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…