Australia Tour 2017/18
Its A Thick Line......Between In and Out
G'day internet poms.
The Addis Army started their Brisbane reunion on Tuesday evening in the Pig 'n' Whistle by the riverside, which is in fact a popular Barmy Army watering hole. Mr Blade, Freddie and Saint were there to meet Lofty and myself: Tremers was on his way together with his Wormsley acolyte Andy. Smithy and Wayne were expected tomorrow.
We were all a little weary from our long journeys. Not the Barmy Army though. The usual suspects poured back the lager and postured and danced for the local press, singing songs they had recently made up and which only they knew the rather obscure words to. As pretty experienced tourists now, its fair to say we found the narcissistic display rather wearisome.
That having been said, we managed a few beers ourselves before calling it quits.
Freddie, as everyone knows, is a Middlesex supporter, and an interesting discussion ensued about who had fired the terrible crossbow bolt that had condemned Middlesex to Division two cricket next season - and what part of Somerset he or she might come from. Time will probably never William Tell.
Location wise, Freddie, Tremers, Mr Blade, Saint and Smithy will be staying at Redhill, whereas Lofty, Wayne and myself have arranged digs at Kangaroo Point, closer to the Gabba. Basically this means a split arrangement but less distance for Lofty's poorly feet and legs to traverse. Andy is doing his own thing on Air BNB, which is just as well, as unlike the rest of us he is not an inveterate drinker.
On Tuesday Smithy arrived and arranged a visit for the Redhill bunch to the National Cricket Centre, followed by drinks in the Pineapple - where Wayne and myself had already been quaffing all afternoon.
Later on that evening, a group of lads from Wayne's cricket club, Port Talbot CC, joined us for a beer. Having only been in Brisbane for one night, they had already received a written warning from their hotel regarding their behaviour - which is actually funny enough to reproduce here.
England win the toss and bat. We are seated at ground level in the perishing sun, and as becomes a successful daily manoeuvre, at lunch we move upstairs to the upper deck to surreptitiously occupy more expensive seats for a better view and some shade.
I buy one of those little green radios to listen to during play - an absolute bargain at only $25 (£16). Just three choices of commentary. Two Aussie stations with biased, one eyed presenters, and BT Sport - which has Boycott, Swann and Vaughan, but also yawning blanks in between the content. None measure up to TMS. All three stations carry commercials at every break in play which are usually still running when cricket restarts. To anyone arriving for the later matches my advice would be don't bother buying one of these gadgets.
An unusual warning keeps popping up on the scoreboard. A penalty of $706 will be imposed for any disorderly or offensive conduct. Apparently, the odd figure is due to tax being included upfront in the fine. No messing about here with monthly instalments.
Just as well the Port Talbot CC lads are only here for three days!
On the pitch England have started pretty well despite the early loss of Cook. Stoneman and Vince both look solid and make fifties. Hopes rise. Even after Stoneman finally gets a good ball from Cummins and is bowled, we continue to progress until Vince becomes the victim of a careless run out - with no dive evident.
Root goes shortly afterwards, but Malan and Ali consolidate successfully until stumps.
It has been a slow day with a substantial rain delay in the middle but the cricket is gripping, old fashioned stuff and we all believe England have done well as we retire to the Pineapple for a few beers. The upstairs bar here is the Barmy Army watering hole during the afternoon, but becomes a slightly quieter affair early evening - as opposed to the Pig 'n' Whistle in the city, which is uncomfortably packed as predicted every night after stumps. The large downstairs Pineapple bars are crammed mainly with Aussies.
There is remarkably little trouble between the two groups of supporters even after the beer has taken its grip.
Lofty, Wayne and myself have f****d up today in being unaware of the early start time of 9.30 am in order to make up overs from yesterdays rain delay.
We are tipped off by text at around 8.55, having just placed an order for breakfast in a good but rather slow Italian restaurant, which should be renamed 'La Sempre Domani'.
We don't arrive at the ground till 9.35am and the Redhill lads have had to hang around outside for a good while waiting with our tickets - apologies guys.
Things don't get any better inside the ground, although looking at the number of empty seats we are not the only ones to have misjudged the start time. Our seats today are at midwicket and almost below the pitch. Sat behind us are a group of whiny, feral locals who know nothing about cricket whatsoever but are clearly pom-haters and a fair amount of hostile sledging occurs both ways. We are all glad to relocate upstairs after lunch.
On the pitch England suffer a mini-collapse and lose their last six wickets for just 56 runs, this despite some lusty hitting at the death from Ball and Broad. 302 all out - disappointing after that good start. Basically our tail enders cannot cope with the raw pace of the Australian attack and there is a lot of intimidatory bowling.
