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

Brisbane Poetry

Courage Of Convictions

Some good, some bad, and some ordinary
people the wrong side of the law to hold
their breath against the creak of deck, rope and
canvas; fixed blank stars slowly alter course

Of lives, destiny and political
aspirations. Now history. Not then.
No going back. No return to the old
Till the end of each testing sentence

Whose surf, shore and hinterland are unknown,
prime and aboriginal. Imprisoned
by nothing but the land’s fresh horizons
how could all survive, endure and flourish?

Today twenty-two flannelled fools replay
Australia, set to court failure
on no other grounds.


Woolloongabba they come from far
they come from far to play to play
Woolloongabba Woolloongabba

Waters whirling winds in our hearts
Wind still whirling whirling waters
Whirling fight talk place noisome boys
Warriors outdo warriors

place to talk fight die and share
drowning placentas whirling waters
Woolloongabba Woolloongabba

First Ball 10.00am local time, Day One The Gabba, Brisbane

The toss, decision to bat or bowl, team selection
and media games, noises off the field.
Set and survey, bat makes mark, bowler back to his


admidst the hush, arm comes over, bat into line,
each grooved, almost automatic. Whatever its outcome

wicket, boundary boards, full face or edge, play
and miss, a middled middling dot in the scorebook

the glance between bat and ball as the field resumes
its mark for five more balls and many more
over five five day matches will tell all
they’ll know before sledge or smile
who has won the very first ball

Steve Harmison bowled a wide fielded at second slip by captain Freddie Flintoff

Brisbane Test End of Day One Australia 346 for 3 A Flintoff 2 for 42 R T Ponting 137no

The Blacksmith and The Dancer

Down they come, twentyfour hammering blows
Run up against the anvil of the crease,
England’s finest, leader of tall strong men
Pounds a flat pitch to make something from nothing.

Red-hot ignots bounce and spit from the anvil
Of Thor from the north to thud pain and fury
Even into the gloves of his own keeper
Three pitches distant from the beginning.

Those in the middle dodge hurtling force,
The smell of singed leather beneath noses
Sears their minds long after danger passes
Till an opener edges heat and is gone.

The dancer comes. Small, slick-quick tip-toe feet
A ballet pump or conductor’s baton
In his hands against Thor’s redoubled thunder
Strong enough to break his own braw bones
In full pursuit of forging victories.

The dancer banishes other tradesmen.
No interest but the blacksmith’s anvil,
Each hammerblow a pirouette, paso
Doble, cock a snook at the once red-hot ignot

Now dulled with dancers’ taps as worn floors
For clubbing once clubbing has been done.
Sore feet and hours from Hobart unto Accrington,
The dancer and the blacksmith each know the score.

The dancer needs the smith to play
As the smith the dancer’s touch
To end the dancer’s say.

Brisbane 1st Test Day 2

Up Against It Australia 4-407 Hussey bowled Flintoff

Each wicket a point on an English chart
Of hopes on a voyage round Australia.
No reefs, storms, rip-tides, sand-bars and currents,
Just a long lonely barren ocean of sweat
In the sun before the next wicket’s fall.
Cool, below decks, thieves plot their destiny

End of Day Two. England 42-3 chasing 602-9.
I imagine Christopher Martin-Jenkins in the Test Match Special Radio commentary box saying ‘England have a real mountain to climb.’

The Ascent of Mount Gabba

Six hundred and two is far more than a stiff climb.
Inside the poms’ dressing room it’s squidgy bum time;

Advance party leave base-camp, equipment checked
Against endless fury they’ll face beyond tent flaps;
Those inside hope against hope they will be some time.

Just out of sight, twenty eight steps taken well in hand,
One falls, hooked off a precipice overhung with risk.

Rescue party sent, immediate slip to slip
Second to second, rescuers can but observe.

Elements ancient magnificent accuracy
Of dispatch. Furies howl and yell,
scenting more blood

Not much further on, base camp
abandoned, useless
They hold onto each other, forced alone, a fall.

In the coldness of heat they find purchase enough
To sleep the night amid dreams of their dead.

Brisbane 1st Test Day 3 Australia 602 England all out 157 Australia 181/1

On The Third Day of Play (to The Twelve Days of Christmas)

On the third day of play the Gabba gave to me
A blow up babe in custody.
On the third day of play the Gabba gave to me
Two big balls
And a blow up babe in custody.

And so on, till

Twelve crowd ejections
Eleven top selections
Tending to win
Nine tired bowlers
Eight ways in
Seven poms out
Six hundred lead
Five for McGrath
Four tall pylons
Three English Ducks
Two big balls
And a blow up babe in custody

Brisbane 1st Test Day 4 England 2nd innings 293/5 needing over 300 more runs

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.

Brisbane 1st Test Day 5 Australia won by 277 runs

The Final Ball

five days hard cricket
pretty well going to plan
every run and every wicket
charts our course set on victory

no thought of commiseration
just a job well done
the emptiness of loss
is all too hard to bear
winning hard enough
but losing’s just begun