Winning the Ashes, for Australian cricket fans, is tonic for recent humiliation, at home and abroad. Fists have pumped. Smiles have fractured scowls. Mates have reasons to drink beer instead of drinking to find reasons.
But three-nil, for all that grandeur, doesn’t unite the nation as most cricket fans would expect. It wasn’t as though 21-million people screamed in unison when the Ashes were won.
Millions of Australians couldn’t care less. Victory, for some, isn’t reason for celebration.
There is a man I know who is similar to most men, hard working, friendly and polite, married with kids. Pete likes a beer and a good time. He loves rugby league and enjoys cricket, with a caveat.
‘I like cricket when Australia lose,’ he said.
‘Really,’ I said. A statement like that creates dozens of questions, but I didn’t ask any.
‘I hate the arrogance and the aggression,’ Pete said. ‘It’s cricket and Clarke tells Anderson to get ready for a broken fucking arm.’
We had work to do, and despite Pete’s dislike of the Australian team, I turned the radios on anyway, downstairs and in the garage. Pete’s desire wasn’t going to disturb my hope that Australia might win in Adelaide.
England was 1-40 as we sat and planned the day’s work. The 9x6m carport was basically a meccano kit, seven poles, six lengths of C-channel, seven roof battens and 12 roof panels. We hoped to get all the posts in the ground by stumps.
As Pete set levels through the dumpy, Joe Root tried to set Nathan Lyon over the fence and got caught.
‘Root’s out,’ I said, trying a smile.
We manoeuvred a pole into place and Pete got on a step ladder, checking the clearance above the garage. It was hot and windy.
Pete measured the pole with the dumpy as I mixed concrete. The mixer drowned out Warner’s one-handed catch to dismiss Carberry. We were filling a hole when Pietersen got caught.
There was no celebration. As Pete looked at the pole through the dumpy, England was looking helpless.
Measurements are crucial on any job. Pete is a good builder. We measured constantly, off the slab, sideways, front ways and checked the height.
Cricket was being measured too, in terms of runs and speed. Johnson was reaching 148km as the pole was three millimetres too low.
The ABC broadcast, as Johnson took three wickets in an over, was heard busy. We didn’t have time to stop work and stand around the radio. As Johnson went off, the concrete was going off and the pole was now seven millimetres too high.
The mixer swirled as English hopes churned.
Jonathon Agnew described Johnson eyeballing Anderson, look at that glare, as Pete was peering through the dumpy. The height was right, England was not and I was holding the pole instead of clapping.
Pete applied the stabilising clamps to the pole. England had been clamped, but at 8-150 they were unstable.
We set four poles by three then spent an hour trying to get a square on the remaining three. Pete and I sat at the table, trying to remember how to measure the hypotenuse.
In England’s dressing room, players were sitting idle, trying to remember how to play fast bowling.
We couldn’t figure out how to square the front poles so Pete left at four, promising to return on Sunday.
I called my father, Bill, and explained the issue. ‘We can’t figure out where to put the poles at the front of the garage to make sure they are square with the poles at the back.’
‘Oh Jesus Christ,’ Bill said. ‘You always go off the existing building. Set a line off the outside of the garage and measure how much the back pole is inside that line. Then you set the front pole the same distance inside the line.’
I laughed. Bill did too. Nothing beats experience. Nothing beats feeling dumb. We are always learning from our parents.
When Pete turned up on Sunday, with England 2-20, he wanted to know why Clarke didn’t let Warner get his hundred and then declare.
‘Test hundreds are hard to get,’ I said. ‘There are two days to play. That’s enough time for Warner to get his hundred or get out trying.’
Pete was nodding.
‘It’s a tough call.’
I explained the phone call with my father. Pete set a line. We planted a pole as Root and Pietersen dug in. Their 111-run partnership was barely heard above the mixer and Pete’s calls of three mil high or five mil low.
When Siddle bowled Pietersen for 53, Pete shook his head. ‘They were doing so well,’ he said.
‘They were.’ I tried to sound sympathetic but didn’t get there.
When Bell went out for six, we had another post in the ground, squared and level, held up by timber and clamps.
After the final pole was set, Pete and I drove to the local shops. His car radio was tuned to FM. Instead of Jim Maxwell and Kerry O’Keefe, the sound was Hunters and Collectors.
I didn’t ask him to change the station. Pete does not have to love Australian cricket. I’ve borne my own feelings of unpatriotic support. I admired the West Indies so much I copied Michael Holding’s bowling action, with virtually no success. Unfortunately I got more of his batting ability.
Two years ago I purchased half a dozen DVDs of Australia losing Test matches to the West Indies. I didn’t mind losing to them, because they were so damn good.
Is that unpatriotic???
When Australia won the Ashes in Perth, I sent Pete a text, we right for Saturday? We were. On Saturday, we worked for eight hours in Brisbane’s heat.
I didn’t mention cricket once. There is no harm in that. I don’t talk AFL to mates who follow league. I never talk soccer to anyone. You don’t need to talk about sport, just to be talking.
Besides, Pete and I had plenty to talk about as the carport was assembled.
There is no doubt the Australian team, for decades, have embraced on-field aggression and written it off as sledging.
Such is cricket… A lot of people, including myself, don’t mind seeing it.
But not everyone has to like it.