A further factor that no-one has predicted is the emergence of Nathan 'Gary' Lyon. The Australians always seem to need a totem to focus upon and obviously the time of 'Gary' has arrived. It is especially galling that our batsmen seem unable to smash this mediocre clown out of the ground, given the trash talk that 'Gary' has been indulging in before the game about ending England batsmen's careers.
When Australia bat, Broad and Anderson bowl tightly and at one stage, we have Australia at 76-4 - which is basically as good as it gets. A superb and chanceless century by Smith, actually his slowest ever Test hundred, swings the game in Australia's favour.
The Redhill group head off to Suncorp to watch the Rugby League. Apparently, a very long uphill walk to the stadium is involved. Lofty, Wayne and I settle for a few quiet pints in the nearby Pineapple. Just as well with Loftys gammy legs, methinks!
Today is Mr Blades birthday. This time it is the turn of Lofty, Wayne and myself to wait outside the stadium in the heat for half an hour until the others arrive, after a somewhat retaliatorily relaxed breakfast. That's a yellow card for each team by my reckoning. However, Blade brings with him everyones tickets for the remaining days which should hopefully prevent any future cock-ups.
Again we are sat low down at midwicket, in fact lower down than yesterday.
A party of Australians sit in the row in front of us and the lady in front of me is wearing a large, green and yellow sombrero, which effectively means I can see f**k all.
I ask her politely if she would remove the sombrero at least until the sun reaches its zenith, and to my immense embarrassment she not only does this, but trots off to the souvenir shop, returning with a flatter 'Stone Roses' type hat.
So there are some nice people inside the Gabba after all.
On the pitch Steve Smith grinds on and on and he is more than ably supported, unfortunately, by Cummins.
Our second string bowlers seem incapable of making much impact on the Aussie batsmen. No, wait, that's just me being politically correct. I should have said that Ball, Woakes and Ali bowled a load of f***ing shite.
Australia obtain a first innings lead of 26.
We sneak upstairs again at lunchtime which makes me feel even more guilty about that hat.
Later in the afternoon England are batting again, but they make the worst possible start. Cook top edges a pull shot and is brilliantly caught by Starc on the fence. Almost immediately Vince follows him back into the pavilion. Feral Aussie pandemonium.
Up in the stands, a curiously overdressed English supporter who is sat behind Mr Blade returns to his seat to eat a tray of chicken and chips, with the obligatory carton of ketchup.
Australian tomato sauce comes in little cartons similar to the butter packs found in hotels, and these cartons are notoriously difficult to negotiate - impossible for this man anyway, as he sprayed Mr Blade with ketchup not once, but twice.
Luckily, Blade was wearing a red Sean Bean 'When Saturday Comes' Sheffield United top, but this did not prevent a certain amount of further sledging occurring!
The perfect birthday present was handed out later when Blade had his photo taken with a football - shirt wearing Sheffield Wednesday supporter.
What better possible gift - apart from his first England away Test victory?
In the evening, a curry should have been the order of the day to celebrate Blades birthday. All present except Andy, who had other plans, and Smithy, who was enjoying 'corporate hospitality'.
Tremers located a good restaurant on Vulture Street using his phone GPS, but finding the Indian Kitchen on the internet and in reality on foot proved to be two different things. After a mile and a half walk, we had only reached the Lady Cilento Hospital. No curry house in sight. My first thought was that the hospitals services might be required by Lofty after this death march, but in fact he did very well to still be standing after this ordeal.
Finally, we ended up waving the white flag and hailing cabs to the Pig'n' Whistle.
This pub was horrendously packed with queues four and five deep at the bar - no pleasure involved being in here, whatsoever.
Impossible to hear yourself think with an ear-shattering rock karaoke in the main area for all the twenty-somethings enjoying their first Barmy Army experience. As they all sang along and banged glasses on tables to the banal lyrics of current songs that none of our gang knew, I found myself longing to be in New Zealand, at an old fashioned Small Faces tribute night.
Just the one pint in here then, during which at least Blade managed to recharge his phone!
Fortunately, afterwards we arrived at a great little Asian restaurant by the Riverside and had a decent meal.To the amusement of all, but especially Saint, this cafe was called 'Jude'. This is the name of a pub he frequents occasionally in Oxford.
We start the day in lower level seats but it is so hot, a move upstairs cannot be long postponed. Smithy appears unscathed after his day and night of being dined but mostly wined, apart from a mysterious rust coloured stain covering half his left hand, which will not wash off. Leaning on wet paint - who knows?
England have a small lead and hope springs eternal. Stoneman and Root start steadily enough and our optimism rises. Both Stoneman and Malan are then out in quick succession but Root compiles a solid fifty and the lead builds slowly.
