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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Friday, January 05, 2007

Sydney Day Four – Endings

Defeat is all but inevitable. The crushing five-nil loss an ice-berg dwarfing the Titanic.

But Professor Fiffle-Faffle has devised equipment to help England supporters in the one day games for the rest of the tour – The Rose-Tinted Raybans

They turn blue caps into green, and green into blue – and they work for Australians too, as their team of world-beaters disintegrates before their eyes. A prototype has already been tested by the England team manager but alas he remains ever dismal.

The game is quickly over. Third ball Pietersen half-forward hangs his bat out to edge McGrath to Gilchrist. John Arlott once described a beaten batsman as looking like a Henry Moore statue. KP is one of those ghost buccaneers crewing The Black Pearl from Pirates of The Caribbean, all powers drained from body and soul.

England yet to score, Read calls Panesar for a quick single, Monty run out by a foot, failing to ground his bat as Symonds’ throw uproots off-stump.

My ticket states Obstructed Brewongle, which sounds too painful for words, so playing seat-hookey I’m surrounded by blokes in check shirts, the Paddington Chess Club, who don’t play chess. It is a means to secure bookings at pubs and clubs – chess players aren’t reckoned to wreck the joint or welch on bills. I see their point, thinking of the look I received at the desk of the Bowls Club Sydney (an honoured guest at the 23rd dinner of the Sydney Cricket Writers) when asked where I was staying in Sydney. Don’t think the Redfern Ex-Crims Association would find it quite as easy as the PCC to make bookings. Their Chief Oppo, King Louis and their blues singer Delilah sign my hat. I like the Paddington Chess Club, there is something of Guys and Dolls, Damon Runyon, about them. When I get back to Blighty must put them in touch with the Serious Cricket Watchers Society, of which I’m the founder member.

Couple of streaky fours, Read ct Ponting b Lee 4, “That’s how to do it, Justin,” his captain might say “Remember the next time you play.” England +20 for 8

Billy the Trumpet plays ‘Yesterday’

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday

Half the problem with English cricket is a belief only in yesterday.

From about that time Billy goes into the Manfred Mann number Pretty Flamingo

Win Back The Ashes

Back home you’re sure to ask how we lost the Ashes
Were our players not as good?
Didn’t they play as they should?
All quite true, doesn’t say why we lost the Ashes.
Negativity wasn’t right
It let them tonk us out of sight.
It’s a dream all of Australia realised,
We should try it, cos then we wouldn’t be so surprised
At what might come true.

One sweet day we’ll learn how to win back the Ashes
Then Australia will envy us
Instead of saying we’re pretty wuss

Let’s fight back to win the Ashes
Win back the Ashes.

Mahmood lbw McGrath 4. Caught on the crease, not moving forward or back. My elder brother Daniel who nearly exploded yesterday because the English batsmen hadn’t learnt from earlier mistakes is probably seeking succour in eating his teatime sandwich as the end nears. (‘Teatime sandwich?’ Yes, Aussie Bloke, the Fines are incurable optimists, gluttons for punishment as well as nosh) England still + 20 but for 9

Drinks. Crowd Security stop Delilah singing the Chess Club song. As Peter White whose house in Redfern I’m staying in (where the first Prime Minister of Australia grew up, Bowls Club Sydney, please note) said this morning ‘It ends not with a bang but a whimper’ T S Eliot, I say. The Wasteland, we concur, apt for the current state of English cricket, and its writer’s name is an anagram for toilets, which more or less sums up summing up the cricket from an England perspective. I wrote a blues at Perth when the Ashes were finally lost

The English Ashes Hopes Blues

We don't need no Aussie Scoreboard to tell us the Ashes are gone.

The Aussie version would start

The Australian Ashes Blues

You don't need no Aussie Scoreboard to tell you the Ashes are gone,
But winning 5-0 doesn’t smack of triumphalism.
You thought you were pretty good, but were up against the best
Came here underprepared, andwe just did the rest.
You don't need no Aussie Scoreboard to tell you the Ashes are gone.

It’s Australia’s Day now. A few Harmie blows delay the inevitable, Anderson skying McGrath. England all out + 45.

Langer and Hayden come out to knock them off. At first it’s hard yakka. About as hard as the ball Harmison bruises Langer with. Justin must be thinking ‘No more analgesic sprays, ice-packs, and tenderness turning over in bed.’

‘It’s an absolute privilege and honour to wear the baggie green cap one hundred and five times and I’ll really miss it,’ he says at the ceremony afterwards, and his cap is about old and faded as Steve Waugh’s.

When this Ashes Tour is Over (tune of What A Friend We Have In Jesus)

When this Ashes tour is over
No more cricketing for me,
I shall put my commentator’s mike on
To give expert summary on tv.

