Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jul 5

Day 4 – Aust Vs Orcs.

“Clean up the Worcester lads early,” Coach2.0 concluded at breakfast with The Captain and Wicky. “Work the bowlers.”

The bowlers toiled all day full of intent, but the game fizzled like a bunch of dud firecrackers on Guy Fawkes, all pop and whistle, no bang. A draw. Worcester 5/267. No one minded. It was not Guy Fawkes; no disappointed children, no fallible dads or fizzling Dukes. No marks on the shirtfront. No clouds in the sky. No swing or spin as much as might allow.

The folded chairs packed up, the midday spectators departed leaving a huddle of autograph hunters gathered around a clutch of players to mark the effort of four days. The wicket, staked,  rested under the groundsman’s care. The curtain fell, the car park reclaimed its dust. No momentum lost; none gained. What value shall the autograph retain?

The Worcester’s invited us to a special evening at an old manor house to a feast of local fare – small game, a side of venison, assorted vegetables and polite conversation. Conventional yet full of West Country yarns, odd dialect, and friendly repartee about our prospects with the Duke on a supposed shirtfront at Trentbridge. We prattled on for an eternity into the evening’s falling night.

The young Worcester prankster who held us out today produced a box of assorted flashlights and challenged the teams to a game of spotlight to cap the evening. No takers of course. Trapper and I ‘chose’ the pen lights. Darren ‘chose’ the Battle of Britain searchlight bolted to concrete foundations in the courtyard. We turned on every light in the upstairs drawing room and drew back period curtains with the support of the British Heritage volunteers to watch the circus.

The Worcesters appeared masked as the English XI. The boy Root had noticeably enlarged cheeks and thighs, and a thickly black beard. Swannie used his laser penlight to spot the trundling Aussie (Coach?) with the game Duke only to find his own shadow in a circle of light pelted by new Kookaburras. There was a lot of tit for tat bruising, occasional oaths and whistling as the combatants sorted things out.

Eventually, the two teams split into bowling and batting hit squads dispensing justice indiscriminately to friend and foe alike. The English top 4 copped a hiding in the parterre led by Puff and the Test quicks from both teams.

The stranded all rounders and wicket keepers, padded up and helmeted, held the beasts at bay long enough to gain the safety of the courtyard and a yew tree sapling. They were later found shirtless and shivering inside a hastily electrified garden fence linked into the mains, protected by small sign from Sarah: ‘Deselected’. Prof stood by to prevent unnecessary accidents.

Back at the hotel, Puff produced the masks of the Top 4 and a few other personal trophies – a spare tooth from Cook, a Worcester jock strap initialed JPLT, Root’s beard and a tube of ‘ECB Swinging Gel for Dukes’ – from his pockets. We examined them all closely over warm milk and cookies. The Freak and The Natural took the gel for further analysis.

A fitting end to an untidy draw.

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 Diary of the 17th Man – Jul 4

Day 3 – Aust V Worcestershire

Things are as good as they have been since Mr. Cricket retired. 5/344 dec. in 51 overs at 6 per over. At stumps, Worcester 1/64 in reply. The wicket is a dead set shirtfront in a cloudless sky (no swing), so the Captain took full advantage in a style studded rapid century (124).  Lucky batted with him for as long as he could, thankful that The Captain had stopped complaining about his back.  As he said, “that’s a real pleasing thing for himself and all of us as a unit.” The Captain’s constant complaints in the middle had begun to irk Lucky and Mr Bean, who often bat with Him. Lucky said it was more distracting than a big blowie smacking against a window on a stinking summer’s day. Mr Bean said he could feel it eating him from the inside. It got so bad he ran out The Captain accidentally. Then he felt guilty and ran himself out, or so he said.

sarahThe gears are clicking into place one by one.  Coach2.0 is dealing with player management and blame culture, to let The Captain concentrate on cricket and take the pressure off his spine. Mr Bean has agreed to stop looking at his bat, or tugging at a flapping trouser leg, when he is outed and not to expect the Umpire to recall him to the crease.  Sarah said the female audience loathes his “I didn’t do it, Sir,” attitude, especially if he has been grassed without scoring. Coach asked Mr Bean to forget it. “Focus on a hundred” he said.

