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.
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.
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!
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.
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”).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.