No more ducking Stevie Harmison,
No more edging Hoggie over the slips,
I shall kiss the gold of my green baggie,
God, I’ll miss this whence it leaves my lips.

(Sung with great feeling and Welsh choralness A modification of the lyrics of When This Lousy War is Over, from “Oh What A Lovely War”; Joan Littlewood, based on the original hymn by Joseph Scriven “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”)

‘It could go into the afternoon,’ I say to the bloke from Perth, who remembers Langer’s father, a good West Australia player too. ‘I hope not,’ he replies.

On cue Hayden on-drives Mahmood for six, and after a consultation with his opening partner to determine who shall have the honour of it, off-drives the winning hit. The crowd go crazy, in the middle they remove helmets and embrace like long-lost brothers after a hard-fought war has ended in victory.

The crowd stay behind to celebrate the 5-0 Strinewash, and the end of three great players’ careers. “Thnx” says the text painted in the turf

Thnx Justin, Glen and Shane

No tears in their eyes
As they say their goodbyes.

Emotional men. Their passions controlled
Their destinies to excel themselves
For mates and their country.
Weeping publicly is for Oscar ceremonies,
Not the proud bearers of the Baggy Green.

Tears came alright
At times of uncertainty, injury,
Loss of form and controversy.
They wussed from our eyes
Alone, facing torment
To achieve after failure.
Each sob made us stronger,
Bolder, harder, far older
And yet more kind,
Appreciative of hard yakka.

Thank you, Australia

No tear in our eyes
As we say our good byes.

Warne and McGrath – I want to write Shane and Glen, but I don’t know them, and more the point, they don’t know me – pose with their kids for the media. You can see that Shane will always be a kid. I think how important the Ashes are to both countries. In establishing Australia as a nation. Her first prime minister, Edmund Barton, brought up his first three children in the house where I typing this. Perhaps in a room which was a nursery. Australia as a state didn’t exist till 1901. Before then it was a set of separate states, and to bring them together was a hard-fought effort, certainly harder than the current series, which began in 1882. Cricket and the Ashes helped form Australia – and continues to do so. Will it help the development of England?

The ceremonies continue, where all pay homage to the support of the Barmy Army (What about your Fanatics, Australia?) with Captain Andrew Flintoff going over to bow to them.

Oblivious children of the Australian players gambol and frolic on empty parts of the paddock. I think of my own childhood, parents and also Freda, my brother Paul’s partner, her friends and family, grieving her sudden loss on Christmas Day. Her funeral is today. Think of her in heaven looking down upon us, smiling.


Dad, spend more time with us.
Pick up from school, act the fool,
be the long one instead of mum
when we don’t do what we should’ve done.

You’ve missed us, we’ve missed you.
Watch us grow up,
achieve the new.

Run, skip and dance
from dreams and memory
to your final match, here.
Playing games on the pitch
our farewell to you.
A blue dress cartwheel
our turn to show
what we can do.

Cartwheel Cartwheel Cartwheel.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Sydney Day Three – life goes on

Everything went well. No queues of Balfour's chicken and veg pies, straight into my seat in the Doug Walters ash-tray to watch Hussey edge Anderson to Read. Gilchrist nabbed five in the first innings, and three to Read makes eight out of fifteen snaffles to the keeper. Are we on for a world record? Have to put it into the Frindaliser, though what it means in terms of cricket, apart from Langer's contribution of three drops, I'm not sure. Perhaps that the wicket is that little bit bouncier than the batsmen reckon.

The Branson pickle Ashes farrago continues. In this morning's SMH is a story about a couple who flew Virgin to watch the cricket only for Virgin to mislay their luggage ("If you poms keep losing the Ashes, not surprising your airlines lose luggage." Aussie Bloke) It happens, Virgin paid for couple to buy some clothes to cover the hiatus, but couldn't find cricket tickets which the couple put in their stowed baggage - until the SMH published ("More fool them," says Aussie Bloke, "best sewn into your undies if they're not in the Bank of England soap-dish deposit box.")

Now it gets interesting. An unattributable source your intrepid Ashes poet in residence met this morning said Sir Richard Pickle wanted to make the announcement at tea on the centre of the hallowed turf. Apart from clashing with the Boonie/Beefie drag races, it's just not cricket - where Australia are 236 for 5, after fortyfive minutes, Gilchrist already 29 in the mood to Waca Waca. Panesar pegs back progress beating Symonds in the flight, clean bowled 48, 260 for six.

Warne sweeps the next ball for four, then six, not out off a glove when he was, and .....Australia cruise past England's 291 with 14 off a Harmison over, two overs to go before the new ball. Throughout this series England have sought to defend rather than attack with the old ball, a reversal of their approach in 2005. Australia have scored at about two runs a minute during the last half-hour.

