Author Archives: David Cornford

Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jul 15

The alarm woke me from a dream this morning. I was batting at No. 11 in the second dig of that last Test, and managed to hit the winning runs.  It was a crisp but unspectacular drive through the covers for two, the sort of shot that leads Bumble to say “OOOoo, luvlee shot, that.”  Oh well, better than having nightmares about it.  I will leave that to Mr Bean. Coach2.0 is reviewing his Reject CLub applicaiton form this afternoon (with The Captain)

Piling onto the team bus at 9 am for the drive into London, The Prof was obviously holding back a big grin. I don’t know what he was fretting about, there were no photographers hanging from the ceiling or in roadside vegetation poised to take an embarrassing photo of him daring to get over it after our heart-breaking loss. No doubt they were too busy staking out every posh maternity ward in the country.

“It’s days like this that you live for, mate,” was all I could get out of him at the time. I knew he wasn’t referring to the combined teams sponsor’s lunch at Lord’s that we were due at by 1 pm. Sarah from marketing had given us a stern lecture on all the do’s and don’ts of these things several times – this time she was very clear.

The bus rumbled down the M1, making reasonable progress in heavy traffic. The squad were doing their own thing as usual, some gazing out the window thinking of home, some engrossed in their personal electronic device of choice – there was a particularly touching scene with UnLucky explaining how his ancient Walkman works to The Kid, who was clearly in awe.  “You mean, it only holds 90 minutes of music at a time?” he was heard to say.

We were in the middle of no-where when The Prof yelled “Eyes left!”  We stood up to see the England Team bus pulled up on the verge of the freeway, with the England team standing around in a road-side field, dressed as we were in their “official functions” finery, medals and honorarium pinned to their chests.

“It’s not that hard to make the fuel gauge on a bus malfunction if you know the right people,” he said in response to my accusing stare. I was about to say that the minor inconvenience he’s arranged would soon be overcome with a repalcement bus, when he put his fingers to his lips (his other hand covered my mouth) and nodded in the direction of  the radio station the driver was listening to .

“And in news from Nottingham, a problem with preparation for the big summer signalling project has resulted in all train services being disrupted.  Buses from all over the County are being deployed to replace trains on popular lines.”  I nodded my approval at the completeness of his preparation.

Not one to rest on his laurels, he removed a small remote control device from his pocket, and with a flourish, pressed the big red button on the front.

“That threw a few nails onto the road.  The traffic behind will come to a holt behind about a dozen stranded cars with flat tyres. It will back up about 5 kilometres before they can sneeze.  That stranded team bus will be right in the middle of it,” he said, struggling to keep a straight face watching the bats exchange some belated final hand signals with their first test bete noirs from the back windows.

The sponsor’s function went off without a hitch, if you think that not having the home team present and allowing the visitors to eat all the food is success.  The Kid certainly did – I’d forgotten how much you can eat when you’re 19.  The whole thing fizzled out at about 3.30 and there was no sign of the opposition as we left  and returned to the hotel via the A roads, given this morning’s events.

No training in the late afternoon – but it will be full-on tomorrow, no doubt.

 

Meet the Squad here

NEW WEBSITE COMING THIS WEEK.  The 17th Man is updating his web diary over the next day or so, so please forgive him if there are a few glitches.  It will be all sorted before the Second Test on Thursday.

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

Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jul 14

Day 5 – First Test

Fourteen runs was all that was in it.  Fourteen!  After all the tension, it was a relief to escape from Trent Bridge early after The Last Stand just failed to get us over the line. The bus driver was pretty impatient as it turned out, as someone had ordered the bus that took us to the ground to wait there and be ready to take us back to the hotel at 11.30.  When Coach2.0 finds out who was responsible, there’ll be hell to pay.

Coach certainly wasn’t allowing any concessions as far as taking consolation from “we were close” in his rather brutal assessment of our performance, but this loss felt a whole lot more hopeful than the floggings we sat through in India. The idea that we might win a Test against this opposition is plausible. Hopeful. I like hopeful.

