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, January 04, 2007

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.