Lucky reluctantly agreed not to pack his ears with cotton wool buds now that The Captain will be calling the quick single from the other end.  Coach2.0 figured the buds drowned out every sound apart from Lucky’s own palpitating heart which somehow slowed to two beats per ball when he was facing. This sort of mental hibernation stopped him rotating the strike, upset the non-striker and made both vulnerable to the lazy shot or quick call.  Hollywood, who heard it all, promised not to say another word in celebration. He said the final heavy barrier had now been removed from a flood of fancied test centuries.

Yet Coach felt there was more. Over a fourth lager in a Worcester local after stumps, Lucky confided that he really used the buds to block sledging from the spinner and fellow wrist flickers in the slips cordons.  “Ask Wicky about sledging,” he said, inviting an unmoved Wicky to join the discussion.  Coach escaped to the bathroom and climbed out an unlocked window to a back alley to join The Freak, Mr Darcy and Mantis, who were seated on milk crates talking tactics and sucking lager freely through rubber hoses connected to a spare keg. Their pockets bulged with used Dukes.

Coach sat among them to listen to the friendly banter.

“All’s well, Coach” said Mr Darcy, thinking this was more like Henry V before the battle of Agincourt than an Egyptian coffee house.

“I can see that.  You happy few, you band of brothers”, he replied.

“Is the batting line-up clear?”

Coach smiled “I think it is time we left,” he said sucking air from one of the offered pipes.

Dust to Dust Rocket Man Final TBlame is an easy crutch.   Sarah finally dealt with RocketMan’s revelation that he could have played for England in 2008 (it could have been 1770 for all she cared), noting that his brother Darren, an ex-roof tiler from Grimsby turned greyhound trainer, had fronted once for England. Sarah did all the talking and he did all the listening. RocketMan said he felt better – the night sweats might start to ease. Coach2.0 told him it might help to throw off the extra blanket.

This simplified everything in a way that Labour’s Ed Milibrand might wish for his shadow cabinet. Prof and I drafted a letter to Ed outlining three rules for cabinet solidarity based on recent experiences. Rule No 1: Do not flat with union leaders. Rule No 2: Do not ask for favours from union leaders or newspaper barons. Nothing is free. Rule No 3: If you do something silly, resign once. I shall accept it.

Prof submitted it to Sarah. She added Rule No 4: Labour leaders can never be seen to stand in the muddy fields of Glastonbury. Smell the grass you lot!

“Is Sarah the Mole?” I asked later.

“Unlikely. She is too loyal. She wants the Urn more than Coach,” said the Prof. “She used to go out with an English essayist and bard.  He was always quoting Shakespeare.  She hated it”

“What about the WAGS?”

“For tomorrow,” Sarah whispered through the keyhole. “Nightie night”

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.

COMING SOON: Coach2Coach – 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

Wicky-Leaks! – Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jul 3

Day 2 – Aust V Worcester

With just a week to go until the First Test, twitter is alight with “experts” naming their predictions for the Test line up, all in less that 142 characters.  One of the hotel staff has started printing these out and pinning them up on the notice board near the lobby, highlighting those of us who are in all of the lists, those who are out, those who are in more than they are out and those that are out more than they are in.  As if the Twitterati has any idea what’s going on in Coach2.0’s head.  As if he is the only one to make the decision!

There was a knot of players adrift in the batting order reading the tweets as I walked past after our post-meal team meeting tonight with Sarah (aka The Girl from Marketing).  She shook her head.  “You know that half those people are fake, boys. Don’t pay any attention.”

Puff looked confused for a moment.  He knew that ALL of the players getting named ahead of him in various batting line-ups were real enough – especially the ones who were ring-side a couple of weeks ago.

