we’re only here for the cricket

One loyal follower of this blog seemed a little upset that I hadn’t mentioned any of the cricket in my previous post based around Brisbane. He was probably right to be a little miffed off. After all, we did originally meet on a cricket tour, all our previous meetings around the world since have been based around cricket and the majority of our electronic and verbal communications also involve several paragraphs or chit chat related to the said sport. I suppose I owe to both him and myself to dedicate at least one post entirely towards the finest sport in the world. So, for all you non cricket fans out there fed up about hearing how great England are doing and how crap Australian cricket has become, you may want to stop reading now.

Following the England cricket team abroad was something I dreamt of doing from my early years of secondary school. I remember clearly the excitement of handing over hard cash to the travel agent who was arranging my first cricket trip back in 2004. Since that first two week ‘tour’ to Barbados, my hunger to watch the lads abroad has grown to near irresponsible levels, quite often leaving me with no further annual holidays to take back home and a bank balance that is too close to to the red for comfort. Every year since has been spent saving leave from work to try and squeeze in that extra week away that would give me another match or some spare time to do some sightseeing. I’d give up other hobbies, such as football or midweek boozing that would swell the funds back up to the levels required to socialise on tour.

It’s a bit like a drug. Once you have been on one tour, you want to do the next one. When I first starting going I was in awe at the brilliance of it all. The singing, the atmosphere, the cricket itself – it was as good as I expected. Perhaps the good vibe was aided by the fact I my first two games abroad in the Caribbean and Bombay were wins for England. Either way, I knew after that Bombay test match that barring any massive changes in personal circumstances, I had found a hobby as good as any to keep me occupied for many winters ahead. It was during the Sri Lankan trip in 2007 that I started to get greedy. I mentioned above that doing one tour leads to a second. From here you start to meet new friends, build relationships and start to crave doing more test matches. The thought of not being at a ground, watching your mates on TV having a great time while watching the England boys can be pretty gut wrenching. I was now not content with doing one or two test matches – I wanted to explore the possibility of doing as many as possible. I stretched the ‘fun’ account to the maximum in the winter of 2008/09, watching us play four tests out of six over the course of eight weeks away either side of Christmas. I realised during a month in South Africa last winter that doing the Ashes would be an all or nothing trip for me. As you know, I’ve managed to justify the Ashes tour to myself by travelling the world over a period of time.

The greatest thing about elongating a cricket tour is the ability to have some time away from the day to day cricket supporters lifestyle. If I were to tell you that watching test cricket abroad can be hard work you’d probably tell me to get out of town. To be honest if I was reading this sat in a freezing cold office in the afternoon gloom of winter, I’d definitely tell me to get out of town! But it is. The average day at the cricket goes something like this. Get up to a 7am alarm call and try to get rid of the heavy head from the previous nights drinking. Get down the ground early enough to find a preferred spot and chat with whoever is around about what you got up too after yesterdays play. Sit in the sun (Adelaide was 38c on day two) for up to eight hours clapping and cheering the lads on when the time is right. From here it is straight out on the town to continue drinking before crashing back at your seven bed dorm to try and get some shut eye amongst your fellow snoring backpackers. For someone like me – a huge cricket fan who likes to socialise and talk shit, life can’t get much better. To do this for five days running though can be hard work. Granted, not as hard as getting out of bed in a cold, dark flat only to face a cycle to work, but still, hard work. At least hard work as I know it presently, during these tough travel days….

Elongating a trip based around cricket also gives a chance to see some of the country that you are in. My favourite memory from Sri Lanka is the day trip to Sigiriya that I’ve wrote about on several occasions previously. Barring the win in Durban, the best part about South Africa was the six day road trip we took along the stunning Garden Route, stopping off at little places along the way that I’d have never dreamt about visiting had it not been for the cricket. I remember the night we had at a little place called Hermanus, just outside of Cape Town. It was a cracking town, based by the sea and had a real friendly, small town feel about the place. We drank with the locals in a brilliantly cheap bar (oh how I crave one of those here) and smashed them at pool, making the night even cheaper as the losers had to buy the next round of beers.

I’m currently sat in a library in the beautiful seaside resort of Glenelg, positioned a thirty minute tram ride outside of Adelaide city centre. It’s another one of those places that I have stumbled upon thanks to my love for test match cricket. Would I have visited here otherwise? No, I can’t say I would. Would I have chosen to come to Australia for any other reason than the need to watch England smash the Convicts in an Ashes test matches series? No. Not at this particular point in my life in any case. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing at all wrong with Australia. It seems a perfectly nice, easy going place to come travelling; full of friendly folk enjoying the fact the country is booming economically at present. Perhaps that’s another reason I wouldn’t chose to travel here at present, because my pound gets far better value in most other places around the world. As it happens, thanks to the cricket I have met some brilliant people here so far. There was Devo in Brisbane who provided great entertainment to our group with his antics and general Anglo-Aussie banter. Here in Adelaide I’ve spent a fair bit of time with a Victorian girl called Lauran who has been terrific company, even if she had to put up with my random cricket chanting from time to time! She was visiting Adelaide with a couple of mates especially to watch the Aussies lose the second test….

