If it Wasn’t so Hilarious it Would be Hilarious.

Now this is how to write about cricket: From this week’s Grauniad, a quite excellent post from their Aussie Blogger:

Australia’s darkest hour shows no sign of dawn
Guardian Online Monday 22nd July 2013

Around 11pm, Sydney time, last Friday, a hush fell over my Facebook news feed. Throughout the first Test, just a week previously, the feed had rocked to a chorus of self-made Australian cricket opinionators, ready to make their case as to why, variously, Marais Erasmus is the most inappropriately named wise man of cricket in history, Ashton Agar could find work in menswear catalogues if his career as a spinning all-rounder falls through, and Ed Cowan should be taken out into the desert, on a Tuesday, without a compass, and told to find his way back to the Australian first XI.

But on Thursday, the second day of this, Australia’s Costa Concordia Test, things were different. There were some jabs early on as Australia mopped up the England tail, a few pokes into the figurative mid-off of fate-tempting triumphalism as Shane Watson notched the first couple of his regulation six boundaries per innings; and then silence. Wickets fell, the good ship Australia lurched skyward then jack-knifed below the surface, and the feed went dead. If last rites were being read for Australia’s hopes of regaining the Ashes, they were being read in a very, very soft voice.

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Australia, as a nation, has now entered totally foreign waters: we are genuinely mediocre at Test cricket. Not embarrassingly mediocre, all things considered; just regular-mediocre, England-in-the-90s mediocre, New Zealand-mediocre. And we spectators have no idea how to take it. When you’re staring down the barrel of an Ashes whitewash and you’ve just lost six on the trot for the first time since Peter Sleep was being paid to try and figure out how his arms work, what is the correct posture for the self-pitying Australian sports fan to strike? Do you go for gallows humour? Do you switch off the TV, retreat into a dark corner with your laptop and YouTube and play The Ball of the Century, on loop, until dawn breaks? Do you get angry? Do you try to refashion yourself as a gracious, post-nationalist aesthete, complimenting the English on a fine showing and lauding the universal beauty of their game, no matter how much it goes against type and makes you feel, just for one moment, like a peripheral character in a Biggles novel written into the plot purely as a vessel for the expression of sham Empire-era principles of fair play? We don’t know how to do this.

During Australian cricket’s regal era, for spectators, there was a protocol to follow: you sat back, folded your arms, and watched the slaughter unfold with an expression of calm, unbroken smugness. Now the smugness is all on the other side. As Joe Root applied the Full Boycott in the second session of the third day, I switched over from Channel Nine to the BBC (thanks, internet), where I found Andrew Strauss and David Lloyd deep in discussion about the size of the sash windows in the fabled Long Room of the Lord’s Pavilion. When English commentators are so bored they’re allowing the telecast of an Ashes Test to devolve into an episode of Antiques Roadshow, you know there’s something profoundly wrong with Australian cricket.

True, we’ve had dark days before. The 1980s weren’t great. But at least in the 1980s we had AB, a buccaneering one-day side, control of cricket’s guiding cultural narrative, and the excuse of apartheid to fall back on for the decimation of our Test fortunes. There was hope; Australian cricket was quite discernibly on an upward trajectory, even if it had to pass through Greg Ritchie along the way. Now what do we have?

Well, we have the Argus Review, of course. But what has the Argus Review given us? Some arcane arguments over selection panel jurisprudence and the opportunity to laugh at its comically deluded performance targets (T20 world champions in 2012, No1 Test team in the world by 2015). In the meantime, we’ve seen our incumbent spinner dropped for little good reason, an olive branch extended to David Warner after he failed to punch Joe Root, and a majestically composed century from the latter just a few weeks later. Root and branch: that’s everything the Argus Review was meant to be, with none of the intended outcomes.

True, there were small shards of hope to be salvaged among the wreckage at Lord’s. As a team, Australia successfully took the 10-Test Ashes series all the way into a ninth day. That’s no small feat. Individual performances stood out, too. One Australian opener took a full toss from Graeme Swann straight to the eponymous rogers, and though he was later given out bbw (balls before wicket), incorrectly as it happens, he didn’t flinch even once. Clearly, the Argus Review’s vision of an Australian team puddling along in the lower reaches of the world rankings but manned with a roster of low-scoring veterans with testicles of steel is coming to fruition. The Baggy Green are in decline; behold the rise of the Dented Box. The Invincibles have given way to The Unwinceables.


In the second innings, we were treated, during that false twilight when Michael Clarke and Usman Khawaja threatened to carry certain fourth day defeat into certain fifth day defeat, to some pearly examples of the Khawaja pull, a shot of pleasantly meaty-armed authority in an Australian batting line-up whose strongest unifying thread is the stance of fear. Khawaja has the look about him of a Test batsman; it’s just a shame that, for now at least, he has the batting average about him of a man ready to take the step up from schoolboy to grade cricket. Time didn’t work for Nathan Lyon; let’s hope it will work for Khawaja.

