Monthly Archives: June 2013

Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jun 29

Day 4 – Somerset V Australia

The batsmen did their job this morning, making sure there were few distractions for the dressing room, concentrating as we were on the Wallabies Vs Lions Test from Melbourne.  Apparently, Mr Bean, Mr X and Lucky cruised along nicely in the pre-lunch session. They said it wasn’t too disconcerting that all they heard from the dressing room was raucous cries of “Off-side, Ref!” every time the Lions were defending. Fortunately, the real action happened in the lunch break. There was a huge roar when the Wallabies finally converted possession into that rarest of things, a try in an international rugby match refereed by this particular ref, who mistakenly thinks that the crowd is there to hear him give an 80 minute whistle recital while standing next to a scum.

Post lunch, the team got going with Wicky in particular celebrating the better than expected rugby result with some lusty hitting. His second 6 brought up the win.  The mood in the dressing room was rather up-beat – apart from Puff who is moping around a bit during his enforced layoff.  The Somerset boys joined us for the post-match re-hydration session, which was well underway when they pushed their luck just the right amount by presenting Puff with a set of boxing gloves, autographed by local lad Beefy Botham. He smiled diplomatically, but it was no surprize when The Prof found them in the bin as we were leaving. He parcelled them up the rest of the saleable paraphernalia he’d purloined during the match, and passed it to his ebay trader in two anonymous looking bin liners.  He’s convinced that we’re going to do well in the series, so he’s stock-piling the stuff ready to make a killing on-line in September.

Darren has almost given up on his quest to find a player who needs grief counselling in the wake of the dramatic departure of Coach1.0.  I think everyone has worked out that the only member of the squad in need of Darren’s services right now is Darren himself, and they don’t want to end up copping a one-on-one download from him. It was, therefore, a master stroke by The Freak to book Lucky in for a meeting with Darren straight after dinner tonight. I suspect Lucky was giving Darren a good listening-to, and they hadn’t emerged by the time we all headed back to our rooms.

Though there was no slackening of the team curfew, Coach2.0 continued to earn brownie points with the team when he said that we deserved a day off, so after the 100 mile bus trip to Worcester in the morning, there will be no training until Monday.

Somerset 320 and 260, Aust 5/321d and 4/263

Meet the Squad here

OUT NOWThe Ashes Files 2013. The secret applications file that Cricket Australia assembled when they threw applications open to all comers. Ebook available at amazon now.

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jun 28

Day 3 – Somerset V Australia

The Tour is now starting to settle into its natural rhythm, especially for The Reject Club – those of us who are on tour, but who are not going to get a game at the business end of procedings unless there are mass injuries or another outbreak of homework non-completion. Sure, there is a bit of competition around the margins, but The Prof and I are pretty sure that we can settle in for a summer of concentrating on our business ventures and improving our Angry Birds scores, interrupted only occasionally by engaging with the cricket.

After days of Dad trying to connect with me on skype in the middle of the night, we finally had a decent converstation before I left the hotel this morning.  He wants to know all about what’s going on with the Coach.  All I said was that it feels like someone has lanced a huge boil – while there’s a little scar, the goopy stuff has been wiped away and everything seems to be back to normal. All of a sudden, it’s all about the cricket again, and the players seem to be getting it.

Then he really wanted to know what I thought my chances of playing are. Being a Test incumbent in the wake of HomeWorkGate and 0-4 in India doesn’t count for much, it seems. He’s not bitter, and I guess I’m not either – even if I haven’t punched anyone lately. I kept reminding him that if the Mohali Four hadn’t been so stupid, I would never have got a hit in the first place. I guess he wants to fondle a well-worn Baggy Green, rather than an unused one, when I get back in September.

The weather back home has been diabolical.  Dad said that it’s been raining non-stop, with 200mm filling his rain gauge out by the garden shed.  I’m not convinced he doesn’t have the downpipe from the roof draining into it, but I guess it’s winter over there so it’s not so bad.  At least it’s looking dry here for the time being, not that the forecast max of 20 deg C for tomorrow feels much like the height of summer.

