Sydney Day One – steady start
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
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.
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.