Rocket Man in Puff’s whites

Rocket Man has changed his tune as far as batting at Number 11 goes after his heroics today. I heard him claim he was left stranded on his way to breaking The Kid’s record by Wicky getting out once too many times, so I swapped his and Puff’s laundry bags around – he’ll be looking tres fashionable in his calf-length duds until Puff gets back from Africa.

The only trouble is, there is some thought that The Kid wants his spot back – he averages 98 there after all. The Prof reckons that every desparado in the team has worked out that No. 11 is where the runs are, and Mr Bean and Lucky have both made a case to The Captain for a switch to the new pivotal run scoring position.  Not sure it has presented a confident picture of their states of mind to the heirarchy, but it might be all they can get.

It was only after dinner that the delivery driver entrusted with delivering Prof’s message of good-will to the England Team’s hotel phoned back. Apparently, the timing worked perfectly, with him dumping the load of sheep’s eyes and chicken’s feet on the red carpet out the front of the hotel as instructed, just as the team arrived back to freshen up before they went out to celebrate. One or two of them had been celebrating for a few hours by that stage, and an unnamed member of the squad added his lunch to the mess in short order. Not even the Chef at their more upmarket digs was up to the challenge after that.

As for us, it’s new rules: we don’t get a night out when we lose. That means I’ve been stuck here in the hotel, taking a skype call from Dad that only took 24 attempts to connect.  Every incentive to support the lads in a better showing at Lords later this week.

The IPL is clearly just a packet full of pop-rocks.  Test cricket is a full three course meal.  One rots your teeth, one leaves you satisfied.

Although I’ve eaten so much I want to spew.

Eng 215 & 375, Aust 280 & 296

England by a lucky 14 runs

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

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.”
“Who?”
“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

Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jul 12

Day 3 – First Test

Our wills and fates do so contrary run
That our devices still are overthrown;
Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.
(Hamlet, 3.2.208), Player King

Coach was unusually reflective in the sheds after stumps. Blood oozed from his bandaged hands. His knee was encased in ice. He was a picture of peaceful profundity. “Great bowling. Up there on the stumps all day. Miserly. Niggardly. Slowly, slowly catch the monkey,” he said. “I don’t believe in fate or luck. Stick to the plan. It will turn for us.” Lucky took the opportunity to bend over to untie his shoe laces, again, and managed to duck under a swinging stress ball from the back row. “Dumb luck,” someone offered.

“Huh?”

The Captain took over. “The DRS is not for use on the half-call. Save it for the obvious f….,” he cleared his throat… “errors.” He smiled and sat down satisfied that his new communication style was working. We all nodded sagely. No one had a bleeding clue. Each of us resolved to play on the same way as before. Darren wanted to say something about fate and luck, but Sarah give him that scalding teacher “Don’t you dare!” look.

The front row set to work deciphering the carefully written notes on the Ouja board RocketMan had picked up at the fire sale of Coach 1.0’s memorabilia last month. There was much to absorb. Roots, a few guys called Kevin, the Chef, Druids, Runes, Glastonbury – very weird stuff. Fate undoubtedly lent a hand.

The back row played a game of Russian roulette with a box of redheads, a penny bunger and a plastic sprinkler head. Mr. Darcy had some idea although The Kid’s skill and use of teeth was a real surprise. At the back, Trapper tried to interest others in a round of blackjack.

“No way. It’s dodgier than Le Tour [Ed. allegedly] I always bust early.”

“Counting is hard. You can get used to it.” Fate.

17th Man Web BroadI understand Stuart Broad could not believe his luck. He walked off at stumps believing he did not hit that ball.  “The umpire never gets it wrong,” he told a friendly journo. “He was correcting for Joe Root and Trotty yesterday to bring fairness back into the game.” Apparently Broad spent big on lottery tickets after stumps and really cleaned up. Root and Trott were by his side [Ed: allegedly] when he collected – motivated by a strong sense of fated entitlement.

 

The Prof, The Freak and I pondered the day’s events over a few lagers in the late evening. The “what if’s” held no value compared to what was now on the scorecard. The who offered more for idle minds.

