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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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Melbourne Day Two – cards, cars and cakes

Forgot to mention yesterday that Australia finished the day 2 for 48, Flintoff nearly getting a hat-trick. This is because I didn't have a scorecard. 'Scorecard? What the XXXX is a scorecard?' asks Aussie Bloke.

In England at any first class match, an up-to-date scorecard is printed and sold at the start of each day's play. Often they are reprinted for the intervals and close of innings. I remember the 1960s Cheltenham Festival had a scorecard printing tent, where under the canvas was an old-fashioned hot-lead printing press, doubtless steam-or-clockwork powered, which thumped the latest score out. You could hear its bangedy-crash-clatter reprise the strokes and wickets that had led to its activity. There was a distinct smell of oil, inks and paper, while if you were quick enough it'd smudge because the ink wasn't quite dry.

'We don't need scorecards,' says Aussie Bloke. 'We've got proper scoreboards.' Which is true, Australian scoreboards list all the players, bowling averages, balls faced, bail summons, divorce ratios - they don't need Bill Frindall either. Except Melbourne, where you have a two line entry below the replay screen which gives a fuller if not complete version which you can't quite read when it's not showing the Boonaza moment of the mouth, usually involving more Aussie Blokes.

'Who gives a XXXX about the score?' Aussie Bloke says. 'Us blokes are bound to win. - just a sec'

A Bloke goes for his mobile phone, as do thousands of other ABs. It's 3 mobile's advert which starts with the Green Baggies' mobile phones ringing. My mind wanders back to the Cheltenham Festival scorecards, which held the only advertising at the game - something like 'Acme Cleaners the acme for cleaning your acme.’

In contrast you can't move for advertising at the MCG. Armaguard to Toyota, including Florsheim Florsheim who probably took over Acme Acme years ago. Seems a shame none of them have thought to sponsor a half-way decent scorecard, because then I could tell you that Australia finished 111 behind England, the dreaded Nelson, without even one ball left.

Play's about to start. Laurel, my daughter, has just spilled her hot Milo I queued days for.

MCG criticism time

The food and non-alcoholic drinks outlets need a serious wake-up call straight up their collective backsides. There were more people behind the counter than in the queue, all doing nothing to administer to the queue's needs. It's just as bad outside the ground, where a van had six staff each arguing with each other about what none of them were doing, namely just one dealing with the customers, serving through a six inch wide slit.

'Real coffee,' they said. I agree. It was the poorest flat white I've tasted in Oz. There could be worse, but it'd have to resemble sump oil with extra sludge. The back-room boys at the MCG need to issue catering contracts which stipulate 'Don't let the queues start' and check they don't.

It’s peculiar that at the security over-kill Gabba, the service was the best to date. Memo to MCG Catering Contracts Department "Full body-search brain-inspection security checks for customer awareness monitoring required on a regular basis."

End of MCG criticism. Australia are scoring even more slowly than England yesterday. Sun comes out, Flintoff gets Ponting to sky a hook to Cook at mid-on for 7, 64 for 3. The blacksmith rivets the dancer back to the hutch. Flintoff and Hoggard are bowling their hearts out. With some luck England might restrict Australia to less than two hundred. A maiden from Hoggard, the crowd hushed.

Drinks, and Melbourne does not have the Inflatable Gatorade truck. Far more civilised and pukka. Well done, MCG

First ball after, Hoggard gets one to come back just enough to slip through and take Hussey's off stump for six. 79 for 4. Harmison's second ball lifts, Clarke edges to slip, ct Read 6, 84 for 5, the Barmy Army fill the MCG with who they are. "Mighty Mighty England"

Only Australia are, as throughout this series, just that significant iota better. Hayden and Symonds, seventeen balls to get off the mark, bat from lunch to tea taking the score to 228. 150 partnership follows, and the game gradually diminishes from England's view, a fast car accelerating away as the traffic lights change to green.

Never mind steam or clockwork powered printing presses, and sump-oil with extra sludge, the V-8 has a Queensland rego. Century-makers Hayden and Symonds are both from the north east state, big blokes who play big strokes. Symond's maiden test century comes with a six straight over bowler Collingwood's head. Double-ton stand brings them to 322 at the second new ball. From 84-5 England have been left standing, an inning's defeat looming in the trans-Australian Ashes race.

V- 8 Batting

aussie cars come with muscle for extra hustle
to cover the ground across the states.

hear them burble, roar and hurtle
past bystanders awash with their dust.

in Queensland they understand
these unwritten rules of the road.

big blokes with big strokes
smack the ball and keep the score

accelerating towards a vanishing point
of vanquished oblivion

foot flat out down the wicket
the Hayden-Symonds 279

has all the go you need
a howling good motor

the poms innings defeat
looms large in its rear-view mirror.

At 350 for 5, Andrew Strauss runs a big circle from slip to bowler back to slip again giving and taking catches to gee up the team. Captain Freddie claps his efforts from second slip before bowling another over. It seems to have some effect. Mahmood gets both Hayden and then wrecking truck Gilchrist to edge behind. 7 for 372. There might be a chance if England finish the innings quickly and bat out of their skins…. It might just delay the Parfitt moment. Whether or not bowling plans were nicked from their dressing room, the England team hasn’t stopped trying.

As an England supporter I suppose I should stick to humble pie but for lunch today we shared some of Connie’s Christmas Cake.

Cricket Is A Cake At Christmas

Months of preparation. Fruit grown,
picked, selected, dried, packed, distributed,
displayed, assessed, purchased, steeped in rum,
sherry, port and other essential spirits.

Nuts harvested too, shelled, roasted
with aromatics; mixed, stirred, egged,
wholemeal flours, light and dark
demerara sugars, nutmeg, cinnamon, mace,
caught and ground exotica to spice and seal
a well-lined, slow slow oven,
all well seasoned till done.

Moist, firm, flamboyant teams of flavours
compete for supremacy. Each morsel,
taste, touch and more their anticipation
are the cuts, pulls, drives, catches and saves
you came to consume and savour

Memories replaced with the cake
inside its tin, to store for coming seasons.