I try to defend the MCC retaining the Ashes Urn with the Aussies behind me. 'Awe, we should have them, just to piss off you guys.' I imagine something of the same attitude exists at Lords.

Billy The Finger Bowden saws off Gilchrist's legs caught behind when the noise was the bat hitting the ground, not the ball 318 for 7

Billy Bowden
Pulls the crowd in
With extravagent gesture
And the crook of his index finger

Another keeper's victim, the Frindaliser whirrs - straight through after lunch Flintoff gets Lee ct Read, 10 dismissals out of 18. Warnie reaches his fifty, still to get a test match century. The Barmy Army make as much noise as they can but 'Warnie, Warnie' reverberates around the SCG when he gets to his fifty, a lacing off-drive off Anderson.

Panesar goes round the wicket, Warne hits to point, practices the shot, and then places again just fine of point for four. Couldn't England guess what was going to happen?

Clark skies Mamood for 38. 398 for 9

Enter the Gatorade truck to a standing ovation. McGrath joins Warne in a last stand effort of legends to get Warnie his maiden century. Warnie flip-flops down the pitch to Panesar, stumped the length of Bondi Beach by Read top score 71. Australia 398, another stumper victim. Eleven in the match to date. The Frindaliser, having frindled, Frindles on.

England start at -102 for none. Clarke top-edges Bing Lee for a skier -97 for none. Strauss ducks his head into a Bing bouncer and falls to deck. He seeems okay, readers, thank God they wear helmets.

Strauss lbw Clark 24, England -47 for 2

Bell ct Gilchrist b Lee 28, England -38 for 3. A needless flash, the Frindaliser whirrs.

Pietersen and Collingwood try to steady the ship without becoming becalmed. McGrath bowls eight overs, six maidens, none for six. Pietersen changes bats, has he ever been out to Stuart Clark, who induces Collingwood to edge to Hayden in the Gulley for 17, England -4 for 4. Pietersen and Flintoff at the crease, shades of the end at the Waca. The Frindaliser is unmoved.

Flintoff is stumped millimetres out of his ground off Warne for 7. England +11 for 5 in real money. Superb piece of work by Gilchrist, the Frindaliser goes into orbit.

Panesar comes in as a nightwatchman. In many ways the best day’s cricket of the series.

An Old Scorebox Operator Laments

The game isn’t what it used to be,
nor the creaking knees for climbing creaking stairs
to ring the changes, today they score too damn quickly
for me. Joints need regular lubrication and maintenance,
mine, not just the machinery.

O how I yearn my Slasher MacKay
and Bill Lawry. You could open, pour and drink a long cool one
before they dreamt of hitting off the square. Put your feet up.
O my MacKay and Lawry,
Maybe fifty between lunch and tea, maybe.
Time enough to find the papers, makings,
roll a gasper to inhale each ball
safe in the surity it’d die on my lips

before they turned the old scoreboard over.

Last week they pinned a sign above my head.
‘Living legends don’t smoke’ without mention
to Boof or Warnie - two of the worst.
Gilchrist, Symonds. Hayden and Langer
started it all under the gimlet eyes of Waugh.
They score too damn quickly. Rickety
old me ricketing up those rickety stairs,
reels, numbers and boards. And sometimes
I forget to move on the score
staring at the beauty of it all.

Sydney Day Two – whither the Ashes?

Play started at 10.19, due to time added to compensate time lost yesterday. Why not 10.20 and have done with it? Spurious accuracy in the extreme. The final ov r of the day will have 4.7 b lls, of which 1.37 recurring runs will be scored. Even Professor Fiffle-Faffle, arch-fiend of dubious science acknowledges this to be t tal b ll cks.

Even though I set off ahead of myself I miss the first ball, where Langer drops another at slip. Certainly lives up to the position's name. Maybe his mates are repeating the crowd's Yabba-esque comment 'This is the last test you'll ever play, Langer.'

Yesterday I sat next to the Yabba stand, named after the great Sydney barracker who yelled from the Hill querying England captains about colonial insect and political life -'"Leave our flies alone, Jardine. They're the only friends you've got." and “Dexter, what about the Common Market?” Greg Baum in the SMH (Sydney Morning Herald) bemoaned the lack of wit among the fans, especially his own, the Fanatics. “They mistake noise for wit, identity for character, attention for fame.” Maybe the Beefy Booney game has become too sanitised for its own good.

