A little bit about me and my little blog

This is by far not the first cricket blog to be written and it certainly won't be the last (or necessarily the best). But it's mine.

This is mainly an excuse for me to carry on about a sport that has been something of an obsession since I was knee high to a middle stump. An obsession which has never left throughout the many highs (behave, there have been some) and lows (and boy have there been many of those…..) of being and England cricket fan in the years since.

The views and opinions in this blog are entirely my own. Sometimes light-hearted, occasionally irreverent, hopefully never offensive.

What gives this fool the right to have an opinion on this great sport? Where are his credentials I hear you ask? Well I think my catch at mid-on in the inter-house final at Heath Grammar school in 1981 speaks for itself…..

Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Ashes - 2nd Test: Lord's

My Role in the Australian downfall

By nature or nurture I'm not a superstitious man - I'm truly not. I can walk under a ladder with a jaunty spring in my stride, open an umbrella inside the house with an uncaring smile on my face and if ever given room 13 to teach in at my college I couldn't care one small jot. The same goes with the notion of luck - I don't believe in the act of 'tempting fate', I never touch wood ( clear your dirty minds) and I firmly believe that when it comes to being lucky or unlucky to an extent you make much of your own luck, the rest is down to results of infinite possible random events. 

However, when it comes to watching sport, for some reason it is a completely different matter altogether. I really don't know where it stems from, but my 'superstition is bollocks' life philosophy seems to go out of the window - here is a brief list of just some of the things that I've been responsible for when viewing a whole range of sports.

1) Walking the exact same route each time to a ground/venue - no matter what is in my way.
2) Sitting on the same side of the train/bus when travelling on the day of the game
3) Never, I repeat NEVER read the information in the match day programme about the opposing team before the game.
4) Wear the same clothes to the next game after a win - washing them is negotiable.
5) Never, I repeat NEVER sit in the same seat immediately after a previous defeat - that would be plain stupid.

Now there are more, some far stranger sports superstitions than the five listed above - get me drunk sometime on expensive red wine and I may even divulge one or two of them. But why am I disclosing this piece of obviously 'interesting' yet possibly pointless information about myself? Well the fact is that the simple fact is that the resounding victory in the 2nd Test wasn't down to England's excellence, it wasn't down to the mental disintegration of the Aussies, nor was it down to the questionable DRS referrals during the game. Nope, it was none of those reasons. The reason is simple - it was down to me.

Let me explain.

Embarrassment as a lost old lady wanders onto the ground
It all began on the first morning. Captain Cook had performed heroics in winning the toss on what all knowledgeable minds agreed was a definite batting paradise. Even the Queen who was in attendance suggested that " If One should win the toss, one should definitely bat first". Unfortunately no one had bothered to inform the Aussie bowlers as the recalled Ryan Harris proceeded to lay into the England batsman to the point where our boys were languishing at a quite frankly depressing 28-3. What the hell was going on? Even the Queen had decided by that this point that she had seen enough and went away to another prior arrangement of a stop-off at Griegs for a couple of sausage rolls.

Yes, Mr Harris was bowling rather excellently and the Aussie fielding was on fire - they clearly were clearly up for it and meant business. One reason for this, according to the commentators was the 'inspirational visit' from a group of Australian legends to galvanise and fire with enthusiasm the current crop of no hopers in the Aussie team  Australian cricketers. No, I'm not talking about the classic 80's MOR combo 'Men at work' - though to be honest they may have done a better job than the actual Australian legends in being all inspirational and all that - Messrs Gilchrest, McGrath, Warne and others all did their "they don't like it up 'em' speeches. Mr 'ball of the century' Warne had been doing plenty of talking-up about the team's chances (not like him eh?) - even suggesting that the Aussies had got more out of the Trent Bridge Test match than England had… the process seemingly forgetting that his boys had actually lost that match. But more of that later and back to how it was actually down to me that the Test match progressed the way it did. 

Embarrassment as Bell & Bairstow both use 'paper' in 
the "Rock,paper, scissors" game between overs

As I was saying, before becoming distracted by the thought of the Aussie dressing room treating the Lord's members to a chorus of 'Down Under' by the aforementioned beat combo, the change in English fortunes was all down to me. At 28-3 it was a big worry, were we going to throw away the momentum of the series already?! 

I decided as soon as KP clipped a ball by Harris to Haddin that something was catastrophically amiss - yes it was immediately apparent, I was sat in an unlucky chair.

I quickly realised that for the sake of English cricket I had to sacrifice the best view in the house that I had set up for myself - the comfiest chair together with accompanying table with assorted essentials such as beer, nibbles etc all had to be jettisoned in favour of the sofa at the far end of the living room….but how the heck was I supposed to enjoy the full effect and clarity of the wide screen HD quality? Oh, the sacrifice. 

As it turned out, It was not a sacrifice in vain. For that initial first hour or so turned out to be as good as it got for the increasingly beleaguered Mr Clarke and his team. Despite the best sledging efforts of Mr Haddin and some of his team mates, Ian Bell continued his imperious form as he went on to reach yet another 100. There was a time when Bell would clearly crumble when on the receiving end of the Aussie mind-games, but not any more, judging by his laughing in the face of one unfortunate fielder of the baggy green who had just tried the old 'Sherminator' routine. He is indeed in prime form. In fact he is only the fourth English batsman to score a century in three successive Ashes Test matches - the first at Sydney in 2011, last week's Test at Trent Bridge and now Lord's. 

