- England v Australia, 1st Investec Test, Trent Bridge, 2nd day
Mega Ashes keeps throwing up surprises
It was the punch heard around the world despite barely touching skin. David Warner started the mega Ashes with a bang. Many words were written, spoken, yelled. Essentially the whole world decided as one that Australia was just as rubbish as they'd thought before, and now they were idiots as well. They couldn't land a punch, let alone win the Ashes.
"Australia are buggered, totally, on and off the field. Everyone knows this."
The intended victim of Warner's technically flawed wild swing wasn't Mickey Arthur. Cricket Australia, noticing that something was wrong, threw Mickey Arthur out the door. The people who hired him, and who gave Tim Nielsen a contract extension that was to take him to the end of these Ashes, still remained. But who could worry about some trifling matters when Australia had found the ultimate messiah. A rotund, smoking, beer-drinking coach, who was actually Australian, and not only that, had worn the baggy green on his perfectly round, bald head.
Boof's boys had replaced Lolstralia. The series would be, we were told, closer than we thought. 'They' rated Lehmann and his solid, old-school thinking, and suddenly, right in front of our eyes, England weren't as good as they had been.
"Darren Lehmann makes everything he touches turn into diamonds and jellybeans."
Then there was a lull. The press ran out of stories of any interest once Fawad Ahmed went home. England walked around talking up Australia. They would fight. They would be better than you thought. They wore caps on their head. They had Aussie heritage. They had two eyes, a nose and a mouth. It was as if England's plan was to drown Australia in endless facile platitudes.
"Australia are good enough for England to beat them and it still matter a great deal. We hope."
On the morning of the first match, several of the Aussie Fanatics had travelled 25 hours by bus from the running of the bulls in Pamplona to see the match. There was a chance that had Australia been sent in and bowled out, the least painful part of the trip would have been sitting on a bus for more than a day after being gouged by a bull.
Instead it was Peter Siddle who did the gouging. Not that he wasn't ably assisted by an English top-order who thought playing consistent loose shots outside off for hours on end was a good idea. And the more wickets Siddle took, the less likely people would continue to say '10-0'. By the time Graeme Swann had awkwardly fended a ball to point, England were the team worrying about what people would say about them.
"Aha, we also said England had a weakness for playing stupid shots and the Aussie pace attack was good, didn't we?"
That lasted until Ed Cowan played his golden duck drive. Cowan's innings was a brief break from his chronic vomiting, an illness so bad it landed his daughter in hospital. While the Cowans, and many Australian fans, vomited, Australia fell down from their very brief trip up on to the pedestal. Only Steve Smith hit the ball with any authority, and their very strong tail disappeared almost as quick as they could walk out there. It was every bit as ugly as an ass gouging and 25-hour-bus journey.
"Katich, Ponting and Voges are coughing out runs and we have this lot. Hell, we could even use Warner right now."
Then Ashton Agar met Phil Hughes. It was supposed to be a 30-run partnership followed by England cranking out a soul-destroying lead. Instead it was one of the greatest partnerships in cricket history. A 19-year-old No. 11 joined by a haunted former boy wonder sounds like the beginning of very depressing indie drama, but instead the game was lifted by the loose limbs of Agar and the technically fraught Hughes. They scored quickly and decisively. They played Anderson out. Bashed Finn when he allowed it. And Agar went after Swann like he hadn't seen the Brad Haddin dismissal. Instead of rolling over and dying they made history.
"The baggy green, and even the hard green helmet, has a mythical quality that you scientists will never understand."
England had clearly forgotten all their facile platitudes about how hard Australia would come, and how you can never write them off. Although, they had other things on their mind. They were clearly worried that they were being judged. Andy Flower was the only person who read 1984 and thought Winston Smith had it coming. English players are now judged on how they walk, talk, injure, breath and masticate. Their life is down to a series of boxes and scores. They analyse the best way to walk through the hotel lobby.
But how do you analyse Agar's batting? Ask Henley or Richmond CC to provide tapes? It's not the same, and once Agar got into his flow, the England players stood very still, and waited for it to end. They refused to try Stuart Broad, or get him off the field and get him treated. Finn decided to test every part of the pitch. Cook tried as little as possible. And they looked like men who'd lost the instructions and Allen keys for their flatpack furniture.
"These guys have an algorithm to tell them the correct way to suck from a straw, they're more computer than human."
It wasn't until England came out to bat that that both sides played well at the same time. Even if Australia got lucky with some Mitchell Starc rawness and Marais Erasmus randomness. It was the Australia bowlers bowling fast and accurate with Michael Clarke trying things, and Cook and Kevin Pietersen sitting on the bowling. After all the excitement, it was the first time there was quality to match it. It was tough, slow and tense, probably because it was the only thing this series had missed in the first two days.
After two days, we still have no idea how this mega Ashes will pan out. Perhaps Boof's boys will be too random and strange for the Flower androids.
Maybe that is just another wild nonsensical statement based on one passage of cricket. The mega Ashes is only two days old, but the cricket has already been more interesting and entertaining than anything David Warner does after midnight.
Only 48 days to go.