The Final Blog – An SCG Whitewash

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I have waited for a little bit of time to pass before posting this most recent (and final) update to my Ashes blog. For one, following the crushing series victory by the Aussies the local and international journos have saturated us with Ashes press such as Aussies = great/Pommies = pathetic comparator pieces; speculation as to whether KP and Flower have fallen out; and even covering when Johnson will shave his mo. So I thought it best to give it a couple days and would you believe, that shining beacon for journalistic standards, the Courier Mail, have gone back to rugby league on their back page and I thought it is time for people to read some more about the greatest cricketing pantsing we have seen in recent times.

England's captain Alastair Cook reacts as he walks off the field past the board displaying the result of their fifth Ashes cricket test against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground

For me, the past 7 months or so of Ashes cricket have been an absolute rollercoaster. From the lows of Lords and Durham, where for the first time I really questioned what I was doing; to moving back home where I watched our top 6 batsmen with a fingernail constantly in my mouth; to the ultimate reward for my loyalty – the brilliance of Haddin and our bowling attack in an emotional whitewash. There were times when we were flogging the Poms when I wondered would life get any better (and remember I’m getting married this year!). I was in Sydney in 06/07 when we completed 5-0 back then, but this time was so much more rewarding given what had gone ahead of it – I really was moved close to tears of joy on a number of occasions throughout the series.tears

Having watched us regain the Ashes in Perth and the subsequent whooping in Melbourne on the tele, I was looking forward to getting down to Sydney for NYE and a bit more live cricket. There was also going to be a large cast of friends to catch up with in Sydney, including a lot of poms who had flown over especially for the cricket – those poor bastards!

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But before the cricket, M-T and I celebrated the coming of 2014 and our 6th anniversary firstly with family at my Aunt Margy’s house in Mosman – with her harbour views – for the 9pm fireworks; before moving into town for midnight where we had a rather closer but much more limited view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge fireworks. Following midnight we caught up for a quick drink with Geoff “Cuddles” Paulsen and Kath in the lobby bar at the Marriott where they were spending the evening.

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The next two days were spent drinking, eating and swimming in some nice spots in Sydney before it was time to focus on the main reason for our trip to Sydney, the final test match and the 8th we had been to in the 10 game back-to-back series. I had 4 tickets to days 1, 2 and 3 and while I thought I’d see some great cricket, I did not imagine I would be in Sydney to see the game completed! The tickets were to be shared amongst M-T, my cousin Joel, his girlfriend Emily, their mate Ed and finally a man who has asked me to protect his ‘online reputation’ – so I will follow the Courier Mail’s lead and refer to him only as a 30-year-old-hard-hitting-heavy-drinking-Pommy-wannabe (“30YOHHHDPW”).

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On Day 1 I was joined by M-T, Joel and the 30YOHHHDPW in Bay 16, at about 2nd slip and not to far from the Barmy Army. It was an interesting, but unsurprisingly call from Cook to send us in, reflecting the lack of imagination this poor bloke has. I hope for his sake he learns a bit from this tour, but not until after the 2015 series.
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With wickets typically falling early, it was great to see Steve Smith bat well and, of course, Brad Haddin save us again. At the lunch break we agreed to meet up with one-season RCC legend, Big Red, and the touring “RCC turbo lads” Luke Martin, James Grant, Mark Liebling (MIA) and Nick Whittington. For good measure, RCC stalwart Al Evans-Gordon came and added some respectability to the party that headed off to an Irish bar in Fox Studios, adjacent to the ground.
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The day finished with Smith bringing up a fine century and Australia snatching an amazing leg-slip dismissal of Carberry, which resulted in the 30YOHHHDPW tip a beer over my head. I left the ground in great spirits, which continued into an evening that included a lovely Vietnamese meal with M-T and Big Red in Surry Hills; plenty of beers with the 30YOHHHDPW and friends at the Beresford Hotel (where he was later to be called “the most arrogant patron they have ever encountered” following him asking the bouncers if he could “leave on my own terms, like Swanny” and comparing his forthcoming disposition to that of Kevin Pieterson’s); and ending in a bar in Oxford Street celebrating Emily’s 30th birthday.
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Day 2 I was joined again by the 30YOHHHDPW, and this time Ed and, due to a late pull-out, AEG. Fantastic bowling was the order of the morning, with it all starting very quickly with Cooky inexplicably leaving the 2nd ball of the day. We again headed to the Irish bar for lunch, this time to meet up with my ALCC team mates, Ron Heinrich and Raj. The 30YOHHHDPW had even changed into an Australian top for the ocassion, but it was short lived, as he alternated between his English top and a South African top (for KP’s brief stay at the crease) for much of the day.
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The 30YOHHHDPW and I spent the middle session catching up with another ALCC legend, Tippers, where we wandered the ground as England narrowly avoided the follow-on.
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There are two negatives I would like to mention about the SCG at this time. Firstly, there was a distinct lack of ‘cricket etiquette’ shown by a number of fans who would move for drinks or the toilet at anytime during an over, much to our dismay. This was as bad as I’d seen since Trent Bridge and led to comments such as “I didn’t pay $90 to look at you walk to the bar” and in the 30YOHHHDPW’s case, a blatant refusal to let a man through. When asked where his “cricket etiquette” was, this uneducated patron replied “what’s that?” Touche! Secondly, the ridiculous Responsible Service of Alcohol judgments that where being employed by the SCG staff was really impractical and disappointing – “have you got a Plan B?”. Having to take your sunglasses off is, I suppose, fair enough, but allowing only 2 drinks per person is outrageous, particularly when you are sitting in a group of 4. As AEG rightly pointed out to one bloke, we were only drinking “weak Aussie piss!” The 30YOHHHDPW went one step further and highlighted to the unenlightened bar staff that he had an 2.1 honours degree in law and should be able to drink as much as he wants as he is not a troublesome drunk, nor was he a rugby league fan (for the poms, that is our equivalent of a football hooligan). Sadly, such arguments fell on deaf ears and we spent most of the final session going back and forth to the bar, as opposed to being able to sit in our seats enjoying the cricket.