“Anyone speak to the Umpires?”

“They never speak to the media. It would be a nightmare. There is nothing to explain that would benefit from explanation. Could Maradona explain his ‘Hand of God’ World Cup goal? Could the ref?”

Hand of God Adam 1

“No” I said.

“Lucky fate,” The Freak added grimacing.

“The rules are the rules. I didn’t hear The Captain recall Root or Trott to the crease.”

“No. And Broad decided not to walk. He expected to, but just waited there. Not his fault.”

The Prof was pensive playing an imaginary Umpire’s media conference in his mind ….

“That snick?” [Aust journo]
“Which snick? There were so many.”
“The Trott snick.” [English journo]
“Alleged snick.” [A journo]
“No. The Broad snick.” [Aust journo]
“Alleged snick.” [English journo]
“I don’t recall that ball. There were so many. Even the square leg umpire didn’t see it,” – the square leg umpire had neatly moved out of camera range. “The DRS’s were spent. Erasmus was asleep. The sun was a marbling unforgiving furnace out there. The pitch was like the fires of Dante’s hell. I was swaying like a cobra in an Indian bazaar.”
“What?” [Aust journo]
“It was late in the day. It was bleeding warm. I needed a drink.”

“So it’s all down to climate change then?” The Freak concluded.

“Uh, huh,” The Prof replied. “And they need a carbon tax.”

“I’ll pray for rain then?”

“That might be best.”

 

Eng 215 and 6/326, Aust 280

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

The Kid makes Good! – Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jul 11

Day 2 – First Test

The Kid 98At the end of a day that will not go down as the team’s best, there was nothing but smiles in the dressing room after play.  The Kid may not have taken a bag of wickets yet, but his batting set the world on fire. The score was eye catching, but perhaps it was the manner of the scoring that really caught everyone’s attention.  It was batting, real batting – head still, good shot selection, bold hitting, fearless footwork. Gilchrist or Walters, anyone?

The Prof and I were offering the game a rare moment of our undivided attention as The Kid whizzed past Lucky’s scratchings, when The Prof went all philosophical.

“Do you remember when batting was that much fun?” he asked.

I thought about it as I watched The Kid flourish and scare the English bowlers out of doing what they do best. I knew exactly what he meant. Once upon a time batting was a pure joy, before it was a job and before every run mattered. My mind drifted back to playing in the leafy suburbs of Sydney, proudly wearing my North Shore cap in the Weblin and Watson Shields.  I was part way through replaying my first ever century in my mind – a magnificent 115 on our home ground, with Dad watching every shot – when The Prof jolted me back to reality by poking me in the ribs with a stump. “Wake up, mate. You need to watch. He might get this.”

The tension mounted in the dressing room, but there was no hanging about in the nervous nineties out in the middle. It was “on” until the last shot. But it wasn’t to be.

There has been plenty of controversy about the DRS.  UnLucky’s LBW looked shocking to the naked eye, The Kid’s stumping was “close”, while Root’s LBW reprieve looked more out than UnLucky’s, but less out than the ball that ultimately got him out – though he failed to use the DRS.  Batting with the captain has its drawbacks, with Cook apparently keeping his two DRS reviews up his sleave to get more senior players like himself and KP out of a sticky situation.

The harsh realities started to hit on the bus back to the hotel, with Rocket Man one who was putting on a brave face.  He’s pretty handy with the bat, but he can see the writing on the wall that he’ll be occupying Glen McGrath’s specialist position from now on.  “Don’t worry, Rocket’s, you’ll have a chance at that record next dig!” said Coach2.0, slapping him on the back.  It’s alright for him – he won’t have to face a fired up Rocket Man in the nets in the morning.  Or in the middle, come to think of it.  Coach2.0 is no fool, but he’s got some work to do on the Top 4.

Eng 215 and 2/80, Aust 280

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

Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jul 10

Day 1 – First Test

Breakfast today was organised in a private function room, with no hotel staff present.  Coach2.0 obviously thought that they would be too interested in observing the players and their breakfasts, hoping to get the inside mail on who was in and out of the team, and sell the information to persons unspecified.

