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 21, 2006

An Ashes Carol

Everdismal Fletcher was more dismal than ever. Inside his gloomy hotel room he wondered how he could revive his own and his team’s spirits for the last two Tests. His Christmas Eve stocking lay empty. ‘A test indeed,’ he said to himself ‘we need poetry!’ Turning to his regular bedside companion “The Coach's Story: Ashes Regained”, Everdismal found The Man in The Glass, which he had read to the team before the final day at the Oval fifteen short months ago.

For it isn't your father or mother or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass.
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass

But then something strange happened, the words on the page began to change of their own accord, and Everdismal shivered in the air-conditioned room.

The Bloke Up Your Arse

For it isn't your sheila or mucker or strife
Whose judgment gets right up your arse.
The bastard whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one sledging you back to the past.

Don’t come the Plum Warner or W G
And make out you're real dinki di,
The bloke up your clacker’ll drop you down dunny
If you can't squiz him right in the eye.

The dial to appease, bugger the ECB,
Shall flip your quince to take the final Test.
We’ll sledge you till you’ve karked it, RIP
- ’cos us Aussies’ll have rippered all the rest.

Poms cringe before playing matches,
Shonky bludgers let loose the bowels of fear:
No drama, dead certs to throw up the Ashes,
They can’t cheat the green baggies between their ears.

The volume dropped from Everdismal’s trembling hand. In the glass before him was not a reflection of the room itself, but the ghostly apparition of a figure he once knew well but had not given a second’s cognisance for many a year. Together with the book, a question fell from his lips. ‘O terrible spectre, who art thou?’

In answer the ghost walked from the wardrobe mirror towards the bed, dragging great chains of microphone leads, earphone cans and satellite dishes.

‘Do you not recognise me, Everdismal Fletcher?’ the ghost asked in rounded Lancashire vowels. ‘I am your erstwhile predecessor, Accrington Bumble.’
‘Bumble,’ mumbled Everdismal. ‘This must be one of your dreadful practical jokes.’
‘Joke? This is no joke. What is more dreadful than to lose the Ashes inside fifteen months after spending eighteen years in an attempt to regain them?’ Accrington seemed more white and pearlescent than any of Mark Nicholas’s shirts. ‘I have come to give you one more chance before Christmas itself to heed the error of your ways.’
‘Errors? I still have the players' confidence; they still come to me on numerous occasions and still talk to me about tactics. I have the respect of the players and that's very important.’
‘Respect is not enough,’ thundered the Bumble, leads and cans rattling. ‘Even of the Australians. Enthusiasm and talent must come to the fore. No. Say no more, Everdismal Fletcher. Before the night is out you shall be visited by three further ghosts.’
‘David Graveney and the other two selectors?’
‘Enough. This is your last chance.’

And with that the spirit of Accrington Bumble vanished. A dodgy prawn, thought Everdismal, turning over in the air-conditioned coolness, yet he could scarcely sleep.

Rubbing his eyes at the wardrobe mirror, Everdismal thought he must be dreaming. At the end of the bed, sat a saintly figure in a cleric’s sunhat and whites, even his skin. ‘Michael Vaughan, that can’t be you – how’s the knee?’
‘You should ask him. I am the Ghost of Ashes Past. Are you ready for a journey?’

Without further ado, Everdismal was swept to Trafalgar Square where he and the Ghost of Ashes Past floated above an open-topped bus where the England team celebrated with the tumultuous crowds the regaining of the little urn after eighteen long hard years.

‘See how happy and enthusiastic they are, Everdismal,’ said the Ghost. ‘Even you’re smiling a little.’
‘Flintoff’s had far too much to drink. Not the way a future England captain should conduct – ’
‘Everdismal,’ the Ghost commanded.
‘Yes. I am smiling, a little.’

Suddenly the happy scene and joyous occasion were gone. ‘In an hour’s time you will be visited by a further spirit,’ said the Ghost of Ashes Past. ‘One you think you might know well, yet not at all.’

Everdismal could not sleep a wink, and the truth be told, did not try. ‘Enthusiasm, talent,’ he said to himself. ‘Bah, humbug. Application means results.’ It did not help the queasiness of his own spirit.

A huge jovial Santa Claus crashed through the glass, yet leaving it unshattered. Everdismal almost smiled. ‘I know who’s behind that suit. Freddie, come out, come out, wherever you are.’
‘The England skipper’s fast asleep with his wife and children, ready to enjoy Christmas Day, as all families should since I am also the Ghost of Ashes Present. What of you, Everdismal Fletcher?’
‘Will the England team go out and enjoy the last two tests?’
‘Enjoy? They don’t have central contracts to enjoy themselves. This is Test Match cricket. The Ashes. Against Australia.’
‘I couldn’t agree more,’ laughed the Ghost of Ashes Present. ‘If you can’t enjoy thrashing the Aussies, what’s the point of turning up? Mend the error of your ways, Everdismal Fletcher. You could not retain by grimness what was won by enthusiasm and talent. It is not too late to change.’
‘Read for Jones?’
‘No. Well, yes. No, the error of your approach with two matches left.’

