As a cricket widow for 6 months of the year (& Friday night nets through the winter, the occasional committee meeting on a Sunday evening, Thursday night training in the summer….you get the idea) you may be surprised to hear I’m excited that the Ashes have started Down Under.
Well, I am. Don’t tell Mr T, but I actually quite like cricket. Admittedly, I enjoy the highlights show or a twenty20 game more than the bloody long & drawn out 5 day game, but having been in Durham this summer when England won the 4th test & succeeded in keeping the Ashes (or the #InvestecAshes as we were encouraged to call them all day) on home soil, this series will have a fond place in my heart forever more.
Before the 4th test, England had retained the Ashes by default, as the series was a draw, but it felt somewhat unconvincing. There had been drama & controversy & many Australians had conveniently forgotten any episode an Aussie player had ever shown un-sportsmanly conduct & absolutely slated Stuart Broad for not ‘walking’ after being pretty obviously out at Trent Bridge. Quite a few even used the ‘C’ word at poor Stuart. So, the scene was set for the 4th test to be somewhat of a grudge match, with the Australian side determined not to go home having been totally thrashed & England wanting to take an emphatic victory, rather than the draw.
I gained huge brownie points by buying the tickets for Mr T’s 30th birthday pressie the year previously & we travelled up on the Saturday (after he’d actually played cricket, obvs). The Sunday was fairly slow-paced & I remember being a teensy bit bored as the realisation that the highlights show has an hour in which to show 7 hours of play, whereas we had the whole 7 stretching out ahead of us in the (quite chilly) Chester-le-Street stadium. By the time it was the first drinks (Buxton Drinks break, if you please), I’d made a serious dent in the M&S goodies we’d bought on the way up the M1.
At lunch, I bought a bottle of wine (& won a zebra for tweeting), which cheered me up immensely & made the afternoon pass much more quickly. Lots of other people had the same idea, it would seem, as during the afternoon I saw the longest ‘beer snake’ I had ever seen, the eviction (& subsequent re-admission after lots of singing) of Bertie Bassett & the comedic tune choices of ‘Billy the Trumpeter’ who is a loyal Barmy Army fan & follows England to the corners of the globe. He played either the Final Countdown or the Countdown theme for every players referral to the Decision Review System, which made me smile & his frequent playing of the Neighbours & Home & Away themes only added to my admiration of him. I probably enjoyed the atmosphere & the singing as much as (maybe more than) the cricket. Ian Bell got a century, which gave the crowd plenty of opportunity to use their 4 & 6 hold-up cards & whipped them into a frenzy, but by the end of the day it looked like it could be anyone’s game. Who knew cricket (& it’s fans) could be so entertaining?!
The Monday session started a bit slow too & we looked like having another slightly tedious (still cold & potentially rainy) day, although I had quite got into it by that point & was enjoying the game. I had thought the ticket-booking through & today we were on the opposite side (to stave off the cricked neck from viewing 2 days in the same position – see, clever!). Turns out, this is where the serious cricket fans sit. I felt massively out of my depth, as the women behind me discussed the merits of various players & tactics. Then I realised they had earphones in & were actually just repeating what was being said on TMS (or Test Match Special, for those of you not so down with your cricket as me). I do have one question to any cricket fan reading this: WHY do you need a radio on telling you what is happening, when you can see it right in front of you. Use your bloody eyes. Anyway, I digress.
By the time we got to the Buxton drinks break, it was getting quite exciting (plus we were closer to the players this side, so I had had a couple of opportunities to oggle Alastair Cook & James Anderson’s particularly pert bottoms in their cricket trousers, which had brightened my day no end…). As we were opposite where we’d been the previous day, we could see the ‘drinkers’ in the stand & had great fun watching the Honey Monster being chased by Kermit the Frog & a couple of security guards, before being chucked out. Yes, you read that right.
We went off to lunch with the game looking a little like it might go to Australia, who were cruising at 167 for 2 & Mr T & I were actually discussing whether or not to come back for the last day, as we had booked the Tuesday off work & it looked like it might go on another day.
After an over-priced & over-cooked burger during the break, we settled down to watch the final session & what a session it turned out to be. England came out from the dressing room after the Yorkshire Tea break (yes, really) with the bit between their teeth & you could see their whole demeanour had changed. Apparently, it was one of the most exciting sessions of test cricket ever (ref: Mr T) & very few cricket fans would ever get to witness such an amazing turnaround live (whether this means we never have to go again has yet to be decided). Turns out Stuart Broad was pretty pissed off with the whole of Australia assassinating his character & he got 6 wickets to stick 2 fingers up to them & stop them being so horrid (apparently, according to English Cricket Board’s psychometric testing, Broad was deemed to be a person that would react well to hostility. True story). Tim Bresnan got 2 further wickets & – one of my favourites – Graeme Swann got the other 2. I even surprised myself by hoping that the rain would stay away & play would be extended so we could be there for the end. The moment the last wicket fell was absolutely incredible.
This victory was made all-the-sweeter because the woman behind us had been moaning all morning about what a waste of money it was for her to come & watch England lose & saying things like ‘they don’t even look like getting a wicket any time soon’ etc. She soon changed her tune once the wickets started to drop, as apparently she’d ‘known all along’ they would do.
The atmosphere was absolutely electric & we stayed behind to watch the presentations afterwards & sang along to the travelled home on the bus almost euphoric. Had we not spent £8 on a burger & literally counted out the last of our change to buy another round of cider towards the end of the excitement, we might have had an amazing night out in the Toon.
The sense of patriotism over the next couple of weeks was incredible & almost as impressive as the Olympic fever the year before. I was very proud to be English & felt privileged to have been a part of history in the making.
So although I’m looking forward to the patriotism, the banter, the highlights (I’m not staying up until bloody midnight to watch the real thing) & seeing Little T watch his heroes on tv (he;s a big Joe Root fan), this isn’t actually why I’m excited about the Ashes starting; I’ve just got a bit carried away down memory lane. No, I’m excited because I have a massive crush on both Alastair Cook & James Anderson & this just means we get to see their beautiful faces on our telly boxes every day again.