing out some drafts (I do plan and check this stuff)
‘Oh hell,’ he says.
‘What’s wrong.’
‘QPR lost.’
‘Sorry to hear it. I support Coventry.’

Who beat QPR. Andy and I agree that as omens go this takes some beating. If only we had Iron Man George Curtis going in ahead of the tail. Andy figures it could pour down and his wife knows a rain doctor in Jakata. ‘Text her to tell him to hurry it up. No use on Tuesday, when the game’s finished.’ I text the Klingon battle fleet to holds fire. We’re not putting all our eggs in one basket.

Twenty minutes later Langer has a century and Ponting declares.

Mount Gabba now officially stands at 654 runs or 690 minutes above sea-level If Ponting hadn’t batted on, it’d have been half-an-hour more daunting, possibly the difference between rescue and dying of frost-bite.

England bat well. Alistair Cook looks especially assured. People say he’s not a stylist, but you can see his elbow is always over the ball at point of contact which is a pleasure to watch. Warne gets him bat and pad. He probably does Collingwood with his Chatter. Warne of a thousand deliveries; leg–break, googly, top-spinner, zipper, zooter, flipper and now the Chatter, where he talks himself into a wicket. This time suggesting to Collingwood that he’s just four to his century, and not yet gone down the track to Shane. Collingwood does and is stumped by a country mile. If you’re looking for literary precedents for Warne go to Baccus and the Artful Dodger.

Till then England almost feel like they could do it. They’ve quietened the crowd, far less aggro than yesterday. Their task now becomes similar to crowd volley ball. The aim is to get into the top tier of a stand, where not only is gravity against you, but also that each tier is more raked than the one below. England need to reach the top tier, they are nudging second, but each time a wicket falls, or the blow up ball confiscated by the police, they start again at the bottom. They have ten to begin with and Collingwood’s dismissal leaves Six ‘Balls’ or wickets left.

Pietersen holds back. No trying to smash the ball into the top tiers. My jig

Warnie’s balls turn square, KP hits ’em in the air.
A six or out, there is no doubt.
You get a funny feeling one side’ll be reeling
Ev’ry time Warnie’s balls turn square.

fails to work. Warnie’s balls don’t turn square, and KP doesn’t hit them in the air. Hard to when they’re speared defensively down leg-side. ‘Hey, Warnie, bowl him something he can hit - you’re not Ashley Giles,’ someone should shout out. So I do.

Flintoff disobeys our prayers. Holes out going for the big one against Shane

and smite Warne mightily all your slog-swept sixes
as Warnie smites those who trespass against him.
But heed us when close to temptation
and shield the Ashes from evil:

He hangs his head as soon as it goes up. He should have read the message on the scoreboard from Griffiths University. ‘Get smarter’

With the last two recognised batsmen at the crease, (no disrespect, Ashley) we need rain.

The Lap Of The Gods

Andy’s on the blower to his missus in Jakata
To accelerate the thunder due tomorrow afternoon.
She knows a rain doctor who dries out golf courses
To pilot this bad weather which can’t come too soon.

The Barmy Army take the Gabba with gamps and umbrellas
To make the most of Ricky Ponting batting way past his bedtime.
Queensland and England desperately need precipitation,
State and nation rest all on the imminent arrival of their Cloud Nine.