I missed the oversanitised start of play because of the queues trying to get in and then round the ground. The SCG catering facilities are about as nonged as the MCG, only less variety, but they take the biscuit (except you'd have to queue for it to find they'd run out) when it comes to enabling patrons get to their seats. On the whole Australian test cricket stadia are good. Signs are poor, and hired staff don't know or can’t give correct directions either but the bag searching and electronic ticket scanning works well. Not today. Thundering great queues, and once in, thickets of cops standing around doing XXXX all except get in the way of your trek halfway round the ground to Bay 3 which is both not labelled and incorrectly labelled so Crowd Security directs me to Bay 4 instead. Crowd Security – you feel safe with them.

The Bradman Stand (and he had many with Ponsford, Morris, Hassett, Fingleton, McCabe, Woodfull, but always with himself) is appropriately non-alcoholic. The Don imbibed but hardly drank.

The SCG needs egress around here. The Doug Walters Stand, which by rights should have been smokers only, is about to go. If the SCG want some free heritage advice, I'd recommend moving and restoring the old scorebox obscured by the Doug Walters Ashtray, or even better building an entrance underneath it. Maybe they've already copped this. Aspicked minds think alike.

10.48 Collingwood edges the unspuriously accurate McGrath, ct Gilchrist 27. 245 for 5.

Flintoff drives Lee for a thumping four behind square. At times he makes the game look so simple.

Read survives an imperious LBW appeal from Lee before his captain scampers him through for two leg byes. Next ball, snick to Gilchrist 258 for 6. Mahmood first ball an edged pull to Hayden in the gully. Ditto for 7.

Next over hat-trick ball to Flintoff, the Edgbaston derring-do commiseration pair. Fast, outside off-stump, Freddie watches it go by. An over or two later two driven fours, one nearly bisecting Umpire Billy Bowden with the sound of a high velocity anti-tank rifle. Simple game.

This morning before setting off, but after arranging to meet the head of the British Council in Australia I performed the simple task of polishing my shoes. It was immensely enjoyable, the tactile sensation of rubbing in the polish, then buffing the leather up to a half-way decent shine. A simple game, refreshingly so compared to complex things like e-mails, audio files, mobile phone tariff rates and 10.19 starts.

In essence cricket is simple too. The feel and sound of bat upon ball, willow upon leather, especially if the macau cane handle is in your hands. I loved that almost regardless of the outcome. Emotion has to be tempered to realise ambits.

Gunn & Moore

From water’s edge
to the middle of the ground.
grown straight, selected,
sawn, planed, sanded,
steel and grit balance
out any natural flaws
for the ideal blade
Not left to season
alone but cared for
Well-oiled resilient power
behind the maker’s name

roughed out, air-dried
cleft pressed moulded
and cut for the splice
Of macau cane thrice
rubbered and bound
wedged, clamped, glued
together in steady time
to face being in the middle

Easy in your hands
raise, step back, twiddle,
survey the field, take guard
Ready to do your best
and accept the future

Use wisely without fear
the ball is no part of me.

Flintoff at his best plays the game simply. This series he's struggled with the bat, flailing in the main at balls he shouldn't go for. He just taken five runs off a Clark over, leaving Harmison just one ball to face. Lbw 2. 282 for 8.

Enter the Monty heralded by Billy The Trumpet, to be dropped at slip by, yes, Langer. Even Tufnell was better in the field, he only dropped aitches on a regular basis.

Flintoff half-charges Clark to edge a spectacular but not overly difficult catch to Gilchrist - fifth of the innings, two more than you dropped, Justin. This is the worst stroke of an excellent innings by Flintoff. Not just playing through the V for crushing fours but craftily placed twos, one of the few England batsmen to appreciate the spaces offered by large Australian grounds. His 89 is nearly worth a century, close to a captain's innings, just as he's close but not quite close enough to being a good skipper. It's Freddie going backwards, re-flowering into the player all Australia feared when he strode to the crease in 2005. Feared and admired.

Or something like that as sung by Shirley Bassey

Big Freddie

The minute you walked on the pitch
We could see you were a man of distinction, a real big cricketer.
Soft lad from Lancashire,
Would you let us whisper into your ear?
Stroke it between cover and point,
No need to throw your bat at every ball you see,
Hey big Freddie!
Hit a little six for me.

Would you like to have fun, fun, fun?
After they’ve won, won, won?
Thrash’em at their favourite pastime.
Sink their drinks for a good time.
The minute you walked off the pitch
We could see you were a man of distinction, a real big cricketer.
Soft lad from Lancashire,
You didn’t hear what we whispered in your ear.
Stroke it between cover and point,
No need to throw your bat at every ball you see,
Hey big Freddie!
Hey big Freddie!
Hey big Freddie!
Hit a winning six for me.
Warne does Panesar again in flight for another LBW, England all out 291, probably about at least fifty short of par on this wicket. Three of the top six got over forty, none made a century. QED

Australia face a single over before lunch, which makes t tal b ll cks of the t tal b ll cks of a 10.19 kick-off. Why not have lunch straight after England's out, like the old days? Spurious accuracy and tv ad schedules, that's why.

