Apparently I am psychic. Stevo thinks so, anyway. Of course, he wasn’t checking his phone regularly during the day, so the text message he read was hours old.
I could’ve basked in the glory. Being a psychic is kinda neat, but I explained my text was aimed at Monty Panesar, who did the same thing Michael Clarke did. And, it must be remembered, they did the same thing Michael Carberry did.
When I was younger, I would watch every ball of the first day of the Boxing Day Test. I went to a few. A couple of times I had my first beer as the first ball was being bowled. Now I don’t have that luxury, and I live in Brisbane.
Psychic or not, I didn’t see a ball bowled live on the first day but I barely missed a ball, thanks to the ABC. Everywhere I went, there was the broadcast.
During the Test, I kept in touch with my brother and a few mates by way of text message.
Winning the toss seemed lucky, four in a row for Michael Clarke, but I figured he had given England a belated Christmas gift. Before going for a ride on my new bike, I sent a text, Clarke wins the toss and bowls??? What???
The responses were sparse:
Simon: good one, not.
Matt: Or silly.
Adam Lewis: He has made a lot of good captaincy decisions, so let’s see if this is another. Our bowlers have their tails up, the Poms are on the back foot, overcast cool conditions. Could be a masterstroke.
Matt: Mmm. Maybe. Ponting famously put England in back in 2005.
England batted carefully and slowly. When Michael Carberry shouldered arms to Shane Watson, my phone beeped. Simon’s text was simple, what a ball.
His text half an hour later bespoke of ill fortune:
Simon: Wato gone.
Matt: What, has he done a hammy or calf or groin?
It didn’t take long for the ABC to diagnose the injury, a groin strain. Had to happen to Watson sooner or later, I thought.
At stumps, England was 6-226, solid but vulnerable. They were seventy runs short of a good day. Australia was two wickets short. I worried that Kevin Pietersen might score big runs, finally, when it didn’t matter.
Adam L sent me a text:
Adam L: Finely balanced Test match. Just got to get the edge.
Matt: Put a mirror on a good length (this was my attempt at suggesting Kevin Pietersen had a big ego).
When day two began, I was cleaning up the garage. Thankfully I have a TV in the garage. It didn’t take long for my fears to be allayed. Mitchell Johnson ended up with five wickets. Nathan Lyon bowled Monty Panesar, who didn’t play a shot. I sent a happy text.
Matt: Great leave that one. Great morning for the Aussies. Be good to be there.
Andy: Go Monty.
Matt: You said he was a good batsman.
Andy: He is
Simon: Well left idiot.
Matt: That’s a rare shot. Or you could use another adjective.
Simon: Awesome stuff.
Matt: Pietersen is silly. Does he know how to bat with the tail?
Adam Lewis: I think Clarke would be happy with that. Looks like putting them in was a good call. How well is Mitch going?
Matt: He is bowling like I used to.
Adam Lewis: Get your hand off it.
Australia batted poorly. Simon was watching at the pub. When Clarke was bowled, shouldering arms, Simon’s text was angry.
Simon: What a fucking idiot.
Matt: Didn’t see it but heard it. Frustrating.
Adam L, watching in Hervey Bay, was just as aggrieved:
Adam L: Have we ever seen a duller cricketer than Chris Rogers?
Matt: He is trying really hard with limited skills. Plays within himself.
When Ryan Harris bunted a ball to short leg, The Pole sent me a text:
The Pole: Ryan Harris bats like you.
Matt: Ryan Harris bats like you.
The Pole: I already said that. The only difference between you and Harris is he had his eyes open.
Matt: I bowl like Ryan Harris. You bowl like a rhino.
The Pole: You’re silly.
Matt: What’s that, white rhino?
At stumps on day two, with Australia 9-164, my text message was obvious.
Matt: Awesome idea by Clarke to bowl first.
Simon: Yeah. Smart decision by a dumb captain. That was fucking pathetic. Bowlers do a brilliant job and are again let down.
Adam G: I’ve hardly watch any of this Test, so no loss.
Matt: I haven’t watched much but have listened to it all. My interest to work has overridden my interest to watch. The Ashes are won. What happens now won’t change that.