We were joined in the long final session by yet another ALCC member – this time the nuggety left hander, MJ. This was quite apt, I felt, given Chris Rogers was going about his business in the same style and manner that MJ had for us at the top of the order in India. Throughout the day’s play, the 30YOHHHDPW had made friends with some people sitting around us, including a nice mother who was serving up a lovely salad to her children. The 30YOHHHDPW liked the look of this salad, and remembering that he was on a new Herbal Life inspired diet, asked if he could have some. Sure enough his charm worked and the nice lady was more than obliging – scenes not seen since he worked his magic on Mark Nicholas’ mother at Lords!
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That evening I went for some after game beers with my Sydney-based cousin, James, where we first went to the famous Captain Cook pub, before moving onto the aptly named Cricketers, where M-T met us for another big evening of drinking. When the alarm went off the next day I must admit it was hard work to get going, but I am glad that we got to the cricket in time for Jane McGrath day, the crowd dressed resplendantly in their pink.

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Day 3 I was joined by M-T, Joel and Emily where the Aussies in our party enjoyed Rogers brining up his hundred, while the Poms really felt the pain of just how bad England had become this series. It was not until the lunch break (again in the Irish pub) that we met up with the 30YOHHHDPW who was dining with an old flat-mate from London (an attractive girl, of course). Post lunch, back into the ground we ventured where we met up with the 2013 RCC Gilchrist Scholar, Andrew Lowe, who looks like he has taken little time to settle back into Sydney life and was as Aussie as they come in his pink zinc and akubra hat.

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I don’t think I need to write too much about England’s final innings, getting bowled out in 31.4 overs says it all really. I was just elated with what was occuring and I will leave it to the now-retired Kerry O’Keefe to sum up exactly how I felt (and in fact, what I was singing). http://ab.co/1hoM8d7

So how do I sign-off this final Ashes blog? It’s hard really, it’s been an amazing adventure and one that I will remember for a very long time. I guess it would be out of character for me not to end with one final dig at England. I will leave it up to the Queen of England to do the honours on this occasion.
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Radelaide – 2 nil up after 2!

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In the aftermath of the 2nd test I sit here very contently, but I must admit more than a little surprised. Having experienced the torture that was the UK summer a short few months ago, I did not even begin to dream that we would be entering the Perth test as favourites to wrap up The Ashes. I am, of course, not complaining – in fact, part of me wishes I was still in the UK so I could enjoy first hand the pain of the recently gloating Pommy cricket fans.

The trip down to Adelaide was an exciting one for M-T and I, involving a long overdue catch-up with the 2011 Gilchrist Scholar and our former tenant, Craig Dand. Craigy/Craigo (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3JX5TYDjGY) was one of the more popular scholars over recent years and upon his return to Australia assisted me in baiting the English sporting fans on social media. Anyone we ‘caught’, we said, would be served up at the inaugural #danddinner while we were in Adelaide. There were many bites over the years with Greg Neame and Chris Goldie basically throwing themselves on the line! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3TCptBNV_8

 

Having arrived into Adelaide on the Monday afternoon, we headed straight over to the Dand’s place in Glengowrie and it wasn’t long before M-T and I were sitting down to beers and wines with Craig, his parents Andrew and Helen, and his twin brother Michael. 6 bottles of red wine later and it was just Craig and I left standing so we decided to FaceTime Angry Steve, sitting in his trendy/arty office in Notting Hill. He was not particularly optimistic of England’s chances in Adelaide and so his age and wisdom was to prove true.

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The next day was suitably quiet for M-T and I, heading into Rundle Mall to check out the shops before meeting up with my great-aunt Clare for lunch in Stepney. Following lunch we checked out the Adelaide City Markets before heading to Glenelg on the train to dip our toes in the ocean and have a beer at the Dublin Hotel. It was clear that the Poms had arrived in town as the majority of voices in the pub had English twangs.

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Our thirsts quenched, we headed home for the much anticipated #danddinner which certainly lived up to expectations. We were served up a proper Australian feast of fresh prawns, barbecued lamb and pavlova, washed down with plenty of beer and wine. Again another late night, with plenty of jokes at our English friends’ expense, and all around a lot of fun.

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Wednesday morning we were collected early by the Enjoy Adelaide tour group for our Barossa Valley tour. We headed on our way with a bus full of elderly, but friendly Poms, in town for the cricket. Our first stop was at a bizarre giant rocking horse, apparently the largest in the world. While the thought of climbing this didn’t thrill M-T and I, we did pop into the petting zoo for a bit of time with the ‘roos, llamas, goats and flamengos which was a bit of fun.

