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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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Adelaide Poetry

The Adelaide Oval - 1st December 2006 – end of play England 1st innings 266/3

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?

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!

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.

Paul Collingwood 98 not out overnight - went on to score a record-breaking 206

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.

Adelaide Day Two – end of play England 551-6 dec Australia 28-1

Happy Birthday To You, Mr President

a cool morning’s start. blustery,
overcast, almost a two sweater day,
Collingwood’s very English century
made in very English conditions

i’ve come from the fun of the eighteenth
Test Match Brekkie. seven hundred in a room
Without views ending with scantily
clad New York, New York, all for charity

no charity here. Pietersen
laces McGrath’s first for three fours.
no back-handers or deceits however political
each bound to be found out for what they are
in these most English of conditions.

Record Heart Breakers

big tough antipodean arms,
sheep reivers, drove men used to labour,
held firm across broad chests,
hill people down for the day.

in silence they watch the Southern Cross
suffer. they eschew 3 blow-up fingers
to say Go Australia. they are australia.

jets cross the wicket, spectators
instructed how to inflate life-jackets
in case of emergencies. hill people
eyes remain motionless. fielders
motion to each other
across the paddock.

not waving but drowning

Adelaide Day Three – end of play England 551-6 dec Australia 312-5

Catches Win Matches

I swear I saw it come straight off the bat
A small red dot growing to fill the sky
and ready myself to hold its descent,
feet well apart, steady, hand-eye practiced
co-ordination triggered to make the catch.

Arms above my head, a high-board
diver sure to end the ball's spin, tuck
and revolutions with a perfect re-entry
to soft sweatless cushioned plams. Welcome
a mob of celebration. Mates stare. I dropped it.

I don't see how. A safe pair of hands,
maybe I lost it coming out of the stands,
the red and white flags of Saint George
a dragon of distraction that swallowed
opportunity in a fiery display of Engerland.

The Real Thing

At tea Team Boony and Team Beefy
contest the Battle of The ´Tasches.
A relay race to pad up, run away
and back again. As close to reality
as a rhyme is to fidelity.
None watch curatorial staff
re-line the crease, tend the pitch;
nor they us, the throng critical of players
once they resume the damning area.

Day of The Dead

on the occasion of the 8th Baggy Green Dinner, Saturday 2nd December, 2007 Adelaide and in commemoration of the Fourth Test 1929

Seven days hard yakka, they rise from the Ashes,
individual heroes all in teams to test their
undivided mettle. Close finish at the close,
seven days hard yakka, still they rise for the occasion.

We worship the memory, the more their breaths are done
short or long in the field, Jackson to Bradman,
White to Hammond, all eleven of each side
split by just a dozen runs after seven days hard yakka

in a field near a river watched by many,
attended by empire from a different era,
depression and bodyline still to come,
Adelaide will always welcome its heroes

whose ghostly boot-sprigs clatter down
and up pavilion steps. Some quick, some slow,
some two at a time, some quiet, near funereal,
a tattoo as sure as any scorecard of exploits

to become players of today. You may say
they do not bear compare with yesteryears’
titans, god-bestowed elegance of performance
to mist over the grind of seven days hard yakka.

Turn for confirmation and you shall hear nothing.
Nothing from them, for other matters call
at the end of their days, boots, bats, pads,
sweated armoury, undone yet not yet stowed away,

half-abandoned, stranded in an unwashed canvas
of labour against dressing room tiers
bear witness to these invisible spectres
off to share a few cool ones with posterity they created.

Adelaide Day Four – end of play England 551-6 dec Australia 513 England 59-1

River Crossing

From the Torrens I see thousands teem across Adelaide Bridge
All on their way to the Oval for cricket.
In other times it might be a rock concert
Or refugees fleeing a heartless enemy.

But this is cricket, two sides joining together
to cros a river, its waters placid
to the burbling viaduct of soles above.

I shall join them soon, become one of many,
Another anonymous ticketed ripple
Pouring into the Oval, filling it to the brim
Around about the start of play.

Lock-keepers inspect our holds for proscribed cargoes
Against clearly marked manifests.
We pass through, jostling gates
For the bridge to fall quiet as the river it spans.

At the far end of the day, bails lifted
Pulls the plug on our seats and we stream out,
No locks or gates to bar our progress.

Were the hopes and fears ferried inside our holds
Ever realised? Why else teem across the Adelaide Bridge.


At times it must be like climbing onto the moors,
dog tugging the lead when mists and ran come down.
Hard to see, know where you are,
stumbling into rocks, bogs, uncertain of paths
that could lead to nowhere or circles,
worried you'll be out here beyond nightfall.

