Cricket! (CONTAINS VIDEO)
Trip Start Oct 21, 2006
115Trip End Mar 21, 2008
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For me, today is one of the parts of this trip I've most been looking forward to - the start of the Ashes. For any readers who have no idea what 'the Ashes' are, here's a little summary. Back in 1882, when England first lost to their colonial subjects Australia at cricket, that most English of games, an English newspaper ceremonially burned a piece of cricket equipment, places the ashes in an urn and offered them up as the remains of English cricket. This little jar of ashes has been played for between these two countries ever since. Most series were competitive until 1989, when Australia won 4-0 and retained the Ashes comprehensively until last summer. England won a dramatic series of games to regain the Ashes, setting up this return series - the most eagerly anticipated cricket tour ever. And today is the first day. Many thousands of confident Poms, collectively known as The Barmy Army, have made their way over to Australia and bought up a lot of the tickets.
Accordingly, with all this anticipation and a capacity crowd of about 41,000, there si a buzz about Brisbane this morning. I knew it would be quite congested close to the ground, so I allowed plenty of time to make sure we were there for the first ball. The other 40,998 people seem to have had the same idea though, so progress is slow. The closer we get, the more green and gold shirts and St. George's cross flags we see and people seem to just appear from all directions. By the time we push through the throngs of fans, walk all around the perimeter of the ground to find our gate, line up for half an hour and find our seats, we have missed the anthems, it is 10am and the first ball is just about to be bowled.
For the first hour or two, the atmosphere is electric - Poms are singing, Aussies are yelling and cracking jokes and most people are on to their second or third beers. Gradually though, Australia begis to take a grip on the game, finding all the gaps and taking advantage of bad English bowling. The Barmy Army doesn't have much to cheer about, but they battle on. Although it's a long day - seven hours altogether - Jane is having a great time. She understands the basics of cricket, having had to watch me play a fair bit, and she enjoys the antics and costumes of the animated crowd. Later in the day, as the sun hammers down on the patrons on our side of the stadium like so many peanuts laid out to roast, we get chatting to a few of the fans sitting around us. Despite being seated in the unlicensed 'family' section, most of the men are fairly drunk so the conversation flows without inhibition.
The day's cricket ends and Australia are well on top, having scored 346 runs (a lot) and lost only three wickets (not many). The mood outside the ground this time is quite different, the Poms aren't all that cocky and the Aussies, ever the good sports, are.
Friday, November 24
Day two follows a similar pattern on the field - Australia dominating completely. As I mentioned, Jane is well entertained by the antics of the largely male crowd. Whenever a beach ball that the crowd are bouncing around accidentally gets knocked onto the field, it is confiscated by a stern security guard. As he walks away with it, a crowd chant goes up: "Give us our ball back! Give us our ball back!". Instead the security guard pulls out a knife or something from his pocket and pops the ball with clinical ruthlessness.
Later on in the day, as the sun beats down and the fans get through their 12th or 13th beers, some get a little too tipsy and rowdy and security removes them, inspiring loud chants of "Bullshit! Bullshit!" from the rest of the stadium, in an admirable show of solidarity to their fallen comrade.