“I mean the people writing the tweets.  That’s not the real Richie Benaud, that’s not the real KP,” she said stabbing the notice board with her finger. “And that’s not the real Chairman of Selectors,” she said, peering closely at one of the sheets.  “You should know that.  He only tweets about moussaka recipes and tips on bonsai propagation.  Never about cricket.”

dt_0307Just then, a sheet of paper fell off the noticeboard from behind a tweet proclaiming the benefits of having 6 opening bats in the line up, and fluttered towards the floor.  I knew straight away what it was, and grabbed it before it landed.

I didn’t get to read it until I met The Prof in his room.  “Good side you guys have picked.  Looks strong on paper, well balanced and has good form. It will be a good contest!  Deep Third.”

“How does he know who’s playing before we do?” I said with no small amount of indignation.

Prof held the paper up to the light, then bit it twice. “Inside information. So who’s the mole? Anyone acting strange lately?” He looked me straight in the eyes. I stared back.

WICKY!” I said. Acting strange. Tick. Inner circle. Tick. In need of cash. Always.

“Don’t jump to conclusions, he may just have a nasty rash.  We need to test it out,” said The Prof. He was about to propose a test method when our phones both buzzed with the “Nighty, Night!” text we get from Coach2.0 most nights now to remind us of curfew. We’ll sort something out tomorrow while the lads finish of the Worcs.

Swann took five wickets at some backyard game in Essex. Woop-dee-do.

Aust 4/396 d, Worcestershire 7/246

Engl 9/413 d & 4/279, Essex . . . .oh who cares, it wasn’t a real game anyway.

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.

COMING SOON: Coach2Coach – The story of Australia’s chequered prepartion for the 2013 Ashes, as told by The 17th Man. (Available 6 July 2013)

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jul 2

Day 1 – Australia V Worcestershire

If there was one sound echoing around the ground today, it was the sound of a plan coming together.  Coach2.0 was looking smugger by the minute as Hollywood and Unlucky rattled off a classically constructed Tortoise and Hare opening stand of 170.  That’s not the innings total, so I’ll say it again – an OPENING STAND of 170!

Dust to Dust Mr Bean 1TThe Captain and Mr Bean settled in later on, but if Mr Bean is looking to secure a new spot in the batting order, running the Captain out is a strange way to go about it. Our beloved Leader mostly takes these things pretty well, but he was not a happy man as he returned to the dressing room. He was about to let fly when the first of his fleet of Back Carers whisked him away for his post-innings rub-down and aroma therapy.

The Prof reckoned Mr Bean did it on purpose, figuring the Captain will put him back up the order to reduce the chance of them having to bat together.  I pointed out that there was another way the Captain could go that would result in the two of them not having to bat together. “No longer a selector,” said Prof, tapping the side of his nose, and winking sagely.

As the game dragged on through the afternoon, with the weather closing in, we turned our attention to the form of our Hosts.  Total chaos was reigning at Essex, not just with the bowlers scoring runs and Puff’s Punching Bag taking 4 wickets. The Essex pie-throwers were dropping like nine-pins, with two relegated to the physio’s table, leaving them with an even weaker attack trying to give the Hosts some batting practice in the second dig.

The Powers that Be then dunked this match into a pond, declaring it to be a witch in the grand tradition of local “Witch Hunter General”  Matthew Hopkins (1620-1647), sending its first class status to the muddy bottom. Two other bowlers were roped in to give the attack some bite before it bacame so compelling that two of the Host’s top order retired, bored.  It was just as well TimB hadn’t yet had the tattoo done to mark his maiden First Class Century, especially as we hear the design he had in mind was a gothic “105 no” under the logo for “The Only Way Is Essex”.

Dust to Dust Wicky 1TWicky has been acting a little strangely today – I guess he did spent a fair bit of time padded up.  I’m not sure if he really wants to bat at 6 – Coach2.0 is too much of a traditionalist to contenance that – or if something else is eating him. Either way, he’s been out the back for more nervous Wicky-Leaks than a Pentagon file server.  I’ll keep an eye on him.

In news from back home, it would appear that Citizen Kane has his paperwork all sorted, and is now officially an Aussie.  Now all he needs to do is get a few wickets.

Aust 4/340.