After posting a reasonable total of 361 (thanks also in no small part to Messrs Broad and Swann's bit of tail-ending swashbuckling) it seemed that the Aussies 1st Innings was going to be an example of how you should bat on this batsman's paradise of a wicket. Unfortunately the fact that there are practically no actual batsmen in the current Aussie line-up turned out to be a problem.

Embarrassment as 1st slip loses the at the 'Simon says put 
both hands in the air' stage.
The Aussies had reached 42 without too many hitches, well that was until Tim (I'm from Yorkshire tha' knows) Bresnan decided to help Watson get nearer his much desired world record for being out lbw.  This was now followed by the now traditional joke referral to the 3rd umpire. After that Spin-king Graeme Swann decided to take umbrage at the traditional Lord's pitches being spinner unfriendly by taking five wickets for just 44 runs in 21.3 excellent overs. 

By the time the Australian team was bowled out for 128, yes that's right, I said 128, it was clear that their spirit and confidence was fading fast. No one could ever accuse an Aussie cricketer of not being up for a battle, after all, I've spoken before of my lifelong respect for their attitude and fighting spirit. However this is as close to embarrassing a batting performance I can remember from them, particularly in one period of an just over an hour before tea five wickets were chalked off for just 40-odd runs. Talk about throwing away the chance of turning the course of a match. It was all very reminiscent of a certain capitulation of the England team back in 2006 when, from a position of strength, panic and amateurish shot selection set in to grab defeat from the laws of potential victory.The fact that this total of 128 is the 4th lowest ever by an Australian team at Lord's speaks for itself.

Foe some reason, no-one had deemed it reasonable to question whether there were other matters outside the Australian control which were influencing events. For I had made the sofa, bad viewing angle and all, my permanent viewing since that first chaotic hour of the first day's play - and I wasn't going to move…. no matter how much the Cat complained as it was his usual place to kip on the sofa that I had pinched. Sorry Max.

Embarrassment as Joe Root owns up to being
 from Sheffield
Cue then much deliberation and at times quite ridiculous levels of heated opinion from commentators and pundits as to whether the lead of 233 should mean an Aussie follow-on or an England batting attempt to grind the opposition into the ground. The Sky TV pundits were in typically complaining mood that Captain Cook et al weren't being aggressive enough in putting the opposition back in - you'd think we were losing the series judging by the level of despondency in the decision to bat again - yes Ian Botham, I'm talking about you. His fellow commentator, former England Captain and dirt grinder Michael Atherton also felt the need to add his opinion. After famously saying on his retirement as a player that the job of being sports pundit and spending his time criticising the current England captain wasn't for him, then went on to spend 10 minutes criticising Captain Cook's decision……nice show Athers.

So after a shaky start when the England top-order played with the hopes and emotions of the Aussies by losing their first 3 wickets for just 30 runs, Master Joe Root decided to show them who was boss. Well he did so with the aid of my help as I decided again at this point to change my TV viewing vantage position and move to the OTHER side of the sofa. This momentous change of viewing position not only galvanised the England Innings, but made sure my viewing angle was now much better. In addition to that, the cat was very pleased too.

Even when the runs were being piled on by Messrs Root, Bairstow, Bresnan and Bell there was still room for complaint by many  - "England need to be more aggressive", "We need to score faster", "we should declare now!!". There were even some decrying the lack of fight and skill from the opposition, my god, some were even starting to feel sorry sorry for the Australian side.

Embarrassment as Lehman accidentally glues his
hands to his head.

Well not me, matey. By the time the England 2nd Innings total exceeded 300 and therefore a 500 plus lead, It was becoming clear that the Aussie morale in the field was not only receding, it was disintegrating. And I was loving it. My Australian friends may correct me if I'm wrong, but for the life of me I can't remember them ever feeling sorry for us when they were royally and regularly kicking our cricketing arses in Ashes series after Ashes series.  I sincerely love Australian cricket, Glenn McGrath is one of my cricketing heroes and I hope to see the likes of him again, but I refuse to feel sorry for them. Let's all stop being all so very English and enjoy grinding the opposition into tearful submission eh?

The current Aussie squad is woefully thin on skill and confidence - and their powers-that-be constantly seem to be racking up mis-calculation after mis-calculation. The idea of parading a group of great ex-cricketers to the current set-up may have seemed like a nice idea to gee-up the troops. But when I first heard about that I thought it could be the last thing that the the squad needed, or wanted - to be reminded of how magnificent your team USED to be seemed to be a risky venture to me.

So when the total of a kazillion runs was set for the Aussies with nearly two full days left, I was enjoying every minute of it. Even when the game threatened to go into a fifth day as we yet again struggled to get rid of the pesky stubborn Australian tail-end, I was still loving the sight of the series of dejected faces on the players balcony. Though I wasn't quite enjoying the notion of it going into a 5th day when we really should have been polishing off that tail, in fact I was starting to get a little frustrated. So much so I decided that the last over of the day needed my help.

I moved to a different sofa. We got the final wicket. We won. You are all welcome.

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