Dust to Dust Mr X Final TPlopper did OK today, bagging three without having to resort to the tactic of arranging for catches to be taken on the mid-wicket boundary. The team is looking forward to a good day at the crease tomorrow, and knocking off the 260 required to win. Mr Bean and Mr X will be under strict instructions to bat through the first session – we’ll all be watching the Wallabies/Lions rugby match, and don’t want to be distracted by the over-vigorous yelping of the Somerset bowlers. I’m sure the ump’s won’t be interested – they’ll be occupied with the live feed from the Lions game in their earpieces.

Somerset 320 and 260, Aust 5/321d and 0/36.

 

Meet the Squad here

OUT NOWThe Ashes Files 2013. The secret applications file that Cricket Australia assembled when they threw applications open to all comers. Ebook available at amazon now.

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

 

Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jun 27

Day 2 – Aust V Somerset

Dust to Dust Hollywood Final TThe bats jumped to attention this morning, delightfully stroking the Duke over the rope forward of square with increasing ease. At lunch 3/151, Hollywood belting 20 fours in even time in another almost century.  That was the best of it.  We crawled to 4/266 after lunch as the sky closed in.  Rain rubbed out the rest of the day.

The Freak relaxed in the sheds, hands behind his head, content that the Petition for Batting Form he circulated at breakfast has had some impact. The petition attracted 87 signatures, including those of two recent and one likely Prime Minister, and a party of Mandarin-speaking Duke-wavers just arrived from Hong Kong who had supplied cash, tips and credit cards as well as their signatures, thinking that The Freak and Trapper were Immigration Officials.  The Captain brought the shutters down when The Freak split the line into cricketers and non-cricketers, and Trapper started recruiting the Chefs and Reception staff to process the long line of Taunton locals in the high street waving asylum and S457 visa applications.  “Conservative austerity to repay the profligate legacy of British Labor is tough medicine,” he said. “We don’t want to antagonise the local population by processing their best cricketing talent.”

The petition was duly presented to Coach who added his John Hancock with a flourish visible to all and read out the petitioners names, adding the wives, girlfriends and Dad’s for impact.  He said he would do his best to prevent any Canberra-style ministerial blood-letting in the batting unit but the polls and the betting market must improve.  He handed the list to the Girl from Marketing who began to mix what looked like fertiliser with a sticky white powder in the soggy lees of Darren’s cornflakes bowl.  ”

While we wait, it is KP’s birthday today.  I have sent him a small gift.  Whoever gets it right can burn the petition.”
“A birthday cake?”
Coach scowled. “No.”
“A wide bat?”
“Close, but no”
“A bigger box?”, which provoked some chuckling from The Chinamen and Hotel Chefs .
“A smaller box?” someone countered, to more guffawing.
“A Thesaurus?”
“A six pack pair of striped long johns from Bodin?” squeaked the girl from marketing, shaking with pleasure at her contribution.
“No” roared Coach.
“A night out with The Captain?” barked a muffled voice.
“Who said that. Identify yourself!” One of the asylum seeking Chinamen raised a crooked Billy Bowden arm “Brussel sprouts?”
“A cigar? Carrots? A joke about his mother?”
“NO!”

The conversation was interrupted by a flash of light from the mixed accelerant that set the petition ablaze, radiating a staggering amount of heat which warmed our hands and entranced the assylum seekers no end.  We cleared out to the waiting buses when the flames spread to the kitchen just as the fire brigade arrived.

We returned to the hotel in dribs and drabs in the late afternoon via a local watering hole. Tradesmen were everywhere fixing the roof, rewiring burnt electricals, replastering and ainting.  The breakfast bar was blocked by police tape and “Closed until Further Notice.”  The Police in riot gear were interviewing the applicaants and Reception staff.  Some of the Chinamen pointed in our direction when they saw The Freak and Trapper waltz through the revolving doors, but the police waved us through unmoved to the lobby lounge.   The girl from marketing was surrounded and escorted to one of the back rooms for questioning, much to the amusement of Darren who now reports to her.

A short girl from the local primary school found me soon after, sipping a short black in conversation with Hollywood, who feels that renewed confidence one gets from time on the field taking a bit of stick to the bowlers. She didn’t say much except that her mum would not be pleased with her report this term.  She gave it to me and asked how I would play it.  The child’s Report seemed ok.  A’s in Literature, History, Geography.  Not so good in Maths  – “C. Developing steadily,” it read.  Science “B. Doesn’t take astrology seriously, but keen on periodic table and simple charges,” it said.