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. FREE UNTIL MIDNIGHT 3 JULY (US Time), 8 am 4 July (UK) and 5 pm 4 July (AEDST),

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jul 1

The Prof called the Inaugural Meeting of the Australian Chapter of the International Federation of Test Cricket Reject Clubs to order.  The first rays of a Worcestershire sun climbed above the smoky peaks of red brick terraces to the strains of Edward Elgar, a favourite companion for the kitchen staff busily sizzling the first fatty fry-ups of the day.   The Prof ticked off the names of the old hands of The Reject Club (notably myself and Mr X) and extended a warm welcome to the new members including The Natural and Trapper, the likely 12th Man, neither of whom displayed any of the handcuffed politeness and standoffishness we used to expect from new recruits. Citizen Kane was acknowledged in absentia, while Mantis had slept in.

The Prof’s 2012 idea to smooth the transition of new recruits into the rhythm of the Reject Club by issuing formal invitations co-signed by the Coach and Captain has done much to remove the association between player frustration and the Club brand.  On his appointment, Coach2.0 also agreed to complete Club membership applications for each Reject to reduce the administrative burden on team marketing, and to top up the Club sinking fund. Realising the C’s analysis of player potential, form and social skills might upset some players – this section of the application requires 1,000 words – Prof thoughtfully added a section on Club benefits, a 1800 number for emergency psychological help, and a calculation of the compounding effect of member financial benefits to close out the invitation on an optimistic note.

Prof read out a note from the Coach reminding the Rejects that nets are available before 9 and after 5 on non-playing days, at any time during games, or at any other time by invitation from one of the Eleven.  Rejects are to lift the bat to bad balls and carelessly block the good balls when facing Test bowlers, and must try to avoid swinging or seaming the ball to frontline batsmen.  Rank long hops are preferred.  We are all One Team. The Test XI operate on a knife edge. Nothing is to upset their delicate temperaments.

The Prof trundled through the Agenda with all the fealty and poise of a corporate facilitator, inviting us to interact if he thought we were at all introspective, probing for muscle lesions like a bare-knuckled masseur.  He was tickled pink by Mr X and The Natural with their witty offhand remarks about those apparently in the XI.  He said he thought their schedule of Shakespearean-inspired pranks and outings during boring parts of the Tests in July, cut in between net sessions, looks particularly educational.   Prof and I distributed share certificates in Prof’s new venture, ‘Reconditioned Dukes’, to each of the Rejects.  The Prof said he feels so badly for the Rejects this Tour that he has closed down the No. 2 fund, leaving it with enough residual liabilities to balance out the dwindling profits from India after deducting a significant management fee and a special dividend (tip: 5 figures) for each of the Ashes Tour Rejects. We were so overjoyed we immediately re-invested the proceeds in Prof’s ‘by invitation only’ No. 3 fund, as he intended.

The meeting adjourned as the daily papers and plates of streaky bacon, browned snags, and pools of Worcester Sauce arrived to distract the collective hunger.

We spent the day banging away in the nets – bowling as instructed to warm up the bats for another County game, taking balls on the body from the named bowling line-up and calling encouragement up the line: “Nice ball.  It moved a fraction,” or “Nuts ball.  My fault.  I tripped over my shoelace,” or Mr X’s favourite, “Excellent pace. Was that your slower one?”.  The Natural has a soft spot for the line “Sorry Captain.  A face ball.”

I have only time to note the Essex flop.  England 9/413 declared. Bresnan (105 no) and the spinner Swann (94) grabbed the glory, the latter at the cost of a Nasty Bruise (c) .  In reply Essex 9/231, the boy Root jagging 4  by himself in a local rout.
“Let me process that.  Bowlers who bat and opening bats who bowl. Rejects with better form than the Test XI?”
“Hardly” replied a presidential Prof. “Nothing compares to the scenes in Glastonbury,” he said reading the Mirror headline “Glastonbury 2013 crowd-surfing baby sparks Twitter outrage“.  Apparently the lad made his way over the crowd in his pushchair to see his Dad perform Elvis’ Suspicious Minds with the Vodka Jellies Karaoke Band.  The other headline was equally puzzling: something about Laura Robson’s Wimbledon defeat being blamed on a memo from David Cameron. Nothing is stranger than it seems.


