It was the 24th, it was freezing, there was a palpable sense of excitement building as midnight approached… it must be the Ashes.
Four years ago I sat on Robbo’s sofa, full of apprehension, waiting, as it turned out, for Sky to duff up their coverage of the most anticipated toss in recent history (they missed it completely), and then watching Harmy bowl the most anticipated first ball in recent history (he missed the cut strip completely). Poor old Harmy. There he was last Sunday, sat uncomfortably in the Sky studio, appearing on a guest panel for the Ashes preview, not, presumably, for his insightful comments, and what did they do but show THAT delivery. Eight times in all. Poor old Harmy – briefly the best bowler in the world; bounced out the West Indies in their own backyard; but now immortalised in the phrase “doing a Harmy”, which means bowling the ball direct to second slip.
With the First Test beginning in the early hours of Thursday morning, Wednesday evening’s preparations were crucial. A visit to my newly refurbished local gym was probably not ideal in terms of energy retention, but a ski holiday is looming just beyond the Fifth Test, and some fitness must be regained before then. The sign on the gym wall made me smile – “Please restrict yourself to 15 minutes on the CV machines at peak times”. Frankly, an unnecessary instruction for the likes of me, who would fall off any machine after more than 15 minutes of use.
A quick pizza to restore some of the calories carelessly burned off in the gym, and then a visit to my friend Slid, where we blew up his coffee machine in a quite entertaining fashion, but nevertheless managed to generate some liquid caffeine to aid the Ashes-watching effort.
Back home, settled down with some biscuits and a (glass) bottle of Coke, the hype finally ended, the cricket began. And three balls later the familiar watching-England-in-Australia pose was adopted – slumped forward, head in hands, disbelieving. England captain Strauss cut straight to Hussey in the gully, England 0/1.
Woke up early, out of necessity, to catch a flight to London. England four down but Bell and Cook sounding in control. Mum was driving me to the airport, so headed the few hundred yards down the road to her house. By the time I had sat down in her car, England were seven wickets down, and Siddle had an Ashes hat-trick (Australian Daily Telegraph headline: Pom Disposal Expert). Cue a certain, familiar despondent feeling.
Still, all not lost just yet. Bookended the flight with an espresso in each airport, keeping me awake through a course on social networking, and now in London, staying with the family. Sebastian, not yet two years old, was left under my care for part of the morning today. A touch of recklessness on my sister’s part, I thought, but we got on rather well, and never more so than when catching up on the second day’s play at the Gabba. Sebastian, unaware of his obligations to support the Poms, sportingly applauded all the boundaries and wickets with equal vigour. In a post-highlights-watching discussion, he agreed with me that Graeme Swann was guilty of dropping it a little short at times, and noted that Michael Hussey was particularly adept at rocking on to the back foot and pulling through midwicket. I explained that his Uncle Andrew is very like Hussey in many ways, perhaps especially in the art of smearing suncream on one’s face.
In other news, Nasty Jen can now add The Sprinkler to Reversing the Bus, Lightbulbs and Shopping Trolley on her list of classic dance moves. Check it out on Graeme Swann’s Ashes video diary at the ECB website here. Starts about 7 mins 30 seconds in – although the whole thing very entertaining and worth a watch in my objective not-remotely-cricket-obsessed opinion.
Must have a nap – third day’s play starts in 8 hours. First session crucial, England must make inroads with the new ball, Sebastian reckons. I reckon he’s right.