Boris, The Bunch of Cherries, and The Gatting Ball

I can see it now. I’ve a horrifying habit. Too many times, I’ve accidentally chosen to work where the local pub is the worst in town.

St Albans is a fetching cathedral and market town, just north of London, in the glamorous greenery of the Home Counties. It boasted over eighty boozers when I lived there, and most prominent is the Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in Verulamium Park, where once stood a Roman city.

An eleventh century building on an eighth century site, it’s the Guinness Book of Records holder of oldest pub in England. Our townhouse was an easy par 4 from the Cocks, but I worked on St Albans’ periphery near the untreatably dreadful Bunch of Cherries. I’d many a pint there with my workmates, although as an example of 1960’s Dismal Brick/Shithouse, it has less charisma than a Heathrow toilet.

The carpet in The Bunch of Cherries is well worth the drive.

The carpet in The Bunch of Cherries is well worth the drive.

 

I now work in Singapore, a languid 5 iron from Orchard Road. Apparently, Harry’s has our Friday refreshments conquered with

26 premium lifestyle bars targeted at the PMEBs (professionals, managers, executives and businessmen).

My closest Harry’s is set in a shopping mall, and the staff offers rancid lager as well as a merry hatred of the thirsty.

The smallest place I’ve lived is the exception to this cosmopolitan misery. Kimba is half way across Australia, and on a Friday its sole pub was rollicking and happy. Icy beer, roaring jukebox. The core of its community. My first weekend in town, I won the meat tray. How could I not love it?

Geelong-besotted Almanackers identify Kimba as the hometown of Corey Enright. As a young teacher who was frequently upright, and possessing of a pulse, I became Boris’ PE teacher. All saw him as a gifted footballer, but I argued that he was a better leg spinner, and could go far. Bowling on concrete decks that bounced and bit like a taipan, he bamboozled men and boys alike.

June 4, 1993 is a Friday, and despite it being Eastern Eyre footy season, a blissful tangle of chaps is inhaling ale. The Kimba pub jukebox blasts Choir Boys, Meat Loaf, and the sing-along gem, What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes. Day Two of the First Ashes Test from Old Trafford is on, but it’s beyond a footballer’s curfew, particularly for us modest B-graders. And then, shortly before lunch, AB throws a tubby, naturally non-blonde the ball.

For all the where-were-you-when-you-heard about Lady Diana, 9/11, the Boxing Day tsunami, there are celebratory counterparts. Jezza’s legendary leap, Australia snatching the America’s Cup, and for many, the Ball of the Century.

Ritchie’s commentating. No Bill hyperbole. Mercifully, no screeching Michael Slater.

He’s done it. He’s started off with the most beautiful delivery. Gatting’s got no idea what’s happened to it. He still doesn’t know.

The batsman’s humbled reaction is apposite. What choice had he? Anger and disappointment could have had no useful function. There’s only Gatting’s acceptance something astounding had occurred, that he had not previously seen, nor would likely see again. In the booming beery frenzy, Robbie, Hendo, Klingy, and I know we’ve witnessed a remarkable episode.

Strolling off, Gatting preternaturally knew he’d stolen a cameo role in what would be regarded as cricket’s most illustrious single-act production. Not a tragic narrative, but one approaching the comedic in its enthralling unlikelihood. Shaking his head in bemusement corroborates our shared view.

Australia was then sponsored by XXXX and, much later, so was I when in the skirmish for beer supremacy a grassroots marketing strategy took me hostage. For twelve months I transmogrified into a XXXX Gold Ambassador. As a Coopers Sparkling and Pale Ale aficionado, I call it the year I barracked for Collingwood. I had not gone native. It was abundantly worse. I had gone Queensland.

Given entirely too much XXXX to inflict upon family and friends, I was also required to host a XXXX-infused BBQ and, finally, with my Kimba mate Bazz, sat in the sponsor’s marquee at the Adelaide Clipsal 500. This was telling given my relationship with motorsport is akin to that between Fev and Mensa.

My ambassadorial climax was a Sunday in Glenelg’s Holdfast Hotel with our most significant modern captain, Alan Border.

Me: I must tell you that you’re my Dad’s favourite cricketer. He describes you as being “pugnacious.”

AB: Well, everyone has their own personal style. I did what I did best.

I decline to say that Dad also once remarked if he had to be in a fight, AB is the first bloke he’d want on his side.

Me: Can I ask you about my best ever sporting moment? The Gatting Ball?

AB: Sure. It was a huge occasion.

Me: Where were you?

AB: At that point I often fielded at midwicket, so I didn’t really get a decent view of it.

Me: But you knew it was special?

AB: Yea. At the drinks break Heals said it was, “a pretty fair seed.”

Laconic understatement. Just what I wanted to hear. Sensational.

Me: What did Gatting say?

AB: He knew it was good too. He’s done really well out of it. The Gatt’s dined out on that story ever since. With all the speaking engagements, he’s very pleased.

