“You still don’t get it, do you? We’re talking about a revelation here,” Colonel Sanders said, clicking his tongue. “A revelation leaps over the borders of the everyday. A life without revelation is no life at all. What you need to do is move from reason that observes to reason that acts. That’s what’s critical. Do you have any idea what I’m talking about, you gold-plated whale of a dunce?”
– Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami
“Every ending is a beginning,” said Piggieballah. “Logic, morals or meaning don’t have anything to do with it.”
Piggiebillah the echidna was a man. More accurately, Piggieballah the echidna was composed of a cricket team of men called the Australia Test XI. Last Friday morning, Piggiebillah dozed in his Sydney summer burrow, for the feasting of the previous six weeks had left him bloated and dizzy and, though he marshalled forces, both real and imaginary, to fight this very malaise, he felt not a little self-satisfied. It was a difficult thing, he knew, to marshall XI men of free will and independent thought into a united and positive force. Yet that was his task, each and every time members of the cricket team came together. And he’d done it. This was historically a relentlessly tough nut to crack. But he’d done it.
“No, mate,” said Piggieballah. “Necessity is an independent concept. Nobody needed to do anything. But some did. That’s the difference.”
Albion the hedgehog comprised a team of men, also, but these men were called the England Test XI. By Sunday morning, Albion skulked miserably in his Sydney hole licking wounds, some of which were inflicted deliberately and with great hostility and intent by Piggieballah the echidna, though in truth many of which were also self-inflicted.
Overnight Piggieballah had been 311 in front with six wickets in hand (2nd innings 4/140 (CJL Rogers 73*, GJ Bailey 20*)).
Though bearing superficial resemblance to Piggiebillah, Albion had struggled in this harsh and hard and bright and stark continent. Here all was stripped back. No amount of piri-piri breaded tofu with tomato salsa, quinoa and cranberry breakfast bars nor mungbean curry with spinach would hide that fact. And while appearing straightforward, these southerners were never quite what they seemed. Piggiebillah laid eggs, for heaven’s sake.
“You listen, Albion,” said Piggiebillah from the driver’s seat. It was Sunday morning. “Chekhov would say that necessity is an independent concept.” Albion sat apprehensively in the passenger seat as they screeched into Moore Park.
“Agreed,” agreed Albion agreeably from the passenger seat with a false bravado belying his apprehension. “What doesn’t play a role should not exist. Just like your GJ Bailey.”
“Ah ha. With striking similarity to your collective heart, spine and associated courage, I suspect. It’s all a question of dramaturgy.”
Piggiebillah screamed the car to a sudden rubber-burning halt and leaped theatrically out of the convertible to his feet. Men and women who had applied for work with the SCG security corps months previously, stood and watched helplessly as Piggiebillah yoinked Albion out of the car by the shirt, and ran him through the entrance gates. None of their onboarding material had prepared the security staff for dealing with echidnas nor hedgehogs.
“Logic, morals or meaning don’t have anything to do with it. It’s all a question of relationality. Chekhov understood dramaturgy very well.” Piggieballah was riding high. All of his component parts were orchestrated to a collective effort greater than that of the sum of his parts. A miracle.
CJL Rogers and GJ Bailey batted on. Individual milestones were hanging for the plucking, though Piggieballah saw them for what they were. Piffle. He knew of the sustained speculation on the future of GJ Bailey. But he also know this is how commentators justified their salaries. GJ Bailey was safe. He was a vital ingredient in recent unknowable magic. Magic that had taken Piggieballah and given him a flying carpet.
GJ Bailey, BJ Haddin and MG Johnson all fell in the first session going for quick (team) runs. CJL Rogers brought up a ton. Two in two Tests. At lunch, Piggieballah was 7/248 (CJL Rogers 114*, RJ Harris 1*).
Piggieballah took from his shoulder bag now a battered copy of Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore. “Now listen, Albion. Here’s a lunchtime story for you. It goes like this:
“From England, the identity of these people looked simple: They were seen in a bald, one-dimensional way as the “children of the convicts,” heirs of a depraved gene pool, from whom little good could be expected. That many of them did not have convict parents; that many of those who did were not raised by stereotyped villains and whores; that crime may not run in the blood – none of this affected English opinion very much. Sin must beget sin, and the “thief-colony” was doomed to spin forever, at the outer rim of the world, in ever-worsening moral darkness.”
Albion nodded vigorously through a mouthful of pistachio and ginger biscotti.
“Yeah,” said Piggieballah, scatching his internalized scrotum. “Thought so. I’m not finished.”
“However the native-born did not think of themselves that way – not because they felt up to denying the facts of the colony’s birth, but because their society was so much more intricate than England’s “instrumental” view of Australia as a convict dump, a society defined by criminality, would allow. In this real society, the children of the free were inextricably mingled in a web of social and economic relations with those of Emancipists. The poor were not all convict-born, the rich were not all free; menial workers as well as Macarthurs had come the free, and there were rough Midases as well as sober tradesmen and illiterate, broken helots among the transported. Some children of convicts grew up fighting for crusts, others had private tutors or went to ladies’ schools in Parramatta. Because the native-born were the sons and daughters of all conditions of people, bond and free, they were at every level of colonial Australian society by 1825 and could not be treated as a “class” on their own.”
Albion looked sideways from under his navy blue cap.
“We’re not what you think we are. And we never will be,” said Piggieballah, turning on his claw.
