Our man in whites Fred Sculthorp looks ahead to this week’s Test cricket series, The Ashes
The enemy are at the gates. The time has come. Tomorrow, two of the great sporting civilizations will clash in mankind’s most profound expression of physical and mental endurance- the five day Test match. Yet beyond the superficial rivalry for The Ashes there are greater expectations. What untold beauties will unfold before the close of play? How far will the uncharted territories of cricketing ability be explored? For those in awe of this cricketing call to arms, fear no more. Let me take your hand and guide you into a world of Googlies and Sticky Wickets. The time has come to embrace cricket.
Overview: Just lost the final of the ICC Champions Trophy to India but no one really cares (the kind of competition where they play the Black Eyed Peas in between overs). Firm favourites to win – but some would argue they are chronic underachievers. Nevertheless have been on a roll since 2005 when they put an end to a long period of Australian domination. Recently won a notoriously difficult Test series in India – then drew a notoriously easy series in New Zealand.
Key man: James Anderson: There’s a cricket joke that all Australian pitches are ‘flat’, whereas all English ones tend to offer bowlers more in terms of movement. If Anderson can get the ball to ‘swing’ the Australians won’t know what to do.
Player to watch: Joe Root: If you can survive a missed punch from Crocodile Dundee wannabe David Warner you can do anything.
How Hollywood would do it: Kevin Pieterson bats, bowls and captains England to glory. There’s a tender moment where our hero almost misses the final Test because he is busy freeing Irishman Eoin Morgan who has been cruelly forced to play for England against his will.
Overview: The travelling circus appears to be coming to an end after the shrewd appointment of former player Darren Lehmann as coach. Sacked boss Mickey Arthur was a PE teacher on tour with the under 16’s going through a mid-life crisis. If not winning wasn’t bad enough, Arthur even had the cheek to set the players homework and then drop them for not handing it in.
Some people will try and conjure up some excitement in what is essentially a foregone conclusion by backing them and saying the Australian bowlers are an ‘unknown quantity’ or ‘they’ve got nothing to lose’. They are either shameless attention seekers or brain damaged alcoholics who have spent their entire lives in places called Wooomereangera.
Key man: Michael Clarke. The only player connected to the golden era of Australian Cricket.
Players to watch: Shane Watson, a poor man’s Ian Botham. Maybe one of their bowlers, Nathan Lyon. One of the few not to be humiliated on a recent tour of India
How Hollywood would do it: Former captain Ricky Ponting returns from retirement to lead a bunch of cricketing misfits and oddballs to glory. Moving scene where Ricky disappears into the English wilderness to the mystical sound of Rolf Harris’s didgeridoo in search of the true meaning of cricket.
As always, the build up is always by far the best thing. It will probably turn into a rain soaked clash between two fairly average sides. If this happens, go onto YouTube and just watch clips of the 2005 series, especially that Flintoff over to Ponting at Edgbaston. That was probably as good as it gets.
The Ashes Drinking Game
You’re likely to be watching for a long time, so here are some suggestions to help you ease into the game:
– Drink every time you realise how lucky you are to be watching in the safety of your own home than surrounded by people who think it’s funny to dress up as kangaroos or vicars.
– If at any point you doubt a 5-day game of cricket in its ability to distract from the chronic inadequacies of life, drink till you no longer feel pain.
– If a certain Australian former children’s entertainer manages to clear his name before the end of the series, down the cheapest bottle of champagne you can find.
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