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This Aint Golf! It’s Cricket!
Go ahead, admit it, you’ve never read an article on cricket before, right? But wait, this is no ordinary cricket, this is the Ashes! The Ashes? Yes, there is the series between England and Australia which dates back to the 1870s. The two old enemies locked up fighting in England throughout the summer.
Australia, world number one, world champions, such a great team that has been praised for world cricket since the demise of the great West Indies team ten years ago. But England too, and England, not Great Britain, has been on the rise. They have defeated all of their main rivals, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and the West Indies, and only mighty Australia now stands in their way at the pinnacle of world cricket.
Some say test cricket (that’s the 5 day variety, I kid you not, and even then the game could be a draw) is a dying sport, some say it has no future , some say kids today don’t have the patience to watch a game for five days. It is doomed. Well, as that American general so eloquently replied to the Wehrmacht when he was surrounded at Bastogne, “Nuts!”
This is the biggest sporting event to hit Britain this summer, bar none. When the Ashes series kicked off in London last Thursday at Lord’s cricket ground, 30,000 drooling fans were crammed inside. Estimates say they could have filled the land six times over. I have little doubt that is true. Not a sign of a dead sport there then. And what’s wrong with playing titanic battle for five days anyway? Golf is played for four days, and can spill over to a fifth, if there is a tie or bad weather.
On a dull morning Australia won the toss and elected to bat, a brave decision in the face of cloudy skies that could enable England’s fast bowlers to swing the ball through the air. Should make batting difficult.
Cricket is a simple game. Two teams of eleven. They each bat twice. Add the runs from each innings together and the team with the most wins. Easy. Five Test matches, five days each. Australia bat, and England strike! Australia are skittled out for a measly 190. Bad score. Optimism is high. England for heaven’s sake have become favorites in the betting tents, and that has not been seen since betting on this series began over a year ago. What’s happening?
The pundits are crawling out of their shells. Of course they always knew that England was on the rise, (oh if only they were), and that Australia was declining, so they say, now. We all knew that Australia’s two leading bowlers Shane Warne (most test wickets in history) and Glen McGrath, one away from his 500th wicket, were both 35 years old and drawing towards the end of their illustrious careers, surely Age doesn’t seem to have affected Shane’s bedroom activities, he is known as the busty blonde for his body and dyed hair, and a constant diatribe of his extracurricular activities is reported in the tabloid press, in England and Australia. He doesn’t seem to get too distracted on the pitch.
So England go in to bat. Calamity. Glen McGrath refuses to believe the tripe written in the papers. He quickly sends five of England’s best batsmen back to the packed and stunned pavilion, for just four runs conceded. England rally, but too little, too late, they are bowled out for 155. Definitely first real blood for the men from the bottom, which is a big disappointment after a hostile and impressive start England.
England have fast bowlers of their own in Harmison, Flintoff, and Jones, all capable of hurling the ball down over 90 mph. That can do damage, believe me, and three of the Australians get hit. This is brutal stuff, and the crowd laps up. Yes the object is ideally to hit the wickets, but if you can’t do that, hit the batsman! If you do, they could be gone, because a lot of batters can’t go about their business with a broken bone. Broken bones are doing well. The Australian captain takes a heavy hit. The crowd holler, they love it. Just as well then that the batsmen were dressed like some superhero from a futuristic comic book. When I was a boy in the sixties the batsmen didn’t even wear helmets. Ah, those were the days. Hit them on the head then, and they certainly didn’t bat again. Nabby pambies today, isn’t everything!
Round two. Innings two. Australia bat again. The sun comes out. Not a good sign if you are an England fan. The ball races off the bat in sunnier weather and hits the boundary boards. The ball doesn’t swing as much in the thinner air either. Batting is suddenly easier, much easier, and the famous Australian jauntiness returns. oh dear We fear the worst. Surely the eyed layers have noticed too. Australia have quickly returned to being outright favourites. How could we ever have thought otherwise?
The English bowlers are toiling, and although wickets are constantly falling, the Colonies, still described as cruel by some, have to go straight up their noses, and there’s no point in getting angry these fellows are unnecessary, 384 all out. England need 420 to win and there are still two and a half days left. This contest will not end in a draw, unless Mister Buckets is up there banging for two whole days, and as anyone who knows London knows, that is not impossible.
