Summer 2015/16

Ashes 2015 - Oval Test Review - 24th August 2015

Half four. Half bloody four in the morning was when Rammy’s (me!) alarm went off on Saturday morning, to give me enough time to get to Newcastle Central Station in time for the 0559 to King’s Cross. Kikko was getting on at Darlington and we were scheduled to arrive into central London by 9 o’clock-ish.

The fifth and final Investec Ashes Test at The Oval was actually supposed to be our third test of the summer, but the ‘inconsiderate b*****d stork’ (as Midnight so succinctly put it) brought both of us a son – remarkably, on the same day – at the back end of July. We’d had to sell our tickets for Edgbaston, and – yep, you guessed it – the first day at Trent Bridge, because of our joyous arrivals.

Unperturbed however, Kikko duly joined me at 0630 at Darlington station, when the first cock-up of the day became apparent. I’d left a 12 pack of Kopparbergs in my old man’s car on the way to the station. I’d inadvertently caused a dry journey down. Kikko wasn’t impressed.

We made it to King’s Cross with no further farce, and headed our way to our digs for the evening, a hotel near Euston. When I say ‘hotel’, I don’t mean it. I mean a room above a pub which, upon googling, had received a Trip Advisor review stating simply: “grim”.

With trepidation, we found our accommodation for the evening. Unfortunately, the local tramps had taken up residence in the pub’s entrance, and, not fancying a ding-dong with a White Lightning-guzzling local, we bottled out of leaving our bags there and left for The Oval.

We did the usual trundle around the ground that cricket-losers like us do, we realised it was hotter than a thousand burning balls of flame, and decided it might be wise to get some sort of headwear. £17 worse off but with a white England sunhat in hand, we accidentally blanked a stray Adam Holliaoke and settled down for a day of standard England batting. Shocking collapses interspersed with the odd bit of defensive resilience. More of the former than the latter however left us 149 all out.

We went to The Roebuck for lunch, and caught up on a bit of the Man Utd v Newcastle match. With the boozer full of Man Utd fans (obviously, we were in London of course), we deliberately went OTT with the support of our black and white boys just to wind up the Cockney Mancs. It worked.

Our job there complete, we headed back for the evening session. Cooky was resolute, until he inexplicably looped a simple catch to Voges off, of all people, Steve Smith. Cue unnecessary amounts of rage and despair from me that our skipper and most reliable batsman had thrown his wicket away in such a manner. I was, of course, completely out of order, as Cooky had been the only bugger to show any resistance thus far, but it was the Steve Smith element that enraged me out of all proportion.

After making a few quid from stray beer glasses (every penny counts in London, right?) we headed out of the Oval. A well built bloke deliberately walked right in my path. I was about to lose my rag with him when I realisaed it was none other than our ignored pal from earlier, Mr A Hollioake. Becalmed, we tubed it back to our ‘hotel’. Fretting that we were about to stay in Syria’s worst-kept 1-star hotel, we were massively relieved to find normal people sitting outside drinking from glasses. It was a reassuring sight. Turns out the rooms weren’t so bad after all, and the £10 pint and pizza deal certainly sweetened things a tad.

We decided, as this was our first lads’ trip out since our ‘bairns’ were born, we’d try and make a night of it. We had a walk to Camden for a few beers. It was after approximately 30 seconds in the first boozer we found that we realised we were bloody old, and the loud music and £6 pints probably weren’t our scene any more. Mix that with the early start and the month of limited sleep we’d both had since the boys came, we decided it was probably for the best to head back to the room and watch Match of the Day. I’m ashamed to admit, that on our big p*ss up in London, I fell asleep before the end of MOTD. Bloody hell.

Sunday morning came and we hit the local greasy spoon for a fry up. I’m not a massive black pudding fan but the waitress was having none of my haggling and my request for hash browns was left hanging. P*ss-poor customer service if you ask me.

We headed back to the Oval and found our seats. We couldn’t be bothered to even move, so two hours later, we’re still there. At quarter past 12, with England 8 down and Broad and Moeen at the crease, the rain arrives. I’ll be honest, we’d both been kind of hoping that it’d all be over inside 10 overs and we’d get our full refund. Selfish maybe but it was game over and we all knew it. As the 10th over ticked by, we set our new target on 25 overs for half our cash back and a Brucy Bonus £37.

The rain started seriously pummelling down, it was wetter than Nathan Lyon’s run-up, and we were fairly confident that that was going to be it for the day. We sprinted (jogged!) back to the tube, and headed back to Kings Cross.

Sitting, feeling very sorry for ourselves that we’d travelled all this way, saw England play s***e and weren’t going to see the boys get the urn, we started to wonder whether this weekend was headed for a very, literally, damp ending.

Any hope of an earlier train home extinguished by the £90 fee to change trains, we watched some football, drank more overpriced fizzy crap in a glass, and contemplated how we were going to pass the next 7 hours until our train home.

Kikko’s faced changed all of a sudden. 3pm restart. 20 minutes from now. S**t. We literally ran back through KGX, bought a(nother!) tube ticket, and headed back to the Oval. We’d been in Sydney last year when the urn was given back in such meek circumstances, and we’d spent all this time and money to see us get it back, we weren’t missing it now.

We got back to The Oval to find I’d lost my return ticket. Sod it, we sprinted to the ground. Broad’s gone. We’re 9 down. It’s happening.

We looked up at the scoreboard. 4 more overs before no refund. Surely Finn wouldn’t hang around that long? Another over ticked by. Moeen’s rotating the strike and we looked pretty solid. This next three overs were gonna cost us all £37 each.

We started discussing the possibility of the last wicket falling and England celebrating like they’d won. Moeen grabbing a stump and doing cartwheels. In the end, Moeen finally feathered one to the keeper and the celebrations began. A weird but great end to a weird (and not so great?) series.

The urn was handed over, the lads did a lap of honour, and Kikko got the best photo ever – Stokes, spotting Kikko’s Durham shirt, came over with Mark Wood and the Durham heroes stood with Kikko holding our replica urn for the ultimate selfie.

It felt a way towards redemption for Sydney 2014. But that won’t be wiped out until we’re there to see us win down under, in the flesh. Something tells me the bairns will be with us when that happens.


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