Andrew Starkie’s Ashes Diary (5)

ASHES DIARY

Entry 5

Monday December 6, 2010

The armless Ethiopian taxi driver picked up Adrian and I from Adelaide Airport, Saturday morning.  We eased along Sir Donald Bradman Drive, skirted the edges of the city and headed into the inner southern suburbs to our modest, one ply toilet paper, clunking air-conditioner motel.  In the carpark, a few dusty Barmy Army members were preparing for the day, while across the road, junior cricket was under way.  The sun already had a sting in it.

We caught a bus and headed into town. Along the way, a group of Aussie supporters hopped on dressed in gold t-shirts, green velvet waistcoats and Australian flag Mad Hatter hats.  Their outfits came from the $2 Shop back home in the Hunter Valley.  They looked like a team of elves off to work.

We alighted in the city and followed the crowd down King William Road to the ground.  Tickets mate? Cockneyed scalpers asked. The atmosphere was light and friendly.

Adrian and I took our position on the edge of the hill just before play started.  The Army had already assembled and St. George flags hung from every vantage point.  Football shirts, cricket caps, banners and flags had travelled everywhere from Scunthorpe, Heywood, and everywhere in between.

Strauss shouldered arms to Dougie and was bowled.  Katich missed a chance to repay Trott for running him out on the opening day.  Huss dropped Trott in the gully.  Harris was asking questions of the English batsmen.  Dougie, fielding at fine leg, gave a two finger sign to a mouth in the crowd.  Beside me, a father applied sunscreen to his young son as the temperature nudged 33 degrees at the first drinks break.

England got on top before lunch.  Trott, well built with a wide, determined stance, was streaky outside off, however, kept the score ticking along.  Cook was careful, nudging and flicking it around.

Adrian’s a Yorkshireman who emigrated some years back.  He grows white roses in the front garden and his only regret is that his young son, George, wasn’t born in Yorkshire and therefore, is ineligible to represent the county.  I asked him to nominate Yorkshire’s greatest players and like the true Tyke he is, shot back: Boycott, Trueman, Hutton!

At lunch, we headed up the hill to the Cathedral Hotel.  It was like walking onto the set of Coronation Street or the pages of John King’s The Football Factory.  The Barmy Army had taken over.  Cheeky laughter and thick working class, northern accents filled the humid air.  As I angled towards the bar, a member of the Army bumped into me, swung around, winked and gave a friendly, sorry mate.  Two female members fanned themselves in a quiet corner while their fellas got the beers in.

We pushed through to the concreted beer garden which was slightly cooler than inside.  Manchester United shared a beer with Leeds United and Liverpool.  Wouldn’t happen if this was football, Adrian said.  Tribal allegiances are forgotten in the quest to retain the Ashes.

Trott and Cook built their innings in the second session.  They controlled the tempo while our bowlers wilted in the heat.  The Army sang God save your Queen as Trott and Cook passed fifty.  Harris was the one bowler who consistently made the batsmen play and he eventually, somewhat surprisingly, had Trott caught smartly at mid wicket by Clarke. Pietersen was booed on the way to the crease.  He would’ve loved that.  He opened quietly, selecting his shots carefully, giving the impression he was there for a long time.  Cook was given out caught behind, however, his challenge was successful.  It was his only shaky moment.

Ponting was out of ideas by the final session.  He spread the field only to call it in again.  A single slip became two and a gully. Bowlers were rotated over and over.  Sidds and Dougie were wasteful.  Watson lacked energy and maybe even interest.  Doherty threw down darts and was stroked everywhere.  After each four, Warnie’s glowing face, flogging fast food, preceded the replay on the big screen.  As if Doherty needed reminding of the shoes he was supposed to fill.  North ambled in and reminded of a primary school teacher throwing a few down to the boys at lunchtime.  He did mange to move the only ball for the day: one that brought dust and spun away from Cook in the seventy-fourth over.

During the final drinks break, Elvis replaced Warnie on the screen, jiratting sweatily to Suspicious Minds, Bradman Stand end hill.  Blokes in dresses received wolf whistles as did any half-decent female quarte.  A quartet of Fred Flintstones headed back to the bar.

Late in the day we grabbed a few seats on the fence in front of the Chappell Stand.  A tattooed Lancastrian was penning each ball into his score book.  Keeps me off the beer, he quipped.  His wife nodded.  The field had spread like a starfish and Sidds bowled short hoping for a mistake.  None came.  Cook brought up his century.  He hadn’t given a chance, but was as interesting as a Saturday night at the Reservoir snooker hall.

At day’s end, we headed back across Adelaide Bridge with the Army singing Jerusalem:

I will not cease from mental flight

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand

‘Til we have built Jerusalem

In England’s green and pleasant land

As we sat with a beer overlooking the Torrens, storm clouds moved in over the Adelaide Hills.  Maybe only the weather could help Australia.

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    Andrew, I want to hear more about the armless taxi driver.

    Great stuff. Wish I’d been there.

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