Gees, this blog’s been going for awhile now. That becomes apparent when I look through the old articles to hotlink (here, here, here and here) and realise that this is the 5th Ashes game to report on. The Ashes game is a relatively regular game of cricket between a bunch of Aussies led by Seamus and a bunch of Poms led by Giles in which BotF correspondents illiards and bladdamasta participate. Whilst BotF isn’t Wisden, it’s become a reasonably good record of the thrilling contests that transpire. The 2013 contest was no different.
I am not exactly sure of the overall series record between the two teams. Heading into Sunday’s battle I think that the Aussies shaded the Poms 5 to 4, but the Aussies (ie us) were coming off a relative mauling in November, so motivation probably existed on both sides to actually play with some intent. Like every year, however, intent is only one of the uncertainties that exists. In fact, the day works its way through a number of uncertainties. Will the weather be clement enough to allow play to occur? Will enough players turn up for the Aussies to enable a game to proceed? Will the Aussies be in a fit state to enable the game to be a contest? And that’s only before the game starts. Then there’s the uncertainty of the day’s rules (often fluid), before the traditional uncertainty that should occur during a game about who will win as the contest ebbs and flows.
The format was unusual, but given the difficulties the Australian international season has faced (care factor zero and declining, formulaic contests etc), the ACB could do worse than have a look at this. Put simply, the contest was the highest aggregate of a 20/20 contest and a 10/10 contest where the batting orders from the first contest were reversed in the second contest. The addition of an iPad scorecard with the ability to calculate a Duckworth/Lewis outcome on a day where the meteorologists were having each way bets on whether it would rain meant that the two captains had plenty to think about.
The Aussies batted first and scrapped out a score of 114 off the 20 overs. It wasn’t a bad score, (Pearce R and Vickers P shining) but it always felt light on. The Poms started brightly with their perennial stand-out, Cutler W quickly racking his 25 before retiring. Harvey M also played well.However, tight bowling from illiards and Vickers meant the Poms suddenly had a challenging run rate to achieve to surpass the Aussies’ score. (Some might Cheshire A batted like Tavare C – but the boys were impossible to get away). Heading into the last couple of overs the Poms needed some big overs and K Saunders pulled out a 6 and a 4 against the flow to provide the momentum to put the Poms 3 runs ahead at the end of the 20/20. Moving into the 10/10 phase, it was practically even – but who could predict what a reversing of the order of each team would reveal.
The Collins brothers (Toby and skipper Seamus) came out and went beserk. A former 10 and 11 were suddenly opening and Toby in particularly knocked the Poms out of their stride with a rapid fire 19 off 12. That set the scene and the Aussies posted a very competitive 80 odd. The reversing of the order clearly rattled the poms and they never really got going in their second dig. The Aussie bowlers were as tight as a piscine sphincter. It always amazes me how illiards plays once a year but manages to drop his first delivery into the McGrath corridor of uncertainty with a reasonable amount of zing. The standout was undoubtedly Arambewela C, who scattered stumps like a cigarette salesman scattering free darts into a chinese schoolchildren’s playground. Vickers P, Phillips J and Pearse J also held up their end. In the end the Poms fell 34 runs short on aggregate and the 2012/13 season series was evened up.
It was another terrific game between two teams that simply enjoy the experience each year. I reckon we’re close to a cool perennial format – but that’s just my call. The Poms perspective on the day can be found here, on Llewellyn G’s blog (who by the way bowled to great effect on the day).
I’d bought a special beer for the occasion and it proved useful for some cricket captions. #1 brew from Dad and Dave’s brewing, which comes from North Curl Curl (not far from the Back of the Ferry’s terminus). Unfortunately I inadvertently left in the unpredicted sun on the day and it wasn’t fit for consumption. That’s a review for another day. Illiards, the Collins brothers and Cutler W did pop into the Union Hotel, Newtown, after the game for a post match de-brief and we did try a beer that is as unusual as any that have graced the BotF pages. The Union has a great rotating range and one on offer was a Doctor’s Brewing special called Cephalopod. It is a Berliner Weisse, which is rare in itself – but what was unique was its colour. It was greener than the Alexandria Oval pitch that we’d just played on. I love how the Doctor pushes beer boundaries. I’ll always have a crack at a new approach, and colouring a beer with squid ink is as unique as it gets – but I found this too challenging. Don’t stop trying, Doc – and maybe I shouldn’t have tried it when I really wanted to slam something down fast. Not sure if I’ll see the Cephalopod again so I had to have a lash.