It won’t, of course. Cricket Australia ceased operating as a centre for sporting excellence, possessed with the qualities of patience and consistency needed to rebuild the country’s cricket fort, years ago; today it is primarily useful as a triage centre for the management of Twitter fights. Sunday’s reaction to Steven Warner’s abusive tweet was illustrative; as Australia’s cricketing pride crumbled, the main concern from the boffins at CA seemed to be to control the fallout from David Warner’s brother tweeting about – actually, I can’t even remember what it was about, because I lost interest in the story before it had even finished happening.

It was the same with the tweet about the Steven Smith catch from CA’s own Twitter account, in which it was claimed that the third umpire’s not-out decision “sucked ass” (a rendering that says everything about the decline of Australian toughness; can you imagine a guy like Steve Waugh stooping to spell the word “arse” “ass”?). CA immediately dashed off a statement to announce an “investigation” into the “matter”, as if there weren’t countless other more obvious matters in need of investigation in Australian cricket (Matter 1: why does our batting suck?). The logic seems to be: forget working on shot selection, let’s just focus on getting the tweets right.

Cricket Australia is now less a national cricketing body than a single-client social media agency. You can already see how our preparation for the third Test will unfold, with PR hacks flapping about the back of the nets and getting wiggy at the thought of Jackson Bird choosing the wrong avatar, David Warner’s brother’s mate’s girlfriend slipping up on the spelling of a particularly precious trending hashtag, or an injudicious retweet from Ashton Agar’s mum. No Brad, don’t MT that! These aren’t the priorities of a cricketing culture with hope. They’re the idiot dance of a country without a clue.

There’s a temptation to think that this defeat, so abject and forlorn, will be remembered as one of Australian cricket’s darkest hours for years to come. But virtually every hour is a dark one in Australian cricket now; darkness holds nothing but the promise of more darkness. This was no less abject than any of the defeats in India, the embarrassments of the last Ashes series, or countless other capitulations stretching back into the mid-2000s. The devastation of Australia’s cricket team is matched only by the confusion of its supporters. Both are looking for light at the end of the tunnel. But on present form, it will be a generation before Australia even finds the tunnel.


Team Single

If there was a more pathetic site this weekend than the 5 inches of rain falling all over England during this Greatest of all Great British Summers, then it must have been the sight of the Australian Cricket Team’s bowling attack, one-by-one limping off the field having strained themselves while being on the wrong end of a stuffing by the English. One of the more poignant moments was watching one of them – Wayne Shane I think he was called – hobbling off towards the pavilion while 11 pissed young men in the crowd, who’d decided to come dressed as a flock of sheep, serenaded him with (to the tune of Knees Up Mother Brown) “You’re Not Very Good, You’re Not Very Good”. They were ably conducted by a bloke dressed as Bo Peep. Don Bradman must be twitching in his box. The Australian Cricket Team has come a long way since the days of Warne, McGrath and the Waugh brothers. A long way in a downwards direction.

Actually, that’s rubbish. Forget you ever read that because I’ve made a few glaring errors (even more than usual). This is how that should have read.

If there was a more pathetic site this weekend than the 5 inches of rain falling all over England during this Greatest of all Great British Summers, then it must have been the sight of the Team Australia bowling attack, one-by-one limping off the field having strained themselves while being on the wrong end of a stuffing by Team England. One of the more poignant moments was watching one of them – Wayne Shane I think he was called – hobbling off towards the pavilion while 11 pissed young men in the crowd, who’d decided to come dressed as a flock of sheep, serenaded him with (to the tune of Knees Up Mother Brown) “You’re Not Very Good, You’re Not Very Good”. They were ably conducted by a bloke dressed as Bo Peep. Don Bradman must be twitching in his box. Cricket Australia has come a long way since the days of Warne, McGrath and the Waugh brothers. A long way in a downwards direction.

I suppose, as usual, it’s only me that gets infuriated by this modern trend of naming organisations in such a way. Cricket Australia, Team GB, Team Sky (that’s a bunch of cyclists, by the way, not pilots), the list is endless. Now I can’t be exactly sure where and how this all started, but you can bet the favourite of your testicles that it originated over the other side of the pond. Who can ever forget the wonderful Corinthian ethos and warmth of the “dream team” of Team USA – that bunch of multi-millionaire professional basketball players who represented Team Coca-Cola (the new name for all USA – not just sports clubs, the whole country) at the Barcelona/McDonald Olympics in 1992. Do you get the feeling that there are PR/Ad men dotted throughout the kingdom who, upon seeing the success of Team USA, have convinced every sporting body that if they change the name of their club from “West Bromley Bowls, Croquet and Social Club” to Team Penge, that not only will they save on ink on headed paper, but that greatness on and off the field of play is but a flick of the wrist away ?

