Well, this started out surprisingly well… Australia have won the First Test in Brisbane after completely and utterly out-playing England in just four days. After years of getting comprehensively beaten by England, the Aussie team seems to be back to their old tricks, and what a joy it was to watch. Let’s have a look at the happenings of the last four days, including sledging, silhouetted medium-pace bowlers and questionable facial hair. Enjoy!
The first hurdle was, as expected, the time difference. Play started at midnight British time, and I tell you, age is a factor! A few years ago, I would have stayed up all night with the sheer excitement alone, whereas this year I went to bed early, set the alarm to midnight, and fell asleep over my laptop two hours later. I didn’t catch an awful lot of the action, but with a big event like the Ashes, there are plenty of ways to catch up.
To start with, Day One, the night I slept the least, did not seem worth it. Australia elected to bat first and spent the first few hours making very slow progress. I went to bed at 2 a.m., which England took as a sign to hurry up and get things going, with Stuart Broad taking six wickets and reducing Australia to a pitiful 295. (Well, we all thought it was pitiful until Day Two happened.) This all seemed familiar: Australia not batting terribly well, and England’s bowlers doing their job. But because this is Australia, it still made for a newspaper frenzy. During the summer’s Ashes in England, Stuart Broad refused to walk after being controversially caught off a ball that just barely edged off his bat. Since cricket is still considered a “gentlemen’s game” (hence the at times horrific laddish character of the commentary, especially in Australia), walking immediately after the fall of a wicket, no matter how underserved or controversial it seems, is seen as the only and right thing to do. The Australian press and public had their hate figure, while Stuart Broad ignored the criticism. One newspaper took things a bit too far, by refusing to mention Broad’s name and showing only a silhouetted picture of him on their front page. I’m guessing only the most idiotic still go with the whole charade. Good on Stuart Broad for keeping his cool and taking those important wickets.
Still, it was no use, because this happened on Day Two: England were all out for 136 runs, and Australia into their second innings before the end of the second day. Here’s a video omitting all the boring bits. (Note those ill-advised moustaches!) I slept through most of it, of course, but there is something to be said for waking up on a cold November morning, checking the cricket score and staring at the screen in confusion before realising what must have happened. Unbelievable. From then on, Australia was on a roll. With a lead of 159 before they even started their second innings, things could only go swimmingly. And they did, with Michael Clarke, the Australian captain, declaring at 401 for 7 on Day Three. With a full two days left, England needed 561 runs to win this match, and come on, when has that ever happened? The England commentators, bless their cotton socks, bravely tried to explain how everything could still be turned around, but they were starting to sound subdued. Sometimes, things just go well for one team, and they clearly did for Australia. Even though play was interrupted twice by some serious weather, it was all over after four days. Have look at the quick version.
What remains of this excellent start to the series? The hope that the Australian papers focus on their own team, now that they have a genuine, happy reason for it. A bit of gloating for me, who always knew the day would come. A few nights of uninterrupted sleep until the Second Test starts in Adelaide on December 5. A spot of off-pitch ‘war’, yawn. And those moustaches. It is Movember, but what the what? There seems to be a firm believe in Australian cricket that facial hair solves batting problems, and it looks like there might well be more of the creepy hairy things by December. Waaaaah.
There are not enough words in my article to link everything I wanted to link, so if you’re interested, have a look at those pieces:
Pictures of shocked Englishmen and happy Australians, with added facial hair.
The Gabba?!? (Sure, blame it on “history”…)
Like I said, some people take things way too far: Somebody tried to smuggle a pig into the Gabba. Because of course. Also, this paper! Dear me.
I completely missed this last summer. Oh. My. Has anyone come across one of her columns? I’d love to read more…