First Test, the Aftermath

Today’s text comes from Psalm 127: “In vain you rise early and stay up late, eating the bread of anxious toil…” Or in my case, eating chocolates, anxiously. Have now spent two fruitless late nights/early mornings watching England’s miserable performance in the First Test. Followed that with a late night showing of the new Bond film, in Glasgow, which was great fun, but another late night… naturally I was working the next morning, so no respite there either.

But here I am, after a few days’ intensive sleep therapy, ready for my enthusiasm to take another battering at the hands of the Aussies in the Second Test. Starts Friday. Empirical research* has shown that the Aussies are susceptible to Mingles, so they will be the sweet of choice.

Michael Vaughan, out injured for a year now, is making noises about being fit to play before the Ashes series is out.. question: with the series tied at 2-2 going into Sydney (humour me here), would you play Vaughan if he was fit? He played a warm-up game today against some 2nd XI in Perth, and scored…. 0. Ashes-winning captain he may be, but am unsure how many runs he would contribute, so the primary attraction of fast-tracking him back into the side would be for his captaincy. And if Freddie has skippered England to two victories at that stage (humour me here) would you dump him as captain to accommodate Vaughan? If he hasn’t managed to win or draw a game by that stage, it will all be academic anyway…

Sigh. Come on England. Restore our faith in you (well, mine and Friendy’s faith anyway) and give the Aussies a good pummelling this weekend. I’ve got a box of Mingles in specially.

* Outcome of trials indicates that the more Mingles consumed during a session, the more emphatic the beating taken by the Aussies. Research only undertaken on the PS2, but extrapolation of these results to real Test matches is surely a reasonable approach.

First Test, Day 1

So, it hasn’t been a great start for England. Australia 346/3, with Ponting unbeaten on one hundred and thirty-something overnight, and Mike Hussey looking ominous as well.

There are two clear reasons why Australia dominated the first day so easily.

(1) I didn’t manage to finish reading the Times Ashes supplement, which threw my whole Ashes buildup into disarray

(2) I was eating the wrong chocolates for the first hour and a half of the first session. Big packet of Aero things, green packet. GREEN packet, I ask you. It’s Maltesers tonight, red and white packet, can’t go wrong. And Empire Biscuits (thanks Neebs) – more red and white.

So I think I’ve put (2) right, although the Malteser supply has been significantly depleted by Mrs Robbo. However, despite some speed-reading, I haven’t quite finished that jolly supplement yet. Been a busy evening. Mr Robbo is installed on the sofa sous duvet and ready for the cricket to recommence. Time for me to sign off and join him. In watching the cricket, not under the duvet.

Duvet? It’s not often I prefer American terms to British, but I think ‘comforter’ might be more appropriate.

Come ON the Poms 🙂

Ashes predictions pt II

Well, the hour is fast approaching. In a little over 3 hours as I write, the first ball will be bowled in Brisbane in the most eagerly anticipated Ashes series since, um, the last one.

As someone who likes to read cricket articles most days on, I have to say I have been almost suffocated in potential reading material. Every newspaper has had a special pull-out supplement on the Ashes, and the aforementioned website has been creaking under the weight of online articles about Anglo-Australian cricket, from every conceivable angle. Everyone from Tony Blair to Johnny Borrell, lead singer of Razorlight, has been interviewed.

So the first session of the First Test is approaching fast, and I am still desperately trying to wade through the last supplement, as I confess I will feel underprepared for the series without consuming every word written on the subject.

However, I have taken some time out from my busy special-supplement-reading schedule to share some more specific predictions, bear with me and try to show some interest.

(1) Glenn McGrath will not last the 5 Tests

(2) Andrew Strauss will reprise Michael Vaughan’s excellent tour 4 years ago and plunder a lot of runs

(3) Ian Bell will do ok, better than last time. Alastair Cook I am not so sure about, I think he might struggle. KP and Flintoff will score big when it comes off for them, and get out cheaply when it doesn’t

(4) Warnie will take another 40 or so wickets in the series

(5) Hayden and Langer will get the Aussies off to much better starts than they did in England. But I think Flintoff will still have the wood on Gilchrist

(6) Harmison. Aaaaaaaaaggh. If Harmison bowls as he can in 4 out of 5 Tests, England will win the series. Otherwise Australia will take the honours. Which means I think Australia will take the honours.

