Australia Tour 2017/18

Ashes Preview 2017

Freddie has asked me to write a nice, sunny, positive piece about the forthcoming Ashes series – in other words, I think, something like my usual efforts...


However I am sorry, dear readers.


No matter how hard I try I cannot reach any other conclusion except that we will be walloped again – and having sat through two 5-0 series defeats already I am dreading another.


Firstly the Aussies are at home and as everyone knows that is always a major advantage. The away team has to be materially better than the home one in a number of departments to overcome this factor and as yet I cannot see that with the England team that has travelled.


The loss of Stokes and Hales is a serious blow. Never mind the various different versions of events in Bristol that are doing the rounds. The one immutable fact is that the pair should not have been night clubbing at 2am on a Monday morning when they were due to play an International fixture the following Wednesday. Clearly someone must have temporarily removed the brains they were born with and I do not see how the England management can escape censure either.


“There is no drinking culture in the England team!” says Joe Root.


Well I’m sorry, but bo**ocks to that inane comment.


Australia has always been a graveyard for fast bowlers who carried on for one tour too many and I’m sure it does not need me to observe that Anderson and Broad are probably approaching that point, if not there already.


Then there is the issue of selection for batting positions 2,3 and 5, which has been rumbling on throughout the summer. Despite some of the batsmen having made runs in the warm-up games thus far, it will be a totally different kettle of fish in the cauldrons of the Gabba and the WACA.


I have purchased a blindfold to wear if and when Ballance, Vince and Malan come out to bat at these venues.


We lack a spinner of any great calibre, although Mason Crane looks like a trier and I hope he gets a chance to shine, as it were.


Last, but not least, there is the ever present ability to f*ck up in any given situation that this England side have exhibited for the past few years.


As Roy Keane would no doubt say, this seems to be present in our DNA, and having been in attendance at last summer’s debacles at Trent Bridge and Headingley, I’m sure that a cure has still to be found.


Before you all ring the travel agents to cancel your trips, I think perhaps I should point out that watching England getting a hiding will be infinitely preferable to staying in the UK this winter.


The sun will no doubt be shining and the beer will be cold. And ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ will not be on television.


Right Midnight. Rant over. Take a chill pill and concentrate on the cricket.


I’ve noticed that most of the Barmy Army tour packages to Australia are now sold out, which leads me to believe that there will be a fair number of first time poms in Australia.


This time, for a change, I thought it might be helpful to provide the first timers with a guide as to what to expect...


Brisbane



Weather: Likely to be hot and sultry. Bring the sun cream, factor 75 if you can get it.


Cricket Ground: Basic multi-purpose sports arena several km outside the city in Woollongabba. Very limited food offering. Avoid the beer, as with all Aussie sports franchises this reminds me of the Monty Python joke:


“What’s the similarity between Australian beer and making love in a punt?”


“Dunno. What IS the similarity between Australian beer and making love in a punt?”


“They are both f*cking close to water!”


Unsurprisingly, the ‘beer’ is also ridiculously priced.


Atmosphere: Recently described by Graeme Swann as follows:


“Its feral, the atmosphere ( at the Gabba). They put ICC signs up saying no sledging on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation. And then pretty much everything that gets said to you is based on all three.”


You should try sitting in the crowd, Swanny. It’s actually a lot worse than that. Be prepared to encounter savage, drunken, unreasoning hostility. You have been warned. Probably one of the worst cricket grounds on the planet, and I am expecting to have as much fun here as the MP’s will have at this year’s House of Commons Christmas Party!


Entertainment: The Barmy Army HQ on previous trips, The Chalk, was such a successful boozer that it is now in receivership, and closed. Accordingly the Barmy Army have instead moved their daytime HQ to the Pineapple – an excellent boozer just opposite our motel but half a mile from the ground. On the last tour, the Pineapple was the HQ of the Aussie fanatics, so I hope they in turn have found somewhere else to get mortal, or it could all get quite messy...


Fortunately for Lofty & I, the Barmy Army HQ is in a different location in the evening, the Pig and Whistle. If you are easily confused, this is the Pig and Whistle by the river, not the pub with the same name in the shopping mall.