Talking of old days, I'm intrigued by the venerable roller used to roll wickets between innings. Apparently it's about eighty years old which means it rolled the track before Bradman went out to play his first first class innings, and straight back in after collecting a duck.

The Don's views on Australian pies aren't known. Mine are. I take it all back. They don't taste all the same, the market waiting for the special Pom flavour 'Humble.' Today, feeling peckish after an insufficient number of sandwich (one) I found myself in the inner sanctum of the members atop the Noble stand where queues are short to non-existant. Against my better judgement I fancied a pie. Let's face it, Barry Humphries has immortalised this tasty on the Sydney Writers Walk in Circular Quay:-

I think that I could not espy
A poem lovelier than a pie.
A banquet in a single course
Blushing with tomato sauce

Mea Culpea. Fancying a pie with a difference I plumped for the Chicken and Vegetable. Bad move, for me, if not the chicken and the vegetable, because their presence within the crust seemed entirely nominal. Australian pies do not taste all the same. The beef ones are more or less edible. Balfour's Chicken and Vegetable isn't. One bite nearly had me spraying the entirety of Bay Three, the roller and the pitch - Fine projectile vomits from boundary to boundary. Inside a Balfour's Chicken and Vegetable is reject material from the Alien films, a greenish gelatinous gristly goop of extraterrestial sweepings from the intergalactic slop-bucket at the Abbatoir At The End of the Universe. Nobody should be allowed, never mind forced to make, serve and least of all eat this crap. $4.20 straight into the bin marked highly dangerous industrial waste and pies. Balfour's Chicken and Vegetable Pie is an offence against humanity which all Australia should rise up against. Were I ever to enter politics here I'd stand on half-way decent pies, but without much chance of success. Australians are proud, forgiving and ultimately drongo about their pies Bazza McKenzie's lesser ego professes to love so much.

The guts of Australian pies
Puzzle other democracies.
Its electorate aren’t averse
To bull or a whole lot worse.

If the Australian pie industry, not to mention their cricket ground security and caterers off the pitch were to show the same dedication in the pursuit of quality as the Green Baggies do on, it would be far more of a pleasure even as a pom to watch them put us through the mincer.

Australia 87 for 1. Only wicket Langer playing with the same abandon he displayed in his slip catching, snicking one down the leg-side from Anderson, ct Read 27. Billy the Trumpet is reduced to playing the Grandstand and then Sports Report theme tunes - March of the Champions. My start of play stumps prediction of 214 for 4 would be a good result for England, even when Hayden, eschewing Melbourne perserverance, goes hard at a wide one from Harmison ct Collingwood 33. 109 for 2 at tea.

I watch David Gower, Nasser Hussein and David Lloyd bumble to Sky viewers back in England at four in the morning the difference between the two teams. Their hand gestures speak volumes, roughly translated 'country mile.' Elsewhere on the paddock, the Battle of the Tasches Handicap race is between Aussies dressed as blokes, and Poms in dresses. The ladies win hands down and go off beam, signal and course. Maybe that's where we went wrong in our preparation. If only Freddie and the boys had dressed as women rather than played like them. Which is very unfair, not least to women cricket in England and Australia, where the England team still retain the Ashes (see Grace Road, one of the first entries on

The Monty comes to the crease and Ponting falls to a fractional run-out direct throw from Anderson for 45, when set like a train. Shades of Pratt at Nottingham. 118 for 3. Clarke directs a Harmison lifter to Read for 11, before a rain break and stumps at 188 for 4. Interesting, still in the Australians’ favour.

Not that the press are there; too busy listening to Sir Richard Branson bang on about the Ashes urn staying in Australia. Three things:-

1. If the English team had made a decent fist of it, they’d not be having this debate.
2. Branson Pickle’s doing this to drum up trade for Virgin Blue, his new kid on the runway to Quantas for domestic air.
3. What’s it got to do with the price of Branson Pickle anyway? Could you imagine a Freddie Laker, or Lord King putting his pennethworth in this?

I admit I might be biased because another of Branson’s enterprises, Virgin Mobile screwed me royally in sending a replacement sim card for my drop-kicked mobile into the Torrens after Adelaide, and still owe me about forty bucks.

More seriously the Ashes Urn isn’t a trophy like the FA Cup; it’s a bequest, a gift from the Darnley estate to the MCC. To demand it as of right from the Marylebone Cricket Club would be like expecting any Australian cricketer to return their baggy green caps after they were dropped or retired.