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The first wine stop was the Yaldara Estate, now owned by McGuigan’s where we had a short tour of their cellars before getting into the fun stuff. M-T particularly enjoyed the sparkling Shiraz and ordered a few bottles to be sent back to Brisbane ready to drink at Christmas. Our next winery was the local Kies winery where, after lots of tasting, we enjoyed a bottle of Riesling over a lunch of locals meats, cheeses, olives and sun-dried tomatoes with a main of chicken and mango salad. After lunch was another independent winery where we bought a couple bottles of port and finally we passed Jacob’s Creek and stopped at Wolf Blass for another healthy tasting. All in all, this tour was one of the more generous wine tours I have done and I would definitely recommend the Barossa Valley for anyone visiting the area.

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A chilly morning greeted us for Day 1 of the test match. We arrived at the ground to the fantastic news that Michael Clarke had won the toss and we settled into our seats high up in the new Southern Stand. The Adelaide crowd appeared a different bunch to those in Brisbane – while there was a buzz, it was almost a polite one, and certainly there was no chants calling Broad a wanker (other than from me). Whether this was a result of the ECB threat to boycott future Gabba matches due to crowd behaviour, I don’t know, but remember that South Australia was not founded as a convict colony as Queensland was!

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There had been a lot of talk pre-test about the drop-in pitch and I was interested in how it would play. It was noticeable straight away that Prior was standing a lot closer than he had on the first morning of the Gabba test and that it was going to be hard work for the bowlers. Day 1, as you will remember, was highlighted by half centuries to Rogers, Watson and Bailey and ended with a stinking dropped catch by Carberry when Haddin wasn’t many. While we spent much of the time watching the cricket, M-T did use the lunch break to run outside and grab some blankets, such was the freezing cold we were experiencing up in the stands.

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During lunch I went wandering and checked out the new Adelaide Oval. In the break I ran into my coach at Richmond, Ian Butcher, as well as former RCC player and Michael Clarke’s manager, Ross Thornton. Butch was leading a tour party whereas Ross was living it up, and both seemed to be enjoying themselves. The new developments at the ground looked good, I thought, but there were a few first day teething problems such a no wifi in the media centre and the speakers failing to come on when required. However, a benefit of people learning as they were going meant that I was able to take advantage of a blip in the beer prices, wrongly marked at $6 (only to be corrected the next day to $8).

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Day 1 happened to be Craig’s 22nd birthday and I spent the evening session slowly preparing myself for the night ahead with a few quiet ciders. From the ground we headed into the city to a pub called the Saracens Head which turned out to be a very popular hangout for young 20-somethings. While M-T just about got away with it, I felt slightly old, but still had a great time tucking into the beers and taking in the crowd which included a very popular Phil Hughes.

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From the Saracens we headed to Apple, another young club where we caught up with Doogs, the 2009 scholar who lived with M-T and I when we first moved to London. He was off to Alice Springs the next morning to play cricket but was good enough to have a quick drink with us and he has certainly grown up (or at least hairy) since we first met him.

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Feeling slightly dusty we arrived on Day 2 just in time to see Clarke bring up his 50. Looking in good touch, he and Brad Haddin proceeded to put on a 200 run partnership in great time, both bringing up impressive tons. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyLyfc6m6mg and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-h46DI1MrA

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As the day wore on the SACA crowd seemed to enjoy the jovial atmosphere, spending plenty of time at the Members Bar out behind the stand. I took the opportunity to have a quick hello with Ali Mitchell who was in town with family to catch the cricket. Not working, I’m sure she was trying to enjoy her time, despite the score line. You knew the deck was good when by the afternoon Aussie no 10, Ryan Harris, was slapping up a quick 50.
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It always amazes me that no matter how grim the scoreboard looks, the Barmy Army never stop singing and despite being on the hill the other side of the ground I definitely enjoyed their antics late on the Friday afternoon. In the evening, while M-T jetted back to Brisbane, Craig and I headed off to Glenelg Cricket Club for their annual test dinner which was being fronted by Michael Vaughan who did an entertaining, but fairly well rehearsed presentation. Again, Craig and I passed the evening over some nice local reds before heading home for a fair bit of port.

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Anyone who follows cricket will know what happened the next day – Johnson turned up and blew the test apart with one of the most devastating spells of fast bowling in Ashes history. It was amazing to watch for a fellow left arm quick and I can only dream of finding the rhythm and pace he has found at 32 years old. The result from this time was a foregone conclusion, not helped by the shot selection of some of the English batsmen in the second innings. I will leave you with the following thought…
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Bring on Perth!

The GABBAtoir – it’s good to be home!

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Hello all from sunny Brisbane. It is wonderful to be back blogging about Ashes cricket and certainly sitting here for the first time in 2013 with a “Broad Smile” on my face following the thrashing handed out by the Aussies at the Gabba. I must admit that going into the series I was a little nervous about how we would perform, despite all the talk, and while I wasn’t predicting an English whitewash (like Jono below), I don’t think anyone had the foresight to imagine what has unfolded over the past 4 days.