I realise number (6) there contradicts my series result prediction in my previous post, but to be honest that one was more hopeful than expectant…

Come on the Poms

Ashes predictions

Ok folks, it’s time to lay your cards on the table, put your money where your mouth is, etc etc.

The First Test at Brisbane is only days away, and I have no doubt that you are all agog with anticipation (note to the literati, can one be agog with anticipation?) although perhaps not as intensely as Jones, whose love of cricket is something to behold.

So, how’s it going to pan out? Who will win? Will anyone in fact win, or will each match end in a draw, bewildering any Americans who come across the cricket news while scanning the channels for the Simple Sports results?

For those unfamiliar with cricketing parlance and nomenclature, the Ashes will consist of five Test matches, each of which could result in an Australian win, an English win, or a draw. Theoretically any of them could also be tied, which is different from a draw, but this last result is about as likely an event as Wiseman ordering a soft drink.

So the series could end up 5-0 to either team, or 0-0. It will not finish 7-5, as somebody somewhere has predicted. Neither 5-0 or 0-0 is terribly likely either, although Glenn McGrath, legendary Aussie fast bowler, is fond of predicting 5-0 Australian wins. He did this before the last Ashes in England last year. Unfortunately for him and Australia, he is getting on a bit, and ‘had a fall’ just before the 2nd Test, which England then won, and duly went on to take the series 2-1. So I wouldn’t place too much stock in his predictions.

However, an Australian win is considered likely by most pundits. I’m going to go for 2-2, which would be good enough for England to retain the Ashes. The Aussies have to win the series to get them back.

So, have a punt! Leave a comment with your best guess, by 12:29am on 23 November, and I will transfer it to the main page as soon as I get a chance. Whoever gets the right result might get a nice present from Australia. Nothing big of course, something small enough to fit in my suitcase, like Kylie Minogue. If a few of you get the right result, you’ll just have to share her…

3-1 Eng: Nasty Jen
2-1 Eng: AQ, Friendy
2-2: the Weir

2-1 Aus: Annie-Anne, Stephen
3-1 Aus: Diana, Colin Eye
3-0 Aus: Kenny D
4-1 Aus: Matt

Hinckley and beyond

Spent last weekend in Hinckley, near Leicester. Had an early start on the Thursday morning. Awoke to find the clock displaying 5:56 am. Decided this couldn’t possibly be correct as I was picking up Stuart in town at 5:55 am. Phoned Stuart, who was shivering on a street corner, to explain that my clock was running ridiculously fast, and so must his, if he was waiting for me already. He didn’t buy it.

Had the world’s quickest shower and we hit the road half an hour later than planned, which got us there bang on time. Frankly my colleagues should’ve been more grateful to me for rescuing them from half an hour of idle chat with fellow hearing aid dispensers.

Speaking of early starts on Thursday mornings, the First Ashes Test begins next Thursday morning, at 1am GMT. Myself and Robbo are currently considering how we can turn ourselves into nocturnal creatures for 5 days at a time… a plan doomed to fail methinks but you can be sure we’ll give it a go.

England are midway through their third warm-up game of the tour, and despite one or two setbacks my feeling is they’re looking ok. Unsure whether “ok” will be enough, but the one advantage this England team has over previous touring sides to Australia is that they know they can beat them. And if they can even hang on for a draw in the First Test, they will get some momentum and confidence from that and can build on it. Lack of confidence is not something we non-English usually perceive in English sporting teams – witness the rugby and football teams, for example. Both of these outfits are so confident in their own abilities they regularly cross the line into arrogance, which winds up everyone else in the UK, and leads to much hilarity when they fail. The cricket team is a strange beast, in that it can draw on a fair bit of support from Scotland, unusual in the extreme for an English sports team. Their players’ apparent humility makes them more endearing to us ‘outsiders’. The humility, I think, stems from a realistic recognition of their limitations. The lack of ridiculous salaries, as would be paid to their footballing counterparts, must also help them rein in their egos, I imagine.

