Trent Bridge 2017: The Emperor's New Clothes
Our Addis Army editor, Freddie, must be a nervous wreck.
Filled with trepidation that his most negative correspondent has been watching events at Trent Bridge.
Especially in view of the likely number of expletive deletions that might be required to this piece - after the truly woeful performance by our ‘Champagne’ England team.
Given the margin of the defeat i.e. 340 runs, then I think under the circumstances I’ve been pretty restrained!
I have arrived in Long Eaton at the home of my good pal Higgy the night before and my senses are already dulled by a hangover this morning as we all troop to Trent Bridge. The two of us are joined by Tony, Ryan, Lee, Pep and Mez from Long Eaton CC.
Higgy is a nocturnal party animal, able to survive in his natural habitat i.e. cricket grounds for long periods without food, so long as there is plenty of lager available to drink. A trait he has no doubt developed during many overseas tours with the Barmy Army. For myself as a diabetic, this is not an ideal scenario, but fortunately the bar at Long Eaton CC does sell crisps, so at least I had an evening meal last night.
It is a cool overcast morning and looks ideal for bowling. Surprisingly, South Africa choose to bat.
Some might say a foolish decision after their drubbing at Lords but they bat grittily, losing only the wicket of Elgar during the morning.
At lunch the Long Eaton lads retire to the Larwood and Voce for several liveners and I content myself with a walk round the ground. I bump into Skip and his foster lad Leon, enjoying his first outing at a Test match. I am unsure why Skip has supplied Leon with 4 and 6 T20 cards to wave, given the ponderous nature of England’s top three batsmen on one side and Elgar & Amla on the other.
In the afternoon we witness a great innings by De Kock, who makes batting look easy, and a more solid effort by Amla. Although more wickets fall, England are unable to press home any advantage, and when after tea the sun comes out, Morris and Philander plunder the tired bowling attack, the latter scoring a fifty. South Africa finish at 335-6.
WAKE UP. SMELL THE COFFEE. THE ASHES ARE NOW JUST FOUR MONTHS AWAY.
We visit the Trent Navigation pub at stumps. “A Really Great Pub, says Paul Burnham, Leader of the Barmy Army” reads the blurb over the urinals. Leafy isn’t wrong, this is a decent boozer, and tonight it is made even better by the prospect of Live T20 cricket from Old Trafford on the TV.
The Old Enemies. Red Rose v White Rose. Lancashire v Yorkshire.
A record crowd for outside London…. and I have chosen to give up my precious ticket to my pal Stuart in order to be in Nottingham today supporting England. He has also taken his 11 year old son Jake.
No prizes for guessing who Midnight is supporting, but the Long Eaton boys have miraculously become Yorkshire fans at some time during the day. The bastards. I am unsure what has brought about this Damascene conversion, although I suspect it is a copious amount of alcohol.
The T20 game is ruined by the rain with the Umpires stage managing a Duckworth – Lewis tie, probably to avert a mass brawl between the sodden fans. I ring Stuart to ask if Jake has enjoyed his evening, despite the rain.
“Yeah. He especially enjoyed the kids in the Family stand making paper aeroplanes out of the 4/6 cards and throwing them at the Yorkshire supporters!”
Good lad Jake, a Lancashire junior membership surely awaits.
I wonder if the ECB have considered NatWest 4/6 lethal paper aeroplanes as potential offensive weapons in their T20 Franchise plan?
Next, it is off to Long Eaton CC, possibly the most politically incorrect cricket club in the UK, for more drinks. The banter in the bar here would probably be considered as ‘hate crime’ by the local plod, but a great laugh nevertheless.
No food this evening. Glad my diabetes nurse isn’t here.
Just Higgy and I at the match today as the other lads are playing cricket for Long Eaton.
Unsurprisingly, I feel like trash.
However, I am cheered by Jimmy Anderson taking four quick wickets in the morning and England are batting sooner than we thought. Well, apart from Alastair Cook and ‘Buster’ Keaton Jennings, who don’t last very long.
For the benefit of any younger readers, Buster Keaton was a silent comedian as opposed to a batting one.
My mutterings about Gary Ballance and Liam Dawson have not gone unnoticed amongst the surrounding spectators. As Gary prods and edges his way into the twenties, there is much jollity and ribbing about the prospect of my having to watch a Ballance century after lunch.