And it would have been easy money.  Mr Bean was his usual self, going through his match-day routine of playing Office Jerk on his iPad while eating mountains of fruit. In the team. Plopper had red eyes and ate three bowls of Coco Pops.  Out of the team.  Puff was wearing a pith helmet and bermuda shorts and ate all the biltong – obviously off to Africa with Aust A.  The thought did cross my mind that the idea of him having any influence on Citizen Kane on his first tour for Australia was perhaps based on flawed logic.

17th Man The Kid Websize

The biggest shock was The Kid. He’d been wheeling away in the nets since the Aust A game against Ireland, and I hadn’t even noticed that he’d been officially added to the Ashes squad at some stage during Coach2.0’s first week at the helm. He had the “I’m getting my Baggy Green today” smile as he tried to get something, anything, past his winning grin. Later on, it was Pigeon who handed him the sacred hat, and Slats who told to him to make sure he got his test player number right (434) at the tattoo parlour later on.

As for the pre-match hoo-ha, all I can say is that I’ll be glad when they talk Adele or Baby Spice into singing the National Anthems. I can’t say either jingle sparkled under the operatic and vibrato ladened renditions we had to endure today – it’s not what you need when your 14th nervous pee of the morning is calling you.

The match got underway under unexpectedly cloudy skies, after Cook won the toss and batted. It had looked like a “Win the toss, score 500 and take control” kind of pitch.  The first session was a bit hit and miss from our bowlers, with some dangerous balls mixed in with some juicy four balls – Trott was happy to oblige. Certainly at 2 for nearly 100 at lunch, England were looking good.

After lunch, it turned into a glorious Freak Show, with the main man ending up with a 5-for.  Rocket Man and Mr Darcy did OK taking the other 5 between them, while The Kid didn’t get another chance after his first tidy-looking spell.

There was a fair bit of tension as we settled in to watch the Top 6 respond after tea.  It started out OK, but once Mr Bean was sent back for a golden, followed by the Captain for a 6-ball globe, the mood descended into a gloomy haze, similar to what happens when you realise that there’s nothing on the telly apart from Celebrity MasterRenovator’s Got Talent and repeats of The Big Bang Theory.

It looks like the lower order will have to save the day tomorrow, so The Kid may still play an important part in the first half of the match. “Knuckle down tomorrow,” were Coach2.0’s parting words at the end of the day.

Talk is cheap, but not as cheap as Day 4 tickets on the scalping market.

England 215, Aust 4/75.

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

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”

“Huh?”

“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

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

Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jul 7

T minus 3.

It was all about cricket today.

The Prof thinks he knows who’s going to play, and those who are playing certainly seem to know (smuggness seeps out of them like sweat). However,  I’m in the dark, and therefore confident of one thing, that I’m not playing.  Dad keeps texting me, hoping to hear that I’ve got the call up to play in the Ashes.  Trouble is, I can only say “The team hasn’t been announced yet, Dad,” under the strict anti-corruption secrecy guidelines, so he seems to think the fact that I’m not saying I’m missing out is good news.

Thing is, I know that the announcement of the team is being delayed by uncertainty about the fitness of some members of the bowling squad:

Rocket Man’s heal injury, sustained when he trod on one of Mr Bean’s matchbox cars in the last few moments of our unfruitful stay in Worcester, has turned septic. The offending bumper bar and its Mustang convertible has been posted to Mr Bean’s preferred repairer in Sydney, so can’t be examined for infective material.

Mantis has some weird allergy to the sticky substance they put in cream buns masquerading as strawberry jam, and has a nasty pustulant rash across the bridge of his nose where Coach2.0 hit him with a cream bun on the bus yesterday.  Medical staff were keen to examine the bun to see if they could work out what was going on, but Puff had scoffed it with no apparent ill effect.

