Cook pops Australia’s bubble



Matt O’Connor

We caught the Ferry to the cricket. As a Melbourne boy, I don’t get to say that too often. Actually it was something called a River Cat, the river in question being the Parramatta. And if this is a river, then the Yarra needs a new name. The Yarra Brown Trickle, perhaps.

The Cat didn’t go all the way to the cricket. It pulled in at Circular Quay, which is square. My son Daniel and I joined a long bus queue, and while he was off getting me a coffee, I wrongly accused an elderly Englishman of pushing in. As it happened, he was rejoining his wife, so I apologised. Englishmen know their queues. I should have known better. We talked about the cricket media. I said I was storing up the English press stories on the series, hoping to pick them apart when the tide turned. He said he was amazed at the Australian media’s savaging of Ricky Ponting.

We joined the Gate E throng. Gate E is the entry for three-quarters of the SCG, so there is usually a throng. It was only then that I realised it was Glen McGrath Foundation day, pink in abundance. There were no wicket-roars or four-roars while we waited to get in. Jimmy Anderson and Alistair Cook were in occupation when we settled into our seats in the Bill O’Reilly Stand.

Cook is always in occupation. He never seems to leave the building. Reprieved by yesterday’s belated no-ball, he looked ominously comfortable in the early overs. Anderson however did not do the Annoying-Nightwatchman-Hanging-Around routine for too long, losing his off stump to Peter Siddle.

Collingwood joined Cook, and Clark brought on Beer. I had a Homer Simpson moment. Mmmm. Beer. Collingwood. Two of my favourite things, together again. Collingwood tried to bash his way into form, but that trick never works for natural born grafters. Ben Hilfenhaus judged his miscued slog well and Beer had his first Test wicket. At 5-226, we had ourselves the appearance of a contest.

Though not for long. For here began the Cook and Bell story, and here ended any silly notion that Australia might somehow square the series. The push for Ian Bell to bat up the order, with Peter Roebuck prominent in the campaign, grows stronger by the hour. On today’s showing, he has certainly got Collingwood covered and may be a more settling influence at number 4 than the enigmatic incumbent. Rock solid defence, crisp cover driving and the occasional swat over or through backward point pretty much told the Bell story. The Cook story was built around monumental patience, a punishing square cut and his insufferable ability to work anything on the stumps through the leg side.

The new ball came and went, frequently to the boundary. Clark switched his i-captain to shuffle, and the bowling and field changes multiplied. As the partnership grew, I found it harder to ignore the hubris of the English fans around me. Michael Hussey was given a rare trundle, and a Yorkshireman behind me declared this to be the “ultimate humiliation”. I couldn’t let this pass, suggesting that comprehensively losing five Ashes series in a row came closer to that mark (I should have said eight, but my maths weren’t quick enough).

Cook sailed past 100 and pushed on towards 150. The obligatory beach balls materialised in front of us as England’s lead grew. They spilled over the fence – as inevitably they must – whereupon they were apprehended by Crowd Safety staff in lurid lime shirts. These brave men had been equipped with standard issue beach ball poppers, which they deployed with disturbing ferocity, lest the balls be allowed to resume their nefarious activities.

It was all very entertaining, and may well have contributed to Cook finally losing concentration. He drove airily at Shane Watson (Australia’s best bowler today) and was well held low down by Hussey in the gully, for a measly 189. All up, he had now batted for over 36 hours in the series and was averaging in excess of 120. Surely the best Cook’s Tour of Australia ever.

Aleem Dar then adjudicated that Bell, on 67, had edged Watson through to Haddin. Bell paused, conferred with Matt Prior (a serial referrer) and referred. Hot Spot gave it not out, Snickko gave it out, Dar (apparently) changed his mind, and Bell batted on. And on.

We were on the return bus when Bell passed 100 for the first time against Australia. We were on the River Cat when he edged Mitchell Johnson to Clark. The umpires must have then decided that the light was too dim for Hot Spot, Snickko or Crowd Safety, and invoked the mercy rule six overs early with England 208 to the good.

The Ashes are gone, and so now is the series. We are being asked to learn new ways to watch Australia play Test cricket, and the transformation is painful. I have never been as fascinated by beach balls as I was today. I should get a job in Crowd Safety – or in the England top six.


  1. Matt – that would have been a tough day at the office. We’ll have to put up with cocky Poms telling us how its done for the next few years. Horrible thought. Bit like seeing copy cat books published by the Collingwood Football Club telling all and sundry how to play footy and win flags. For some reason the Sex Pistol’s version of “I Did It My Way” comes to mind.

    I suppose we know how Carlton supporters now feel watching their once all-conquering team flounder in the far reaches of the eight (at best). The Aussie cricket team has a fair bit of floundering ahead.

  2. You’re right about the cocky Poms, Dips. I’d just like them to have a sustained run of success before using words like “humiliation”. The continued attack on Mitchell Johnson has also become a bit boring.
    As for books by the Collingwood FC, have I missed something since I departed for Sydney on New Year’s Day? Are you talking about Maxwell’s book on GF week? Surely my “How to Support a Team that Wins Premierships Every 20 or 30 Years” hasn’t hit the stands yet?
    Anyway, the oval ball game can’t come back on quick enough.

  3. I’m certain that there won’t be any books from the ECB, trust me, they are more than capable of imploding….be good to see the West Indies return to power, but more chance of AB returning as Captain!

  4. Phil Dimitriadis says

    MOC, I’m disappointed that you only mentioned Collingwood three times! Get your act together, we are the reigning Premiers!!!

  5. Andrew Starkie says

    James Anderson is ‘writing’ a book, apparently. Sure to be riveting.

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