Personally I will be spending most of my time in the Pineapple but only in the evenings, in the sincere hope that the beer prices will have dipped back down with the exodus of the Barmies to the Pig and Whistle……and as the Pineapple is one of my favourite haunts, I sincerely hope that post-Barmy receivership isn’t infectious!


Another option close to the ground is the ‘German club.’ It is best to send someone outside just before lunch to sign everyone in, as the door guards will ask for your papers. Tremers is very good at this and he will be about in Brisbane!


I mustn’t forget the Thai restaurant in the upstairs shopping block just outside the Gabba. A cold beer can be obtained here after the game while you may be enduring the interminable wait for the free shuttle buses back to the city. After all these years I don’t think we have ever had the decency to actually eat there...


Match outlook / forecast: We never win in Brisbane and I don’t think the Aussies have lost to anyone there since 1988, so don’t expect too much. It is no accident that Australia always start the series at this redneck hell-hole. When we won the Ashes in Australia in 2010/11, we managed a superb draw here thanks to the batting efforts of Strauss, Cook and Trott. If we get another draw I will be overjoyed.


Unfortunately, AUSTRALIA WIN


Adelaide



Weather: Sun with occasional infrequent downpours.


Cricket Ground: Superb. Despite the changes made to it to increase capacity and accommodate the two local Aussie football teams, the Adelaide Oval remains one of the world’s finest cricket grounds. When the board at Old Trafford describe the Manchester Test ground as “A World Class Facility” I always think of Adelaide and have a cheeky grin to myself at their ignorance and arrogance. Furthermore, if you are fortunate enough to get into one of the member’s bars, real beer can be obtained at a reasonable price!


Atmosphere: Good. There are always a few idiots about at any ground but here there are also a goodly number of resident Poms, who have even formed their own Adelaide Barmy Army. The Australian spectators here have a strong sense of heritage and are usually quite knowledgeable about cricket, in fact better clued up than most. Maybe that’s because they aren’t descended from convicts! Highly enjoyable venue as a rule.


Entertainment: Two decent pubs close to the ground, the Cathedral (Barmy Army daytime HQ) which will be rammed, and the Queens Head, recently refurbished and a little more upmarket. Slightly further afield in North Adelaide is the excellent Archer, where we celebrated in style after winning the Test in 2010. There are a profusion of good pubs and restaurants within easy walking distance south of the ground around and within the CBD. The seaside suburbs of Glenelg and Henley beach are also well worth a visit. I notice that the Barmy Army have set up their evening HQ at the Adelaide Casino, situated in the railway station complex. This should enable those who wish to drink till 5am after the day/night Test finishes to slake their thirst and also lose their holiday spends.


Even though fixed odds betting terminals have yet to appear in South Australia, I can’t imagine the Casino will be a very cheap night! A tip to any Barmy first timers, the highly trained Casino door-apes usually enforce a strict dress code.


Last time we were in Adelaide, entrance was forbidden, for instance, if you were wearing flip-flops. Basically, if the door-apes don’t like the look of you, you aren’t getting in. So it might be worthwhile having a Plan B just in case...


Match outlook / forecast: An English style slower pitch where traditionally England have prospered. If we get our timings right using the pink ball after tea (sorry, dinner) that could also work in our favour although much will obviously depend on the toss. With everything crossed then... and before you rip up your plane tickets... ENGLAND WIN!


Perth



Weather: Too hot for most pale skinned Poms. If you are ‘lucky’ enough to be sat in a covered stand, then that is simply exchanging the grill for the oven. Free sun cream is usually supplied. Probably by the local hospital...! Not much shelter from the sun’s rays without leaving the ground. Don’t make the mistake of getting pissed and forgetting to slap on the sun cream, or YOU will probably end up in the local hospital!


Cricket Ground: Nondescript, really. Most people were hoping that the Test would take place at the new ground under construction across the river, but it isn’t ready yet. Apart from the customary ridiculously priced ‘beer’ I cannot remember too many other features apart from the heat. There are free buses from most central parts of the city that stop close to the ground called ‘Cats’. Meeow.


Atmosphere: Nowhere near as feral as might be expected. Heat exhaustion probably plays its part in that.


