At roughly 9am this morning I started to write this article. I crafted a long and drawn out intro about the story of two boys who grew up on a different continent. Hardened by their experience on fast, dry, pitches, they both developed a technique that is made for batting in Australia. ‘Two South Africans to save England’, shouted the first line. Then KP played one of the worst shots in the history of the Ashes and, as he walked off angrily and Nasser Hussain reminded us of how he himself destroyed a dressing room here some years ago, I wanged a bottle of volvic across the lounge. It hit the dog on the arse. He barely moved. Which is all KP had to do, rather than hang his bat out at a perilous angle and present his edge to the ball like a sheep would its freshly shorn bunghole to the lonely farmer.
Then, just as I was tucking into a bacon and egg sanger (no butter, brown sauce) and a cup of clipper tea (no sugar, a little milk), Trott and Collingwood followed with similarly shit shots. Are this England team a gang of flat-track bullies? I'd like to think not, but the evidence doesn’t look good. Any time in this series that a pitch has offered the slightest bit of assistance to the Australian bowlers (or, in fact, anytime in the last two years) England have collapsed like Gillian McKeith at the sight of a fly. Remember the first day in Brisbane? Siddle’s Hat-trick? Remember Headingley last summer? Yeah, so do I.
And I also remember the dark, dark, days of English cricket. Butcher, Ramps, Athers, Stewie and Judge Smith caught fishing outside off stump and Gough and Caddick having to bowl for days in pursuit of wickets. England have shown a lot of positives under the stewardship of Andy Flower, but there is pretty much no way they will get a result in this test. I’d like to think Anderson and Bell could bat all day, but it’s not going to happen. Can an entire batting line-up really have a collective deficiency outside of off-stump? There were some wicked deliveries from Johnson, Hilfenhaus and Harris and impressive slip catching, but with the Ashes on the line you simply shouldn’t be flapping around.
I can imagine Botham, luxuriating in a pith helmet in a Calcutta house, deciding which bit of Indian wealth to rob next under the guise of the East India Trading Company.
There was some decent analysis on Sky last night. Warne was impressive on the art of captaincy. I’m not going to pretend he’s some latter day Mike Brearley and will start a literary career but as the English bowlers were toiling he was correct in his assertions that attacking fields with separate plans for different batsmen are a thing of the past, with the emphasis on saving 40-50 runs a Test by having a pair of fielders at deep point.
Sky makes a big deal of their third-man slot but it is often pointless. Holding is wasted, Botham clearly hates it and has to be restrained with a box of wine underneath the desk, Bumble is good in a completely inane sort of way, Nasser gets all fucking uppity but Athers is mostly spot on. As Hussey was pulling Steve Finn all over the show, they cut to Athers. “Two ways to play here, “ he said, “attack with a crossed bat and defend with a straight bat in front of your body.” He then showed a load of VT of Mr. Cricket doing just that. I’m just surprised they didn’t show it this morning to Graeme Gooch when he interviewed him.
It’s also good to know that colonialism isn’t dead on Sky. As three stewards make a cluster fuck of moving the sight screens, Hussain spluttered at Warne.
“You’ve got TV here now haven’t you Shane? And Electricity?”
“Yeah Nas we’ve got it…”
“Well how many Australians does it take to change a sightscreen then?”
“Well you know, “ chirped Warne, “it’s pretty difficult with the chains hanging around our ankles.”
Hours later, Botham compared Hussain to a miserly Indian shopkeeper who refuses to take his family out and used to carry around six bats with him so he could flog them. I can imagine Botham, luxuriating in a pith helmet in a Calcutta house, deciding which bit of Indian wealth to rob next under the guise of the East India Trading Company. My wife was born in Calcutta. She loves cricket and hates the Ashes. Something about colonialist crooks and pikey thieves thinking they rule cricket when, clearly, India does. Until South Africa fuck them that is.
“I imagine you’re a bit shell-shocked…” said Lord Gower as the post-match analysis began.
No David, not shell-shocked, not even surprised.
This is England. Our England.
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