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 30

Ho hum!  England managed 7/328 today against a second string second division Essex, with ring-in Ravi Bopara, fielding a third string attack that has claimed precisely 8 wickets this season.  “Another one  of those games that should be played in the driveway with tennis balls before the neighbours wake up,” the Freak said.

“KP looks in tremendous touch,” Trapper added, eyeing a press photo of a lean looking KP as he slapped a half-pitch pebble somewhere wide of long-off, “as do Swann and Bresnan”.

“Have you nailed that last clue yet Lucky?”
“Nope.  7 letters starting with c”
“Century?” The Captain pronounced. “36 down is 4 letters. England No 3, average 50.  An average of 50…let me see,” he said, marking off England bats on his fingers, and looking at Lucky.

“Trott?.” squeaked Lucky.

“Well done!” A little pause in the conversation followed, for effect.  The Captain wished us well for the morrow and moved on to connect with another table.

“It’s all part of the new regime.  Coach2.0 calls it “tough love” so we can discover ourselves as human beings

“I get it. ‘Toughen Up Petal’” The Freak mouthed to Lucky, cracking a cheeky smile through parched lips.  Coach2.0 saw all this from afar – he misses nothing that Wicky doesn’t tell him – and moved in to help Lucky complete the cricket crossword.

“1 down. Indian spinner,” Lucky whispered to Coach.

Coach gave him a blank look. “Pre-history laddie.  Before my time.  Never happened on my watch,” leaving a shaking Lucky to continue the conversation with the Girl from Marketing and Darren.

“What’s troubling him?” inquired Hollywood.  He looks fresh as a daisy after his near century and confirmation he has an opening berth for the first Test.

“The usual.  Indian spinners.  Any spinner.”

“Have you seen this?”, he said spreading the SUN’s back page across the table.  The headline read ‘Poetry Ashes secret weapon says ECB chief.’ “Something called ‘Rise’ by Anon, a Pakistani refugee.” The Freak, Prof and I squinted at the poem.

“It’s all single syllables,” the Prof concluded using his portable pocket ruler to measure the length of each word carefully.

“Basic rhyme pattern, no onomatopoeia, metaphor, minor alliteration.  No ode, epic, or Shakespearean sonnet there. Weak as…”

“It’s definitely their weakest link”

The Freak was deep in thought. “The U11 spinner’s poem is better than that.  You know the one.  The application to join the Ashes squad we vetted in Sydney. It’s in the book.  Do you have it?”

“I have them all” I replied opening my ipad. “Here it is:”

“I love a sunburned oval,
A land of cricket games,
Of rugged bloody bowlers,
Of pies and spinning flames.
I love [Ed: roam]the long-off bound’ry,
I love the Wicky’s glee,
All beauty and all terror,
The [Ed: England’s] batsmen left at sea

                                                  (U11 Cricketer)”

We submitted it to the Girl from Marketing.  She sent it to the Captain who thought it met the new team guidelines.  He sent it to Coach2.0, who sent it to Plopper for comment. He didn’t know what to say. He sent it to the Head of High Performance who eventually cleared it as part of the 2013 (revised and updated) edition of high performance Rugby coaching he has been reading.  He sent it to the Chairman of Selectors who wanted to interview the U11 Cricketer for a spot in the Squad, provided he was already a Citizen.  All done in 20 minutes.  The Chairman is working on the YouTube video with the PM’s office.  He wants to insert something about the boats and carbon tax.

We spent a few more hours in the hotel bar watching extended highlights from Le Tour Stage 2, as it wound its way through the high gorges of Corsica, and composing cricket limericks none of which were at all inspired. RocketMan said he would like to visit Corsica, so long as he didn’t have to drive a bus.  The Prof said Elba is more exclusive.  A true place of exile if we leave England’s shores without the Urn.

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.

© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

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?”

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?”


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!

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