Australia Tour 2017/18
A Proper Shower
When Lofty is unwilling to get behind the wheel of a car, something must be truly amiss.
So I was extremely surprised when he said he was unwell, and asked me to undertake the two hour drive into Adelaide to drop off the hire car in order to board our flight to Melbourne, and onward to Perth.
Then, Five - O sent me a photo of the following road sign, and the penny dropped.
Lofty must be suffering with post - traumatic kangaroo disorder!
Our flight from Adelaide to Melbourne was running late and becoming concerned about the 8.05 pm connection from Melbourne to Perth, I checked with the lady on the Virgin Australia desk.
"Oh, you needn't worry, you will catch that okay," she cheerfully replied. "Its been delayed until 1am!"
Just great. An extra five hours twiddling our thumbs at grotty Melbourne airport.
Virgin Australia staff were unsurprisingly a little thin on the ground when we landed in Melbourne but eventually we found a couple of attitude - laden check in clerks who had been clearly designated as whipping-boy scapegoats to field the backlash from all the angry customers upset by the flight delay.
When we asked for a compensation voucher to buy food, we got the miserly sum of $8 each, not enough to buy one half of a sandwich at airport prices. When we then pointed out that all of the food outlets in the airport were closing up, and there was actually nowhere to eat, the smart-arsed male clerk came back with:
"What do you mean? MacDonald's is open twenty four hours!"
Wonderful. I bet Richard Branson eats that gourmet staple all the time.
Ricky, if you would like some feedback on the customer service provided by your Australian operation in between munching your Big Macs I can sum it up in two words - fucking diabolical.
The flight eventually took off at 1.30am Adelaide time.
A nuclear family was sat right behind us on the plane with two of the most annoying, harpy - like children it has ever been my displeasure to run into.
All the way there, for hours, we got, in stereo:
"I don't wanna go to Perth! Yowl, yell, scream. I don't wanna go to Perth!"
Even with the headphones on turned up to full volume this inane babble was clearly audible and very annoying.
Needless to say, their 'modern' parents did absolutely nothing, but simply let these spoiled brats carry on with their caterwauling.
This seemed to upset an elderly English lady sat on the row in front of us.
"What those children need is a bloody good slap!" she turned round and said.
I think Lofty had something more severe in mind, possibly involving a noose or a garotte.
We eventually landed in Perth at 2.30am local time, which to us was actually 5am working on Adelaide time, if you get the drift.
All of which left us with just eight hours to find a taxi, locate our hotel, unpack, and suffer beerless dreams before the start of the third Test.
Several people have asked me how much this mammoth trip is costing and, fearful to do the maths, I have vaguely replied "Dunno. Well, you can't take it with you" or similar.
But if anyone asks which Test has been the most expensive to watch, the answer to that question will now be easy.
On arrival at the WACA at 10am, I discovered that our $155 Viagogo tickets for the day had been subject to a scam, with the original purchaser having already been refunded and the tickets cancelled. NO ENTRY!
Fortunately, some genuine tickets were still available at the box office so for an additional $80 I managed to get in.
Mrs Blade will be joining us on Friday with more Viagogo tickets for us all so I phoned her with the bad news. Mrs Blade hit the roof and was soon on the warpath, threatening Viagogo with an introduction to the Adelaide Cybercrime Unit unless our money was refunded. We shall see how we go on in due course, but the one lesson to be learned from this episode is don't deal with Viagogo, they are shysters.
We hadn't actually purchased any tickets for day two but the ladies at the WACA ticket office were sympathetic to my plight and managed to conjure up two genuine $100 tickets for Friday in addition to my $80 Thursday one. I got lucky there, then.
Lofty got even luckier. He has been operating at two speed levels so far on this trip, dead slow and stop. By the time he managed to get down to the WACA an hour late at about 11.30am, some unlucky punter had lost their ticket on the street which had then been handed in, and eventually finished up in Lofty's mitts - for free. Every cloud eh?
So was the cricket worth all this money, travelling and effort?
Surprisingly, yes. Today at least.
Easily England's best day of the tour so far.
A shaky start with Cook going cheaply again, but a speedy run rate for most of the day and all the other batsmen making meaningful contributions.
At 131- 4 the innings was teetering after Stoneman was on the receiving end of another incorrect decision by dodgy Dar, but enter unsung, unexpected hero Dawid Malan.
A superb maiden Test century from Malan, ably supported by Jonny Bairstow and to be fair, helped along by a number of dropped catches by sloppy, stroppy Australia.
At last, it was our turn to have a chuckle, and believe you me, we gave the convicts plenty.
By stumps Middlesex man Malan was unbeaten on 110 and playing so solidly and well that probably only a crossbow bolt fired randomly into the ground could halt him. Luckily, crossbows are more difficult to find in Western Australia than South London.
