The Ashes, Fifth Test, Day One: In The Pink

Australia may be a busted flush and England dominant, and I did think about jacking it all in and forgetting about it. But we've come so far together...
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Despite being born in Tunbridge Wells and his public school upbringing, I doubt Shane MacGowan cares much for cricket. There was a time, however, before the oceans of booze and sheets of acid and bags of heroin had taken their toll, when the Wild Rover was as fine a lyricist as I've heard. And in his long, drawn out death rattle march about Galipolli, And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, he pretty much summed up the state of Australian cricket as we enter Sydney…

And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay

I looked at the place where me legs used to be

And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me

To grieve and to mourn and to pity

And the band played Waltzing Matilda

As they carried us down the gangway

But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared

Turned all their faces away...

Actually, despite the fact that Australia can't win the Ashes, there was plenty of fans at the SCG yesterday to see Michael Clarke make his debut as skipper and the NSW batsman, Usman Khawaja, don the baggy green for the first time. It was at the MCG where they turned their faces away, with the attendance dropping from 80,000 on day one to the Barmy Army and a couple of larrikins by Day Five.

The saddest indictment I can summon up for what has happened to the dominant side of the past 15 years was in comments by Shane Warne and Bumble. "They look relaxed when I saw them this morning," said Warne as Hughes and Watson batted themselves in. "Agreed," said Bumble, "they're actually leaving the ball, they seem to have no pressure."

Normally the scourge of air traffic control, TV cameras and anyone with sensitive eyes due to the pink glow from his massive bonce, Botham was only the third brightest thing on show

Of course they fucking don't. The Ashes have gone. The only thing they can now hope for is to win this test and crow about a drawn series.

It is difficult to think of this test as anything other than after the lord mayor’s show. England have been out on the piss, Australia have licked their wounds and made a couple of changes and, if I'm honest, I wasn't really looking forward to another five nights on the sofa. But I'm considering self-publishing these Ashes reports as a book, and all I have to do is read them and see if they make sense. So I'm in.

The commentators had clearly been on the lash on New Years Eve. Botham had an all-day barbecue at the house he is renting and judging by the nervous giggles and private jokes ricocheting around the commentary box, they got leathered. All that is, except for Bumble.

"What did you do then David, " enquired Athers mischievously. "On your Jack Jones were you?"

"Yep," he replied, "bit of room service and watched the darts…."

"If you've seen one firework you've seen them all," he continued, "and the problem with that ruddy harbour on New Year's Eve is that it is full of people…"

He was in fine fettle last night. With his Ming the Merciless eyebrows arcing with venom, he pretty much ignored the cricket and spent most of his time discussing the back catalogue of Half Man Half Biscuit, the Birkenhead band who recorded, amongst others, the song Fuckin 'ell It's Fred Titmus…

If I haven't mentioned much of the cricket then it's because there wasn't much to mention. Tremlett and Anderson bowled beautifully first up with scant reward, Hughes and Watson got themselves in and played silly shots that precipitated the now usual collapse and Usman Khawaja looked tidy before top edging off Swann.The most interesting sight was that of Ricky Ponting biting his nails in the dressing room as the debutant played with a bit of vim.

Botham must have been quite comfortable yesterday. Normally the scourge of air traffic control, TV cameras and anyone with sensitive eyes due to the pink glow from his massive bonce, he was only the third brightest thing on show. Wickets, laces, fans and even Vodafone were all draped in pink to highlight the McGrath Breast Cancer Foundation, set up by the great fast bowler in memory of his late wife Jane.

A timely reminder that sport is not a matter of life or death, it really is much less important than that.

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