Whatever you do the elements take their toll,
sap the spirit till it seems easier to give up
than go on. The familiar world twists cruelly strange.
You climb each hill, break its back before
it breaks yours, seven times
for one hundred and nine long runs, dogged
against these hounds you never let off the leash.

Adelaide Day Five England 551-6 dec Australia 513 England 129 Australia 168-4

Natural Break

sooner or later over five days
nature calls outside intervals
you leave the arena all a rush
hasten necessities
praying for quiet.
A roar, is it four
or a wicket fall
in midstream?

the hiatus afterwards tells all
a measure of time elapsed
for the next bat to take guard
or bowler to return to his mark

if only a force of nature
why is it never what you want?

A View From The Bridge

All is fine.
No reefs, hidden sounds, rip-tides, storms, fogs
or unanticipated conditions,
the sea a milkpond mirror,
the final day an easy cruise ahead.

Too easy. Captain and crew conspire
to foul propellors, drift off-course,
lose way, take incorrect bearings
till the SS Five Day Draw
is dead in the water,
listing badly,
holed below the waterline,
leak pouring in, pumps unable to cope,
doomed for the depths.

Aussie destroyers race from their stations,
each lacing boundary a torpedo
to dispatch the hulk to the bottom
with all due speed and efficiency,
leaving survivors to fend for themselves.

Captain Cook, W G Grace, Wilfred Rhodes, Hobbs and Sutcliffe, Percy Chapman, Wally Hammond, Douglas Jardine, Harold Larwood, Hedley Verity, Alec Bedser, Godfrey Evans, Sir Len Hutton, Jim Laker, Fred Truman, Ken Barrington, Ray Illingworth, John Snow, Derek Randall, Mike Brearley, Ian Botham, Bob Willis, Mike Atherton, Phil Tufnell and Dickie Bird, Your boys took one hell of a beating.


England Expects Every Man To Do Their Duty

The ground should be empty, dead,
Everyone gone, the last hour not taken;
England have batted out their draw.

The only Aussies remaining,
Paid to stay behind, clear up the mess,
The rubbish, plastic beakers and pie-wrappers,
Dross. They do a good professional job for little reward.

Two teams already gone, ready to go on to Perth,
Adelaide rush hour stuffed with traffic going home
To comment and criticism restricted to the pitch.

The ground is full, the CBD deserted,
England's collapse mimics Jessop's prowess
To empty offices. As wickets tumble

To false shots that'd earn official rebuke
in the workplace, Aussie workers scent blood.
Precious little work done this afternoon,

Collars and ties outweigh t-shirts and shorts
as gleeful witness the inevitable loss
four wickets delay. Englanders are so angry

no sorrow and little respect remains
for players who failed to play professionally.
They need to stay behind, clear up the mess
they created in each of our hearts and their own.

In Acerbic Rememberance
English Cricket
which died at The Adelaide Oval
Tuesday 6th December 2007
Bitterly lamented by a large circle
of sorrowing friends
and acquaintances
n.b. The body will be cremated
and its ashes retained by Australia
if its spirit fails to fight back

The Sick Team

Red Rose, thou are sick!
The Indivisible Warne
That beats you in flight
When you bat without gorm

Has spun out thy draw
Of English joy
And the Green Baggies
Does thy life destroy

With apologies to William Blake The Sick Rose

The English Disease

Like syphilitic medieval kings, England
suddenly went mad. No apparent cause,
no seeming attempt to stem noble pause
in bedlam's frenzy to lose without stand.
Fumbling wickets tumbled from their own hand,
Misery’s drubbing unconceived before
they gouged their own wounds to bone. Running sores
of needless cuts, hooks, pulls and slashes banned
by dressing room: empty-headed retarded
births within teeming middle of crisis
induced by syphilis's half-brother, hubris.
The day’s sure draw before all this started:
licentious defeats grow infectious,
chaste play's honour fouled by these haughty lechers.

inspired by Greg Baum, Sydney Morning Herald, report of proceedings
- "Like medieval royals with syphilis, they went suddenly mad"


The Adelaide Oval Wednesday 7th December 2007

return to understand
go back to the emptiness of defeat
you might learn something

seats tipped-up, crowd roar gone
a cockatoo, songbirds call above
drumble of traffic, clang of scaffolders
dismantling temporary stands
you demolished with your batting

A smear of dried ice-cream
stench of spilled beer around the bars
a nasal trail into the arena
its wicket perfect as it always has been

Why have I taken you here?
No flags of Saint George. No
Wigan, Norwich, Cheltenham
No sign of ourselves.

The scoreboard retells the story
168 for 4, a six wicket victory
they won't take down for a while

Taste the simplicity of defeat
ing yourself. Swallow its emptiness.
Stay till you understand
how never to fail yourselves again.