John Howard, art collector and Australian Premier has backed Branson’s pickled scheme. Maybe the MCC could make it conditional on Aboriginal lands and rights similarly respected? Never mind the Hon Ivo Bligh, what the first Australian touring party to England of 1868, all aboriginals, would make of this is hard to guess. I think the Premier has misjudged the mood of the nation. Tonking the Poms is good, drinking beer is better:-

The Legend Of The Golden Tinnie

Aussie Bloke here

You all know the Legend Of The Golden Tinnie. Back some time in the last century, 1989 as a matter of fact, another Aussie bloke David Boon drank 52 tinnies flying in to thrash the Poms where it matters, and to bring back the Ashes. Except they didn’t, of course, because the Shirts at the MCC lost the pawn ticket yonks ago and could we have what is rightfully ours? Could we cocoa.

You’ve probably seen the brohoa in the paper (There’s only one - The Daily Strine) that the Ashes have come to Oz, just at the time when we didn’t hold them. Guess they must have found the pawn ticket. Took ’em three blokes and a special hermetically sealed container with its own seat in business class, by your leave, to get it here. You could’ve bunged it in an eskie and still have room for three dozen cold ones. Talking of which – I’ll get to that later. Three blokes to mind a four inch high urn? No wonder their manufacturing base is jiggered, couldn’t even manage a press-up in a multi-gym. If they ever decide to give the Elgin marbles back to Greece, they’d have to tow the whole bloody country there. And they’ll probably dob in a knighthood. Arise, Sir Ashes Urn KGB. Be a republican, it’s simpler. Almost as good as being a publican.

Now the pom who flew the Ashes here, Sir Richard Tim-Tam Milo-Milo Lamington-Lamington Branson-Pickle – who’s still a virgin despite or because of all those names - doesn’t want to bung em back. Typical pom, if you ask me, shonky bludger, can’t even trust their own kind. No surprise they lost them in the first place.

Which brings me to the Legend of The Golden Tinnie. Where the VB is it? Number 53, the tinnie Boonie couldn’t drink, the golden one, when all other tinnies are silvery.

The Poms must’ve got their grubby mits on that too.

So have any of you people got any idea where the Golden Tinnie might be?

And more to point, how to get it back before the Poms drink it, the Grail of Australia, the Antipodean Ambrosia, the elixir of life, strength and strinedom ….to win back the Ashes in 2009.

God help us.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Sydney Day Four - Prediction end of series 2.18

Day 2 England didn’t bat at all badly today, and at 4-234 have already made their second highest first innings score of the series. Wicket pretty good, should be aiming for 400 plus, especially with no Hoggard. Less than 350 and the 5-0 starts to ominise itself, weather pending.

Much will depend on how Collingwood and Flintoff fare against the new bunger, and whether Chris Read shows the same resilience with the bat as in the second dig at Melbourne.

Day 3 Not yet seen Tuffers starting to roll up the post-coital gasper.... bit of rsp, Australia 184 for 4.

Sticking with the same prediction tomorrow but the blue baggies this time.

Day 4 Unless the extraordinary occurs, the end is inevitable, just the timing seems in question 2.18 in the afternoon.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Sydney Day One – steady start

It clarted it down this morning, yet play started at 11.40, surprisingly enough without a Barmy Army chorus of "Only rain can save Australia now."

Both teams were presented to the assembled throng in honour of McGrath, Warne and Langer, in order of height if not stature. The England team line up under the flag of St George, something possibly inconceivable a dozen years ago, and the rise of English nationalism as an artefact of Welsh and Scottish assemblies.

All occurs under the watchful flag of Southern Cross flying from the Members Pavilion, which, with its partner to the Final Test Match Ball, the Ladies Pavilion, are perhaps the most elegant cricket buildings on God's Own Earth. As Saint Agnew of Leicestershire would have it, think George Geary stand at Grace Road writ large and then some.

The Australian Opera Bloke who sings the English national anthem over the tannoy adds one of those raised half-octaves as a substitute for talent and fidelity, and in homage to the Aussie habit of making every sentence a question? Later in the day in an attempt to put him straight The Barmy Army sing God Save Your Queen, with the codicil to the tune of 'O my darling Clementine' "Your next Queen is Camilla Parker-Bowles," Tatler readers please note.

Oh, the cricket. England won the toss, elected to bat, and 32 for 0 at drinks, (where the Gatorade truck makes an unwelcome reappearance) At first Strauss set out to disprove the pen is edgier than the blade, especially against McGrath, who opened the bowling at the close of his career.

At 4 for 2 normal service seems resumed when Strauss and Cook are out after being set.