Entertainment: Perth is a very isolated city. The nearest city of similar size is Singapore. Its people are quite parochial, apart from the many ex-pats living there of course. Thus when you mention to a local that you may be flying to Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test, this immediately qualifies you in their eyes as a World Traveller. A couple of decent pubs in the centre, the Brass Monkey in Northbridge is worth a visit. Most of the better drinking options are to be found outside the city in Cottesloe and Fremantle – both a short journey on the Metro link. If you have time visit ‘Little Creatures’ microbrewery in Fremantle. At weekend the city centre is deserted as the locals head out to Subiaco and Cottesloe for the Sunday drinking session.


If you are a fan of Asian food, there are a plethora of Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants on the main street in Northbridge, for any first timers, Northbridge is located as it says on the tin north of the railway bridge.


Try the Good Fortune Roast Duck House on William Street. Tremers and I liked it so much on our last visit in 2010, we ‘borrowed’ a couple of their toothpick holders, which are shaped like little rondavels. I’m still using mine! Barmy Army HQ’s here are the Royal, which I don’t know, and the Crown Casino Sports bar, which again I don’t know. But I can see a pattern developing here with these casinos – don’t you just love a bar that also serves chips? The Barmies previous Perth HQ, ‘The Lucky Shag’, has obviously been unlucky this trip. Just as well, it was vastly overpriced rubbish.


Match outlook / forecast: No chance for England whatsoever. We even managed to lose here on the 2010/2011 tour when Australia were truly crap. AUSTRALIA WIN.


Melbourne



Weather: Fondly known by your writer as ‘Manchester by the Sea.’ The song “Four seasons in one day” could have been written about this place. Expect everything and anything from storms, hail, snow, baking heat and torrential rain. All in the middle of summer.


Cricket Ground: Huge capacity, there are no issues getting tickets here. However if your ticket is on the top deck – bring a telescope. Lacking in genuine cricket atmosphere – because it isn’t really a cricket ground, more a football stadium able to accommodate drop in cricket pitches. Food and drink options – bog standard. By tea, I guarantee you will be looking at your watch and wondering about leaving early to beat the rush. Unless it’s Boxing Day and Australia are 96-9, of course!!


Atmosphere: A bit feral on Boxing Day. Non-descript for the rest, but if the Australian team happen to be losing, watch their supporters melt away as the day wears on. I’ve never enjoyed watching cricket here. Except in 2010 that is.


Entertainment: Pubs too numerous to mention in the CBD and also down near St Kilda beach, an easy tram ride. Lofty and I discovered the South Yarra area while visiting for the last World Cup, which has an excellent selection of restaurants and bars and quite a few expensive shops too.


Match outlook / forecast: I’m going to stick my neck out here. This ground has the highest percentage possibility of rain interruption, so if England can grit it out... MATCH DRAWN


SYDNEY



Weather: It’s usually been decent here for me and I hope for much of the same.


Cricket Ground: After gaining entry to the World Cup semi-final via computer turnstile with a child’s ticket (kindly obtained for me by Mrs Blade) I can only class the ground as excellent. Recent renovations have detracted somewhat but the two old pavilion stands have been retained and do give it an olde-worlde atmosphere.


Atmosphere: Pretty civilised unless you happen to be unlucky enough to be sat near the Aussie fanatics in one of the lower Bays.


Entertainment: An iconic city with iconic prices to match. Loads of great pubs around the Rocks area near Circular Quay. After the obligatory photos of the bridge and Opera House, try the Observer Pub on the Rocks front road near the red phone box. Good selection of reasonably priced beers and usually some decent live music. Best pub in the city for me. If you have enjoyed a substantial win at one of the Barmy Army casino nights, hop on a ferry to Watsons Bay and have lunch at Doyles – the rich man’s ‘Harry Ramsdens’ of Australia. Ensure you ring up for a reservation before you get on the ferry otherwise you will end up in a large queue to get in. You won’t regret dining at Doyles – until the credit card statement arrives that is.


Match outlook / forecast: As the tour reaches its finale and fatigue & injuries set in... AUSTRALIA WIN


I hope my 3-1 forecast proves wildly inaccurate and England win the series 5-0.


Seriously, if you are going for the first time you will have a ball regardless of the result…..just ask our Addis pal Herbie!


Hope to see loads of you out there.


Midnight




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