Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jul 13

Day 4 – First Test

“Oft expectation fails, and most oft there
Where most it promises; and oft it hits
Where hope is coldest, and despair most fits.”
(All’s Well That Ends Well)

Coach closed the team meeting quickly this morning. He said there was nothing to say that had not been said before, nothing of value that remained unsaid, and many things of no value that could be said but shouldn’t be. “A man starts life full of breath and ends it full of wind,” he said. “I prefer not to add to it. You know what to do. You can do it. Do it.”

That was all. Gone were the last vestiges of Coach1.0 – the rousing polemics, the nuanced fireballs, the sentient pauses, the little jeers, Darren’s DSM (the unabridged version), the rumblings, the vocalist duets, the bum tweaks and the soothing sessions for failed batsmen. All flotsam and jetsom on a rising tide.

In the first hour of play today, we let Bell (109) and Broad (65) beat the Duke senseless. We dismissed them when the Barmy Army became boring and boisterous. A disconsolate Swann and the others folded with no extra effort. All out 375.

The Rejects were busy most of the morning locating bulk suppliers of sheep eyes and chickens feet for delivery at the England team hotel.

“No champ. This is a special delivery from the Australian Government.”
“Kevin Rudd mate, the Mandarin diplomat.”
“To whom?”
“To Chef, at the Hotel.”
“Is there a message?”
“Congratulations on winning the Test.”
“Deliver when?”
“14 July mate… In the afternoon….I know it’s a big order. Just dump it on the red carpet in the driveway.”

After the change of innings, Hollywood and UnLucky took to the bowlers before and after lunch with patient flashing blades, patience written on the back of the hand, on handkerchiefs, on inside pockets, anywhere. To help them along, RocketMan and Mr Darcy unfurled a huge banner behind the sight screen – a prominent place where it might be seen.  The Freak scrawled the same message in blood on the back of the door. ‘I expect patient batting, for a long time. Coach.’ On the other side, under the words ‘Australian Team,’ he wrote in red crayon ‘What is done, is done. No hard feelings. The Rejects’

The blades blocked and flashed with purpose, blunting the English attack. We all looked on, clapping politely between turns in Monopoly, rising expectation leaking from every pore in what we all knew was a test of skill, psychology and character – the weight of expectation never more heavy than when it is unwritten, never greater than when it is from Kevin Rudd’s son, Nicholas, freshly minted as a top notch SENIOR adviser on the Committee to Re-elect (his Dad) the Prime Minister (CREEP).*

After an age, an age longer than an average innings in India, the bats started to fall. Losing wickets is expected. Losing The Captain’s wicket cheaply is not expected. Losing Mr. Bean’s and Lucky’s wickets cheaply is not unexpected, although by the puzzled look on Coach’s brow tinged broadly by annoyance, he might have expected more. He looked at both sides of the door and added a few words, I expect for clarity, as the wickets continued to fall. He looked at each of the Rejects closely, busy as we were oiling our favourite bats and spinning Dukes on the tops of second fingers. It was clear we expect more from him than he expects from us.

I watched Coach turn away. Would he expect more from Puff who has carried the weight of expectation nicely so far bearing drinks to those who are playing. The Prof saw him on the TV the other evening advertising stand up socks and smashing Dukes (?) to all corners of a deserted ground. Puff says it’s a filler to cover his fine. He expects to be back, bronzed from South Africa with a few tons under his belt. The Prof has sent him a draft Reject Club application form for safe keeping just in case.

weight Jul13As the weight of broken wickets piled up against the door late in the afternoon, the weight of unmet expectations piled onto the shoulders of others. No one looked comfortable until Wicky and The Kid took guard. The Kid batted breezily away, excited to get another bat in a Test he never expected to play – he is only 19. Wicky is so old he ignores all expectation except his own – as Coach instructed.

It is all to do. At stumps, Australia 6/174, chasing 311 – 137 to get.

The Prof rechecked the delivery address for the English celebration before stumps. The Rejects expect more net time and to be selected in the next County game.

Eng 215 & 375, Aust 280 & 6/174

*The chief function of the Son is to finish Julia’s beany for the expected new Royal baby, Victoria (expected). The Son has attracted over 1,000 supportive comments on ninensm on his appointment. More than Kevin expected. Less than the Son expected.


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.

OUT NOW: Coach2Coach – 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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