“With a straight bat in the V,” I told her.

At the back was a folded yellow page that read:

“A Pret a Manger sandwich! KP loved it, but declined to indulge. Tasted just like the brandy mud cake the Kiwis sent him.  Signed  Deep Third.”

The Prof couldn’t decipher it either, until Coach2.0 joined the dots.

“I sent him a poo sandwich. Darren picked up the ingredients the other day.  The Chef kept it in the fridge watering it with French brandy to keep it moist.”
“But they ate it?”
“They were hungry. KP didn’t.”
“And the Kiwi’s?”
“They bought in bulk from the local pound and went big on it themselves.  Eat too much and it behaves like a 24 hour stimulant.”

The Kiwi-England T20 match was washed out.  No one really wanted to play anyway.  We certainly didn’t want to watch it.

Somerset 320, Aust 4/266

 

Meet the Squad here

OUT NOWThe Ashes Files 2013. The secret applications file that Cricket Australia assembled when they threw applications open to all comers. Ebook available at amazon now.

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jun 26

Day 1 – Australia V Somerset.

History never repeats
I tell myself before I go to sleep
Don’t say the words you might regret
I’ve lost before you know I can’t forget (Split Enz)

As in India, we just need to bust the big partnerships early.  Another second string County team (Somerset) flayed us all day with the bat to be 3/304 after tea, a nice first class degree boy but cricket nobody with an average of 18 banging us for a clean 130, and a Test discard pitching in for 81, before our blokes could be bothered swinging into action to skittle the next seven wickets for 16 in a 40 minute burst of unplayable bowling near the end.  Let KP suck on that for his birthday. Somerset all out 320.

White smoke over Canberra – Steven Lewis

Coach2.0 was very positive nevertheless.  Turning the bus around he said took about as long as it did for Kevin Rudd to shift Julia, Australia’s First Female Prime minister, from the top job.  But it is far better to do this with the FIRST new ball early in the morning than with the SECOND new ball late in the day when the damage is done.  He knew the Canberra coup had upset the delicate dynamic of team performance today and that the lead up had been destabilising team harmony for months.  Coach1.0 had missed all the signs and subtle innuendo, a comment in the showers, the anger at not winning the quiz night and beam balls in the nets.  He had been focused on outcomes – WINNING – not personalities.  And the axe had fallen from on high as it did in Canberra.  Coach2.0 knew the squad was split 5 ways  – Julia’s warriors, Kevin’s comrades, the Weeping Windshots (Indies), Abbott’s clerics, and Shorten’s swingers (the narcissist turncoats).  Coach is so good.  He spent time during the breaks today soothing, binding, papering, connecting and healing, offering solace and a friendly shoulder to those who needed it and keeping a case of bubbly cool for the stampeding lottery winners.

Coach2.0 talked us all through the stages of grief again at the debrief, so soon after the demise of Coach1.0.  Prof felt sure he was repeating himself word for word with the same syntax and cadence, the same pregnant pause.  At one stage Prof leaned forward – we were in the front row –  to touch Coach2.0 thinking he was a hologram, only to bump into a fleshy squelchy tummy.  Coach2.0 looked squarely at Prof then raised his voice for all to hear: “Yes, I am the Ashes Messiah.  I am on a Mission from God.”  He whipped out a pair of old sunglasses, a rumpled hat and a beer stained blue jacket, ready to launch into a rendition of the Blues Brothers. The place exploded with cheering.  Old political foes shook hands and wished each other well.

“No hard feelings then”, I heard Lucky say

“None at all.”

“Would you mind removing your heel from my toe then?”

“Of course.”

“Would you mind occupying the crease until I can pad up?”

“Naturally”

There was a girl I used to know
She dealt my love a savage blow
I was too young, too blind to see
But anyway that’s history

When we resumed our seats, Coach2.0 continued “History casts no shadow.  What matters is what you do today, tomorrow, next week.  How focused you stay.”  Trust your colleagues, he said – they only want your position in the team.  Your spot is safe, he said, if you score runs or take wickets.  What happens on the field (Coach’s opinion poll) is what really counts.

