The Ashes 2015 – Second Test Preview: Dear Prudence

“Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play?
Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day”

– The Beatles, Dear Prudence

Walking in London for the first time in 2003, I rapidly formed the view that stories of centuries were collected on every corner; a patina of language, verse, argument, narrative, event. “Ah, there’s Downing Street.” “Ah, there’s St. James’ Palace.” “Ah, Chancery Lane, the Tower of London, Westminster.” And still, astride this collection of theme-park wonderment and sites of both historical and fictional import, I would be gobsmacked anew with a frequency itself I found gobsmacking.

So it was that I found myself surprised yet again (slow learner), upon disembarking at the St. John’s Wood Tube Station, a-hunting this time the Home of Cricket, to be greeted not only with daylight at the ground-level turnstiles, but with a shop selling Beatles merchandise. It was late in the northern summer. No cricket was scheduled this day; my tube journey was aimed squarely at laying eyes on the entrance gates to the fabled MCC. And now here was a lingering John, Paul, George and Ringo to address. Why?

With pop culture levels exploding once more into the red zone, synapses popping, I approached the bespectacled seller of t-shirts, posters, spoons, tie-clips, hats, mouse-pads (remember them?) and postcards.

– G’day mate. Why all the Beatles gear at St. John’s Wood station?

– Abbey Road, sir. It’s just around the corner. You know it?

Know it? It had been the soundtrack to an unforgettable period in my life. That’s another story, one, like a good episode of Neighbours, in which all of anticipation, hope, delusion, foolishness, abject despair and dazzling radiant excitement all play starring roles. I knew it.

Like the proverbial duck on the lake, my calm exterior belied an inner turmoil of activity. I was paddling like crazy. Of course the only photographic evidence existing from my sojourn to the Home of Cricket that day is of a single white man crossing at the pedestrian crossing.

We learn from history.

Walking the very zebra crossing of John, Ringo, Paul and George was strangely thrilling; and like stepping onto an aeroplane, the thrill of the event was out of proportion to what may analytically appear to be not much at all. And so, back in London in 2014, this time with family, I visited again.

And yes, the thrill lives on.

We learn from history.
We are contextualized by our history.

 

==

Lord’s cricket ground. The 2015 touring Australians are 0-1 down after one Test. The manner of the defeat raised well-publicized concerns. So far the list of concerns includes: foreign Test wickets; SR Watson; the mental state of MJ Clarke; mis-placed aggression generally; alarming profligacy with the ball; BJ Haddin; the Dukes ball itself; an ankle injury to MA Starc and old age. There are more.

Hitherto unremarkable in his role as international diplomat, JM Anderson has stirred the emotional pot by suggesting that the Australians refused a post-Test beer. Anti-diplomat-at-large, MA Hayden has responded by labelling the England Number 11 as a “clown.”

It all appears to be going south. And now, SR Watson and BJ Haddin have missed selection from the First Test team. An old chestnut of a selection quandary that covers the full 360 degrees (of any round-ish chestnut) says: a winning team is a stable team is a happy team is a winning team is a stable team is a…

Prior to the Brisbane Test against England last time around, JN Gillespie opined that, regardless of the final composition of the Australian XI for that First Test, that the same XI would be selected for all Tests of the summer. He was right. A stable team is a happy team is a winning… Despite a lack of runs, GJ Bailey held his spot through to Sydney.

Injuries and form, though, like the Roast of the Day, are variable. Conditions for playing, too, are variable. In overseas tours since that England whitewash, Australia have lost Tests in bouncy South Africa and were whitewashed in sandy United Arab Emirates (to Pakistan). Even the World Cup–winning Australian 50 over side lost their only pool match played not on an Australian pitch.

Enough evidence exists to suggest that playing cricket in England (and India and Dubai and New Zealand) is quite a different exercise to doing so in Australia. What does this mean? It means different skills and behaviours are required to succeed.
The ball itself may be different.
The soil is certainly different.
The amount of incident shortwave radiation is different.

