Perth Test – Day 2: There’s Only One Eric Bristow

 

During the Fourth Test at Headingley in 1993, the marvellous English crowd on the West Terrace, full of student ratbags with blow-up accoutrements and magnificent lager louts (local and itinerant) wearing soccer strips, watched Australia occupy the crease forever. Like the biggest kid in the backyard, Allan Border just kept batting and, while his mother didn’t ever call him in for dinner, he strolled out on the morning of a third day to reach his double century. Steve Waugh got a hundred and the Australians declared at 4/653.

When it was their turn, the pressured English batsmen were able to make an uber-flat track look like an underprepared down-the-grades Toowoomba couch-strip. With the English innings in tatters at 6/170 (thanks to Paul Reiffel, of all people) a group of varsity types who had been singing ‘Running Bear’ and ‘Sloop John B’ (with guitar), turned their voices to a melancholy number. “There’s only one Eric Bristow,” they swooned, “One Eric Bristow. One Eric Briiiiiiistow. There’s only one Eric Bristow.”

It was a sad moment for those who loved the Empire. British civilisation clung to glory in what seemed, then, to be a past-time barely known beyond the pubs of northern England. World-champion  darts player Eric Bristow was their one and only.

And it was to get worse. Shane Warne had just arrived. I can think of no better way of describing his arrival in Test cricket than he flopped his cock out with that opening delivery at Manchester. The Poms were, by comparison, nervously changing into their togs with white towels wrapped around them.

Yet, while Warney was playing at Headingley, it was T.B.A. May who bowled beautifully, having two top-order batsmen stumped by Ian Healy in the second dig. Any stumping to an offie is material for pub yarns for us amateurs, and stories for the has-beens on the speaking circuit, but these were both right-handers – Atherton and Gooch, no less. (Atherton was to replace Gooch as skipper at the end of the Test, as I headed north to play St Andrews).

The parlous state of English manhood was on show on the fourth morning when, sporting a thick head from a night in some pub which ended with a return to our tent in a caravan park in Acaster, I downed an oil-dripping serve of cod and chips and was off to wash out the arteries with a pint of Smith’s Bitter.

While waiting in the queue in the bowels of the pavilion, we were enjoying the cricket on the TV monitor, when one local became agitated.

“Put the fookin’ golf on,” he yelled at the screen as Sumo Hughes put another one chin-high through to the keeper.

It appeared to be a gag.

However, he kept at it: “Fook you. Put the fookin’ golf on.”

An English chap, concerned for the general tone of England, said, “But we’re at the cricket young man.”

“I hate fookin’ googlies.”

“Well why are you here?” the gent inquired politely.

“Because it’s the only place in fookin’ Leeds y’can get pint at midday.”

The world has changed since 1993. Although it may be changing back. Warney is not long retired and he still flops. But the Poms found some grunt almost a decade ago and have had their moments of marvellous victory.

More importantly the world has started to appreciate darts. It would be unfair to claim that the English have marketed darts relentlessly in the hope that it would save the Empire. Darts is better than that. It needs no marketing. The den of Samantha Foxes it parades is also unnecessary although it gives it flavour and makes me wonder why Warney chose poker over tungsten-tossing.

England came to Australia this summer feasting on colonial pessimism which pub-discussions suggested was widespread – although the bookies knew better (as always). The first two Tests were dominated by one man. Mitchell Johnson didn’t really flop a la Warney. He more rolled his out in the way that Port Lincoln fishermen set nets off the back of trawler. He has been phenomenal.

Johnson started at the crease on the second day of this Perth Test with the game even-stevens.  He went to a pearler: one of those deliveries which swings one way and seams the other. Then Smith went as well.

Siddle, Harris and Lyon added a useful 60, which frustrated the tired Poms and may have an impact as the match goes on.

What could Mitchell Johnson do on the bouncy Perth track?

As it turned out, not much really. Cook and Carberry, despite the play-and-misses and occasional nicks that are part of WACA cricket, fought hard and it took a stroke of ill-fortune to separate them. Bowling around the wicket, Harris’s new line befuddled Carberry who played on. He trudged off thinking he’d gotten himself out which is the mindset of the beaten batsmen and the driver who has just backed into a light-pole while trying to park. It was a silly accident. But an expensive one.

Root went to Watto in an incident which will give SEN talkback about 20 hours worth of material this week. The Australians thought Root feathered to Haddin. Root knew he didn’t hit it because he reacted, calling for a review instantly. Mr Erasmus did not use the reason of his distant cousin of Rotterdam; he raised his finger. He’d given too much weight to the flimsy evidence of an exuberant and triumphant Australian appeal. The lack of evidence doomed Root – the complete reverse of what should have happened. The lack of evidence must save the aggrieved else justice is disregarded.