After Root is trapped lbw, Ali and Bairstow rebuild the innings to a good position until - disaster.
Moeen is given out stumped by the third umpire Gaffaney and almost immediately twitter is alive with pictures of the crease line, which appears to have been painted out of kilter in the centre.
Andy shows us further twitter pictures depicting the 'correct' line transposed onto the actual wobbly, thick one.
The obvious inference being that if the line had been painted accurately, Ali would not have been out.
As it was, there was enough doubt about the call to have ruled not out and even the Australian commentators were surprised with the Gaffaney 'home town' decision.
I will say categorically that if an Aussie batsman had been on the receiving end of that referral, there is no way England would have got the decision at this ground.
Sour grapes I hear readers call, but you had to be here.
There was genuine anger amongst the many English supporters sat near us and it is the first time I have seen Australians quiet and fearful at the level of English rage on display.
The England innings went down the plughole quickly after that and our hopes disappeared with it.
Bairstow played an idiotic scoop shot to be caught on the boundary.
Almost as stupid, in fact, as headbutting an Australian opening batsman on a night out in Perth - especially the one with "the heaviest head in the Western Australia squad....its been measured!"
Clearly when the ludicrous Bairstow news broke during the afternoon, it provided ample confirmation that there is no drinking culture in the England team.......not.
The Aussie quicks blew the tail away apart from Broad, who was blown away by another contentious call by third umpire Gaffaney.
To make matters worse with a lead of only about 170, Anderson & Broad failed to take a wicket with the new ball.
We left the ground dejectedly at various stages.
I met up with Higgy in the Pineapple at stumps - he had been on the lash most of the afternoon and later, after our meal with Lofty at La Sempre Domani, Higgy had to be poured into a taxi to take him back to the city.
The Redhill mob enjoyed a meal at the Thai Rose I think without the company of Mr Blade, who had left the ground early in disgust.
I can't say I blame him.
I hope nobody is expecting a report from the mornings proceedings at the Gabba, as even though entrance was virtually free, none of us bothered.
We did meet up with Higgy in the Pineapple at midday. He had been allocated a day five ticket by the Barmy Army and so ventured along to the Gabba along with about 6,000 other souls.
Higgy reports that the England players' body language was atrocious and as the scorecard will record, Australia romped to victory without losing a wicket. Apparently the Barmy Army sang a tribute song for Philip Hughes, which was a nice touch.
Game over in about an hour. This conclusion is a great shame for the rest of the series, as to be honest England played well and competed here for three and a half days.
Up until the afternoon of that fourth day, it had been a compelling contest.
So what to do for the rest of the day?
Well, England Lions were playing Queensland at the pleasant Allan Border Field, so we all took a short taxi ride to watch.
Plenty of our mates were there including Red Nigel - who tried to get me on a repeat of our Dunedin 2013 all day drinking session - sorry mate, not these days!
The Howzat gang were all present and correct.
Bob, Steve, Richard and his scorebook of course, were all there and they have been joined now by Redcar Derek, who Higgy and I first met at Headingley in an inebriated state a couple of years ago.
The Howzat numbers also include Posh Margaret, who has made a last minute decision to come out to Australia. That particular group would seem incomplete without her.
The cricket here was low key and relaxed but when we saw Emperor Bayliss arrive, together with Lord Darth Flower, speculation mounted about just who they had come to watch with a view to replacements for Adelaide.
Mark Wood and Tom Curran were bowling and Lancashire's new star Buster Keaton Jennings later had a bat.
Buster finished his short knock unbeaten, but surely the management are not considering dropping Alastair Cook just yet?
Curran and Wood both put their backs into it, but unfortunately I have to report that Wood left the field limping at the close with his foot encased in an icepack, therefore a recall here looks rather doubtful.
A surprising end to day five.
As we returned from Border field and unloaded from our taxi outside the Pineapple, the driver asked me what I thought of the Test match. Just as I was preparing the forward defensive, he offered:
"Its okay mate. Although I've lived here forty years I'm Samoan. I hate the attitude of the bastards here, I was hoping you would stuff 'em! I'd rather be working in New Zealand...."
Ha ha ha. He called it exactly right.
So England have lost the first Test in Brisbane.
Thus far my Ashes prediction is 100% correct and I hope things stay that way - but only until after Adelaide.
Lofty and I fly southwards today and a further diary will follow after the next Test.
As we wake up today, Australian Sky News is reporting that:
'Ben Stokes is boarding a plane in England - but where is he headed?'
I have absolutely no idea.
Las Vegas, MGM Grand for his next boxing match, perhaps?