Deep in the night, it’s all so clear
I lie awake with great ideas
Lurking about in no-man’s land
I think at last I understand

“History does repeat itself,” The Prof mentioned later.  We are rooming together again.   “Of course it bloody does” I replied.

“3 years and 2 days exactly since she and the short guy knifed Him, He and the short guy knifed her in the same room with the same knife – all the time a loyal pair devoted to each other, the higher cause of Nation building and Party. So heart felt and uplifting”.

I chuckled. “The Geek said the short guy swings a Duke further than Jimmy.”

“No one swings it as far as Jimmy.”

I read a short piece on the History of Taunton.  In 1865, the protestant Duke of Monmouth, an illegitimate son of Charles II, led an attempt to overthrow James II.  He intended to march on Bristol but was caught short in the Taunton area in June 1685, after a few County skirmishes with foot soldiers under John Churchill (the future Duke of Marlborough) and Louis de Duras, 2nd Earl of Faversham.  He had rather fancifully been crowned King on June 20 at the White Hart Inn in Taunton, a ceremony faithfully witnessed by the townspeople at the point of the sword. Monmouth was defeated heavily at the Battle of Sedgemoor on July 6 and was captured cowering in a ditch on July 8 from where he was removed to Tower Hill and summarily beheaded by the executioner Jack Ketch on 15 July.  William of Orange had tacitly supported Monmouth’s adventure.  James II suppressed the rebellion and grew a little insolent.  He suspended the Habeas Corpus Act, appointed Roman Catholics to senior posts and then dismissed Parliament in 1685.  When he established rightly succession with a son, William of Orange overthrew him in a coup d’etat in 1688 – the Glorious Revolution.

The Leader is dead! Long live the Leader!

History
Never repeats
Never repeats
Never repeats
Hey, hey, hey

Meet the Squad here

OUT NOWThe Ashes Files 2013. The secret applications file that Cricket Australia assembled when they threw applications open to all comers. Ebook available at amazon now.

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jun 25

Coach2

The first full day of the new regime reminded us all what cricket is all about. We went through all the drills – catching, throwing, running – followed by a robust net session.  Coach2.0 quickly moved from observer to advice giver, sometimes having a quiet word in the ear of a bowler or batsman to help refine their technique, sometimes yelling at Lucky when he knicked another one.

Darren was hanging around at training, still convinced his counselling skills would be needed as members of the team moved from “denial” to “anger” as they process their grief at losing Coach1.0. The way the lads threw themselves into training, they’d skipped all the way through to “acceptance” in their sleep overnight.

Coach2.0 obviously has more to worry about than the formalities of Darren’s ongong employment, so instead just kept him busy running errands. The last one involved collecting a few “loads” of dog poo – “Fresher the better, mate,” was what someone heard him say. Eager to please, Darren returned about an hour later with a pile of steaming that surpassed Coach2.0’s requirements.  One of the new minions in track suits took the offending article, slipped it into a small esky, and whisked it away.  Curious.

With the Tour game on tomorrow, it was clear that “team bonding” was going to be low-key.  When Coach2.0 announced a Quiz Night, I was a little confused. Back home, these are normally very boozy affairs that end with a fund raising auction in which you end up buying something you don’t want, at a price that makes your aching eyes bleed when you read the receipt the morning after.

Instead, when we assembled in the hotel after dinner, it had the feel of an old-time bingo night. It was all home-made lemonade, pretzels and licorice allsorts. The dress-up theme was “When Grandpa was Young”, but UnLucky, as the oldest member of the squad, looked like he thought the theme was “Come as you are.”

We split into pairs and off we went.  The Prof and I would have been favourites if we’d managed to team up, but unfortunately Puff latched onto The Prof in the lift on the way down.

The first round of questions was all about cricket, and even the unfairly tall team of Mantis and Mr Darcy managed to get most of them right. They’d obviously done their homework – all of the questions were about Coach2.0’s playing career.

Next was politics.  “What was the code-name given to the secret informant in the Watergate Scandal?”  Everyone else laughed and huddled, writing down their answer.  The Prof and I just stared at each other across the room.  Deep Third was playing with our minds.  Just then, one of the hotel staff appeared and handed me an envelope.  “Message for you, sir,” he said.

dt_2406My hands were shaking as I opened the envelope. As expected, it was the same handwriting on the same Yorkshire letter head as before.