Adam G: Did you hear that Skull is retiring after this season?
Matt: Played first class cricket for 13 years. Got given a commentary gig for one Test and lasted 13 years. Skull has some detractors but he brought a lot to the ABC broadcast. He was also tactically astute.
Adam G: And awesome. Apparently second in popularity only to Richie. He is the reason Susan would listen to Test cricket on radio. And I told him so when he MC’d a device Xmas party. I think he will be back within a year to a commercial deal paying big bux to c him through to his 70th birthday.
Matt: He is only 64. He said cricket is changing too fast but he could’ve stuck to the Tests and not worried about the rest. He will be missed. Google Kerry O’Keefe and listen to him and Harsh Bogle talking about Skippy and chilly. I did last night.
Adam G: Okay. Still think he will be back after some time off. And at a commercial station. Nothing wrong with that. He’s done his apprenticeship.
Before the start of play on day three, I called Stevo and explained I am more sidekick than psychic. We talked about the state of play, which saw Australia in trouble, as they had been on various occasions throughout the series.
Perhaps I am psychic, or an optimist, but I told Stevo that Nathan Lyon would get about twelve runs and Brad Haddin would hit another 30. The conversation otherwise was short. I had work to do, and the cricket was on.
Day three saw me in the garage, with the ABC broadcast and the TV, with the sound turned down. England started well. Carberry couldn’t hit the ball off the pitch but Cook attacked. His innings of 51 was too short, for his team and his confidence. Johnson did the damage.
Carberry was LBW to Peter Siddle with the score on 86. When Root was run out by Johnson without a run being added, I was overcome by England’s sense of panic. Ian Bell was too, his gentle bunt caught by Johnson. Bell’s innings lasted two minutes and one ball. It took me longer to run a damp cloth across two tables.
I sent a text:
Matt: You know when Bell is in things are sounding ominous.
Nick: His bell got rung.
About an hour later, Simon, who was at a party, sent a speculative text:
Simon: Who’s in?
Matt: Pietersen 14 and Stokes 13. 4-155 and lead by 206.
About an hour later, I was at a family Christmas party. The Australian’s were also having a party, with England losing 5-6 and getting bowled out for 179.
I sent a text:
Matt: Good thing Clarke decided to bat second. You know when Lyon has the ball in his hand things are about to happen. Usually it is boundaries.
Andy: Or sixes.
Simon: Well if they don’t throw their wickets away we’ve got this.
Matt: Watson is good for at least 12.
Simon: Yeah, 12 balls. Can they make 50 without losing a wicket?
Matt: Sure can.
Stevo: Once again like a violet crumble. What a disgrace.
Matt: 231 not easy but gettable.
Adam L: How good is Test cricket? Watson needs to produce when the pressure is on. 231 won’t be a gimme, but surely we can.
Matt: We can and should. And you’re right. Test cricket is the best cricket.
Adam L: Give Lyon some credit. Yes, he’s a plonker of a bowler, but he stepped up when needed. Siddle and Harris were quiet today.
The Pole: Lyon’s record is exemplary. He has never been dismissed.
Matt: What does exemplary mean?
The remnants of Christmas lingered on the fourth day. I was exhausted. For the first time in a long time I watched without working. Though the TV was on, I was listening to the ABC broadcast.
The result was never in doubt. England had nothing. My heartbeat barely rose above dead. It was exciting, without being exciting. When it was over, I sent a text:
Matt: You know England have given up when Watson gets runs. Great win by Australia. Love it. Fuck the Poms.
Adam L: We broke their spirit, what a humiliating turnaround. Loved the match.
Matt: Yep, they lost 3-1 from five balls and 5-6… Embarrassing.
Adam Gangur: Yep fuck em. I bet their dressing room showers don’t see a drip of water.
Matt: Someone might piss down Cook’s back. He will believe it is raining.
The Pole: Good thing Clarke decided to bat second.
The Boxing Day Test was a classic. It ebbed and flowed. It was boring, exhilarating and frustrating. Australia won, and the text message exchanges provided their own commentary, short nonetheless, but an insight into our fears, excitement, involvement and into victory.