Cook became even more determined. He could single-handedly keep his side in the Ashes – if he batted and batted and batted. However, he couldn’t resist Lyon’s short one and, trying to smash it through point, mis-timed his cut to Warner at backward point.

Pietersen looked fidgety, but up for the fight. Of all the world’s successful batsmen he is the quickest to be annoyed by the maiden over. He was sort of patient, but waiting. And when a half-tracker came at him he tried to pull it out of the ground. Instead he swatted it to mid-on where Johnson took a brilliant catch at the full extent of his heavenward reach. It was another helmet-era pull shot: foot lurching forward, weight heading back while playing it. There was nothing of Roy Fredericks or Ian Chappell in it. Nothing. Kevin Pietersen is over-rated. His biggest asset is his size. He blocks out the target.

Bell and Stokes survived an hour or so of gripping cricket with the heat-sapped Australians probing all the way to stumps.

It is set up for another fascinating day, given the state of the series.

No doubt the Barmies spent the night quenching their thirst in the pubs of Perth. Many will have watched City flog The Gunners.

All is not lost for them, nor will it ever be. The World Championship of Darts has just started. And, ask a Pom, he’ll tell you that Phil Taylor is the greatest living sportsman.

 

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About John Harms

JTH is a writer and broadcaster. He is the publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au He has written many columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere and The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story. He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - the oldest is six. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. JTH agree re: Pietersen. He’s a bully. There is no way he is one of the English greats. D.Gower, for example, leaves him far behind.

    But we still need to get 16 wickets to win. And a few more runs. I’m loving the prime time closing session.

  2. Lovely stuff.
    Friday morning I went into the city as groups of cricket desperates of all types staggered off the train and in the general direction of the WACA, Its a long walk on a brutal morning, not the easy stroll of Adelaide or Melbourne along the Torrens and Yarra.
    The sensible few had large sombreros and water bottles, I saw one young hatless bloke with close shaved head knocking back a large can of something foreign at 9.30am,
    Tears before bedtime I thought, as I wandered off to a meeting. The WACA is a page out of the 50′s/60′s for spectators. Shadeless and unforgiving. On prime real estate.
    Whelan the Wrecker beckons when the new footy stadium is ready in 2017ish.
    The radio said that 38 were treated for heat exhaustion and dehydration on Day 1 – some spending the night in hospital.
    41 in the shade here today.
    White light. White heat. And that’s just Mitchell Johnson with the new ball.
    Shandy the Wonder Dog has been walked at 6.30. AE and I have completed our 7.30 pool laps.
    Sinatra is on the CD player. Slats and Tubs will be seen but not heard shortly.
    The air conditioning is on MAX.
    All is good with the world.
    Thanks JTH, and I know that A(mends) Else and Smokie Dawson will do us proud today.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Great article ,JTH loved your description of the ball of the century also , to be announced , Mays mention . It was a fascinating day of test cricket and while , Roots decision was wrong in my book may be it was the karma bus after the series over there
    Pieterson ego is destroying him but we bowled superbly as a bowling group and frustrated him out huge , 1st session today

  4. Peter Schumacher says:

    OK, this post comes at lunch on the third day and our openers are in, if ever there was a chance for Rogers, Watson and Bailey to prove they should stay in the side, this is it!

  5. Peter Flynn says:

    Warney’s never suffered from dartitis J Harms.

    Pieterson’s back foot needs to come into line a bit more.

    At Leeds in ’97, a mate of mine asked “Can I have some cod and chips with this grease?”

    Terrific read.

    PJF

  6. JTH.
    Now it makes even more sense.
    That’s good; that flopping it out.
    Countless tens of thousands of men, young and old, have been comparing it to their own for 20 years now & coming up short. Every single time. Hmmm.

  7. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Enjoyable piece, JTH. Watching Tim May bowling in tandem with a young Warnie in 1993 was a delight. Being single and at Uni, I could afford stay up and watch just about every ball in that series.

    No mention of Dave Warner. Have you relented or are you still reserving your judgement?

  8. Dave Warner was a gamble. It has clearly paid off. It was the right decision. You can’t average 90 without having some sort of game. I reckon he is trying to sum up situations and play accordingly these days. I thought his first innings in Brisbane showed his determination to find the balance.

    Well played.

  9. Peter Flynn says:

    Australian conditions JTH.

  10. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    PJF Warner is a outrageous talent having been lucky enough to be at the , G that night against , SA he is gradually working out his game and while he will always to be prone to poor shot selection I fancy overall he is going to be a success for a fair while
    I reckon we can thank , Candice for a lot of his success this series and I would be settled too if I had picked up , Candice in the draft

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