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It was an emotional return to Brisbane for me. As many of you who read this blog will know, after nearly 5 years of living in the UK, M-T and I have made the difficult decision to move home to Brisbane and it was with a lof of sad goodbyes that we flew out of Heathrow Monday night, enroute to Brisbane via Singapore. Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of pommy cricket fans making the same journey as us and despite the lack of sleep, I was very much looking to making my way to the home of QLD cricket for Day 1 of the Ashes. I have been to many tests at the Gabba (Ashes or otherwise) but this was a special occasion for me as it was going to be the first time in 5 years I had been to a match with my Dad, resurrecting a family tradition. Sadly my Grandfather could not make it, but I was joined by M-T, my brothers and uncles, and in an amazing twist of fate, Jono’s father and brother were sitting in the same row of seats as us – in a stadium that holds 38,000!

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Anyone following this match will know that the local paper, the Courier Mail, has been making some extraordinary editorial decisions, in particular with regard to my favourite Pommy cricketer, and it was with a heightened sense of occasion that I booed the ‘Dude That Looks Like a Lady’ as he came in for his first delivery. That this ball was dispatched to the boundary with disdain pretty much made my day; that he went on to take 5 wickets pretty much ruined it. It was that kind of up-and-down day for me, although one of the definite highlights was phoning into the Richmond Cricket Club to catch up on how the action was being received back ‘home’ (did I just write that?).

A day of test cricket is a long day and it gave me the chance to get used to hearing Aussie accents again and also experience life in the sun. One thing I had forgotten in my time away was how many bogans there are in Australia, and unfortunately, given the size of the grounds we have over here, there are plenty of seats to be filled by people who are at the game for a day out, rather than for the cricket. While I am all for a heavy session at the cricket (even at $7.20 for a schooner of mid-strength beer!), this can be done while also absorbing the action in front of you and I think a lot of people failed to appreciate the significance the partnership between Haddin and Johnson that really got us out of a hole late on Day 1. Having experienced a lot of test cricket in the UK over the last few years it was one of a number of subtle differences I noticed between cricket fans in Australia and England, and probably something that could be worked on at this end.

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During the lunch break, I used the time to catch up with two fellow Richmond players – KB and Tom Sky. Anyone who knows the Middlesex cricket league or has spent any time down the club will know the eccentric legend that is KB and he lived up to his reputation for lunacy by turning up at the Gabba in a horrible shade of lobster, having fallen asleep sans suncream at Brisbane’s South Bank beach. He had yet to be home following a night with the Barmy Army and looked to be in a lot of pain, which I can only imagine would have intensified over the next few days as his skin peeled faster than an English batting collapse. It was also great to see Tommy Taser, who was my wicket keeper for his season at Richmond, and is now playing 2nd grade at Valleys – with my return to grade cricket imminent I may well see Tommy on the field some day soon and hope to impart some fear in him (with the ball) – the likes of which he hasn’t experienced since that eventful evening in Rocks Lane! 

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On aspect of the test that received widespread attention was the coverage of the game by the local media, in particular, the daily headlines made by the Courier Mail. While at times they could be entertaining, on the whole it was pretty low-brow humour and not the kind of thing that will have me looking to start a subscription with them once M-T and I find a place to live. But whatever the headlines were, it was hard to describe in words the emotions I was feeling when the Johnson-inspired 6 for 9 Day 2 collapse was in full flight. I was in the car with my brother Zac to help him pick up his new car and we nearly drove off the road with joy and laughter listening to Kerry O’Keefe’s commentary on Ian Bell’s dismissal – for those who haven’t heard it, be sure to listen to the full clip here! http://ab.co/I84kJa
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A combination of recruitment interviews and a wedding in Toowoomba meant that M-T and I were unable to get to any of Days 2,3 or 4 to watch the live action but whether by radio or TV I hardly missed a ball bowled for the whole 3 days. What we certainly didn’t miss were yesterdays storms and we were very lucky with our timing, heading home east to Brisbane from Toowoomba with a huge dark cloud following us the whole way. No sooner had I parked the car at M-T’s parents place, then the heavens opened and we had to run to protect the cars from hail damage. As those in Brisbane know and those watching on tv would have seen, the storm was gone within 5 minutes and it was a great reminder of the ferocity of the sub-tropical weather that we are returning to!

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It was so much fun to finally see things going to plan for Australia after the misery of the previous series and a part of me wishes I were still in London so that I could go to work tomorrow with my Australian tie on. But of course it is only 1 game into a 5 game series, so much can happen from here and I know from bitter experience not to get ahead of myself. I am very much looking forward to getting down to Adelaide to see Craigo, experience my first #danddinner and hopefully watch a repeat of the first test carnage. You know I will be smiling regardless of how things may play out! Bring it on!!!
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LCWC2013 – a fly by run-down of an action packed 11 days

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I have finally had a chance to sit down, gather my thoughts and  pen something about our time in India. Having spent the last week recovering in Ireland (and boosting up my iron supplies with plenty of Guinness), I have had the time to reflect on the trip, how we went as a team and what playing in India meant to me personally. What I can say straight away is that the 11 days of the 4th LCWC were extremely full on and India every bit as chaotic as I imagined.
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Having had a fairly bumpy flight over, we were quickly through immigration and into a cab to the Ashok Hotel in the Diplomatic section of Delhi. Our first day was spent catching up with team mates, snoozing and swimming before the squad headed to the Welcoming Dinner attended by special guest Mr Arjuna Runatunga. Despite it being over 2 years since the previous tournament, I immediately recognised some familiar faces and chatted to a number of the Sri Lankan, West Indian and Indian guys I have got to know over the past 2 tournaments – the poms, of course, I see a little more often. After a few drinks and a curry buffet we headed back to the hotel, which was particularly exciting for me as my parents had arrived. After introducing Mum and Dad to the squad over a few more drinks in the Presidential Suite, we headed off to their room to catch up further. Their travels had exposed them to some pretty amazing things and it was great to hear their experiences.