Unfortunately, but entirely true to form, Ballance is out bowled straight after lunch, having failed once again to move his feet.
Joe Root in the meantime is playing a classy knock, similar in style and tempo to De Kock yesterday, and for a while he is ably supported by Jonny Bairstow.
The usual collapse then ensues, with England losing their last 7 wickets in kamikaze fashion for 62 runs.
WAKE UP. SMELL THE COFFEE. THE ASHES ARE NOW JUST FOUR MONTHS AWAY!
The sun emerges from the stygian gloom after tea and South Africa reach 75-1 in their second innings – a lead of 205. Things are not looking great for England.
I leave early for the Trent Navigation and a sneaky plate of bangers and mash. Higgy and the Long Eaton boys arrive shortly afterwards, along with a Barmy Army contingent – Chris, Robbo, Colin, Craig and Janet, and we are also joined by two new faces who Higgy befriended in Barbados, Waggs and Vicky. Lovely people.
Vicky is a northern lass from Barnsley but Waggs is a southerner on his first visit to Nottingham - and clearly loving it.
I’m sure (although I never asked him) Waggs must originally be from Weston Super Mare, as his behaviour and accent became remarkably similar to that of Tremers in Wellington after the beer had kicked in.
As the couple left the Navigation for their taxi to go to the famous ‘Trip to Jerusalem’, Waggs staggered about, muttering to himself:
“We’re going to the Trip! We’re going on a Trip! We’re going to the Trip!” – to the amusement of all - except I suspect, Vicky.
Back to Long Eaton CC and as it is Saturday night and both the first and second teams have won, ‘Special Treatment’ is in store for two of the junior players.
Young bowler Michael appears to have sprained his ankle, and lies prostrate in the bar with a large ice compress surrounding the damaged area. Club Chairman Tony dons a white doctor’s coat and attends him at regular intervals, squeezing the icepack, each time producing squeals of anguish and pain.
Eventually the club captain notices and intervenes.
“I asked you to apply pressure on his ankle for ten minutes, Tony.”
“Oh. Sorry, I thought you said apply pressure every ten minutes!” cackles Dr Tony.
If that were not bad enough, young batsman Sam, the captain of the Sunday side, who has already been soundly whipped with wet towels after his shower by the other lads, is in line for further ‘Special Treatment’. At least now he has his clothes on.
First, a thorough soaking by Dr Tony, followed by further towel-thrashing by Ryan and Lee.
After recent fire related tragedies we must all be more safety conscious, and a decision is made to test the club’s fire extinguisher. On young batsman Sam.
Rather pedantically, I point out that a dry powder extinguisher should only be used on electrical fires, not on drenched, sore young lads.
In Guantanamo Bay, the events of this evening would have been described by the media as ‘atrocities’.
A 2am finish. No food. Lots of beer.
My diabetic nurse would whip me with a wet towel if she knew.
With hangovers and every prospect of watching South Africa bat all day, we opt for a late arrival at the ground.
It is a warm day and England’s body language in the field is exceedingly poor.
Liam Dawson’s bowling is of a similar standard.
As he is clobbered for four and six by Hashim Amla, a wag in the crowd shouts:
“That’s rubbish Dawson. My grandmother can bowl better than that and she’s been dead forty years!”
At lunch the cricket has been so boring that I make an exception to recent habits and join Higgy in the Larwood and Voce for a couple of beers. We meet Mel and Jim, two more of his tour friends from West Indies, both really affable and pleasant lads. I return to the torture after about an hour, but Higgy stays in the bar. He is in need of more liquid, and I can’t say I blame him.
South Africa pile on the runs. Gary Ballance is positioned in the outfield just in front of me, plodding around in his ridiculous shin-pads, reminding me of a Brontosaurus looking for a leafy tree branch to munch.
The afternoon is sheer, living hell. I wish I had stayed in the bar with the Higgosaurus!
As the day drags on and the runs pile up, the only interest is when the declaration will come.
As South Africa increase their lead beyond the existing record of 418, I listen to TMS on my earpiece. The commentators have their work cut out to make today interesting, but I do learn that the Cybermen from Doctor Who use silver painted cricket gloves for their hands.
Finally South Africa declare leaving England just four overs to bat and yes, you guessed it – Cook is given out LBW first ball! By virtue of DRS review he and the team somehow survive till morning.