The Malan / Bairstow stand proved to be a fifth wicket record for England at Perth and I am so glad we were there to see it. Days like this at the WACA are on the endangered list, soon to be extinct in fact!
England closed at 305-4 which offered every chance of avoiding defeat, and maybe even better.
For the last hour or so, the Barmy Army were in full, boorish voice, belting out a number of football song variants such as "Were gonna win the series three two!"
Hardly original, but it certainly wound the Western Australians up. They could be seen leaving in droves with as many as ten overs left just as the new ball was being taken, which seemed incongruous to us.
The Barmy Army may have a new song to sing tomorrow.
The Daily Mail have published an article overnight showing that Nathan 'Gary' Lyon has been playing away, so to speak. The 'love rat' expose is hilarious and in the accompanying photos, naughty Gary appears to be disguising himself as Monty Panesar so as not to be recognised.
After all the media shit England have taken it serves the Aussies right.
Thank you for sending me that quality piece Nick, I hadn't got you down as a Daily Mail reader but whatever floats your boat!
A quick look at the BBC news local website before breakfast had me giggling all the way to the WACA. A pantomime at the Manchester Opera House, Dick Whittington, is facing calls for it to be axed after stars John Barrowman and the Krankies upset all the children with their unacceptable level of sexual innuendo.
Apparently, Dr Who star Barrowman encouraged the children to chant 'Alice Loves Dick' amongst other gems, which are too risque to repeat here. Gives a whole new meaning to 'He's behind you!' doesn't it - how I will miss Xmas at home!
Talking of home I was astonished to meet my boyhood club Ashton United legend Tony Ryan inside the WACA before play started. Tony has been player, coach, manager and Chairman of the club in his time so its fair to say he has done his bit. As Ashton have an average home gate of only 120 people, the odds of meeting like this in Perth must be quite high!
A repeat of day one was always expecting too much but for the first hour, Malan carried on where he left off and Bairstow went to a well deserved century.
The last time we had two centurions not out at the crease was Sydney 2011, which tells its own story about the England batting.
After Malan was caught attempting a big hit off Gary Lyon, the tail subsided woefully, and all our dreams of 550-600 were dashed. 403 all out.
The 'Beard to be Feared' continued his hopeless trot, lasting just two balls before being caught behind for a duck. Any argument that dropping Moeen Ali and replacing him with Crane would weaken our batting order seems pretty redundant to me. The guy is totally lacking in confidence and not performing with bat or ball. Selector, do your job - for a change - and rest Ali.
Australia batted in their usual solid fashion and reached just over 200-3 at the close, so basically all the good work of yesterday has been lost.
Mrs Blade joined us just after tea having flown in from Adelaide. We will need to come up with a plan to get in tomorrow because if our Viagogo tickets do not scan, there are no kosher tickets left, we're told. Little Creatures sounds a viable alternative!
Our hotel, the Comfort Inn Goodearth, has a welcome happy hour from 5-30 till 9pm whereby bottles of cold beer can be purchased for only $5 each. Unfortunately, they don't really stock anything I like, so on the way home I cheated the system and bought a six pack of Coopers from the bottle shop for $18 - for personal consumption only of course. Happy, happy hour.
We arrived at the ground early in order to execute plan B if the Viagogo tickets would not admit us.
Unfortunately for us, the tickets worked today.
During the 2015 World Cup, when England hit new lows, Lofty and I bumped into Jonathan Agnew on an internal flight in New Zealand and asked his opinion of the lousy England performances that eventually cost Peter Moores his job.
Aggers gave us a piece of advice:
"Guys if you want to enjoy yourselves, forget about the cricket results and concentrate on all the wonderful places you are able to visit."
I'm glad I stored that advice and brought it to the front of my mind today, because Englands bowlers were absolutely useless. Impotent. No fight, no spirit, no bottle.
Broad and Anderson were totally ineffectual even with the new ball. Anderson actually reviewed one decision on DRS and the result was a no-ball.
Woakes was totally ineffectual, period.
Moeen Ali was by and large a waste of space. His fielding was also below the level of a committed club cricketer.
Only the plucky Overton can be excepted from this disgraceful roll call of shame, playing as he is with a cracked rib. He never stopped trying, at least.
When Comical Ali finally took the wicket of Sean Marsh it was more of a surprise than anything, and his brother Mitch came in to score his first Test hundred while Steve Smith stood firm like an immovable iceberg. A double hundred would be his reward.
The atmosphere was becoming increasingly feral at the WACA.
Hostile, football chanting in the Barmy Army section as the Aussies baited them, and the police were hard at work filming faces for use in court at a later date.
