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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Friday, December 01, 2006

Adelaide Day One Disneyland

If The Gabba was the Strineship Enterprise, then the Adelaide Oval is The Way We Used to Be. Never saw a drop of paint (or rain) at The Gabba. Adelaide is an all pastel colour card from Dulux. George Giffin Umbra, for those who prefer a richer shade of terra cotta. Colonade cream, deeper than mimosa, more subtle than primose, and Clem Hill pagoda pink, far better than a busted flush dodgy prawn. The SACA Adelaide Range, ideal d├ęcor for house and home.

It's a fairy-land ground:-

The Adelaide Oval
- 1st December 2006
If you've not seen it for yourself
think Worcester New Road, the view
across the River Severn, Torrens,
sun catching the water in its safe
hands, cathedral behind, an inspiring
article of sporting faith,
then add some. Disneyland
which folk round here rate England's chances
between slim and Buckley's

We shall see, shan't we?
England start well. Freddie Flintoff wins the toss and elects to bat. Which means England can't follow on, or kick off with a wide.

The morning session goes into a time-warp. 1950s, rationing just over, runs scored at marginally above two runs an over. Strauss and Clarke aren't quite Noddy Pullar and Bob Barber, Brett Lee not quite Ray Lindwall but Glen McGrath is Glen McGrath. England should have picked two spinners, even if a 1950s MCC touring side would never have selected a turban-wearing Sikh from Luton called Panasar. How many more wickets would Warne have taken in Australia had he started in the 50s, with eight ball overs all the harder to escape from?

Stuart Clark hauls us all back to reality with two quick wickets. Ian Bell faces his Jeremiah Nemesis, aka Shane Warne. You feel sorry for him. He tries to do everything so correctly yet Warnie makes him look a complete mug.

The Wizard of Warne

We're off to see the wizard,
a wonderful wizard called Warne.
A spell-binding trickster of wrong-uns,
never one better for hair-loss in Oz.
He'll pluck England's Bell
like a rabbit from a hat;
sooner or later it's ring-a-ding-ding,
stumped, bowled, lb, caught HowZat!

The Adelaide Oval is made for Quidditch, and Warne would wipe the floor with Harry Potter. If Bell survives, will we feel sorry for Shaney?

A very English thing to feel, amidst very English conditions: clouds, a hint of rain just after lunch, 'That's early,' says the Australian, who's next to me, with his stone-deaf dad which makes me think how important websites are to those who can't hear. England still play a very English game of gradually placing themselves on top, recovering honour, dignity and position, like Wellington at Waterloo in the face of the Old Guard.

From Barmy HQ, mentioned in dispatches

Mr Collingwood and Mr Bell
We think you've done rather well.
Two fifties on the stroke of tea
Suffices to retard their victory
March to the Promised Land
Of Ashes Regained,
While they may well be in retreat
Once Mr Pietersen takes a hand.

Sure enough, by end of play Pietersen is past sixty and Collingwood two shy of a century
Paul Collingwood -
98 not out overnight

I shan't get out to this man,
It's not just I'm English and he's Australian,
I shan't get out to this man.
It's not just he's done me too often before,
(last match a century in reach, just needing a four)
It's hard enough to hit the ball, never mind score,
I shan't get out to this man.

Earplug his incessant chatter,
concentrate on being a batter.
But don't get too clever, over after over
I shan't get out to this man.

Even if I reach fifty or more,
will I ever feel secure?
Australia's most venomous creature
spits and coils with every ball,
I shan't get out to this man.

Bones soak under a long hot shower,
having defended hour after hour.
The splash of water reechoes the mantra,
I shan't get out to this man.

Just in case you think I'm going all sepia-tinted, I entered through the Victor Richardson gates, one of South Australia's favourite sons, and grand-dad to Ian and Greg Chappell, two chips off the old block.

At the boiling point of the 1932-3 bodyline series, it is said when Douglas Jardine complained to the Australian dressing room about one of the Green Baggies using distinctly uncricketing language to his arch fast bowler Harold Larwood, dear old Vic replied

'Right you bastards, this bastard wants to know which of you bastards called their bastard a bastard.'

It is hard to find anything more effectively and poetically put in cricket or the greater world.