Cricket from a different time zone can be disorienting. The day/night difference of a game in England can be easily accommodated (though I try to hide the earphone cables from the Avenging Eagle as I hesitantly peck her good night).
Football does not have this problem because it is all over in a two and a half hour span that does not cross the natural time zones dictated by hunger. But test cricket is different. The lunch session is my coffee and toast. Their afternoon tea break is my morning cuppa and scotch finger. I am just firing up the toasted sandwich maker as players disappear for a well-earned dinner and doze.
Yesterday I wasn’t ‘working’ in the conventional sense, but there seemed little rest for the wicked. Monday is the Avenging Eagle’s 36th birthday (I never take my shoes off when counting) and we are having people over on Sunday afternoon to celebrate. There is grocery shopping and loads of washing to get out on the line.
More testingly there is the glazed wander around ladies clothes shops, fingering the lacies, and trying to look neither perverted or wealthy. I have the vague sense of “I’ll know it when I see it” but I am seeing much more than I am knowing. The shop assistants are all younger than my daughter, and their hopeful “is there anything I can help you with sir?” is met with a stammer and an idiot smile.
Fortunately I have the test cricket from Adelaide my smooth my day. “Come unto me all who travail and are heavy laden, and Clarke and Haddin will refresh you.” The ABC broadcast is ever present, whether by trannie or car radio. The mute button has been araldited on the Ch9 preset button of the remote control. Slats or Tubbies’ monoculture uniforms may offend me, but their inanities can never intrude on my day.
Just after breakfast (you do the translation) my ears prick up at Terry Alderman’s indignation at England’s negativity. “Anderson is bowling with a newish ball and Cook doesn’t have any slips or gullies in place. He has just decided to wait for Clarke and Haddin to make a mistake.”
My mind wanders back to the footy season and the uber-defence of RossBall. I connect with Harms’ indignation in his Grand Final piece in the Almanac book. “It gets to the stage in the second quarter where it feels like players are just hoping they make contact with boot on ball. It’s quite bizarre. One goal to half time – from one of the two best teams in it? What sort of Grand Final is this?”
Haddin top-edges a hook and the ball loops toward Monty Panesar who is frozen in “I hope it’s not coming to me” before a belated trudge in a vaguely ballward direction arriving thankfully (for Australians and Monty) two steps after the ball has completed its elongated parabola.
In my mind Monty has the elegance and confidence of Zac
Dawson playing on a gun forward in a pressure final. He knows he is very good at one thing, and he will give his heart to repeating it over and over and over. But for Christ sake don’t ask him to walk and chew gum at the same time.
Kerry or Terry says that the English are starting to fall apart and bicker among themselves. Stokes gets Haddin to edge and then finds that his front foot was closer to the batsmen’s crease than his own at the point of release. In frustration he does a Hayden Ballantyne and screams in ‘Scarlo’ Haddin’s face at the end of the over. ‘Scarlo’ sits him on his arse with a well-placed carve to Adelaide’s short point boundaries.
Prior has his hands permanently teacupped to his hips, with the frustrated air of someone wondering “I used to be able to do that”. Monty starts to point fingers and kick the ground when team mates fumble or over run a ball in the field. This is like me saying ‘watch it’ when someone else treads on the Avenging Eagle’s feet on the dance floor.
Cook is no longer Hodge imperiously directing traffic from centre back. He takes on the silently bemused air of a kindergarten teacher on a supervised outing. His lips are shut tight because it is unbecoming for a captain to scream.
I am in heaven. My nemesis is being humiliated by their own frailties. Nat Fyfe marks splendidly before hoofing another one aimlessly for six over the mid wicket boundary.
Where did they go, these unflappable professionals that have tormented me in recent years? My explanation is half Dockers and half Eagles. In the season between 2012 and 2013 – Kerr, Cox, Embley, Nicoski, ASelwood, LeCras and Waters went from wily old hands to staggering nursing home residents. Trott has already joined them, and their fast bowling depth is in the Emergency Department more than it is on the field. Is it tempting fate to hope that Swann, Prior, Anderson and their top batsmen may be ready to join them? Stokes overstepping and Carberry fumbling sitters look as ready for the big time as ‘red cordial’ Jacob Brennan on the Eagles backline.
Enough self-reflection and/or wishful thinking. The real explanation is that England is enjoying their cricket as much as the average footy fan enjoys watching RossBall. Last weekend’s Australian had a wonderful piece by Mike Atherton called “Pros need to find their inner amateur”. In the wake of the Trott departure it was about how the relentless grind of modern professional sport destroys the spirit long before it exhausts the body.
Atherton quotes an unnamed English player “It can feel as if there is no escape. It is as if everything you do is being assessed, as if every little thing you do is being analysed and stored away. If you’re not careful it can wear you down. It is incredibly difficult to come to terms with. “
Atherton contrasts the Australian team under Mickey Arthur to the environment under Lehmann. “Young players being under such scrutiny from an army of coaches that they had lost the freedom and confidence to make decisions for themselves and play their own way. They had to fill in daily wellness charts detailing food eaten, fluid intake and the number of hours slept. All for backroom staff under pressure, no doubt, to justify their positions. An encouraging early feature of Darren Lehmann’s regime is the stripping away of that nonsense and the emphasis on enjoyment, on playing the game.”
We can but hope. The evidence is building. English and Fremantle fans will doubtless point the joys of recent success, but the Lyon interregnum at St Kilda suggests it is feast or famine, as that intensity of demand has an alarming burn rate on the bodies and psyche of young men. Was 2013 the end of the beginning for the Dockers or the beginning of the end?
We can but hope.
Meanwhile back at the Test, the Clarke-Haddin double century partnership gave Australia the platform from which it can surely not lose. Harris and Lyon tonking sixes at the end was like beating the Dockers in a pre-season game. It mightn’t mean much in the course of a season, but it we take our jollies where we can. Australia may not be able to take the 20 wickets to win, but a day’s humiliation of hated foes is always to be cherished.
At the end of the day, Mitchell Johnson produced a hostile spell of 150k+ deliveries. The jaffa that got Cook would have bowled Bradman. It looked for the world like it was angling to leg, but at the last minute it shaped away to off before thundering into his off pole. Cook trudged off with the fatalistic air of a man who felt his future was being dictated by auguries as much as opposition bowlers.
The new new new Mitch is certainly a vast improvement on all the preceding incarnations. It feels as if Mitch has had more comeback tours than Johnny Farnham, though I can’t recall Johnny finding the high notes so often late in his career.
Carberry and Root staggered to stumps, though Carberry was lucky that Johnson’s last ball of the day was not referred upstairs as the DRS would have given him out.
The Australians seemed justifiably chuffed with their day. In the old days I would have said they were hurrying off for a well-deserved beer. Nowadays in the twitter era I blame Rulebook and Raj’s frequent mounting yard updates from the champagne tent behind the Mostyn Evans Stand.
Mitch and Pup were rushing off to catch Barbie No-Knickers before she tottered off home.