“Good move with the coach. Don’t believe what you read in the press – Flower and Cook are worried.”

I nodded to The Prof and shoved it into the front pocket of my dungarees. We’d deal with that later.  Now to the more pressing matter at hand – “Who is the current Prime Minister of Australia?”

Let’s see what tomorrow brings – we’re aiming to give KP something to think about on his birthday – he’ll already be reflecting on England’s lastest loss to NZ.

 

Meet the Squad here

OUT NOWThe Ashes Files 2013. The secret applications file that Cricket Australia assembled when they threw applications open to all comers. Ebook available at amazon now.

© 2013 Dave Cornford, Jeremy Pooley & Jock Macneish

Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jun 24

Coach

Dawn broke over Bristol to a new reality.  The Coach had fallen on his sword – or been pushed – so now everything must change.  I tried not to read the papers over breakfast, no doubt the English press would be having a field day. This was supposed to be the glorious first day of the Ashes campaign, with the whole squad assembling in Taunton for the Tour match against Somerset.

I’m sure the remaining members of the Mohali FourHollywood, Mr X and Rocket Man – didn’t want to appear to be dancing around on Coach’s grave, but cigars at breakfast was a bit of a give away.  I guess they expected to be asked to put the filthy things away by hotel staff, but it was the newly arrived Media Officer, sporting a back suit, sunglasses and an earpiece, who swooped on the offending articles before the first glorious exhale had passed their lips.  They still had stupid grins on their faces until the suited one pulled out an iPad Mini, looked at each one in turn, then tapped the screen a few times.  He looked like a school prefect who was about to abuse their power against the naughty Year 9 boys.

Dust to Dust Darren Final TCoach was no where to be seen. The Prof assured me he’d moved to another hotel late last night, to get out of the way of the new broom. Darren, team psychologist, was the last to arrive at breakfast, looking like death warmed up. There was little doubt he’d been crying all night. While I can’t see any changes happening in the playing squad as a result of the change in coaching staff, hangers on must all feel a little insecure.

He tapped his spoon against his glass. “Excuse me, boys.  If anyone thinks that a little grief counselling would be helpful, I’m available,” he said, lower lip a-quiver.  The Freak looked up from his full English breakfast – it was clear he was getting all the comfort he needed from a greasy sausage and a pile of fried mushrooms.

The Captain disappeared after breakfast to deal with official proceedings in the wake of the beheading. We were instructed not to speak the press and get on the bus to Taunton with as little fuss as possible. We were settling into an early afternoon training session at the new ground by the time he rejoined us, in the company of Coach 2.0. After a round of easy going handshakes, the session changed gear – everyone was focused on the job, keen to impress the new man in charge both with attitude and skill.  All of a sudden, for the first time on Tour, there was sweat everywhere.  It was a good sign.

No one seemed to notice the “Trauma Recovery Teepee” that Darren had set up, suspended in the shade of a willow tree beside the practice nets.  I think he was expecting a steady stream of bereft players pouring out their grief-stricken souls to him in the privacy of his canvas haven. Instead, it wasn’t until Coach 2.0 called a halt to proceedings by cracking an esky full of the sponsor’s brew that Mantis and Mr Darcy were the first to approach.  They slowly spun the suspended tent around and around until the top rope could take no more, then let it spin.  There wasn’t a sound from psych until the tent finally came back to rest.  He stuck his head out of the flap, and threw up voluminously.  He’d obviously been taking solace in a packet or two of Tim Tams.

Back at the hotel, The “Start of Tour Dinner” went off without a hitch.  A few brief speeches and a hearty toast to absent friends punctuated a growing sense of excitement that was cut off at 10 when Coach 2.0 reminded us, with a cheeky grin, that tomorrow would be a “full day of training.”

As I write this, I’m sure that I can hear the faint sounds of a party going on somewhere in the hotel. Don’t they know there are international cricketers here, trying to get some sleep?

 

Meet the Squad here

OUT NOWThe Ashes Files 2013. The secret applications file that Cricket Australia assembled when they threw applications open to all comers. Ebook available at amazon now.

