Gabba Test – Day 4: One for the ages

Harry lives across the road.  It is a slow life.  At 94, he is cheerful and quick with a wave but is rarely seen, emerging from his house to check the letter box and tend to his rubbish bins.

 

When his wife died a few years ago, Harry ended up depressed, sitting on a chair beneath the house, bleeding from his wrists.  He drank weed poison then went upstairs to die.

 

His granddaughter, unable to rouse him by phone, paid a visit and followed the blood trail, finding him in the lounge.

 

Harry went to hospital for six weeks and returned to his empty house, somewhat battered but otherwise alive.

 

In a dozen years I’ve talked to Harry about a dozen times.  Generally we wave and say hi.  Last year I fixed his bin, which had lost its wheels.

 

‘I was going to call the council,’ Harry said.  ‘Might’ve taken them days.’

 

Fixing his bin left me feeling good.  A few days ago, Harry was on the street, retrieving the bin.  I carried Angus across the road for a chat.  Harry was doing fine.

 

We barely know each other.  I’m sure he doesn’t remember my name.  I introduced Angus.  My kid waved.  Without anything to talk about, I asked if he’d been watching the cricket.

 

‘Rogers is out,’ Harry said, shaking his head.  His grey hair ruffled.  He needed a trim.  ‘He got surprised by a short one from Broad.’  Harry imitated the shot, and played it left handed.  ‘Got caught in the slips for one.’

 

I made a disappointed face.

 

‘Warner is batting with Watson,’ Harry said.  ‘I like watching Warner bat but he tries to score off every ball and gets out too easy.’

 

‘He plays Tests like they’re a one day game,’ I said.

 

‘Got plenty of time,’ Harry said.  ‘Doesn’t play like it.  I liked Langer and Hayden better.’

 

‘Everyone did,’ I said.  ‘Enjoy the Test.’

 

Angus waved and said bye.

 

Harry grinned and dragged the bin inside.

 

During the third day of the Test, I couldn’t help but think about Harry, alone across the road.  He probably has a television the size of a beer carton.  Maybe he falls asleep in front of the cricket as the day gets old.

As Warner and Clarke began to dominate, I hoped Harry was watching intently, admiring how Warner built his innings.  When the declaration came, I felt like going across the road and asking Harry if Clarke should’ve batted on.

 

When England lost two wickets late in the last session, I hoped Harry was cheering to the walls as I was.  Age doesn’t dampen enthusiasm.

 

On Sunday, we were out, a mate’s birthday function and an informal tour of a house that might be on the market soon.

 

Cricket was on the radio but I missed Pietersen’s wicket.  We were on the way home when Bell was caught behind.  I let go of the wheel briefly to pump both fists.

 

A ferocious storm halted play during the second session.  Washing had to be wrenched off the line and hung beneath the house.  When play resumed, Angus and I were under the house as Cook, who played a dedicated innings, went out.

 

I was so happy I picked Angus up and gave him a kiss.  ‘He’s out,’ I said.  ‘Not long now.’

 

Later, after a poor piece of parenting, I took my boy for a swim to alter his mood.  We were swimming when Prior went out.  I couldn’t hear the radio above Angus’s delight.

 

Another storm forced the players from the field and us into the house.  Channel 9 gave up their coverage and played an embarrassing episode of Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  The ABC remained steadfast, and announced that the storm had petered out, like England’s innings was.  Play would restart at 5pm.

 

The television was on, but the sound belonged to the ABC.  I couldn’t sit and watch, not because of the tension, but the need to vacuum and put clean sheets on the bed.  The kitchen needed tidying.  When Tremlett was caught, I was tying a rubbish bag.

 

With one wicket left to get, domestic chores were halted.  I had the armchair.  Angus had my lap.  We watched cricket.  Johnson and Harris maintained the assault, short and fast, at the body and the head.

 

Angus is 20-months old.  He is gaining an education, how my moods alter during a game.  Men try not to swear in front of their kids, but sport speaks all languages, particularly the bad variety.  He sat silent as I talked out loud when Lyon rooted the chance to run out Root.

 

When Johnson caught Anderson to end the Test, Angus fed off my excitement.  He pointed at the television like an umpire blazing out a batsman.

 

‘That’s right,’ I said.  ‘He’s out.’

 

Looking through the lounge room windows, Harry’s house stood tall and silent.  I hoped he was watching.  I wanted him to be excited, maybe on his feet, pumping his fists.  Age doesn’t temper the excitement of Test cricket.

 

Harry was born in 1919.  He has watched cricket through the ages, seen so many legends, so many men who helped shape and define the summer game.

Too many names to ponder, in teams led by famous Australian captains.  Harry would also have memories of those magnificent men who invaded Australia’s shore to win the Ashes, a trophy or hard-earned respect.

 

If growing old is a privilege, Harry has achieved greatness.  He has recovered from depression after his wife’s death.  And he is still watching the cricket.

 

As Channel 9 rewound through the dismissals, I kissed Angus on the cheek.  Timeless Tests are no longer played, but Test cricket is a timeless game.  Harry is 94.  I am 43.  Angus is 20-months old.

 

I want to be watching cricket at 94.  I want Angus to be watching cricket at 94.  I want him to be watching cricket with daddy now, so he understands no matter what happens in life, there will always be something to look forward to.

 

And you can always talk to an old man about cricket…

 

 

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…

Comments

  1. Cat from the Country says

    Great story.
    Hope you speak to Harry more during the second and susequent tests. 94, 43 & 20 months can all have a good time together.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Enjoyable story but go on knock on his door and ask , Harry if you can watch the cricket together I reckon he might appreciate it
    All the best , Iron Mike

  3. craig dodson says

    Great story, agree with Malcolm if you have a spare half hour during the next test grab two beers from the fridge and spend an hour watching with Harry.. Will make his day I’d say.

    As a parent of a little fella myself I can relates to your aspirations for Aungus. The simple joy of sitting with your son watching the cricket is priceless

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