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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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Melbourne Day One - Warnetics

The MCG is huge. To give you an idea of its size, you could seat a packed-out Derby County, Coventry City and any other Championship Ground and still have room. 105,000 people. Pretty well the population of the Peak District. Fantastic.

And of course it comes with English weather, that intermittant fine veil-like haze of mist you can't quite see but brushes the skin with the dampness of impending decay. It has already delayed the start of play. According to The Age it snowed in Victoria yesterday, which is probably less feasible than snow in Buxton in July, or England winning the next two tests. Now it is coming down heavier. It'd be an irony if at the MCG rain were to save Australia.

You feel sorry for the English fans who've arrived for the last two tests. Not only is the weather about as bad as when they left - not seen a pair of shorts, never mind sun crème today - they've set off knowing the Ashes are lost, and the next two are by comparison, bun-fights. I remember Jonathan Agnew being asked on a phone-in about whether the series would still be live by Melbourne, where the questioner was contemplating going out for the last two tests. 'Oh yes,' said Aggers, 'England won't have lost the Ashes by then.'

In a way my work is done. Before leaving England Arts Council England dubbed me 'The Official Ashes Poet.' I had me down as a bloke who was writing some poetry about cricket, two of his many loves. However my task as Official Ashes Poet is now effectively over, since the series has been decided. Pacé Orwell, sport is war without weapons, it's like being a war artist once the war is over.

I shall just write poetry in and around the cricket. Or its lack at present. It's suddenly become much brighter - they've switched the floodlights on. They've also taken the covers off the pitch, England have won the toss and elected to bat. It takes two overs for their openers to put that bat on ball.

Rain brings an early lunch, 36 for 1, Cook caught Gilchrist bowled Lee, shouldering arms. The rain also brings the nap out of the mown outfield whose plaid of rhomboid squares gives the appearances of one of those woollen scarves the Queen wears at Balmoral. And they play Aussie Rules on this during the winter.

Melbourne Cricket Ground

No village green or country paddock,
the mower misses the long grass wrapped
around the roller and peeling sight screens
pushed over for winter, benches tipped up,
in brass-plated memory of Roger or Ethel
who spent many a long afternoon
pint or thermos to hand and oblivion
the world passed by. At the heart of it all
lies twenty-two yards, wicket to wicket,
tenth of a furlong, a chain
to tie bat to ball, a landscape
of former empire, medieval origins,
acres ploughed through the mind,
one hundred and five thousand assemble
to worship.

44 for 2. Bell lbw Clark 7. Between showers very English conditions, overcast, ball daring about, not a single bouncer to date. Between showers, and only one boundary to date.

A great blow for radical thought and Australian freedom, one of the security team throw back one of the crowd's beach balls. Melbourne, a city proud of its liberal virtues. Had it been Brisbane and The Gabba, they'd have probably neutered the poor security team member's progeny as well as deporting him for Un-Australian Activities. Strauss hits the second boundary of the day, an hour after lunch. Thin rations all round for Boxing Day but absorbing cricket.

101 for 2. Collingwood and Strauss play and miss to a fifty partnership and Strauss's first fifty of the series before Collingwood edges to second slip off one which Lee gets to lift. Next ball is the big one. Strauss plays round a straight one from Warne and is cleaned bowled. No complaints there, not least from the Melbourne crowd where their favourite prodigal nabs his seven hundredth test wicket. A three minute standing ovation from everyone English and Australian alike. I wonder what Shane feels. Relief, I imagine. Mission accomplished, and in accomplished style. Now he's reached his goal in front of his home crowd, retirement planned and announced and Ashes in the bag, Warne S K can enjoy himself, doubtless at England's expense. Ladies and Gentleman, Shane's seventh hundredth test wicket is in the MCG

Warne, Shane Keith born 13 September 1969 test match debut January 1992
(To the jig, The Sailor’s Hornpipe)

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.

A leggie with Clarrie Grimmett’s accuracy (plus extra hair)
The wrong ’un, hard to pick, and howzat when beaten through the air,
The flipper and the toppie, zooter and the slider
And the chatter: yells, looks, asides and pleas,
(the only time the bloke’s down on his knees,)
A Clarence Darrow George Carman at the crease
What umpire on earth however stoney could say no?
Another baffled though reluctant victim tries to dilly-dally but he has to go.

The next man in is almost out before he’s in.
The legendary magician will mesmerise him.
He knows he’ll have to face a flighty camisole tease:
A forbidden glimpse of flesh to tantalise
Reveals a hirsuite Superman medallioned Australian chest
Full of tricks the antipodean baccus of temptation doesn’t divest
Before the silly fool with bat and pads realises he’s transgressed
The blond cherubim’s spinning finger puts him to rest.

A waistline that indicates adequate social activity
Since an Ashes debut in 1993; Warne, S K.
Shoulder strapped, lucky charms, his daughter’s bracelet,
The facts are patently clear, he should really try to face it,
Whatever schemes and dreams of schemes are whirling on within,
The top of his head is not quite what it used to be,
(In fact, somewhat like this rhyme, going rather thin.)
Harum-scarums with mobiles and diuretics,
His simple way with words schtums clever dick critics,
Through thick and thin he’s always gone back
To his mark: a three-card trick-sy four-step run

That flummoxed Fat Gatt with the ball of last century,
At the lees of his career, the ikon’s tank is close enough to empty
Lo, he gambols past Strauss A J, namely number Seven Hundred
And yet another one. Forget the waist, hair and old age. Heed the old adage
If you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Let him rip his ripper one last rip,
As The Grauniad's Trundler-in-Chief Selvey opines
‘No game’s over till the fat boy spins.’
I’ll buy that, gimme me one more, Skip.
Good on yer, Warnie. May The Good Lord Bless
How your balls turned square!

117 for 4 at tea, another defeat, like a U-boat periscope sighted by an English convoy, starts to loom... Except Gilchrist misses stumping Pietersen off Warne. The other ships go down with scarcely a trace. HMS Flintoff flashing at Clark, MV Read driving at Warne, SS Mahmood caught behind for a duck, Collier Harmison holed out to Warne, Show Boat Pietersen short of the fence, Pedalo Panesar another swipe. 159 all out.

Hard graft against the swinging new ball done, the last eight wickets fell for 58 runs.

Here's a carol for Billy The Trumpet

I saw England collapse again
Collapse again, collapse again
I saw England collapse again
On Boxing Day in Melbourne

Warnie got 5 for 39,
5 for 39, 5 for 39
Warnie got 5 for 39

On Boxing Day in Melbourne