The next day we headed off for training which was a great chance for those of us straight off a plane to get our legs going and also an excellent opportunity to gauge just how taxing the heat and humidity would be, as well as finding out how difficult the Indian pitches were going to for the ALCC team and their four-prong pace attack. seamers

That evening we headed off to the Jamia Mallia Islamia ground for the Opening Ceremony. This was a particularly impressive cricket ground and I know that the squad were very disappointed when the draw was released and Australia were the only side not to get a game there.

The opening ball of the tournament was faced by Arjuna Runatunga and as you can see from the below photo, Jono was wicketkeeper. I’m not sure whether any comments were made about putting a Mars bar on a length, but in the event, Arjuna was drawn out of his crease before Dazza fired a throw in and Jono whipped the bails off – perhaps that runner was needed afterall?P1040624

The draw saw each team play each other once, with the exception of Australia and Sri Lanka, whose ‘A’ & ‘B’ teams would not face each other. The tournament started well for my side, Australia A, with strong wins against the WI, Sri Lanka B and England. In each match we had handy performances from a number of members in the team, with Darren Culbard and Andrew James impressive on debut v West Indies with wickets with their first balls for Australia and a composed 70-dd with the bat from Darren (probably should have had him higher up the order for Richmond!) Against Sri Lanka B we were just too strong and against our rivals from BEWCC, Jono and I shared the spoils taking 3 wickets a piece in a crushing 9 wicket win. In a nice touch, the organisers presented individual Man of the Match awards at official functions following the matches and Darren, Tippers and myself collected awards for the first 3 games.P1040800 In a ‘not so nice’ touch, the Indian organisers decided our fantastic liaison officer, Harry, was getting too cosy with the opposition (i.e. us) and he was suddenly removed from duties to be replaced with a much more benign version, something which left a sour taste in our mouths.

Despite 3 convincing wins, we knew the biggest challenges were to come with India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka A all to play in conditions that were much more favourable to them than they were to us. The sapping heat and the constant grind of waking up early, sitting on a bus, playing, getting back on a bus and then ending with an official evening function meant that the rest day was warmly welcomed by the Australian side. Despite the aches and pains, we used the opportunity to visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal, and it was a truly impressive structure (or a “mighty erection” as our President described it on twitter).

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After a particularly long bus ride home, entertained as always by Jono on the microphone at the front of the bus, the team headed to bed for our big match the next day against India, which was due to be televised on local Delhi TV. The next morning, we were met with a familiar problem – waiting over an hour in the foyer for the bus to arrive. It was therefore no surprise to arrive at the ground to see our opponents warmed-up and ready to go. It was also no surprise to see that the faster, bouncier pitch we had played our earlier matches on was not going to be used, rather the slow, dusty deck next to it was being favoured. Given the bounce the evergreen Greg Rowell was managing to extract and the pace through the air of AJ, it was probably sensible tactics by the Indians and while this may sound like bitterness on my part, as it turned out India were far too strong a side for us. While we fought hard with the ball and our skipper KP bowling exceptionally well with his tweakers, when it was our turn to bat we were strangled by the impressive Indian spinners. A number of comments were made by people who should know that were some of the Indian spinners to be playing in other parts of the world, they would be first-class cricketers.

A similar fate awaited us against the equally impressive Pakistanis and having lost a 2nd match we knew that we could not make the final at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium which was hugely disappointing. However, all was not lost and with the freedom to enjoy ourselves, we hit the sights and nightlife of Delhi with gusto. India is a truly amazing place and I’m not sure I could ever get used to the intensity of it. As a group of cricketers representing Australia, the locals followed us with excitement, despite not quite knowing who we were. A number of locals asked us if we were Australia A and some of the boys even passed themselves off as players, with Tippers particularly keen on adopting the Aaron Finch persona (although his Shane Warne diet and David Boon build were also commented on by some savvy Indians). tippers

Aside from the cricket fanaticism, India is also an area of true social dichotomy. The functions put on for us by various members of parliament and High Commissions showed that there was great wealth in the country, but the scene that was more represented to us, particularly out and about on buses or tuk tuks, was the extreme poverty. While we were all told to ignore the beggars, it was hard to turn a blind eye when you saw the desperate situation faced by a great many of the Indian people.beggar

Delhi belly (MJ), injuries (Darren) and hangovers (Jono) meant that the mere straggled 11 made it onto the bus for the final game against our good friends, Sri Lanka A. This was a closely matched affair, but again in the end Sri Lanka A proved too good and we had to settle with finishing the tournament in 4th place, a position that we weren’t entirely happy with, but probably a fair reflection given some of our shortcomings in sub-continent conditions. The bus ride home with the Sri Lankans was a great deal of fun with beers and whiskey flowing freely and the Sri Lankans singing up a storm – they really are a fun bunch of guys and a number of uniforms were exchanged.
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On the day of the final, it was fair to say the majority of teams were rooting for the Pakistanis. They had had a particularly tough time of it in Delhi, with a number of their players facing visa issues getting into the country, their hotel being raided by police at night and a large security force escorting them to each game and standing around the boundary with guns as the game was being played. The other sentiment, of course, was that India were at home and the defending champions and it is always nice for the underdog to triumph and so it transpired in the final, with Pakistan winning by an impressive 60 runs. To see them celebrating was a joy and you could see how much it meant to them.

