Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jul 9

T Minus 1

The sun rose at 4.51am.  The Prof and I nipped out at 5.15.  We passed the high water marks chiselled into the stone wall by the Trent Bridge just before 6 am and a scruffy lad with big hair and arm tatts, who looked like he had pulled an all-nighter, going the other way. We settled on the steps to the water soaking up the rays of the new sun and waited for Deep Third. Someone’s tranny above us started to fade in what sounded like ‘Counting  the Beat’ to a voice announcing the day’s forecast “Sunny and hot for days. Get out and get it off.  You know it cannot last.”

Look at the sunrise
I look at it burn
I look into your eyes
Don’t know where to turn
(The Swingers)

We sat in a half-slumber with our eyes closed against the warming sun without a care in the world relaxing for what seemed like the first time in an age. No training today.

I’m gonna drift into that void
I’m flying through space, I’m an asteroid
Time doesn’t take place when you’re paranoid

 Then it was 6.10, then 6.15.  “He isn’t coming,” the Prof decided as he opened his eyes.

“No,” I replied.  The tranny above us was still ‘Counting the Beat.’   The bridge was alive with the white vans of bakers and small goods and the marching feet of pedestrian trafficsome loitering around lamp posts, others waving to benchers on the opposite bank.  A few clean cut student types played marbles on the top step.  One of the shorter students shot a big commie between my legs as we passed.  “My fault squire,” he spat leaping to his feet to retrieve the errant commie. “Root wants the moonstone, or a free hit.” Another said “Tell Puff”


“Don’t call the quick single with us,” a third said, pulling a new Duke from his pocket.  He tapped it carefully like a spinner.  I stared at him and the three of them stared back at me.  The tranny continued:

I’m thinking about you, and nothing else
Thinking about you, you’re thinking about me
Thinking about you, I’m counting the beat
Thinking about you
Thinking about me
Thinking about just you and me, la da de de, there ain’t no place I’d rather be
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da

“I’ve got it,” The Prof yelled from the bridge.  “The tranny.  Let’s go!”  Weeks of sprint training paid off as the Prof and I outpaced the students and the loitering pedestrians to the main road leading to the hotel.

Sarah and Darren were in the lobby. “Nice run?”  I couldn’t answer.

The concierge waved to me “A note.” she said. “Some guy with big hair dropped it off.”

 The note said simply:

You are being bugged. We know the team.  We know the tactics.  Deep Third,” and included an article from the Guardian referencing the illegal harvesting of phone calls, texts, and internet communication from undersea cables by Britain’s spy agency GCHQ  and the NSA in Washington.

Coach2.0 passed us on the way to the nets with some of the squad.  “I received a note from Kevin R in Mandarin, wishing us well.  And something about Chinese spy satellites.” He said flicking it to me.  “We knew about them already.  The Captain’s all over it.”

I’m bleeding to death
On a cloudless day
A three, a four heartbeat
A waltzin’ away…
Oooh ooh, oo oo

The nets brought us back to earth to the middle of the willow as Hollywood, and Mr X connected happy bats with balls. Even Lucky seemed in fine touch, gliding some good balls into the back net.  Unlucky as chief ball-carer spent most of the day perfecting the shine on old kit balls – his hammy got a real work out.

Cricket is a simple game.  Coach2.0 has turned the team around.  I am ready to play.  Dad says I am ready to play.  The Prof says he is okay either way because his Indian venture is taking off.

I’m counting the beat 2 3 4 5, I’m feeling the heat to be alive
I’m counting the beat 6 7 8 9…
Thinking about you, you’re thinking about me
Thinking about you and counting the beat
Thinking about you
Thinking about me
Just you and me, la da de de, there ain’t no place I’d rather be
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da

Coach2.0 led a team meeting at day’s end, reminding us of the simple things – hit the ball, swing the ball, focus – before a jovial team dinner with the touring wives and girlfriends who are all enjoying the sun and lack of swing.   The PA system at the ground has been tested.  I had best learn the National Anthem.

The phoney war is over, finally.

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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