Tonk a Pom

Forgot to mention in the previous post that Ford are also offering Australians the chance to “tonk a Pom“, in case they wish to relive their glory days last season. Of course, no self-respecting Aussie would lower himself to such heinous activity, right?

The only series that still matters

Here’s a hypothetical question for England fans out there: if England were to lose every Test match and one-day international from now until 2009, but then win the Ashes back, would you take it? Be honest, now.

Much has been talked and written about the indifference of the English to one-day cricket. But meaningless one-day bashes are, if anything, merely the tip of the indifference iceberg. As England fans, there’s a whole host of other things we don’t care about, from Twenty20 internationals, through the regular thrashings of Bangladesh and the West Indies, right up to – sharp intake of breath – the upcoming winter tours of Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

Oh, of course we’ll check the scores from time to time. Perhaps even watch a bit if we have Sky and remember to set the alarm. But I don’t know too many people from outside the game who have very much of an emotional investment in the outcome at all, just as long as it’s not a humiliation. England series these days feel like part of a two year-long hors d’oeuvres to the 2009 main course.

Just as Australia’s sights were fixed on the 2006-7 series from the moment they walked off the field at The Oval, the year 2009 is seared indelibly into our consciousness. It’s everywhere: in the press, on the messageboards, and very possibly in selection meetings (“I mean, Sidebottom’s accurate, but will he trouble the Australian top order?”). And as for the detritus in between; well, the disappearance of cricket from terrestrial TV has made it a lot easier to ignore. The fact that England barely hit top gear all summer should be a point of grave concern. But to me at least, it doesn’t seem to have been.

There’s a parallel with the rugby here – the English descending on Paris this week care not one jot about the Six Nations humiliations and Antipodean kickings to which England have been subjected over the last four years, but about their performance on the stage that matters. For ‘World Cup’, substitute ‘Ashes’. I suspect most England cricket fans will willingly endure two more years of anguish if there’s a little red urn waiting at the end of it.

Bankrupting the Barmies

A British travel company used by hundreds of England fans, which incorrectly charged its customers vast sums of money following the Ashes, has gone bankrupt. Oh dear.

Barmy Army

More than 200 members of the passionate Barmy Army were hit for six after being unexpectedly billed by Australian hotels for accommodation costs.

This was despite having already paid specialised travel agent Travel and Tours Anywhere Ltd (TTAL) ahead of the trip Down Under.

Some fans returned home to discover their credit cards had been hit with bills of up to $1450.

One man had $300 taken from his account in June, six months after the Aussies won the Ashes series.

Essex credit manager Richard Smith was slugged more than $1400 in January despite winning an all-expenses paid trip to the Sydney and Melbourne Tests through English newspaper the Sun.

More at The Herald Sun.

Honestly, Michael

Just read the piece on Cricinfo about Michael Vaughan implying that the Fredalo incident ruined England’s chances at the World Cup and it got me thinking. There has been plenty written in the last few months that Vaughan should not be skipper; his ego hurts the team; he’s not worth his place etc etc. While his classy hundred against the Windies at Headingley may have bought a little respite from the nay-sayers, it wouldn’t take much for them to get tetchy again.

What this article tells me is that he is still the right man for the job. Vaughan is basically saying that Fred was a bloody idiot and messed it up for everyone by attracting every tabloid paper to the hotel lobby. Fair enough, he did. He also went on to criticise himself and admit that his ODI record sucks. It does. But given how guarded interviews tend to be nowadays until the sportsman has retired, this was pretty candid. A new skipper might not have been so forthright, but Vaughan is about the only one who can say boo to a goose like Freddy or his buddy Harmy for that matter. And we need those two loons back to full throttle if we’re going to threaten the Aussies next time round. Which, if I’m really really honest with myself, is all that matters in the longterm. Vaughan, 32, is still the man to do that.

As for ODIs, I would let him continue as skipper. I’ll admit I am a big fan of his (the Michael Vaughan extra cover drive marks the start of my summer), so this is subjective as ever, but given nobody else is nailing down a place in the top three, what harm is he doing….?

Australia v England, Twenty20, Sydney

It’s the hit-and-giggle of the winter season. I can’t imagine for a second England will win it, even with this new bloke Michael Vaughan in the side. In fact, especially with him in the side. Still, it’s always good for a giggle – even if Ricky Ponting refuses to enjoy it, or see the fun side. It’s a game, Ricky…

I think it starts at 8am tomorrow so, if you’re up and interested, post your thoughts here.