The fact that there was any cricket played at all up there at Chester-le-Street, Durham ( or Emirates Durham International Cricket Ground as it’s now called. Full of Emirs, Durham is, you know) is some sort of miracle brought about by a combination of an act of God and the Durham ground staff (Team Lawnmower). Over at TV Salford (the BBC to you and me), they were constantly showing pictures of the deluge ruining sporting events throughout the UK. The F1 at Silverstone looks like the first to be held underwater since the ill-advised Atlantis Grand Prix of 1911, (where Team Venice were the only ones to finish). Even my Cricket side’s (Team Philosan) tour to Royal Leamington Spa had to be cancelled altogether. Thankfully there’s a roof over centre court at Wimbledon, so Jock McSour and the Williams Brothers (Team Grim) can play their games of wiff waff, or whatever they do, tomorrow.

The weather hasn’t affected me as I turned my ankle over whilst on one of my enforced marches last week, reducing me to invalidity today. The Doc’s plan to shed some weight from me has come at a high price. I’m laid up in the couch with a throbbing achilles tendon, having re-employed my walking stick (which Team NHS gave me last year) for those vital regular journeys upstairs.
July 15th sees the first anniversary of me falling over in the kitchen while my head exploded and, frankly, recovery continues to by slow and intermittent. I’ve been referred to another in a long line of specialists up at Health Kent since a lot of numbness in my face and dizzy spells have returned. Cider does help but I can’t get it on prescription.

My bald shins (it’s an old man thing) and feet have become bloated and covered in what looks like a million blood-spots. From a distance it looks like I have a sun tan on my lower regions only. Up close, they remind me of my nan’s shins (I looked at them a lot.) The Doc told me he thought it might be a reaction to warfarin. I asked for a second opinion, so he told me I was ugly as well.

So I wait for the next in a series of docs appointment. Shuffling around, to-and-from trap one, watching the rain outside and sad Australian cricketers. As I struggle to climb the stairs, Incumbent Dartford breaks into a verse of “You’re Not Very Good”. And, to be honest, this time I can’t argue with her.

This Story Has Legs

I think it was Arthur Daley who, when his minder, Terry, said to him ” ‘ere, Arfur, lend us a tenner, I’m a bit short” replied:
“Well if you’re short, I’m a dwarf “.

Aren’t short people fascinating ? And there’re a lot of em about. Hitler and Napoleon (Boneparte, not Solo) to name two – not that I’m suggesting they’re still around. Al Pacino, Tom Cruise, Charlie Drake, Diego Maradona never excelled at the High Jump at school. Guy Fawkes too was a tiddler, though admittedly that wasn’t until he had his legs sawn off for being naughty underneath Parliament.

There appear to be no records of Fawkes height either before he was caught or indeed post hoct te proc, but suffice to say I doubt if he was a happy little Guido after becoming deficient in the leg department to the tune of two. Then again he wasn’t alone: short people are invariably a miserable bunch- especially the male of the species. Short Man Syndrome is well documented and we all know at least one snappy little git, intent on making amends lack of stature.

So many of them become leaders of (taller) men too. The aforementioned Adolf, and Boney had reasonable success in their chosen careers (mass genocide and continent-conquering), Maradonna captained his country, before he started eating it and the French are currently led by a bloke who carries a box under his arm in case he has to reach a microphone (or kiss the missus). I’m unsure how tall Gaddafi is.

I was traumatised by an early Ginsters Pies ad campaign which seem to depict their factory entirely manned by midgets (“Ginsters Pies: Made By Dwarves”. Remember that next time you’re in a service station).

Then there’s Ian Hislop and Ricky Ponting, who may-or-may-not be one and the same person. Hislop edits a satirical magazine (the name of which escapes me) and Ponting leads the Australian Cricket team. Ok,  at 5’10” Ricky isn’t technically a midget but for the purposes of this rubbish he could be considered the world’s tallest short bloke. He certainly scowls and chunters around the pitch like he’s short. A tragic victim of Short Bloke’s Disease.

Ricky hasn’t had a very good winter. He and his team lost The Ashes (again) during which Ricky hurt his finger. He hurt it so much it makes him grumpy. All winter long he’s been even more grumpy than usual. He’s been throwing his tinnies out of his dunnie, screaming at his hapless bowlers and arguing with the umpires even more than usual. Poor old Punter. He’s not gonna be that chuffed tonight after his mob lost to Pakistan. Perhaps the Aussies didn’t have enough dollars to have a whip-round for the Pak bowlers, but just when Ricky needed to see the sight of a dodgy bookie in the oppo’s changing room, there came none.

Hislop;Ponting: Never seen in the same room together.

The recent weeks have seen a lot of funny old results. Ireland vrs England (cricket); Ireland vrs England (rugby); Bangladesh vrs England (cricket again – are you beginning to see a pattern here?); then there’s the hilarious Italy vrs France (rugby again); not forgetting Gaddafi’s Loyalist Troops XI making a spectacular comeback in extra time against The Rebels U18 XI, just before the Rest of The World XV threw in a couple of subs (and strikers).

Tonight’s rugby match between England and Ireland was just the latest in odd results.  Maybe it’s the Supermoon ? It looks pretty super to me. All I know is tonight’s ref (a nasty little Kiwi I think) had little legs. QED.