That evening all the teams gathered for the official farewell function. We had learnt earlier in the day that the Gold Coast would be hosting the next LCWC in early 2016 so we did our best to promote the benefits of an Australian tour to our fellow cricketing lawyers. I think it is fair to say that a number of teams are very keen to go (with a few more spectators too) but that the costs and exchange rate could impact the availability of a number of the younger cricketers from the subcontinent. I am very keen to get involved in the organising of the Gold Coast tournament, and we will do our best to make it as inclusive as possible, and who knows, we might even get a few more countries coming along. One thing we will have to make sure we do is include awards for the WAGS, which was something the Indian organising group did very well, as you can see from the smiling face below!

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So that was India in a few short paragraphs. An experience that was very challenging, very confronting, but certainly memorable.

Lawyers Cricket World Cup IV – Delhi

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Having had a short break from this site following the Ashes, I am now resuming my blog to write about my experiences at the 4th Lawyers Cricket World Cup to be held in Delhi from 12-22 October. This tournament follows previous instalments in Hyderabad in 2007, Cambridge in 2009 and Barbados in 2011. From a cricketing perspective, I have fond memories of hitting the winning runs at The Oval in 2009, but less fond memories of doing a Herschelle Gibbs impersonation and ‘dropping the World Cup’ at the Empire ground in Barbados in 2011, much to the amusement of the rummed-up spectators. I am looking forward to making amends in Delhi, although it will be a challenge to see what life I can extract from dead Delhi tracks.

The format for the tournament is a series of 35 over round robin matches between India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka A & B, the West Indies, the English Barristers (BEWCC) and Australia A & B. To remain attractive to the more senior cricketing lawyers out there, restrictions are applied on the number of under-32 players allowed in any one side and anyone having played first-class cricket has to be over the age of 40ish. Australia has a mix of players coming along with a number of former and current 1st grade cricketers bolstering the squad, including former Australia A player and the man who moved my admission into the legal profession, my fast-bowling mate, Greg Rowell. It will be very interesting to see who fronts up for the other countries, but I would have thought India, with 1.3m lawyers to chose from and being the defending champions and at home, are going to be hard to beat.

It is just about time for us to leave cold and wet London for the heat and humidity of Delhi. M-T and I fly out from Heathrow at 10pm tonight and as usual have left all our packing to the last minute. Fortunately for us, Virgin Atlantic are very generous with their baggage allowances for India, allowing 2 x 23kg bags each, as well as allowing me to bring another 23kg sports bag. Whether we are going to need that much luggage, I very much doubt, but we are throwing in anything that we think might come in handy in India – my parents have been travelling through the subcontinent the past fortnight and it sounds like we need to prepare ourselves!
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For me, one of the exciting things about playing for the Australian Lawyers side is picking up the new playing gear. While I already have a bag, blazer, tie and various playing outfits from previous tournaments, we are being provided with additional items upon our arrival in Delhi including a pair of ALCC thongs (or flip-flops for my UK readers!). As for M-T, in her role as team physio she has thrown together as many tapes, bandages, gels, lotions and sprays as she can get her hands on. Let’s hope she doesn’t have too much work this trip, but with a tour party of over 30 (some of whom definitely fall into the ‘veteran’ category) we shall have to wait and see!

With such a large touring party the social dynamic should be particularly interesting. I have known a number of the guys in the squad for a long time and there are some great blokes to catch up with and I’m looking forward to getting to know some of the newer faces in the Australian squad. As well as that, this tournament presents a great opportunity to meet cricketers and lawyers from around the world and what better way to do that than over a game of cricket and some beers and a curry afterwards?!?

As part of my duties this tour (in addition to trying to control a dew-soaked white ball) I have been asked, along with Jono Garforth (long time readers of this blog will be more than familiar with this particular individual) and Andrew Bell SC, to lead the fines sessions during the tour. While the usual fines for dropped catches, ducks, wides etc will be employed, I am looking forward to seeing what other more discrete touring issues emerge over the next 12 days or so. I have already been informed that the ALCC President, Alex Martin – having promised an open bar all tournament from his ‘Presidential Suite’ – was found passed out asleep in bed when a large group of the squad arrived at our Ashok Hotel digs feeling thirsty. Surely the first fine of the tournament?

So my plan for the trip is to update you with scores and stories as often as possible. In addition to this blog, you can follow the progress of the Australian teams on http://www.australianlawyerscricket.asn.au/ or through our great sponsors, Lexis Nexis, at http://info.lexisnexis.com.au/lawyerscricketcouncil. In addition, there are a number of twitter feeds providing updates: @LCWC2013 and @AustLawyersCC.

I’ll check in next from the Opening Ceremony, it should be a cracker!

opening ceremony

Promising signs at The Oval

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It is hard to believe that the 5th and final Ashes test of the summer is entering its final day today. It does not seem that long ago that I was going through the labourious process of planning and ordering my ticket purchases to ensure I made it along to all 5 tests. Now that it has come and gone, I feel on a slight downer, but I’m sure that will be short-lived, what with just having won a league title and a trip to NYC (as I write en route to Heathrow).