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

Coach Sacked – Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jun 23

Dust to Dust Coach Final TCoach was on tenderhooks this morning, and ripped into the Test hopefuls by name in ten minutes of raw power this morning. He was extremely agitated [Ed: Now we know why]. “One [expletive] hundred and bloody eleven,” he said, “AND then a second string side scores 3/164 while Dan Christian (one of us) murders Citizen Kane in broad daylight.”

“Who wants a spot in the First Test? Does it mean more to you than it does to me?” he roared. Without further encouragement, every pigeon plumed their feathers crying “Me, me, me!” as a forest of hands lifted high trying to outdo each other. This was about to turn ugly when he finally cracked a wry smile. “Last one on the bus is a rotten egg,” he said, making a run for it.

The Prof was very thoughtful on the way to the ground.  “Something’s up,” he said as we walked to the dressing room. “Something big.” He wouldn’t elaborate any further.

The Gloucester bats put on a brave show, falling 24 runs shy of victory.  All out 296. The Natural hit form but the newest Citizen went for a lot without a wicket.

We met the Gloucester lads later at their Bristol local.  The bus parked in a disused alley a few blocks from the pub – the Bristol cricketing gentry are well known for their artistic talents. Wicky bought the Gloucesters a pint or two to break the ice.  It wasn’t long before they produced a few wigs and sheepish smiles. They take defeat hard like we do.

The Captain arrived mid-afternoon with a police escort, the team emblem fluttering from the front bonnet of his black limo as he stepped onto the section of red carpet Coach laid over the curb side.  We lined the entrance jostling with the media hounds to get to the front with our autograph books.  The Captain was all smiles and hand signals, taking the fanfare in his stride, with his familiar brand of optimistic discipline.  The crowd ringed him with three loud cheers for the returning hero, and back slapping from the G’s which left him grimacing but put some pink into our general merriment.

The Gloucester Captain made an impromptu speech on the pub steps.  He was sorry they lost today, he said, but he is very confident that Australia will drive one Test into the fifth day due to rain.  The Captain palmed this little barb to fine leg in reply, regaling us all with studded tales of London shows, an A-list slumber party at Beck’s, and an Iron Age feast hosted by Heston Blumenthal at a hillside fort recently excavated by Time Team. Inside, beyond the prying gaze of the cameras, the G’s tried to lace our drinks with additives but the busy barmaid scrambled the order long enough for the quick drying rubber glue The Natural dabbed into the wigs to root fast to the Gloucester noggins.

We hung around to watch a rain delayed 20/20 Champions Trough Final that India won pretty much at the death, Mahi again making a few inspired on-field calls to swing the game into his grasp. India 7/129, England 8/124.   We finished up with handshakes all round.  The hairless Gloucester wags were particularly merry.

The team bus was waiting for us at the end in the back alley together with half of Bristol.  The bus had been spray painted in England colours and was wrapped in a blood red ribbon bowed neatly on the front and top. On each side were the words “Australian Cricketers Inside.  Crowned by the Swinging Duke”. The tyres bore the stains of injustice better than the doors, which split the stitched seam of a painted duke as they opened to let us in.  We chucked bags of round mints to the Bristol beauties but this was slim recompense for a heavily photographed prank behind a smiling Captain cursing under his breath:

“And every tongue, through utter drought was withered at the root;
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choked with soot.
Ah! well-a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.”*

Back at the hotel, The Prof came knocking at my door well after lights out. He had Mr X and The Freak in tow. “They’ve sacked Coach,” he said with a wink. We sat in siltence for a while. Heaven knows what would have happened if we’d choked in the Champions Trophy final.

They filed out after a few minutes. My phone started to vibrate with incoming texts and tweets – word was obviously out.  I turned it to silent, and got into bed.  A long day awaits tomorrow, with a trip to Taunton, the Ashes Squad together for the first time, and, apparently, a new Coach.

Meet the Squad here

OUT NOWThe Ashes Files 2013. The secret applications file that Cricket Australia assembled when they threw applications open to all comers. Ebook available at amazon now.