Mark Ramprakash, the England Batting Coach, comes on the radio. He reckons that we can still win!
Only 478 required…..
Sir Geoffrey Boycott follows this inane comment with a dignified silence, but I cannot restrain a chuckle.
If there were awards for bullshit, England would sweep the f***ing board.
WAKE UP. SMELL THE COFFEE. THE ASHES ARE NOW JUST FOUR MONTHS AWAY!!
A mellow evening follows with the usual suspects in the usual places and this time, some food!
A hot curry. Cobra lager. That should do wonders for my blood sugars.
We are all on the train heading to Nottingham. Pep and Mez are looking at the odds on the match.
Amazingly, an England win has come in from 8-1 last night to 13-2, meaning that some poor sap has piled on. South Africa are 1-7 to win and the draw 20-1. I make an innocent enquiry.
“What are the odds on Gary Ballance being out in the 13th over LBW, and then being struck by lightning as he leaves the pitch?”
The lads can’t find a price, but it causes a short chortle.
Our batting then provides one much longer chortle.
'Buster’ Keaton Jennings is bowled by a straight one.
Ballance is trapped on the crease LBW for 4, having already survived one massive, concerted appeal for the same dismissal. Regular readers of my column may notice a pattern here.
Only Alastair Cook stands firm.
When Root is ripped out by a great yorker from Morris it must only be a matter of time, but it is after lunch that the real fun and games start.
Bairstow, Ali and Broad are out to brainless shots – pure catching practice.
The last five wickets fall for just 11 runs in no time at all.
Five-O has asked me to mention the great bowling by Philander, but I think that’s because Philander once played for Somerset.
However yes, the Man of the Match award does not lie.
For some time I have maintained that Trevor Bayliss looks like the Emperor from Star Wars when he wears his sun hat and scary sunglasses, and he sits glowering with Joe Root on the balcony trying to take it all in. Meanwhile Luke, sorry Root, looks like a broken man already.
He reminds me of Kevin Keegan at Anfield after Newcastle lost that famous game to Liverpool, slumped over the rail.
Totally bereft of spirit.
I can just imagine Emperor Bayliss croaking in his ear...“Join me on the Dark Side, young Luke, err, Root...”
Well, the Emperor’s New Clothes have fallen off.
And before anyone nitpicks, I know that’s a different Emperor, from an old fairy tale.
Written by Hans Christian Anderson I think, or possibly Mark Ramprakash.
WAKE UP. SMELL THE COFFEE. THE ASHES ARE NOW JUST FOUR MONTHS AWAY!!!
In case anyone thinks I am being overly negative here are just a few critical comments:
“They are just giving their wickets away” - Mike Atherton.
“Abject”- David Lloyd.
“They should all be thrashed to within an inch of their lives with wet towels!”- Chairman Tony, Long Eaton CC.
We waited for the post-match presentation in the hope of some apology or explanation but what we heard from Joe Root was the following:
“The top three aren’t a concern.”
“We need to take the positives out of this.”
“South Africa reacted better to the conditions.”
“We need to learn quickly.”
Hasn’t taken Joe long to learn the ECB excuse bible, has it?
What a load of complete bollocks.
Why can’t he just say: “Yes, we were rubbish today. But we will make some changes and knuckle down for the next game.” That’s all that most supporters need to hear.
Personally I think the current emphasis on T20 cricket has a lot to do with the inability of our batsmen to occupy the crease, but the England selectors must take a lot of blame too.
It is about time that James ‘One Test Wonder’ Whitaker was dragged out from behind his magic curtain of invisibility to justify his ludicrous selections and take responsibility for their poor form. Finally, even the TV pundits are waking up to the selectors’ role in our poor displays.
Gary Ballance has averaged 14 runs in his last 11Test innings. My money is on a life-threatening finger injury preventing his participation in the next test to save face all round, after all, there is only so much even these daft selectors can tolerate.
England have now lost 6 out of their last 8 Test matches.
WAKE UP. SMELL THE COFFEE. THE ASHES ARE NOW JUST FOUR MONTHS AWAY!!!!!
Thanks as usual to Higgy for the hospitality and the great people at Long Eaton CC for their warm welcome on my annual visit.
Sorry, got to go now. Matron is calling and a wet towel thrashing awaits to reduce my blood pressure.
Still, I will try and take the positives out of the experience!