Here’s a stat for you: England have NEVER made more than 400 runs in the fourth innings of a Test match to win the match in the one hundred and thirty five year history of Test cricket. Not a comforting stat to begin with, and indeed it has only ever been done two or three times, but never by England.
England’s batsmen, the same batsmen who failed so miserably in round one, come out to face the might of Mister Brett Lee. Mister Lee, and I’d call him “Mister” if I were you, is the most hostile fast bowler on the face of the planet right now. He is capable enough to send the hard ball (very hard) the way of the batsmen at a speed of over 100 mph. The openers look nervous, they should be, no they look scared, despite the obligatory glare they send back up the pitch. Mister Lee is smiling, as he is, straight blonde hair, Aussie soap star looking. He’s enjoying himself and why shouldn’t he? He is confident that his team is about to go one up in the series.
But England are off to a good start. They have put on nearly a hundred runs and have yet to lose a wicket, and the odds on an unlikely victory for England are falling. Could it possibly be? Then disaster strikes. England collapse, as they have a tendency to do, wickets fall quickly and as the third day ends, England are reeling at 156 for five men out. It should be a formality in the morning.
And guess what? On Sunday morning, (day 4) Mister Buckets steps forward and throws him down. By midday, the pool in my garden has never been so full. There is no gossip in the cloud anywhere. The rain is in for the day, so they say, heavy and continuous. Cricket cannot be played in the rain. Too dangerous. The pretty TV weather girl smiles as she gives us the news. Has she had a bet on the draw too? She won’t be alone.
The stadium is empty. Yet 30,000 souls have paid handsomely for their dose of Ashes cricket. Will they see any play today? Some England fans applaud the deluge. Approve rain, it takes some believing. If we could only come out of this game with a draw, they think everything could be all right again. Victory for England is now out of the question. Odds of 400/1 against by Sunday. At lunch on Thursday they had been 4/5 on.
The rain finally stops. It’s still cloudy, and the field is sopping. You can’t play cricket on a sopping pitch either. But it dries, quickly. The umpires come out to inspect the track. They stand and shine by the twenty-two yards of mown brown grass. They nod. They look at their light meters. Light meters? Meaning: Tchh! They nod again, fatally for England we imagine, play will start in thirty minutes. oh dear
The crowd returns mid-afternoon. Where have they all been? All 30,000 of them back to watch the coup-de-grace, or miracle, but there will be no miracle today. England surrenders tamely. All out for 180, and Australia win by a massive 239 runs, and in four days too. Who said cricket was a five day game? Too easy, by far. England drop seven catches in the game, Australia drop zilch! And included in their take was a wonderful full-length diving effort from Damien Martyn right on the boundary rope to dismiss the dangerous Kevin Pietersen. And no gloves either, no cricket fielder is allowed to wear gloves of any kind, except the wicket keeper. Bare hands only, can be hard, broken fingers are common. Not many pro cricketers avoid that punishment.
The optimism of the first day is gone and England have many head games to settle just before the second Test starts in Birmingham. However, the picture of Australia’s global invincibility remains, because it’s certainly not just England they can’t touch. Maybe the USA could put together a decent side. Now that would be fun, don’t you think?
As for the bettors, they spent 23 million pounds sterling on this game on Betfair.com alone. Betting on cricket is fueled by huge wagers from the subcontinent, India, not that it needs to be fueled by anyone. The length of the game makes it perfect for betting operators. By the way, you can still get a free $30 bet on Betfair, just enter the promo code 6CHE3VPWJ when asked.
Golf is a truly wonderful game, I love golf, ancient, noble, skilled as it is, but it really can’t hold a candle to Test cricket. believe me Cricket is for modern day gladiators. I couldn’t imagine Tiger Woods facing Brett Lee. I couldn’t imagine anyone wearing an “I’m call” hat voluntarily confronting Brett Lee. Test cricket like this makes for entertaining viewing too. Truly. Cricket a dying sport? Don’t make me laugh. Anyone got a spare ticket to Birmingham? Thought no. Sold out months ago.
Want to know more about the Ashes series, then zip me an email and I’ll follow up. It’s down to you.
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