The Oval is probably the closest thing I have to a ‘home’ ground in the UK (other than Old Deer Park at Richmond, of course). The iconic ground is only a 15 minute train ride from Barnes Bridge, Richmond’s pre-season nets are held here, and in one of my better “Boring Dan Stories” I famously took a couple wickets and hit the winnings runs there for Australia v India in the final of the Lawyers Cricket World Cup in 2009. So in a number of ways it was nice that my final day at a test match in the UK for some time was spent here.

I was up late working the night before and in the morning had to do some reading before I picked up my nicely packed hamper and made the short trip to the ground, having pulled on the Aussie gold attire one last time. As I was coming into the ground I ran into Nev Paulsen, QLD cricket legend and father of one of my best mates, Geoff. I had been in contact with Nev before the game and had always been planning to catch up, so it was quite convenient to be able to find him so early on in the day. Nev looked in good form and we spent a few minutes discussing my return to grade cricket with the Wests boys later this year. I hope Nev survived his day out with the boys from Tunbridge Wells CC!

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Once in the ground, I was met at the ground by Jono and James Cartwright of the Barristers of England and Wales Cricket Club (BEWCC). JC is one of the founding members of BEWCC and quite an entertaining character, and for his sins, tolerates Jono’s advances on his daughter remarkably well. Latterly, we were also joined at our seats by Matt Drew of the English Solicitors side.

We made our way to our seats in the OCS stand where we sitting at square leg and very close to where Murray Procter landed two 6s in the LCWC final in 2009 (even if you did whip them from outside off Muzz!). Angry Steve was sitting about 3 blocks of seats away and we quickly spotted each other, ready to exchange furied signals of our thoughts on the game. It was a hot day, the sky was blue and it was an absolutely enormous relief when Australia won the toss – I think the toss has been crucial in every test and it is no coincidence that we have batted our best when going in first and using the best of the conditions.

Sean Ruane got Jerusalem out of the way in style, as always Jono belting it out as proudly as any Englishman would (and this time accompanied by JC who was rather good). Warner came and went pretty quickly and Watson soon settled in with Rogers. A lot of the talk around the ground was of England’s selection of two debutants and how they would perform. My first impression of Woakes was that he was steady, but not penetrative enough for test cricket, bowling what Angry Steve would call “floaty outswingers”. As for poor old Kerrigan, well he just looked a club bowler and Watto went to town on him.

Lunch was a reasonably tame affair, with no interviews to do and no Nursery Ground to picnic on. I had fully packed the hamper Jono had left at Lords and the boys were tucking into lunch while I got the beers in and went for a little explore to see who I could find, but apart from a very spray-tanned looking Michael Vaughan, I didn’t bump into anyone I knew and returned to the LCWC men.
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The afternoon and evening sessions passed enjoyably, with plenty of beers and runs flowing from the blades of the Australian batsmen. It was pleasing to see Watson get a big hundred as he certainly has the talent to do so, but is frustratingly inconsistent. Smith too, started off in horrible fashion, but went on to play a mature innings.
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At the tea break I again caught up with my mate Levi from Wests and also saw David Cooke from the club. At stumps we met Angry Steve and posed for a photo or two with the stewards. With the Long Room bar still open we went on a mission to get into the Pavilion. In their nice attire, JC, Jono and Drewy walked straight in, whereas Stace and I had to resort to sneaking in through the fire escape.
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We had arranged to meet Ali Mitchell from BBC TMS after her interview with Jimmy Anderson and headed off to the Fentiman Arms for a few before Stace and I headed back to Barnes for a bromantic curry at Haweli – table for 2?

So as I look out the window of this tube, it looks pretty grim outside. Chances of play today may well be slim, mean a 3-0 finish and I will be glad to be out of the country when Cook raises the urn. Of course, I will be in Brisbane where it all starts again and I’m very much hoping for a better showing at home.

The Debacle that was Durham

Firstly, apologies all about the timing of this post. What with a busy week at work, long days of cricket, general fatigue and an overall sadness at the ending at Durham, I have found it hard to find the motivation to write this piece. However, people say that it is when your team is at their lowest that you have to cheer the loudest and that is what I am going to keep doing. I really feel we are not too far away, but I guess let’s see what happens at The Oval tomorrow.

So onto Durham…

Our 4th test journey did not get off to the healthiest of starts, our 7am alarm was greeted with groans given we had been at the Richmond CC 80s party the night before until about 3am, but nevertheless we were soon enough at Kings Cross and ready for the 3 hour train journey. This was definitely one of the quieter trips we have done, with both M-T and I sleeping as much as possible as the train seemingly crawled its way up to the north-east of England.

Upon arrival we headed straight into Durham city centre for some lunch, had at a pub called The Varsity. Fortunately they had the cricket on, so we could stretch our time there out as we waited for our 3pm check-in at the Oak Cottage B&B that we had booked. But before we did that, M-T and I made the short walk up the hill to check out the very impressive Durham Cathedral, over 1000 years old. Despite nearly 5 years of living here, England’s history, in particular the architecture, does still amaze me.