Your correspondent is the one holding the yellow shirt.

Your correspondent is the one holding the yellow shirt.

 

Warne’s striking proclamation of his genius is leg spin’s enchanted temple. For cricket fans, it generated a global epiphany while the attendant symbolism makes this the most resounding of his 708 Test wickets.

And on that June afternoon I suspect even the desolate types in The Bunch of Cherries squinting at the screen over pints of tepid Tetleys knew SK Warne’s first Test delivery in England was to be cherished.

In Kimba we definitely did.

About Mickey Randall

Late afternoon beer, Exile on Main St playing. Sport like cricket, most types of football, golf, squash, horse racing. Travel, with Vancouver my favourite city, but there’s nowhere I’ve not happily been. Except Luton.

Reading. Writing about family, sport, music, the stuff that amuses me. Conversation. Wit. Irony.

McLaren Vale cabernet sauvignon, Barossa shiraz, Coopers Sparkling Ale. Jazz and especially Miles Davis. Lots and lots of music.

I live in Adelaide with my wife Kerry-ann and our boys Alex and Max.

Comments

  1. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Fantastic rread as always Mickey and spot on the , Gatting ball is a moment where we all no exactly where we were me nursing at that time even remember the name o the resident I was with and re another , Geelong player re cricket I along with every one else at , Pembroke reckon he was huge chance for the baggy green .
    Enjoyed your versions of the pubs. and yep you can’t beat a small town country pub
    Thanks Mickey

  2. mickey randall says:

    Thanks Malcolm. It’s tough to think that it is over 20 years since Warne’s famous delivery. Given the crisis in cricket and the better money in football, I reckon young guys will ignore the summer game. A thousand guys can play in the AFL but only a dozen get a baggy green. Thanks again for the feedback.

  3. Great read Mickey. Bloody good idea to get all Almanackers to write up a list with pictures of all their favourite (and least favourite) watering holes.
    I’ll get Harms to order an extra 20 Gigabytes of website memory storage straight away.
    Cheers.

  4. mickey randall says:

    Thanks Peter. I agree about the pubs concept. Generally the best one is the one you currently find yourself in. It’s the pub in which you have the best conversation. And the best beer. And the best meal etc!

  5. Mickey

    Great read, love the Fev reference and the Singapore pub description

    But mainly, I truly applaud your bravery and honesty in being able to come out and come clean to the Almanac community about your dreadful, soul-selling, year in the wilderness that was your affair with XXXX.

    Meeting AB notwithstanding, I hope the yellow shirt was worth it!

    Sean

  6. mickey randall says:

    Thanks for your thoughts Sean. Writing this article has been therapeutic and confessional. I also thank you for functioning as a priest for me! I reckon meeting and having a chat with AB made all that XXXX tolerable. Nearly.

  7. Good read Mickey,
    I spent a couple of hours in the Kimba Hotel with my mother and grand mother. They downed a couple of brandies and lemonade to offset the effects of a 42 degree day and a car with no air-conditioning. I shall soon go and down a coopers to offset your XXXX shenanigans.

  8. mickey randall says:

    Thanks Mike. The Kimba pub functioned as a welcome oasis for me on many afternoons too. South Australia’s West Coast can be a hot and nasty place, especially with a northerly whipping in across the desert.
    Coopers is rare here in Singapore, so I always make it a priority when I get back to Adelaide. I usually wait until the plane has reached the terminal, but in a month’s time, when I get home, I can’t guarantee it.

  9. Luke Reynolds says:

    Great read Mickey. Clearly remember watching the Gatting ball live as it happened, woke everyone in the house up with my excited 14 year old roar.

    As a Coopers fan the year of XXXX must have been awful. There is no comparison.

    Brilliant photo of you with AB.

  10. mickey randall says:

    Thanks Luke. I also love that it was Warne’s very first Test delivery in England, and as such, became emblematic of his dominance over them.
    I am a Coopers fan, but also believe that free beer is good beer!
    Hope that you- and all of us enjoy the Ashes from this coming Thursday. I reckon it will be close!

  11. Luke Reynolds says:

    Free beer is good beer!

    Can’t wait for Thursday, think it will be close too. Huge first Test, will set the tone for the series.

  12. mickey randall says:

    On their 2009 debut album The Duckworth Lewis Method’s Jiggery Pokery immortalised, in song, Warne’s delivery.

    At first the ball looked straight enough,
    I had it in me sights,
    but such was its rotation
    that it swerved out to the right.
    I thought “Well, that’s a leg break,
    that’s easily defended.”
    So I stuck my left leg out
    and jammed my bat against it.

    But the ball it span obscenely
    and out of the rough it jumped,
    veered across my bat and pad,
    clipping my off stump.
    It took a while to hit me,
    I momentarily lingered,
    but then I saw old Dickie Bird
    slowly raise his finger.

    They’re worth a listen.

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