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

*‘Rhyme of the ancient Mariner’, Coleridge

Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jun 22

Day 2 – Australia A V Gloucestershire

The Prof was finishing an impromptu history lesson about Bristol to some of the team in the front rows when I strolled into the team meeting this morning. Coach shuffled a few papers into order, rather noisily, and called the meeting to attention. Darren ever watchful licked the tip of his 2B stub and began to scan the assembled throng for the woolgatherers and weak at heart. Not a head moved as Coach and the High Performance Chief set expectations for the day, as they had every day on Tour. We listened thoughtfully, nodding and laughing sagely in all the right places to keep Darren content, as Coach listed the A-list parties the doctors recommended The Captain attend this week as his back improves – all in the aid of charity mind you.  No hard feelings this end.

“Low cloud is predicted before lunch. Don’t let the sky fall in,” he said to polite shoe stamping from the management lackeys in the back rows “Gloucester had the wooden spoon last year and this is a second string outfit. Any questions?”

Darren stopped writing once more to watch.  No one knows how to look or behave except The Freak, who knows he will be selected and doesn’t care what anyone thinks, and the Prof, who met Darren yesterday for an off-the-record consult or “constructive feedback session” as Darren described it to me. Everyone else doesn’t know who to impress, apart from the scorer who is not a selector and doesn’t count.

I took a Coleridge anthology to the ground. C was from these parts and apparently first met Wordsworth in Bristol. I didn’t get far. Coach kept tapping me on the shoulder trying to engage me in a game of ‘I Spy’ as we wrapped up the Gloucester tail (all out 122). I relented during the change of innings and began “I spy with my little eye something beginning with W.”
“Water!”
“No”
“Watercress, as in these squashed sandwiches?” Coach whispered dangling a savaged sandwich in front of my view.
“No”
“Wind?”
“No” I replied moving upwind of the source.
“Why?”
“Wrong!” wringing a wry wink from the Pwof.
“What?”
“No!”
“Wall, as in brick wall?” said Mr X pointing to the low wall beyond the mid-wicket fence.
“Nope.”
“Wisteria?”
“No. Nice try.”
“Weather-cock, Warrior [past Cricket masters slightly askew lined the wall behind us], Weir [don’t ask], Wrought – iron?”
“Wrong”
“Woody?” gently pulling Darren’s keepsake from his backpack with wondrous glee.
“No. Put it back,” The Natural instructed, clutching his own multi-coloured miniature
woodpecker. Both took several unscheduled high altitude flights over the sheds
until Prof called out “5 letter word starting with w?”

“W…..r”
“Sorry.”
“Wally”
“That’s it” Coach appealed
“No”
“Woolgatherer?” the Prof inquired.
“No”
“Willow?”
Coach appealed legs spread in front of me, finger raised like Warnie.
“No. Not out”
“Wicket!” Coach and Gloucester appealed as one
“Yes.Out.”

Coach soon lost his appetite for words starting with W as Gloucester went wild walking our wickets back to the W emporium as quickly as they wandered out, despite the usual last stands from the lower order. All out 111.

Gloucester took apart our Test class attack closing at 3/164, a game winched within their will.

It was a day for W’s, the Wallabies snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by booting the ball wide of the sticks twice.

Between innings, The Prof slipped me a video message  to the British & Irish Lions from a very upbeat and content English Team. Funny.

We have a Wall to climb.

 

 

Meet the Squad here

OUT NOWThe Ashes Files 2013. Ebook available at amazon now.

Released July 2013: Ashes Cricket 2013 (PS3)

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jun 21

Day 1 – Australia A V Gloucestershire

It was another day of strange decisions.

After one of the young guns put on a display of T20 style hitting – 181 off 140 balls, with the last 81 coming off 34 balls – things settled down to the more sedate pace of a couple of Ashes players getting time in the middle.  Lucky, as usual, fell short of a 50, while Mr X was just getting settled in when the acting captain made the unusal decision to declare at tea. If your aim is to win the game, getting on with it when you’re three hundred and a million at tea is OK, but surely there is more at stake. It’s not the bowlers who need more time in the centre – it was only the other day that Coach set off a twitter hurricane by claiming we had “the best attack in the world.”  It is perhaps enough to say that not everyone agreed with him.

Dust to Dust The Natural Final TFor every lost opportunity, there is a silver lining. The Natural was happy to get a run now that he is fast recovering from an injury he picked up in India in the IPL. Prof was about to make his worn out joke about pulling a muscle while carrying your pile of stinking money around, but I stopped him. Anyway, The Natural took a wicket as the attack sliced through the hosts in the afternoon light, ending up at 5/104 at the close – but again, the non-Ashes players had the better of it.

