Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jul 8

T minus 2

It was not until William the Conqueror built Nottingham Castle that a town advocate – there may not have been many – saw sense enough to change the 400 year old neon welcoming signs on the thoroughfares outside town from Snotingham (the homestead of Snot’s people, after Snot (a ruling Saxon) to Nottingham.

“I can only imagine his parent’s at birth,” I began putting aside my guide book. “Oh my, thank Flu [pagan seer]. A boy!”
“He looks very ugly.” (The Freak)
“What shall we name him?” (Trapper)
“Something that befits his status.”
“Hmmm….Snot?” (Plopper)
“Excellent Cold! Snot Nose has a beautiful ring to it.” (The Prof)
“I love you Runny.” (Trapper)
Small details can sometimes make a difference.

Coach2.0 is continuing to drive the net sessions hard in the warm sunny weather we have enjoyed recently, working on the finer preparations for the First Test – swinging the ball both ways off a good length, hitting the inner thigh and ribs of the Rejects and Top 5 and, in their turn, moving the feet to strike the bad balls cleanly.

Coach2.0 and The Captain have spent hours at the local park on the see-saw and upside down on the monkey bars debating pitch conditions, the ball, the weather, form, bat sponsorship deals, anything that may affect batting selections. No formal statements have been released yet, but the fresh smiles of the chosen and the pile of unwashed whites of the Rejects in the hotel laundry suggest selections have been floated with Channel 9 and key print personalities – the word is leaking out.

When I reminded Hollywood of these bell weathers he reminded me that Sarah had switched all the name tags on the whites last night; the smiles were mostly from the marginals still seeking to impress at the eleventh hour. Prof remained silent throughout, thankful that Hollywood’s true talents are at the crease.

Fortunately, Unlucky – who we all admire for his steadfast patience – has Hollywood focused on the main game, which he describes as “undressing the Duke” or “cutting off Jimmy’s balls,” with a century stand. They drink together, room together, practice together and eat together. The Freak caught them in their matching Team pyjamas – the ones with the yellow trouser urn’s and straw coloured Batsmen Century tops – giggling in the kitchen last night focused on demolishing tubs of butterscotch ice cream with tablespoons that looked bigger than a digger’s bucket. “Anything that keeps him concentrating,” a red lipped Unlucky stammered. “I feel like I’ve been at the beach. I can’t stand much more of this phoney tour.”

Prof and I spent the afternoon at Coach2.0’s request searching for Plopper. “Make sure he is good.” We found him secluded in the hotel’s library nook, studying A3 photos of the English top 7 stuck to the back wall. He had it organised like an incident room at Scotland Yard. Pertinent attributes of the 7 victims were scrawled in black texta across the bottom of each photo. Plopper’s change-up wicket balls were written in white on a black A4 sheet stuck in the middle. Coloured wools and pins joined face to face and balls to faces. Folders of press clippings, notes from Indian spinners (in Hindi), and a special ESPN profile on each player were spread on the floor before him.

The Prof surveyed the analysis following the black wool from Plopper’s best ball – the long hop dipper designed to be caught on the mid-wicket fence – to the pensive Trott and the firebrand KP, and the red wool to the skipper Cook.

“I haven’t seen your other ball” I said fingering a thin green line to the mercurial Root, and the technician Bell.

“That’s my over-spinner,” he replied smiling. “Reverse psychology. Tell Coach2.0 I’m ready. I can think faster now.” He tapped his temple with great assurance. “More than anything I want to lead the singing of Under the Southern Cross.”
Prof looked at him searchingly. “I’ll tell him,” he said.
“He is committed” I volunteered as Plopper jotted down key points on small palm cards. “He has that crazed look like the others”
“Don’t we all. Failing in India to win the underdog status was worth it.”

Coach was pleased. He handed me a rumpled yellow page. “I hope you are on top of this?”

It was a note from DT.

Swann has your Captain in his cross-hairs. Cooper’s trumpet is banned (Thank heavens). Under Trent Bridge at 6am. Deep Third.

We laughed. The Captain has any spinner’s measure. His room is covered with pictures of the English spinner and the cricket history of the Trent Bridge wicket. He has been all over it for months.


Meet the Squad here

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

OUT NOWCoach2Coach – The story of Australia’s chequered prepartion for the 2013 Ashes, as told by The 17th Man. (US/UK)

© 2013 Dave Cornford, Jeremy Pooley & Jock Macneish

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