I hate to bang on about money again, but I won’t be able to afford to do some of the touristy things the average backpacker does here. Ayers Rock, The Great Barrier Reef and the like are all way out of my budget, but I can’t say that overly bothers me. I’m not here to be a tourist – I’m here to watch some top class test match cricket whilst drinking a few white wines or local ales in the company of some like minded people in around the grounds and town centres. The fact I haven’t even considered purchasing an Australian guidebook sub consciously indicates that I have no real desire to discover this country in the way I was about the many countries I set foot in South East Asia. Don’t get me wrong, if I had a driving license and a couple of willing mates, I’d have looked into the possibility of doing a drive through the unforgiving Aussie outback or a road trip down the Great Ocean Road. But I don’t, so there was no point in looking into that. I get the impression, like with most places I’ve visited, that I’ll be back some day. I’d imagine that then I’ll look more into discovering more of this vast country. The travel thing was done prior to the Ashes, and most certainly will be done afterwards. For now, as the title of this entry says, I’m only here for the cricket.

In that case I suppose I should write a little about the cricket.

One of my biggest frustrations in recent times has been watching England’s batsman fail to capitalise on getting a start to an innings. When we got rolled over in Brisbane for a below par score, I was pretty concerned that those same issues were going to occur again here. Alistair Cook getting to the sixties only to get out when set. Ian Bell playing well, but not quite going on to play that match changing innings that his counter part Mike Hussey achieved when batting with the lower middle order. Jon Trott getting through the new ball, only to play round a straight one and get bowled after doing all the hard work. When Australia opened up that large first innings lead thanks to a long Hussey/Brad Haddin partnership, a number of us were in the bar, bemoaning that we could be seeing the same old Ashes defeat. We shouldn’t have been worried as Strauss, Trott and the superb Cook went about batting for the best part of two days for 517-1! It was unreal stuff, the kind of scoreboard you don’t even see the likes of India rack up in their own backyards, let alone England at Australia’s favourite venue, The Gabba’. In all fairness, I know I should have had more faith. We had prepared well for this series and had come into it with the majority of batsman in the runs. This is a very different English team from the one that got turned over here 5-0 four years ago, as well as a much, much weaker home side.

If the 517-1 score at the back end of the Brisbane test seemed surreal, then the start of the second test at the picturesque Adelaide Oval was even more so. Batting first on a flat wicket in scorching hot sunshine, we feared that the Aussies would bat us out of the game unless we bowled well with the new ball. What we witnessed was a run out in the first over of the game, followed by a Ricky Ponting golden duck and a further failure for Michael Clarke two overs later! We set the trend there and then and they never recovered from that score of 2/3 on that first morning. To witness us win in Australia by an innings has been a privilege and has given me my fourth, and greatest win abroad so far. If we win just one more test out of three then we retain the Ashes. As good as even a drawn series would be (after all that’s all we need to see Strauss lift the Urn at Sydney) there is now a huge feeling of confidence amongst the English that we could stamp all over the Aussies here and rub their noses in it, just like they have done so to us in the past. Interestingly, the Australians I have met and spoke to all agree that England should win here. There is a real feeling of animosity towards the home side from its own fans – they just don’t support a losing side here. The crowd at Brisbane was terrible on the last day as the Aussies were being batted out of the game. Although the home side had more visible support in Adelaide on that last day, the ground was mainly full of English supporters.

Now we’ve got them well and truly on the ropes, we cannot let them punch back. When Peter Siddle got a hat-trick in Brisbane, you sensed that the home crowd started to believe they could turn us ‘Poms’ over again, even without the Warne’s, McGrath’s and Gilchrist’s of this world. The noise volumes for twenty four hours were raised from all corners, both in the ground and the bars. I’ve heard many tales of Australian fans not being shy in telling any Pommie in spitting distance just how ‘We are gonna’ get destroyed by so and so’ and that the ‘English are shit’ In all fairness to them, they were right to give us plenty, given how poor our record down under is. Now though is different. As my now Thailand bound travel buddy Basingstoke Pat says ‘There doesn’t seem to be that many BMA’s around this time’ (BMA being short for Big Mouth Aussie)

Lets keep it that way as we head to Perth!

* On a final note, check out the picture of the sun setting over Glenelg. Just like the views from the summit of Mount Kinabalu, pictures do far more justice than any words I could scribe down. Just stunning.


2 Responses to “we’re only here for the cricket”

  1. 1 Donna
    December 9, 2010 at 6:55 am

    Beautiful sunset photo Rich. Glad England are doing so well. Long may it continue!!!!!

  2. 2 Martin Chapple
    December 9, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Hi Rich, brilliant blog as usual – so, so pleased that you were there to see a massive England win. Hanging out with a Victorian girl? That means she must be over 100 years old – you gotta raise your sights boy!
    You are missing the coldest winter since 1947 (which even I can’t remember) so keep enjoying the warmth. Have been trying to see Bristol Rovers V Exeter for over two weeks(semi-final of johnstone’s Paint trophy), it keeps being called off.
    I like the picture of the giant pink swan. Your red one is still in pride of place on top of the stereo in the dining room – England’s lucky charm maybe?
    Speak soon,


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