Albion trotted confusedly, to warm applause, back onto the SCG after lunch. The whole scene painted pink in honour of Jane McGrath and breast cancer research. A mighty effort of fund-raising and awareness-raising.
Piggieballah threw the bat, to the chagrin of AR Border in the ABC commentary box, and his second innings was finished within five overs of the resumption.
CJL Rogers c&b SG Borthwick 119 (8/255)
RJ Harris c MJ Carberry b SG Borthwick 14 (9/266)
PM Siddle c JM Bairstow b WB Rankin 4 (10/276)
NM Lyon not out 6.
SG Borthwick 3/33 from 6 overs.
“We’re different here, pal,” said Piggieballah.
“Not so different,” said Albion, padding up for the last innings in the series, requiring 448 to win, with 2 days and 2 sessions in which to make them.
“What are you talking about, you supreme doofus?” said Piggiebalah.
AN Cook c BJ Haddin b MG Johnson 7 (1/7, 2nd over)
“Think about it, Mr Dramaturgy,” said Albion. “It’s only three months since I was pissing all over the pitch at The Oval having won 3-0.”
“Well, what’s changed? I know you have a happy dressing room mine is despondent.”
“Yeah, that’s what’s changed, see?”
“But that’s not cause and effect,” said Albion, wisely.
IR Bell c DA Warner b RJ Harris 16 (2/37, 10th over)
“Is yours a happy dressing room because you’re winning, or are you winning because you have a happy dressing room?” asked Albion.
“Precisely,” said Albion. “And I’ve had you 5/90-odd in most first innings on this tour. You’re not that great, you know.”
“No… I see your point.”
KP Pietersen c GJ Bailey b RJ Harris 6 (3/57, 14th over)
“But look at that,” said Piggieballah, as GJ Bailey takes a screamer over his head at bat-pad. “Every one of the team is in there whacking GJ Bailey on the helmet with love and affection after that catch. He is loved. He is intrinsic to this team. He’s made barely a run in first innings all summer, but he is a special part of taking this group of blokes from being a good team to being a great team.”
“Yes, I’ve wondered that,” said Albion.
“You need results to build a successful team, that’s true. But when you’re building a team, what do you look for? Any team now. A commentary team, a professional team, anything. You need results, but how do you get results? I’ll tell you. You need to set the right conditions for success. You set the right conditions, by supporting your characters. Your people with the social nous. The character. “
“Yes, I’m with you.”
“Yeah, it’s often called x-factor. That’s a lazy acknowledgement of just how intangible this ingredient is. But successful teams have it. Successful teams contain individuals who have it,” said Piggieballah. “Kerry O’Keefe, Stevie J, GJ Bailey. X-factor. Magical, people-drawing character.”
Tea is taken at 3/87 (MA Carberry 43*, GS Ballance 7*, 21 overs)
“Yes, I think you’re right. I have totally unravelled under your hostility. My characters have wilted, whilst yours have thrived.”
“I’ve dropped catches at inopportune moments. I’ve failed utterly to unlock BJ Haddin’s batting. But I’m not a 0-5 worse team than you.”
“In theory, I agree. But the scoreboard doesn’t lie.”
“In characters, I’ve lost IJL Trott. I’ve lost GP Swann. But I’ve found BA Stokes.”
“Yeah, he could be handy,” said Piggieballah. “But ability doesn’t equate to social nous.”
“You also won the toss four times.”
“Ha. It hasn’t helped you here.”
“So are you going to tough it out here? Push us into a fourth day?”
“No, I fail to see why. I’ve nothing whatsoever to play for. I expect we’ll all have the next two days off.”
MA Carberry c BJ Haddin b MG Johnson 43 (22nd over)
GS Ballance lbw b MG Johnson 7 (22nd over)
JM Bairstow c GJ Bailey b NM Lyon 0 (23rd over)
SG Borthwick c MJ Clarke b NM Lyon 4 (23rd over)
BA Stokes b RJ Harris 32 (30th over)
SCJ Broad b RJ Harris 42 (32nd over)
WB Rankin c MJ Clarke b RJ Harris 0 (32nd over)
JM Anderson not out 1
RJ Harris 5/25 from 9.4 overs, MG Johnson 3/40 from 9
“Jeez mate,” said Piggieballah. “You weren’t mucking around.”
“Neither, I might say, were you,” said Albion. “Throat balls to tail-enders to the last, I see.”
“5-0, champ. 5-0.”
“Do the ends justify the means, old boy?”
“I don’t know. That’s not for me to answer.”
Piggieballah and Albion eye each other warily. After 10 Tests in the space of six months, they are sick of seeing one other. Sick of video analyses of one other, talking about one another, searching for weaknesses in one another. They could do with a break.
And break up they do, each splintering into their component parts for a relatively trite presentation ceremony. It’s been a mighty six months. A mighty rush of skill and execution from all players. Well done, all of them. Ten were playing the 1st northern Test at Nottingham but absent today: IJL Trott, GP Swann, JE Root, MJ Prior, ST Finn, EJM Cowan, PJ Hughes, MA Starc, JL Pattinson, AC Agar.
For the record here,
RJ Harris declared man-of-the match.
MG Johnson declared man-of-the-series.
Australia 5 – England 0.
To paraphrase Sean Curtain’s great observation on the Almanac after Day 1 here, implausibility is dead. Long live implausibility.
MJ Clarke is interviewed on the ground. Reflecting on the tour of England, he says: “That’s life. You have your ups and downs. Maybe you need to reach rock bottom to realize that you need to make changes.”
And so, a life without revelation is no life at all.