In the run-up to the Ashes, long and much-hyped (in cricket circles) though it has been, there has been no trumpeting by anyone in the England camp, or, crucially, in the media, of how and why they will beat the Aussies. Most informed pundits recognise that the task they face is a huge one, and are accordingly circumspect about England’s chances in the series. Contrast that with the England football team’s statements prior to (and during) the World Cup this year, which served only to add sting to their humiliating exit.

But back to Hinckley. It was a decent enough conference, although I became quite skilled at the golf game on my mobile phone by the end of the third day. On the first evening, our hosts had sponsored a whisky-tasting experience as part of the meal they provided. Matt sampled rather too much of the first example, and was subsequently somewhat unable to objectively assess the quality of the remaining three. But he had a go. Whisky-tasting wasn’t much use to me, as I was driving us back to our hotel. Which was in Coventry, as the hotel we’d booked into in Hinckley had messed up our booking. My Coventry hotel room had a bed which was clearly designed with the American girth in mind. Quite simply the biggest bed I have ever seen. I am fairly confident that all 3 of us could have slept in it without needing to know there was anyone else in the bed. However, we didn’t test out the theory.

1am, Saturday. England 35/3 against a state side in the final warm-up game. So much for looking ok. Come on boys…

Batman and cricket

Wiseman has been looking at my monthly website stats, and has pointed out that his page is the most popular of the character pages. I would reply that this is because I haven’t put anyone interesting on there yet, but it seems a little harsh.

Had an extensive cinematographic experience this week. That is, I watched two DVDs – following up Batman Begins on Monday night with Blue (as in Trois Couleurs: Bleu) on Tuesday. I was expecting to enjoy the latter more, ambitiously fancying myself as one of the cognoscenti in these matters, and occasionally in the past having found arthouse cinema (what little I’ve seen of it) extremely enjoyable/moving/disturbing (Talk to Her, for example).

What actually happened was I found Batman Begins brilliant, and Blue just weird. I began to wonder if the experience was analogous to how a cup of coffee with my usual one sugar tastes somehow less sweet when drunk after munching my way through several pieces of chocolate cake.

Anyway, I have shelved my aspirations to join the cognoscenti for the moment, and can’t wait for the sequel to Batman Begins. There’s something very appealing about films which feature men with limitless money getting to build Bat Caves and cavort around a city in costume beating up baddies. With gadgets. I suspect this may be a bloke thing.

As I write, the England team are aboard a plane bound for Sydney, as the Ashes tour finally gets underway. I am beginning to fret about England’s chances in the series. It strikes me that their bowling unit, which was so devastating in the last series, is creaking at the seams. Steve Harmison, who can destroy the best batsmen in the world when it suits him, has been spraying his deliveries around like water from an unsecured hosepipe with the tap on full. Flintoff, who is as good as any bowler in the world (and better than most) on his day, hasn’t bowled an extended spell since the early summer. He got to bowl a few overs in India during England’s final game in the Champion’s Trophy, but that hardly counts for much, and unless he gets some serious overs in during England’s warmup games, he’s going to go into the First Test pretty rusty. Matthew Hoggard is not expected to prosper as much as he does under home conditions (truer pitches and a different make of cricket ball which will not swing as much). However, it’s worth remembering that some of his best performances in an England shirt have been overseas – in New Zealand, South Africa and India. And as Hoggy himself said only today – “At the end of the day, it’s just a red thing that you wang down the field and hope to land in the right areas.” Brilliant.

My own feeling is that Sajid Mahmood, until now a bit hot and cold, especially as regards accuracy, could be a revelation on fast bouncy Australian pitches. And Monty Panesar will, I think, be very effective. So all is not lost. Not yet, anyway. Plenty of time for more hand-wringing before 23 November, mind…