The jovial spectre turned to depart.
‘Don’t go,’ pleaded Everdismal. ‘I felt I was almost beginning to enjoy myself.’
‘So may others,’ replied Santa Claus. ‘Countless children to visit before the night is out – When a third and final ghost shall appear.’

Everdismal Fletcher nearly had a tear in his eye. Who would this third spectre be, and what might he bring? Past, Present…. just as he thought he saw the initial inklings of a Melbourne dawn, Everdismal realised it would be The Ghost of Ashes Future.

A bell tolled and a great vast shadow towered over him. The wraith was a gaunt thin skeleton, garbed but in a huge dark cloak, the width of the sky. Resting over his shoulder was a long keen scythe whose blade was sharp enough to shave off his pure white beard with but a single stroke.

‘You, you…’ stuttered the wretched Fletcher. ‘Accrington Bumble and the other two spirits were correct. You are The Ghost of Ashes Future.’

The shadow nodded.

‘The Grim Reaper… D…D..D…Death!!!’

The shadow nodded and shook his head. The blade of his scythe pointed to a distant scene. Atop the clock at Lords something was missing. Only the stumps remained.

‘Father Time.’

The shadow nodded but the blade of his scythe continued to point elsewhere. To a document entitled ‘P45’

‘And it has my name upon it! O Spirits I shall mend my ways. No more shall be I Everdismal Fletcher. The cricketing world will see a new man born upon this Christmas Day. For henceforth and herewith I shall be Neverdismal Fletcher, the life and soul of cricket!’

We shall see, shan’t we?

Warne S K

born 13 September 1969 test match debut January 1992
Upon passing his seventh hundred test match wicket

(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 (A N Other) 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!

Fifty Ways To Lose The Ashes

(after Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover – Paul Simon)

It’s bad to be defeated
All too easily.
We travelled here with such high hopes
To end in misery.
It could have been much worse though how
I cannot see.
There must be fifty ways
To lose the Ashes.

A negative strategy made it
Harder to win,
And by the same token opponents
Reckon you’re about to give in.
We bent right over
So you could give our arse a good kicking,
There must be fifty ways
To lose the Ashes.
Fifty ways to lose the Ashes.


Play the Australians.
Pick Geraint Jones
Ahead of Chris Read.
Don’t prepare for the Gabba,
Ignore Monty Panesar,
Madness at Adelaide,
Led t(w)o the Waca.

Over a hundred thousand
Have paid to be at the MCG.
Even a fourth Aussie victory
Will seem a little empty,
Now there’s nothing we can do
To make the series live again.
A win is still a loss;
You don’t need to use
All those fifty ways.

Maybe it doesn’t matter
If we go and lose five nil.
We’ve already lost what we
aimed to fulfill. We can’t change
Those first three games,
There must be fifty ways
To lose the Ashes.
Fifty ways to lose the Ashes.


Play the Australians.
Pick Geraint Jones
Ahead of Chris Read.
Don’t prepare for the Gabba,
Ignore Monty Panesar,
Madness at Adelaide,
Led t(w)o the Waca.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Perth Day Five - final lights

England needs some English rain to keep the embers of the Ashes alive. The skies are overcast but not as overcast as England’s hopes.

First few overs Pietersen and Flintoff play and miss, then suddenly just before the half-hour Freddie goes beserk. Hitting straight and hard, no meaningless wafts. Thirteen off Lee’s first over, thirty-odd in two dozen or so balls, three hundred up. Enter Warne. As Trundler Selvey says in The Grauniad. "It isn't over till the Fat Boy spins."

Freddie hooks Lee over Hussey for six to raise the fifty partnership. KP has scored nine of them. Kerry O'Keefe burbles on about Perth's beautiful sunsets over the Indian Ocean. Sod that. Time to retune to Aggers. Drinks without a wicket loss

Sharp piece of work by Hussey at short-leg nearly runs out Pietersen. The third umpire takes the time I need to write half-a-dozen paras to come to a decision. Pure theatre. The agony is agony, not least for Pietersen; what will be the verdict, are you ready, stare at the replay screen with all the spectators, umpires, players, Pietersen and Hussey.

'3rd Umpires Decision'


'Don't turn away, it's getting X-rated' says Mark Nicholas before the ads break. Pietersen on-drives Warne to the ropes for his fifty. Flintoff chinese-cuts McGrath for his. 335 for 5. Just over two hundred to get. A mere bagatelle.