The anguish of Adelaide

I often enjoy Simon Barnes’s pieces at The Times and he’s produced a really crisp and imaginative recollection of the nightmare of the 2nd Test at Adelaide.

It was cricket as it might have been written by Kafka: a hideous punishment, as unjust as it was incomprehensible, inflicted on people who had earned the right to expect better things from life. It was like playing cricket against the Gestapo: cricket as a form of atrocity in which resistance is useless. It was cricket as torture, in which pain and hatred become distorted into a loving and grateful submission to the torturer.

I shall never forget the streets of Adelaide afterwards, the numb shock of the England supporters. These things don’t happen. We couldn’t have seen that. Brains simply refused to process the information they had received. The England press corps, a more resilient bunch on the whole, were to be found the next day at the airport, each with the thousand-yard stare of the Vietnam vet.

That the torture only lasted an hour was something of a reprieve for us, for England. It was quick – still painful – and violent, and will never be forgotten. Like someone slitting a capillary on their wrist, England bled fatally. Barnes even goes as far to say that “it was the most extraordinary passage of cricket I have seen and one of the most shocking things I have witnessed in any sport”. I’m not sure I can quite agree, but nevertheless it was a period of play which must go down as one of the most captivating (or unwatchable, depending on which side of the fence you sit) in modern times.

Where to now for England?

Not really had time to write anything on Australia’s magnificent performance, and England’s complete acquiescence. So I’m opening it up to you, before which I’ll just offer a brief thought which is nagging away at me.

Nasser Hussain and David Lloyd made some fascinating remarks following the loss at Sydney. They noted that Australia have a team bus, and a designated bus driver – usually one of Stuart Clark or Shane Warne. Warne would be seen hauling his bag from the hotel to the bus, fag in mouth and off they’d go to the ground.

England, on the other hand, have a huge, luxury coach in which to travel. The bags are all sorted for them and they’re surrounded by security guards and pamperers. They don’t lift a finger. This alone can’t lose a team the Ashes, but it’s evidence of the effect 2005 had on England; an over-reaction to a series which was far closer than people realised. Then, England pick-pocketed the urn from Australia; in reverse, this time, Australia have stolen it back like a violent bulldozer prising an ATM from a high-street wall.

Your thoughts? Where do England go from here?

Nanny state seeps into cricket grounds

And I thought Tony’s Britain was bad. John’s Australia is worse than Tony’s United State of Europe and George’s USA combined and the effects of the 21st century phenomenon, the nanny state, is seeping into cricket grounds at a rate of knots.

Last year the ICC began to ban people bringing in alcohol into grounds. I saw it first hand at The Oval last summer.

A fan is forced to consume the contents of his highly dangerous aluminium can of coke

The ICC’s problem, so we are told, is the highly dangerous aluminium and glass bottle containers the evil public bring in. In theory, this could cause a disturbance (or, presumably, death). The real reason, I fear, has more to do with driving the public into the bars to spend more money.

Also, beach balls – those venomous, violently coloured plastic balls of carbon dioxide otherwise known as Balls of Doom – are often confiscated by the fun police in Australia, and England. And now the Mexican Wave has been banned. Quite how you enforce this latest one is beyond me, short of super gluing everyone to their seats. But the best example of this disgusting infringement of our freedom comes from Rod, out in Australia at the moment, who tells us:

A friend was told to lift off his sunglasses from one barman yesterday so he could examine his eyes: if they looked drunk he was told to return to his seat.

What’s next? Will bats come under the spotlight? Balls? What about that most venerable of snacks, the pork pie? You’re not even allowed to sneeze at Brisbane: The Telegraph’s Martin Johnson reported in the first Test that one spectator was asked to vacate his seat until his sneezing fit had finished. It is an unbelievable farce that ground authorities have the power to treat the paying public in this manner and, before long, it will backfire.

Nearly a whitewash

England are on the verge ofa 5-0 whitewash against australia

Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 3rd day

The third day from the SCG. We could be in for a spectacular display of fireworks, none of which I will see as I’ll be asleep. In fact, it could even be all over by the time I arise from my slumber.

Chat away!