The Ashes, Fourth Test, Day One: Something In The Air

Win this test and retain The Ashes, it's that simple, and it would also mean I could get a decent sleep pattern in 2011. To all the England bowlers, come here and gizza kiss...
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You know it, I know and everyone knows it. But I have to write it down, quick. England bowled Australia out for 98 (NINETY EIGHT). Fittingly, this test series is the sporting occasion that just keeps on giving. That Ricky Ponting resembled an Elf who has been refused his yearly hand job from Mary Claus for wrapping presents badly only made it better. England bowled Australia out for 98 (NINETY FUCKING EIGHT). Merry Christmas everyone.

The word of the moment last night was wind. It's a great word, wind, especially when used by your Nan to describe post-sprout flatulence. I was full of piss, wind and turkey when I stumbled into my Ashes bunker at 11.25. The dog was leaking methane, the flags were blowing hard at MCG and Boycott had lapsed into the kind of verbal ass bluster that can only arise from being a miserable opening batsman. "I can't see how England can win this Test," he rumbled. Maybe it was a bit of reverse trumpology, who knows.

All this mention of the big W led to a hideous ten minutes where, still five guns to the galleon on wine and an ill-advised jazz fag, I suffered from vivd images of what sort of a pumper the commentators would be. Botham, surely loud, unrepentant and possibly requiring the use of a man nappy with the amount of sauce he gets through. Atherton, I imagine, would silently squeak them out from under his leg and nod sagely at Bumble, who would then obviously rattle out a long screamer followed by an anecdote about the farting vicar of Faislethwaite. And Warne, without a doubt, would get Nasser Hussain to pull his finger before loudly telling everyone, "Oh fuck I think I've shit myself, two sniffs of that and you're greedy…"

Lord Gower, of course, does not fart. And if he did, they would smell of Lavender. Lay off the dope kids, it’s just not worth it.

To give Boycott credit, he wasn’t the only one who thought England might struggle, especially after they saw fit to bench Steve Finn and replace him with the beefy trundler Tim Bresnan. But not I. And not the ever-excellent Michael Vaughan either. Vaughan, a cheeky purveyor of anal acoustics if ever I saw one, said that he thought it a good decision to bowl, how he’d like Jimmy Anderson to do a Mitchell Johnson and get a five, six or seven for, and that the pitch at the MCG was at least four parts Headingley which would bode well for Bresnan.

Atherton, I imagine, would silently squeak them out from under his leg and nod sagely at Bumble, who would then ceremoniously rattle out a long screamer followed by an anecdote about the farting vicar of Faislethwaite.

It would be easy to say that Australia were plain rubbish, but the line and length of Jimmy, Bres and Trem, (which sounds like a trio of binmen for Skelmersdale), was as good as you will see anywhere. With the exception of Phil Hughes who threw in a late entry for worst shot of the year, the Aussie batsmen succumbed to top dollar bowling. Full of length, with a little bit of nibble and right in Boycott’s famed ‘Corridor of Uncertainty’, it mesmerised Punter and his boys. Even Mr. Cricket, who is perhaps the greatest leaver of a ball currently donning pads, was tempted by an Anderson special.

This was simply brilliant cricket and to do it at the MCG, one of the most intimidating stadiums in cricket, further highlights the resilience of this England team. If Lords is the Valhalla of cricket then the MCG is the Madison Square Garden. Luckily for this touring party, the 90,000 shitfaced spectators don’t throw bottles of piss anymore, though England are that confident they’d probably drink it.

Hilariously, after it had intermittently pissed it down all morning, the sun fired into life for England’s innings. There was a moment, possibly lost forever, when Ponting turned up his nose and closed his eyes as the clouds lifted. He’d have been better off keeping them shut as Strauss and Cook reverted to being disguised as imperious run machine robots from the Planet Metronome.

That last word was the 666th of this article. If David Shepherd was still around he’d hopping from foot to foot with the zeal of a  trolleyed Morris Dancer. For Ponting though, it is definitely number of the beast. He probably deserves better, does Ricky, but this is often the way great careers end. He’s averaging around 15 for the series, and with every dismissal he reminds me more of the Tom Waits song, Tom Traubert’s Blues.

Apart from using Waltzing Matilda in the chorus, it tells of a man who doesn’t want sympathy, of naysayers who say that the dreaming is over and of ghosts that sell their memories and still want a piece of the action.

It mentions a battered old suitcase and a wound that will never heal.

That suitcase is a baggy green cap and the wound, of losing The Ashes three times as captain, will fester for eternity.

Make it happen England.

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