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Having checked into our B&B we immediately crashed with the dulcet tones of TMS playing in the background. We had made plans to meet Jono back in Durham after the cricket and there was a long afternoon session to nap through – particularly as the Sherminator was compiling another big score – it really does grate on me that he has become a dominant batsman and what appears to be a shoe-in for man of the series. Anyway…

We headed back into Durham around 6pm and were guided straight to the Swan and Three Cygnets pubs on the river were I began to sample some of the local drop. It was a fairly picturesque setting (as was much of the north-east) and we settled in there until Jono arrived, resplendent in his new purchase of a Durham CCC jumper. He had apparently spent a number of days in the corporate hospitality (some invited, some not so much) with the Durham skipper Dale Benkenstein and had wanted to look the part, as only Jono can in his adopted country’s attire.

From the river we headed to the Market Square for a few more drinks and it was here that I ran into fellow WSDCC cricketer, Michael Dwan, who was on the final leg of his European sojourn. A couple more drinks and it was time for dinner, and we found a lovely local Italian place that served wine by the 2L bottle which was enough to get me through the door (although I was reminded of the time my mother and M-T tucked into a 1.5L of wine in the Amalfi Coast and that did not end well!).

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The wine just about finished us off and we were in a cab back to the B&B just before midnight. Jono was staying in Newcastle but we advised him that he should join us in the cab, rather than risk a train after two long days at the cricket, as there was a very good chance he would wake up in deepest, darkest Scotland!

So onto Day 4. We had a nice English breakfast at the B&B with our very friendly hosts before checking out and heading off to Chester-Le-Street. Quite a small town it turned out to be, and having picked up some supplies for the day, we made the shortish, but poorly signed, walk to the ground. On the way, we were given a balloon by a clown (actual) that said “shame about the cricket, but we still love the Aussies” – thanks very much!

We met up with Jono and were soon in our seats, which turned out to be a massive bonus. They were situated right next to the players walk and I could have easily reached out and touched any of them as they walked onto the field. We also had a lovely view across the field at Lumley Castle.

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As seems to have been the trend all series, we started reasonable well in the morning session with Ryan Harris bowling amazingly. You can imagine my excitement when Stuart Broad walked out to face his hat-trick ball and I was very quick to remind him of Siddle in Brisbane as he walked past. Sadly, he survived, but it wasn’t for long and he was soon trudging back off with “Dude Looks Like a Lady” ringing in his ears (if only we’d known what was to come!)

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An annoying wag from Swann and some poor catching from Smith gave England a few more than they should have done, but when Ryan Harris walked off the field with 7 wickets, I was reasonably comfortable that the score was chaseable on what appeared to be a pretty fair day 4 wicket. I even managed a “thanks mate” from Harris having congratulated him on his great bowling effort.

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One definite bonus of our seats was that the cameras were never far away as the players walked back and forth onto the field and my phone was soon lighting up with friends and family, both in the UK and at home, telling me that M-T and I had been spotted on tele. This was particularly pleasing following my Friday evening debacle – having received a phone call from the BBC on Wednesday inviting me to ‘appear’ on the One Show, I was a little disappointed when all I was required to do was stand in the background in my ALCC gear with M-T and RCC’s Big Red and wave an Australian flag. But the Durham appearances went some way to making up for this, even more so when it transpired that Jono had been cut out of the close-up of M-T and I!

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Having grinded to lunch none down, the heavens opened and there was an extended lunch break which gave us plenty of time to explore the ground and we ended up in the Austin’s bar within the ground. Jono was in his element trying out his new term of endearment, “pet” (upgraded from “love”), on all the local girls while I spent time in front of the TV watching the replays and trying to spot myself – very sad, I know. When play resumed we returned to our wet seats, and stupidly, our wet bags that we had left in the rain.

The middle session was impressive going for the Australian batsmen with both Rogers and Warner looking solid. The beers were flowing and I was quite pleased with the world when at the tea break I went to meet up with Dwanny and my old Wests team mate, Levi. Levi and I were in the side that won the 2007/8 1st grade premiership and at the time he was a fresh-faced 17 year old. It therefore came as somewhat of a shock to see him with a full-on bushranger beard of the ranga variety, but it was an impressive look! We had a quick beer together with the catch ups being interrupted when I was stung through my Australian top by a wasp – clearly attracted to the Aussie gold!

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Those who know me best will understand how hard the final session was for me to take. To witness Australia lose 9 wickets in a session and concede a test is bad enough, but when Stuart Broad is the central figure in this collapse, it made it almost unbearable. Jono, for one, copped the silent treatment for a while as he very quickly started cheering for England. M-T was very keen to leave early to try and get back to London at a respectable hour, but I kept believing we would mount some kind of fightback, only yielding to leave when the penultimate wicket fell.

The train ride home was particularly difficult. As noted earlier, our bags were left in the rain which meant that all our spare clothes were wet, so I had no choice but to keep the Australian top on the whole way back. While some people were kindly sympathetic of my plight, most were fairly jubilant, particularly when M-T sent me on the long walk from carriage B to H to try and find some food – how appropriate that this trip also ended in failure! It was a very weary lot that dragged themselves of the bus and finally home around 1am, only to be back at work early the next morning with plenty of Ashes paraphernalia awaiting me at my desk. These things are meant to test you and it is fair to say that my character is experiencing a lot of building at the moment!