3.20 enter Warne. And the Aussies behind me sing something regarding male genitalia to the tune of Jingle Bells. I put them if not their genitalia straight:-

O Warnie’s balls, Warnies balls,
Warnie’s balls are there to be stroked,
O what fun when the poms have choked
To have Warnie’s balls to stroke

Bell and Pietersen do just that, batting straight through from lunch to tea to put on a hundred just afterwards.

It’s simple to tell
Kevin Pietersen
from Ian Bell

One is quite tall,
the other rather small

But at Sydney today
they both batted rather well

Until KP party-tricked down the wicket to an anticipatory McGrath and I was saying ‘Out’ as soon as the ball left his bat on its way to Mr Cricket midwicket Hussey. Not to be outdone next over Bell didn’t get far enough forward again, and was castled neck and crop inside edge through the gate to mix MetaMcGraths.167 for 4.

Collingwood and Flintoff bat through with some luck but no little judgement to close at 234 for 4, already England’s second highest first innings performance in the test series.

The day was meant to belong to the departing Green Baggies. As Cric Info’s Peter English put it ‘The teams walked out this morning to see the three players' names spray-painted on the ground in a mixture so thick the rain that delayed the start for 70 minutes could not wash it away. Each time McGrath or Warne touched the ball or walked to grab their caps they were cheered like returning heroes and at tea the trio stood at the balcony of the dressing room listening to Time to Say Goodbye. Only the title words are sung in English and the players were unable to mouth the lyrics of the Italian operatic rendition like they did for the national anthem in the morning.’

So my poem of the day is about Stuart Clark, Australia’s leading wicket taker and find of the series. McGrath Mk II in method, he’s not nearly such a demonstrative man. Quite the reverse. Towards the end of the day Flintoff drove him to the long on boundary, touch and go if it was a four or not. They nearly collided as each looked at the ball. Stuart dipped out of the way without a scowl or jibe which would have been de rigour for Glen or Brett. Nice sort of bloke.

Stuart Clark

Not that you’d notice him for seeing,
the sort of bloke in the office
who always comes to work on time
to a tidy desk all parts done efficiently
Pays the drinks kitty and sweepstake
and tells the sharpest stories about the bosses
(not that you notice him for seeing.)

The sort of bloke troubled mothers of errant daughters
pray they’d bring home and yet leave them well alone.
That bank managers take to, perhaps trusting too much too.
Eyes that remember distant birthdays and colours of others eyes.
The sort of waiter you can ask what’s best on the menu,
tip well, and instinctively say thank you to,
and instaneously forget in our ever-rushed lives
too busy to notice him for seeing.

Nothing too complicated nor too much
to do for others. As his arm comes over
batsmen fear any minor deviations
- not that you’d notice them for seeing.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Bowling Plan-Gate

Everyone has blown hot and cold about the England’s bowling plans, not to say bowling going astray at the MCG last week.

Ian Botham blew hot, probably because he was angry about the England performance.

Angus Frasier blew cold, more important things in the world, probably because he was resigned to England’s performance.

Matthew Hoggard, the different player of the day wheeled out to face the media, made a joke about it, which would have been my reaction, certainly in public.

Their loss displays a great deal of slap-dashery. Why was it in the back pocket of a back room staff member? How did it fall out? How come its loss wasn’t noticed? I know exactly where my ticket, credit cards, wallet, door keys are all the time, and I’m meant to be an absent-minded wuss of a poet.

Its laxadasical loss contrasts sharply with the prescriptive nature of the object lost. (Spot the Irony Time)

The piece of paper is not a bowling plan. It is a list of potential weaknesses of Australian batsmen. A bowling plan is how to get a side out in the least amount of time and runs. If England thought they’d lost their bowling plan with that piece of paper, it is evidence of not understanding the difference between tactics, plans and strategy.

Apparently these sheets of paper are laminated and pinned up in the dressing room (they come colour-coded too) I was surprised by this. You won’t be surprised that as a poet I do not have an alphabet, definitions or rhymes, forms of metre pinned up in my wardrobe, or indeed study. It denies any sense of prior assimulation of thought to think things through on the pitch – hence the formulaic dispositions in the field. To cut to the chase, England are being encouraged to play like a bunch of robots. It brings to mind the Don Revie era of England soccer management, where players were given inch thick dossiers on the individual opponents. Both Revie and Duncan Fletcher were/are cautious not to say suspicious men, especially of players with talent to attempt and achieve the unexpected.

The dossier/bowling plan approach indicates an excessively defensive mind set. It sets the opposition’s qualities above your own. Each weakness in the ‘bowling plan’ is fairly common knowledge. I’m just a fan, and thought ‘Nothing new there’ I’d also have thought it would already be in the minds of the England cricket team. By placing them in the dressing room you deny the bowlers their strengths. ‘Don’t care what their weaknesses are, if I bowl it on or just outside offstump on a length, and move it a fraction….’ In other words, it’s an approach which denies self-belief and confidence. You can understand why Rod Marsh and Troy Cooley, both recent members of the England set-up have been critical of its current effects.

