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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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Perth Day Four - Redemption?

Forget Dr Fiffle-Faffle's fiffle-faffle.

Best hope is the poms to bowl like drains and bat like kings, relying on Ponting's Declaration Manifest to eke out a draw.

Will England's innings be a right royal procession?

With my lunch I take a copy of Noel Coward’s Mad Dogs and Englishman to amuse myself as 'Lost Hopes and Freddie's Men Get Out In The Aussie Sun', under the West Australian skies and Baggy Green cosh.

If the heat and cricket is too much for embattled pom supporters, they could stay in their hotel rooms to watch India vs South Africa or Sri Lanka vs New Zealand, not to mention Pakistan vs West Indies one-dayers. Their task is enormous but nothing is impossible. Earlier this year Australia posted a One Day International world record 434 off fifty overs. South Africa were cooked until their opener Hershelle Gibbs said in the dressing room 'You know, I think they're about a dozen runs short.' They won by one wicket and ball to spare. England need some Hershelle.

Back to reality, nipping ourside the hotel at eight am yesterday I caught (both hands) some blues guitar from the bar. 'Bit early for B B King,' I said to the barman. 'Probably,' he replied.

Is it a bit too early to write an Ashes Blues? After half-an-hour no wickets down, and with the humour of doomed men, we're reckoning any rain predicted for tomorrow might just save Australia as we close in on the run chase. I like blues, especially the lyrics, which are honest, heart-felt and straightforward. More contemporary poetry and poets should acknowledge and respect these qualities. As I said when the theme of National Poetry Day was song, can anyone come up with a better line of 20th century verse than John Lee Hooker's 'Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom.' e-mail me if you can.

Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom sums up Gilchrist's hundred yesterday. It won't be such a performance today. I once wrote a spoof blues which began

'I don't need no divorce lawyer to tell me my woman's gone.'

The English Ashes Hopes Blues

We don't need no Aussie Scoreboard to tell us the Ashes are gone.
We travelled here with the urn inside our hearts,
At Brisbane we didn’t get off to the best of starts,
On the final day the promised rain just didn’t come,
we don't need no Aussie Scoreboard to tell us the Ashes are gone.

Won the toss on a dead flat pitch at Adelaide,
Never mind dropped catches and poor selections
However well Paul Collingwood played
The rest of them threw it away in the second knock,
we don't need no Aussie Scoreboard to tell us the Ashes are gone.

Lost the toss at Perth but bowled them out for 244
Then our turn to bat and we didn’t match their score
Second innings Hussey, Clarke and Gilchrist all got tons
Now to save the Ashes we need to hit 560 runs,
we don't need no Aussie Scoreboard to tell us the Ashes are gone.

Ian Bell at least is showing some fight. Warne's first over sees a four over the top, bamboozled by a fizzing leggie, then down the wicket for a six. Which takes the target to less than five hundred and lunchtime comes with no further wickets down. Saint Herschelle, saviour of lost causes, must be looking kindly upon us.

The great escape continues after lunch. Even England's bogey 111 is circumnavigated by Bell's slightly dodgy loft of McGrath over mid-off. Denis Compton was once asked on tv why 111 was called Nelson. 'Simple really. One eye, one arm, and - ' 'Shut up, Dennis.'

Bell and Cook bat superbly, which starts to get under even some Aussies thick skins. At first all is quiet, and the Waca feels like a very hot weekend at Scarborough or Cheltenham Festivals. Then Warne starts to give the umpires his famed 'How can that not be out?' stare and verbal, which the Barmy Army enforce with richly ironic 'Oooooo!'
This leads to the Aussies clapping in Brett Lee but only for the over before the drinks interval, losing any momentum gained. Timing, chaps.

Two Aussies enfilade Barmy Army flanks waving the Southern Cross. It is suggested a white flag might be more appropriate, which is excellent advice since two Aussie police blokes escort them from the premises via their ear-holes. The bats of Bell and Cook re-establish the English county festival atmosphere. More tea, vicar?

Warne bowls a full toss which Bell smacks straight down Langer's throat for 87. 170 for 2. Keep dreaming.

After tea the diligent and worthy Stuart Clark has Collingwood caught at the wicket driving. 185 for 3. Stuart Clark has been the Australian’s Matthew Hoggard. Not super quick but very accurate, and aways doing something with the ball. A big difference between the teams. Of England pace-bowlers only Hoggard has consistently been sufficiently precise to keep the batsmen under pressure. (If anything it was the reverse last summer in England, and those cynics in the know might want to note the then England bowling coach Troy Cooley now being the Australian’s – not poached but because the ECB couldn’t agree a contract in time.)This is why the pitch seems so much easier when Australia are at the crease. It’s really noticable at the Waca where the pitch has some pace and bounce, which is good for accurate bowlers and stroke-playing batsmen. I like it. A combination of the Waca strip and Adelaide ground is my idea of cricketing heaven.

Only 370 to win; Kevin Pietersen your adopted country needs you. Three near-run outs ensue. The Green Baggies make it hard for Alistair Cook to reach his hundred, but the twenty-one year old gets there in the end. I like Cook. He plays correctly (you can see Graham Gooch has coached him) particularly how his elbow is always over the ball…

Essex Coastline

Harwich, Frinton, Clacton,
Brightlingsea, West Mersea,
Maldon, Burnham, Southend.
From the scapula of the Stour
to the humerous of the Naze
and the Thames phalanges

Alistair Cook
gets all Essex over the ball;
its coast the shape of his elbow.

His birthday is Christmas Day and is the first Englishman to score four hundreds before he's twenty-two. The best present he could give himself is a live Ashes Series going into Melbourne.

Looks difficult. Caught behind off McGrath for 116. 261 for 4, three hundred still to get.

The floodlights come on, but the lights in England are fading fast in the cloudy grey of the skies. Nightwatchman Matthew Hoggard walks out and back in again, clean-bowled two balls later. Flintoff enters like a champion to be beaten all ends up for his first two balls, which McGrath sends down with micrometer precision into the corridor of uncertainty. Now the Aussie crowd is making all the noise. Pietersen and Flintoff both need big hundreds tomorrow to silence them. At least you feel they’ll try.

Back at the hotel and Saint Herschelle bags a pair against the Indians. Storms are forecast in the next twentyfour hours. It hasn’t rained yet.