Warne contines to yell, query and plead for everything. When and if he retires, a career as a barrister for the defence should appeal to the Clarence Darrow of the crease. The umpire is unmoved. Like the Little Britain "Computer says no." "Rudi Koertzen says no."

Two balls later Selvey's Fat Boy does Freddy with a drifting slider, cleaned bowled 51. The candle's half-guttering glow dims more weakly. Enter keeper Jones on a pair. Run-out à la Hussey by Ponting for, that’s right, a pair. Warnie thinks it's another lbw notch to his seven hundred target; he needs another two, otherwise Melbourne and home territory of the MCG. Geraint Jones’s slight figure returns to the pavilion still smaller, virtually no wax left in the candle’s tank as English fortunes contine to wane.

It's Parfitt time. Back in the sixties when I learned to play, watch and listen to cricket, I remember England in a hopeless jam and thinking 'Never mind, Parfitt's in at number seven." About the same time as Parfitt was out for crumbs, I realised my brain had gone throuigh exactly the same thought processes with Parfitt in the Test before. All due respect to the Middlesex left-handed batting all-rounder, there is no cure. To misquote Robert Palmer 'You might as well face it, you're addicted to loss.'

Sajid Mahmood's worth a few, I reckon, like Parfitt, could get through to tea. Lbw for four to a Stuart Clark yorker you could see swing in but were as near powerless as Mahmood to stop its inevitable progress. 8 for 345, score written the Australian way because this is Australia Day.

Warne's first ball to Harmison thuds the pad. Yell, query, plead. Rudi Koertzen says yes.

Enter The Monty. Mobile throbs in my shorts pocket. Channel Four Radio.

‘How’s it going?’
‘Not too bad. Monty’s in. If he can shield the strike from Pietersen we should be alright.’

We agree to do an interview some time after lunch. Won’t be more than half-an-hour I tell them.

Ever the optimist. It’s done with two balls after lunch. Monty cleaned bowled Warne, 699 test wickets since debut. The crowd go bonkers.

YAHOO, says the replay screen AUSTRALIA WIN BACK THE ASHES.

One of their players shouts into the microphone ‘You bloody beauty.’

Doesn’t matter that Yahoos in Swift’s Gulliver's Travels were ‘vile and savage creatures, filthy and with unpleasant habits, resembling human beings far too closely for the liking of Lemuel Gulliver’ (Wikipedia) The Aussies have won back the Ashes

- As they’d delight telling the Dean of Dublin in no uncertain terms. I can’t quite share their enthusiasm and joy, never mind the ear-to-ear grins, but do appreciate their jubilation. A dad with his two boys in the row ahead will be able to talk long into their futures about the Monday before Christmas when they watched Australia regain the Ashes. I’m reminded of the time when Coventry won the FA Cup in 1987. I turned to my eldest brother Daniel, both of us close to tears in our eyes to match our ear-to-ear grins. ‘Nothing else to live for,’ he said.

What of the English fans? The Barmy Army, and the millions listening or watching at about four in the morning, cold, bleak, damp, miserable, needing about four layers just to get out of bed? Hard to say. A numbness. Acceptance of inevitability. The loss of all hope, as well as the Ashes. The Barmy Army stay mass-ranked, singing their best in the face of cataclysmic disaster. If the pubs run out of beer it’ll be a tragedy.

On the way home there is one of those strange moments that come to pass in unfamiliar lands. In the park west of the Waca is a model of the ground, flower-beds, petunias in the main, as the stands, players awning-pegs painted white and the six floodlight towers adaptation of plastic rakes, each ‘Made in Australia.’ I can just hear the Barmy Army, the last to leave, chant Engerland, Engerland, Engerland.

The English players must now feel about as small as the models in the park. I take the Channel Four call, and as we talk the park staff come and remove all the players and floodlights to leave nothing but a bare stage.

Shakespeare had it about right.

“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Ode To Contest – Third Test, Perth, England lose, and lose hold of the Ashes

Behind the bowler’s arm, scoreboard obscured,
Cloudy day, rain forecast but unlikely,
England’s prayers rest with God Almighty.
Two tall hopes nearly out before they’ve scored,
Fred survives, a tide of drives floods the boards,
Stupendous risk for six hooked off Brett Lee,
None down at drinks, game on, yet unlikely.
Braced danger-laced half-centuries yield applause
That courts the final strike. Five quick blows
Ends it all. All Australia rejoices;
Reclaims their men who reclaimed the Ashes
Against time and England’s proudest voices
Stilled. Half by half by half each candle’s ghost
Bleakens the dark hearth burnt out by your host.

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.

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.