Ashes are ashes

Trip Start Oct 29, 2003
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Flag of Australia  ,
Friday, December 22, 2006

So it only took a little over 15 months - 463 days to be exact - for  the Aussies to snatch back the little urn from a patently weak and under-prepared England. There are lots of 'if onlys' over the last month but the biggest has to be the Monty Panesar saga. He finally got his chance in Perth where he showed what he could do and took five wickets in the first inning (not even Shane Warne has done that at the WACA). His almost childish glee at taking a wicket is a joy to watch and even the hard-nosed Aussies have taken to him.

As much as it pains me I have to begrudgingly give the Aussies their due as they have played some good hard cricket and haven't let England off the hook at any point. We knew that England had to play at their best to have a realistic chance of winning the series and we haven't been close. Then again, save for a couple of disastrous sessions we could still have been in with a shout as the shebang rolls back across the country and into Melbourne for the traditional Boxing Day Test.

After a week back in Brisbane catching up with Wendy I've been in Melbourne for a couple of days and I can see why it is consistently voted as one of the best cities in the world to live (marginally eclipsing Ocean City in the US and Grimsby in England). Aussies love their sport and none more so than Melburnians who are lucky enough to host the Melbourne Cup horse race, the opening race in Formula One, the Australian Open tennis grand slam, and the Aussie Rules Grand Final at the 100,000 seater Melbourne Cricket Ground. Fairly new to the sporting landscape is A-League soccer and so I popped off to the rather impressive Telstra Dome (when its roof is closed it becomes the only indoor cricket stadium in the world) to watch Melbourne Victory take on Sydney FC. Not surprisingly, there is no love lost between the two cities and there was certainly none on the pitch. With a record crowd of 50,333 for a domestic football game the atmosphere was pumping but unfortunately the game wasn't and it ended up nil-nil. The fans certainly got into it and there were even a few beer-fuelled scuffles after the game between the two sets of fans.

I spent a few days wandering round the city ducking into shops and  libraries when the heat got too much. One day it got up to 42.1 degrees  - the hottest day for 108 years - before dropping 17 degrees in 30  minutes as winds changed from the south. It was quite bizarre. This excessive heat and drought conditions have caused numerous bushfires,  including one the size of Wales that has threatened numerous farming communities. The smoke at times has been so bad in the city that the tops of the skyscrapers have been obscured and a number of flights have been cancelled.

On one traipse around town I came across a little stone cottage. It was built in 1755 in the village of Great Ayton in northern England where one Captain James Cook was born. Now Cook happens to be one of the five people I'd like to have over for dinner (the other four would be a teenage ABBA giving me the perfect opportunity to slip some polonium-210 in their soup before they had a chance to write Dancing Queen) so I took a short tour around. To commemorate his mapping of Australia in 1770 some geezer bought the house in 1934 and had it dismantled and shipped over. It therefore claims to be the oldest building in Australia.

That night I tried to get madferit at a Noel Gallagher acoustic concert but the touted tickets were more expensive than an Ashley Giles wicket. Maybe I should have gone to see Kylie as she was playing across town but instead I took part in a pub trivia contest and came close to winning - my downfall not knowing the name of a famous Melbourne Cup winning race horse from the 1920s. Obviously it was an anti-Pom conspiracy.

So now I'm waiting for Christmas and of course the Boxing Day Test. Thousands more English are making the trip over hoping that we will not be whitewashed 5-0. With the news of Shane Warne's retirement after the New Years Test the crowds will be flooding to the MCG to watch his last game there, and also where he will take his 700th Test wicket (my money is on Kevin Pietersen). All I have to do is somehow get a ticket.
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