Regardless of individual players performances you can also see why England have lost four matches on the reel against a team fifteen months agao they came back from one-nil down to beat 2-1, nearly 3-1. Would this England team have managed to hold its nerve to win Edgbaston and Trent Bridge 2005?

What of the fifth and final test at the MCG? Is it a chance of token redemption or are final rites inevitable? Will it be a sly Tuffer’s post-coital gasper, or a fag-end of the most one-sided Ashes Series since Warwick Big Ship Armstrong Mcgrathed John Won't Hit Today Douglas's England side 5-0 in 1921-2

Showers are forecast, which might help lead to a draw. McGrath and Warne will be playing their last games, McGrath on his home pitch, perhaps Langer too. They will want to end on a high.

Signs aren’t good. Not least the England team going round Sydney Harbour to enjoy the fireworks in a luxury cruiser called the Morpheus. In classical times he was god of the underworld in whose arms you fell asleep to die.

Whether or not England fall asleep to lose, manage to salvage a draw or wake up to a New Year’s win, I hope they do one thing. At the end of the last day’s play they walk across and share the series with their supporters.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Melbourne Days 4&5+NYE

“Due to no play being required on the fourth day of the Melbourne Test, Ticketmaster will give 100% refunds to all patrons.”

So much for no Melbourne Day Four and Five talks. Any complaints should be directed directly to the England Cricket Team.

What to do – here is a poem on Day Three Old Trafford, where doubtless Pakistanis with a yen to complain took it up with their team.

Old Trafford Triptych 3rd Day 2nd Test England vs Pakistan 2006

Looking Ahead

two days to spare
what will we do tomorrow?

lick wounds
savour the taste of victory
naughty boy nets
what will we do tomorrow?

cancel a thousand barm cakes
dismantle tents and portaloos
ask landladies, scratch our heads
for other things to do
return quarters early
to a backlog of diy
ring the temp agency for other jobs
just above the minimum wage
what will we do tomorrow?

get so stupendously blotto
tomorrow falls out of the question
absent-mindedly switch on to 1500 metre
long wave to wonder why life in Ambridge
hasn’t yet stopped.

what will we do tomorrow?
maybe the outcome was never in the balance
one thing for sure
unlike Macbeth it’s all over
before Birnam Wood and Dunsinane Hill
came against him.

"Any rubbish there at all?" asks the Virgin Blue steward onward to Sydney Test Five. England cricket team, I say, which is perhaps unfair because there is a chance of redemption or final rites in the fifth test. Will it be a sly Tuffer’s post-coital gasper, or a fag-end of the most one-sided Ashes Series since Warwick Big Ship Armstrong Mcgrathed John Won't Hit Today Douglas's England side 5-0 in 1921-2. Who can say but read BowlingPlanGate in tomorrow's

New Year’s Eve Sydney Harbour Bridge tonight appearing on Radio 5 Live’s Julian Worricker show, and here’s a poem to prove it. Have a good one, one and all, not least the England and Australian teams and all their followers.

Harbour Bridge – 00 00 Monday 1st January

a city and land defined by sea, a far greater bridge:
Flinder’s circumnavigation never left its moorings
from Donnington’s dominion. Seventy-five years
is nothing more than a life-time bearings.

Over and under, each passage changes yours
a fraction of a second or degrees more abruptly.
The click of rail tracks, ferry
boards or calendar make each journey
a new year for someone far or near;
Greek, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Thai, Mediterrean, Slav,
the city is a restaurant of nationalities,
not just UK nor Australia.
A two century skin to countless millenia
of aboriginal lands: hard to come to terms with
what Cook first saw when missing harbour
or orginal cooks sixty thousand years earlier,
each passage changed their being.

Every one of us history.

after commissioned fireworks and similar paraphenalia
are dustcarted and dumped with any scent of sulphur,
the world becomes again what it was before,
edged on a little further from its origins.
Rail meets gunnel, steel the sea,
Kirribilli, Neutral Bay, Karra Point,
Mosman, Manly, Watson’s,
Pyrmont, Balmain, Parramatta,
all points compass Circular Quay.

Nothing’s left.
In the wind, rain, flood tides
and fogs, steamer horns stygian
the clatter of trains anchor chains
knuckling the bridge under. The smell of oil, riches,
ghosts of spices, wheat, sheep, cattle,
hides and fleeces, unwashed, chaffed, settlers too,
awash within the pattern book of antiquity’s development
the bridge pays its tolls to.

Watch the ferries dance their first footings
to dawn’s indiginous tune.