Children and students of all ages are sagaciously told with solemnity and enthusiasm alike, that “practice makes perfect” in learning pursuits. 10,000 hours of practice seems an arbitrarily declared benchmark required to achieve an elite standard (of anything; golf, tennis, hotdog eating). And yet, how many hours of practice have our Australian cricketers demonstrated under English conditions? Aside from CJL Rogers, with 74 first class centuries, many in England, and many hours spent in their composition, not many.

Of course, hours, days, weeks, months of a lifetime spent playing and practicing cricket under Australian conditions are worth something. An echidna and a hedgehog play similar roles in their respective ecological niches. Indeed, while an echidna may be compared superficially with a hedgehog, fundamental differences are obvious under rudimentary examination. Different skills, different behaviours, different conditions.

We learn from history?
Not in our selection of Australian Test teams for away fixtures, we don’t.

Not in the behaviours of individuals, we don’t.

==

But, it’s sport, and magically, anything can happen.
Lord’s.
The egg and bacon ties.
The slope.
The spaceship.
The ridge.
The honour boards.
The Long Room.
Father Time.
It’s all there to be taken in.
To be watched from afar.
To be experienced.
For feet to tread on ground, the very ground, where so many have before.
Where stories of centuries are collected on every corner; a patina of language, verse, argument, narrative, event.
Australia: prudence; Dear Prudence.

Play.

Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, 1968:

Check out Ladbrokes prices for this round

Second Test prices. Who should be favourite?

About David Wilson

@e_regnans muddling along.

Comments

  1. Excellent ER. Don’t be fooled by the masterly English “niceness” around the beer after the game. They are winning the mind games and this is a great example. The Poms have no intention of having an ale after a day’s play. In fact, JM Anderson has previously said as much. But in suggesting it first, knowing the Aussies would decline, gives them (as Seinfeld would say) “hand”. The Poms can be, and are, just as dirty as the Aussies when it comes to destroying sportsmanship (see the outrageous time wasting in 2009 at Cardiff on the last day). They just cover it up with poncy accents and red cheeked, Public School manners.

    No, the Poms are not all white and innocent. And neither are we. I concur with your message here – just play.

  2. Well spoken Dips. If anecdotal information can be relied on Jimmy Anderson is international crickets numero uno sledger extraordinaire. If the Aussies don’t want to drink him with him, that males good sense.

    For both sides one simple message should resonate – just play.

    Glen!

  3. Peter_B says:

    “Anticipation, hope, delusion, foolishness, abject despair and dazzling radiant excitement .” You have captured my life perfectly ER. Mind if I borrow the list?
    Cricket, schmicket – I say. Congrats on choosing the Beatles and Abbey Road over Lords.
    I’ll be glued to the Tour de France tonight with an occasional score check on Cricinfo while trying to live stream the British Open golf from somewhere.
    Thanks for putting it all in perspective for me.
    Phil Walsh, Neil Lawrence, Nick Cave – suddenly Eagles v Pies seems like fun – not life and death.
    Give BIb and Bub an extra squeeze tonight. I think I’ll ring my dad (before the crickets starts).

  4. e.r.
    London 2013, with my wife and three sons.
    We pre-booked on-line a “London day pass”, which allowed us access to as many sights and spectacles as we could shoe-horn into one long day.
    All planned the night before, Lord’s was the second stop after the Tower of London.
    And what a magnificent tour Lord’s was, the ground being prepared for the Ashes Test only days later, and a tour-guide who went above and beyond the call of duty.
    Although it was not on the tight schedule, I insisted that we take in Abbey Road whilst in St John’s Wood.
    My wife positioned herself with camera just up from the crossing, and with huge crowds milling at either side of the crossing, said “You four will only get one chance at this!”
    Our keepsake of that hectic day (Emirates Stadium and a couple of other sites also) is a great photo of myself and my sons strolling across Abbey Road. A photo for the ages!

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