Outside Gate 6 a fracas had occurred involving a steward and an English football thug clad in the claret and blue colours of a popular and much loved East London team. The thug was sat on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back and being guarded by three policemen. Other English and Australian witnesses were giving statements.
More like a crime scene than a cricket match - and absolutely disgraceful.
On the pitch, a crime scene of a different type. GBH against a touring cricket side.
England never looked like taking a wicket and their body language was apathetic, accepting of their fate.
Australia roared past England's total and accelerated quickly away into a lead of 146.
I have suffered many dispiriting days of Test cricket in my time but it is hard to recall many worse than today, especially after that promising start on Day one.
Mark Nicholas described today on tv as 'a destruction of morale' but I'm not sure how much morale this team had in the first place.
It is a great comfort to know that the team management are right on top of things though.
Its been a long while since I've given any credence to the ludicrous commentary and excuses emanating from the England management, but one special gem emerging today after stumps:
Paul Farbrace: "We thought we did pretty well today!"
I can only conclude that Farbrace must be an alien from the planet Denial.
In the end, we took the Aggers pill, and left the game early for a beer or two.
Julie, Lofty and I finished up in Northbridge and had a rather pissy, happy night out, not talking too much about cricket.
Much laughter when, after shifting a bottle of wine each, we were last out of a Chinese restaurant as the workforce cleaned up with a new device, the Dyson Astronaut.
Rain is forecast over the final two days and if that happens, I may go shopping for a lettered England shirt. How about 'BAYLISS P45'?
I wake at 7am and on the 6th floor of our hotel, the windows are rattling from the gale blowing outside. Dark clouds are scudding across the sky.
Hope springs eternal!
Lofty made the smart call.
"I've looked at the forecast and its going to piss down from 1 O' clock. I'm not going, I'll do the washing instead."
Sometimes the smart call doesn't work.
By the time Loftys polo shirts had reached the spin cycle, England had taken three wickets. Not enough to have any chance of winning the game you understand, but at least slowing Australia down. And after yesterday, entertainment beyond measure.
That is, until the hapless Broad came on to bowl. More misdirected filth, and the tins on the scoreboard began to rattle. Broad would finish wicketless with his worst analysis ever in Test cricket, 35-142-0 and I would refer readers back to my Ashes preview when I questioned whether he was over the hill. On this showing, not just over the hill, but tumbling down the other side arse over tip.
Anderson would take another wicket before Australia declared on a modest 662-9, giving his figures of 37.3-116-4 an aura of false respectability.
In all, five England bowlers reached a century. It's a pity our batsmen can't do that.
England started the uphill slog shortly after lunch. Stoneman gave his wicket away flashing outside off stump, with no foot movement. Cook was caught and bowled for another low score and Root played an idiotic shot off Gary Lyon's first delivery to be caught behind.
Vince looked to be playing well and made a deserved fifty, then he was on the receiving end of a brute of a ball from Starc. A ninety mile per hour off spinner that hit a crack in the pitch on middle stump and crashed into off. I must be fair to Vince here, I doubt whether many batsmen in world cricket would have kept that out.
Rain did eventually fall in abundance, enough to take the players off the field with four wickets down. A proper shower. At the close, England were still 127 runs away from making Australia bat again.
Mrs Blade is a great organiser, and she arranged a splendid curry at 'Balti' that night where we were joined by Higgy and our latest Addis recruit, Dave aka NFA. Dave is currently living in between New Zealand and UK and his home is the Barmy Army hotel.
Hence his nickname No Fixed Abode.
A pleasant surprise in the curry house as I was able to snatch a few words and a handshake with Lancashire legend Simon Katich, who sadly abandoned his cricket career too early in my opinion to go into business in Perth.
As we left the restaurant the tropical storm promised for 10pm was in full blast, with gale force wind and driving sheets of rain. Another proper shower. Fortunately we did not have too far to travel back to the hotel. The obvious hope is that this weather continues well into tomorrow.
Raining and miserable at 7am. Unfortunately clouds breaking up by 8am. Things looking better at 9am with a howling wind and sheets of rain. A proper shower! The girl on hotel reception seems to think it is going to be rotten all day and we hope she is right!
A trip to the excellent Little Creatures in Fremantle seemed infinitely preferable to watching the last rites of the Ashes, and that is what we did. England's weather luck held until about 1pm but as soon as the players got out onto the damp pitch, it was only a matter of time. We have been outclassed and humiliated again.
Normally at moments like this I tend to have a rant, but now my medication of the Aggers pill has kicked in, it's no longer necessary. If you need to vent your feelings, read the comments on BBC Sport or listen to Bob Willis.
Besides, no matter how hard I or anyone else criticise this team, the upper class twits that are running the game in England will ensure that no heads roll, even though clearly they should. No doubt when we beat Pakistan next summer, all of this will seem like a horrid dream.
England are a proper shower too.