They both seemed to train OK, though, while The Freak’s constant carping with his “I am not an animal” gag at Mantis’s expense wore a little thin through the afternoon.  The weather was warm and the cricket pretty willing.  Coach2.0 may seem casual at first, but he’s a hard nut as far the serious stuff goes and today, the fielding drills were relentless.  We sat around in the shade at the end of it – yes, shade, the sun was shining! – drinking sponsor’s salty rehydration product, when Coach2.0 made an announcement.   “Forecast is fine for the week, so we’re not going to be robbed of our first win by the weather, boys!”

Back to the hotel, the staff are becoming insufferable now that Murray has won Wimbledon.  They seem to think that with the Lions winning the Rugby, they really have some sporting momentum. Not sure what the no-necks stamping all over the Wallabies has to do with things, and @TheCricketGeek reckons that the last time there was a British Wimbledon male champion England lost the Ashes 3-2 after being 2-0 up in a 5 match series (1936-7), although @JackMendel4 countered with the news that the last time a SCOT won Wimbledon was in 1896, 117 years ago (Harold Mahony) and England won 2-1 in the Ashes :).

It all boils down to one thing.  Scoring runs, taking wickets.  OK, two things, neither of which I’ll be doing from the dressing room.

I guess someone will put out a team list soon?

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.

COMING SOONCoach2Coach – The story of Australia’s chequered prepartion for the 2013 Ashes, as told by The 17th Man. (Available 7 July 2013)

© 2013 Dave Cornford, Jeremy Pooley & Jock Macneish

Ashes Dairy of the 17th Man – Jul 6

T minus 4.

Well, this is it.  I’m sitting in the same hotel room, tapping away on the iPad, where I’ll be after the first day’s play in a few nights time.  It’s here.  Right here.

Everyone was keen to leave Worcester behind. There had been some good times, and some glimpses of what Coach2.0 calls “winning cricket” – but only one of what he wants to see lots of in the scorebook – centuries, and given that that one was by the Captain, it doesn’t count ’cause he scores them anyway.

Mr Bean has a steely determination about him now that his batting position, if not his very place in the team, is under threat.  He rearranged his renowned Matchbox car collection daily during the Worc’s match, trying to find inspiration, and by the last day a simple inspirational array of 100 cars in a row at the foot of his bed showed he was in total alignment with Coach2.0’s thinking. Apart from the fact that the only paceman who’s a cert’ for the First Test, Rocket Man, had to have some medical attention after accidentally treading on the 40th car in the lineup and getting the bumper bar from a Mustang convertible embedded in his left heel.  He should be right to play once the swelling goes down.

We were en route to Nottingham while the Lions Test was on back in Sydney, and the English bus driver helpfully turned the volume up a little higher every time the Lions scored. By the time the flood gates opened near the end, with the Lions running out 41-16 winners, most of the squad had been forced to put headphones on to keep the squawking commentators at bay.

The bus driver was cook-a-hoop, filling the last ten minutes of the trip with a jaunty commentary as we drove into Nottingham, making tenuous links between local architecture and English sporting supremacy, not that anyone was listening. Coach2.0 had had enough by the time we pulled up outside the hotel, grabbing the microphone from the driver just as he was saying “Good luck, chaps – you’re going to need it.”

“So, what happened in Sydney?” he asked us.

“Wallabies played alright!” said Mantis from the fifth row.  Coach2.0 scowled at him, picked up the last cream bun from his stash and with a flick of his arm, nailed Mantis right between the eyes with it. The bun made a very satisfying “thunk” as it hit.

“THEY LOST!” shouted Coach2.0 into the mic.  “There were patches of good play, I’ll admit, but in the end, ‘Record loss in front of a record crowd’ is what people will remember.  Got it?”

There was a stony silence as his words sunk in.  It might have been better for Puff’s selection prospects if the spell wasn’t broken by him leaning across the aisle with an outstretched hand to ask Mantis “Are you going to eat that?”

It’s going to be a long few days.

 

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.

COMING SOONCoach2Coach – The story of Australia’s chequered prepartion for the 2013 Ashes, as told by The 17th Man. (Available 8 July 2013)

© 2013 Dave Cornford, Jeremy Pooley & Jock Macneis