Sitting around in the dressing room “rehydrating”, we were all feeling a bit bored and sick of each other’s company – not being allowed to fraternise with the hosts until after the match, and then only under strict supervision, made things worse.  With the temperate barely cracking 20 deg C, it didn’t feel like the height of summer, but with sunset well after 9 pm, there was a dangerous air of “let’s do something” brewing.

Just then there was a “Psst” from the window.  The head of the opposition captain bobbed up. “Common boys, we feel bad about not being able to show you any hospitality. Who’s up for some Summer Solstice action? Cars are ready, fifty miles to Stonehenge. Who’s in?”

There was a general movement towards the door before good sense took hold.  The “Player Behaviour Manual” didn’t specifically forbid dancing around an ancient monument in white capes with the Gloucestershire team and their Druid mates until the wee hours, but no-one was under any illusion that we’d get away with the “religious observances” defence. Still, a couple of the young guns were happy putting their Aust A Tour to Africa at risk, and disappeared with the hosts in a cloud of tyre smoke and chanting. Those in the Ashes squad were too gun shy after recent events to even look sideways at a caper like this.

Back at the hotel, we settled in for a quiet night, enjoying the minibar and pay per view movie service in the room of one of the absent young guns. Prof’s choice of  This is Spinal Tap was inspired.

We left our unknowing host’s room, if not his tab, in a reasonable state when we cleared out at about 11.

Meet the Squad here

OUT NOWThe Ashes Files 2013. Ebook available at amazon now.

Released July 2013: Ashes Cricket 2013 (PS3)

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

 

 

 

 

 

Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jun 20

In one sense it’s a relief that the ODI Team bombed out of the Champions Trophy without a win.  The squad has been sprinkled all over the country like hundreds and thousands on a soggy green birthday cake for the last couple of weeks, between CT13, Aust A, county matches and kitsch bars. At least now the gathering of the team together is getting closer, although after reading a few press articles today, maybe “congealing” or “coagulating” might be a better way of describing what’s going to happen when the real team assembles to prepare for the first Tour match in the middle of next week at Taunton.

In an attempt to bring some unity into the picture, a video conference hook-up was arranged this morning between the Australia A crowd, who are in Bristol for a game on Friday, and the rest of the players staying on for The Ashes, who are holed up at the “team hotel” in London.

I wasn’t sure the wiring in the Bristol hotel was going to cope with the number of screens and gizmos that were set up in our meeting room when I stumbled in after breakfast. It soon became clear that we were going to be bonding over a demonstration of Ashes Cricket 2013 (PS3) that is about to be launched based on the Tour, rather than, say, our shared mission to win back the Urn.

At least all present were paying attention. The funky demonstrators gave us a quick run down of the game and how it works, but all everyone wanted to see was how their digital selves looked on-screen, given this had all been discussed and signed off months ago.

Dust to Dust Unlucky FinalUnlucky, the oldest member of the touring party, bucked up straight away when his avatar appeared on-screen.  “Who put those wrinkles on that face?” he yelled from the London hotel when his digital likeness came into close up. A wag at the back of the room in Bristol muttered something about a walking stick, just as the image panned out to show Unlucky’s likeness hobbling around the simulated outfield on a walking stick. The demonstrator flicked to another player’s image as quickly as he could, while I think one of his minions severed the link to London just as Unlucky was drawing breath.

The demonstrator, struggling to regain the room’s attention, suggested that the best way to find out about the game was to have a go.  His offer of four game controllers was met with the most inspiring display of unity seen on the Tour so far – the whole squad leapt out of their seats in perfect unison, landing in four knots of writhing elite cricket muscle and guile.  I gave up the fight quickly, but it was some time before the ownership of the four controllers was settled.  Only one player was stretchered out with a “training injury”.

After that, it only took a few minutes for the game to get into full swing, and the team stayed engrossed in the on-screen action for over an hour.  There was much complaining when a halt was called so we could make a scheduled training session.

They never did manage to restore the video link to London.

Meet the Squad here

OUT NOWThe Ashes Files 2013. Ebook available at amazon now

Released 20 June: Ashes Cricket 2013 (PS3)

This post originally appeared at www.thearmchairselector.com

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley