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 Three – Blue Moon

144- 2 another Ponting century and Aussie win in the offing, when he drives at a quick one from Harmison ct Jones 75. Hope once more springs eternal.

On the way in I bump into a waist-coated Liverpudlian widow from Adelaide and Paul Burnham, capo of The Barmy Army. 'Where have you been?' he asks. Busy writing the poetry. I'm not a natural Barmy Army-ite, probably don't drink enough and too much of a loner to need or want the company of other good sorts. Which they are. The banter between them and the Aussie Fanatics is good and good humoured. Everyone likes them, and the killjoys at Cricket Australia who banned Billy The Trumpet for the first two tests, never took this into account. In 1770 No Worries, the equivant of Sellar and Yeatman’s 1066 and All That, starting with Captain Cook's landing, the Barmy Army would go down as a good thing.

Most right-thinking people would object to the 'Show your tits for the lads' chant - would they oblige if the Ladies Pavilion responded to see what Willy Wavers and His Pals have got to sing about? Well, yes, they probably would. But they aren't racist, xenophoebic or too unkind. If you believe in mission statements, especially ungramatical, they more than fulfill theirs. 'We're the loyalest cricket supporters the world has ever had.'

162-2 Monty enters the attack. Perhaps the last throw of the Ashes dice.

Today is blistering. Even the metal case of my personal organiser/pocket lap-top is nearly too hot to touch. One thing the Waca does do well is provide free sun-crème, except they've run out by 12.30. We'll see if they have some by lunchtime. Jonathan Agnew in the commentary box yesterday (how do you think I appear so expert on the game?) was saying how well we were doing without any shade from a superhot sun. Not half as bad as six layers of thermos-flasks freezing your nuts off watching super-soppers soak up the day before play is officially abandoned half an hour before the official close.

Why start at 11.30, already close to the hottest part of the day? Seems most unfair on players, spectators and support staff alike. You know why? Money. In particular tv rights, which in cricket world wide went for 3.2 billion the other day - pounds, dollars Oz or US doesn't really matter unless you're counting. Every spectator without shade at the Waca is paying to suffer, just because Fox and Channel Nine can contest peaktime viewing. That's why the start time was put back an hour. Sports supporters are victims, which is partly why they drink so much. Even the Gatorade drinks cart is wilting in the heat. Cricket Australia, you wouldn't treat your dog like this, and if you did the RSPCA and its Australian equivalent would take you to court quicker than a slap of sun crème. Talking of which, let's see if the ground authorities have found some more...

.... Yep, and the players take an additional attritional drinks break because it's so hot. What was it that Noel Coward said? Mad Dogs And Englishmen Go Out in The Midday Sun. You won't believe this, it's almost as hot as Old Trafford.

Old Trafford Triptych 2nd Day 2nd Test England vs Pakistan 2006


the opening of umbrellas
is a more accustomed barometer
at Old Trafford

legends state a glimse of the Peak District
means it’s about to pour
and if you can’t catch its haunches
it already is

sooner or later
it’s bound to happen
the number of umbrellas
instructs umpires
to stop play

today is different
beneath the scoreboard
papers and scorecards flicker and flick
fans for fans to fan themselves
against a hard hot sun
to sisyphus unsusurated air
towards a mirage of cool

viewed across the ground
a beast – farmyard, iguana
legendary minotaur flicks fur hair scales
along prone desperate flanks
to beat sense into senseless
unbeatable heat – flick flick flick

it stops
a shot for four
a wicket’s fall

in the stillness before
the betwitchéd beast suffers
unpenumbrated penance once more
is a certainty more permanent
than glacial rain, snow and ice
which shapes a distant peak district
under the same hard-nosed sun

the world watches cricket

England were hotter too then; a three day victory over Pakistan. Back in the here and now, the sinister twins (Hadyn and Hussey, both lefties) hit the two ton mark, each run a nail in England's Ashes coffin. Just going to tune into the radio and check Aggers hasn't melted. Poor fish.

Collingwood snaffles Hayden at slip for 92 off Panesar. 206 for 3. English hope, though faint, still springs re-eternal, though not as springy as Monty's coltish pitch-length prance of celebration. Maybe this leads to Flintoff and Harmison swopping size 13s. Man-thing, what the best of mates do.

Panesar is the real deal. He gives Clarke, a destroyer of Indian spinners a pace-bowler's going over each side of lunch.

Jones misjudges a skier from Hussey. Three o'clock, or six in the morning back in Blighty, Hussey and Clarke take Australia into a three hundred lead. Progress is remorseless. Hussey gets his maiden Ashes century

Mr Cricket’s Hundred

It must feel good
To become a statistic you devour
A first Ashes hundred on your home ground
the perfect rubic
It can’t get any better
but you’ll try all the same.

To be ct Jones, b Panesar 103.

The Monty strikes again, Symonds ct Collingwood for two. 365 for 5 Kevin Pietersen appears in front of us at long leg, a sun-cremed white wraith, pantomime ghost of England's cricketing hopes from Dicken's Christmas Carol. KP signs a few autographs and someone comes down to the picket to try and engage the wraith in conversation. Something about busting noses, who knows, but the bloke goes away saying 'He lost me me job, but a good mate.' Karl Marx was dead right about cult of personality. Why are people so desperate to touch fame?

Michael Clarke kisses the gold of the baggy green helmet upon reaching his century. Achievement and honour embrace.

As so often happens on a Test Match Saturday afternoon, events on and off the pitch diverge. Australia bat England into the dust. Gilchrist fast-forwards to a five hundred lead, with three massive sixes from a Panesar over. The Barmy Army chant as they never have done before all through the drinks interval. The band played on as The Titanic went down.

A mad six-hitting sea-monster Adam Gilchrist overturns lifeboats with the second fastest test century ever. (The first? Viv Richards, also on his home ground, Antigua, and against England.) He makes other mighty smiters, Flintoff and Pietersen, seem Lilliputian by comparison. Fantastic to watch, not too much fun to play against.

Adam Gilchrist
has often played and missed.
It’s when he connects
that the bowler regrets

ever bowling
into the hurdy-gurdy
whirligig six-hitting

Something of a surprise Ponting declares setting England 557 to win or bat two and bit days to draw. We did it in the first innings at Adelaide. That’s all Freddy needs to say in the dressing room.

Captain’s Dilemma

I need to bat well
bowl well, field well,
take all my catches,
help choose the team,
set fields, raise morale
when we’re down,
enthuse, cajole, console
and kick arse, royally
whenever necessary
and appropriately.

Ensure I do all I can
to ensure we play as a team
where everyone does the best they can
to win, or at least draw.

Christ, a task of Hercules.
What on earth have I let myself in for?
Must be a mug’s game.

Strauss lbw padding up to Lee second ball; according to the radio going over the top. Supporters around me say I should point out that not one Aussie was given out lbw.

Walking home the Barmy Army have a new chant to the tune of Blue Moon.

‘Two days, we’re going to bat for two days.’

Simple really.