Australia Tour 2013/14
No more excuses England
I had a couple of days to explore Adelaide while the Blades were at work / school respectively, so I obtained an all day travel pass on Monday for the princely sum of nine dollars. This pass allows the bearer to use the train, bus and tram on an unlimited basis for the day - unlike the f*cking nonsense we have to put up with in the UK with different private companies running each facet of transport on an unco-ordinated basis.
Therefore I was able to visit some parts of the City unseen previously. Many districts of Adelaide are named after places in Southern England - and some exhibit uncanny similarities to their UK counterparts. Croydon is full of expensive housing and seems very hip. Cheltenham has a racecourse. And Enfield, apparently, has one of the largest city-based percentage populations of native Aboriginal folk in Australia. Enfield is also close to an establishment called the Clube Petanque d' Adelaide-which I assumed must be a base for some kind of minority native Aboriginal sporting pastime.
On the train going through Port Adelaide I witnessed an incredible act. An old lady was travelling on the same carriage as myself in a mobility vehicle, kitted out like a golf buggy complete with fabric roof and a sporty red flag. When the train pulled into the station, the driver left his cabin and unloaded a ramp from a cupboard which he then proceeded to lay out between the carriage and the platform like a red carpet so that the old lady's mobility scooter could have a racing start off the train.
This involved a delay in the journey of several minutes, and I can only imagine the reaction at home if British railway staff were required to perform such a public spirited duty.
Industrial action spanning several decades springs to mind.
After such a demanding morning, beer was required so I visited the Cathedral and the Queens Head, both close to the building-site-that-used-to-be-a-cricket-ground.
I feel genuinely sorry for anyone making their first visit to Adelaide later in this tour, because looking at the state of the ground on the day I visited, desecration would not be too strong a word. There is no way the building work will be completed in time for the Test match.
If it is any consolation, the beer in the Cathedral is as refreshing as ever and quite cheap too at only six dollars a glass. I will be abdicating from the Queens Head from now on, given their beer cost eight dollars fifty for the same measure.
During a pub quiz in the Ramsgate Hotel, the Blades excellent local, the night before I departed for Brisbane, Mr Blade demonstrated the advantages of an English education by quoting the colours of the Indonesian flag as green and white - despite Thomas having already called the answer correctly as red and white.
No doubt if the question had concerned a Sheffield United shirt rather than a flag, he would not have made this mistake. As a result of Mr Blade's temporary colour blindness, we finished in a tie for third place.
During the tie breaker question the Aussie quizmaster demonstrated the benefits of an Australian education.
"How many steps are there in the Leaning Tower of Pizza?"
We answered 246. The other team answered 320.
The correct answer was 296, and the quizmaster awarded our team third place as 'we were the closest'!
Only after howls of protest, and ten minutes of the quizmaster prodding a calculator, were we relegated to fourth spot!
My last night in Adelaide concluded watching a spooky TV programme with the Blades.
On getting up in the middle of the night for a pee, I entered the open door to the bathroom in total darkness to find a ghostly apparition sat on the toilet waiting to claim me and transport me to the zombie zone. Fortunately for me, it was only Mrs Blade!
Leaving Adelaide in the rain, I boarded my Jetstar flight to the cultured and civilised river city of Brisbane.
Sat right behind me - a three year old imp from hell, who insisted upon lashing out with his feet every few seconds. Why do all small children do this? I would introduce a leg-restraint, in addition to the seat-belt, for all plane passengers under the age of ten, if I had my way - but the leg-restraint light would stay on for the entire duration of the flight.
Excitement was now mounting on the eve of the first Ashes Test. Lofty has now arrived, and we dined in the Pineapple on steak and several bottles of red wine. Hutts, friend of the absent Tremers, is also about, and I expect we will be bumping into him again soon.
The papers have been full of the usual uneducated, inaccurate rubbish in advance of the game, much of it surrounding Kevin Pietersen and his alleged massive / rampant / rampaging ego. Although I didn't see it, I gather KP destroyed one 'journalist' during a live tv conference. The Aussies plan to bowl wide of the off stump to frustrate KP's attacking instincts, so I gather - Mitchell Johnson should have no difficulties sticking to this cunning plan!
Mind you, KP hasn't really helped himself by slagging off the City of Brisbane on twitter.
A plane has been hired to buzz the ground each day with an anti-Pietersen banner trailing it.
Day two - "You're not even English, KP! " Day three - " Enjoying Brisbane yet, KP?"
The friendly locals are also, of course, making much of the 'Stuart Broad incident'.
One paper, the Courier Mail, is refusing to mention Broad's name in print, instead referring to him as 'the 27 year old English medium pace bowler'. His image is also being negatived out of action photographs. All very childish.
On the first day of the Brisbane Test the Aussies won the toss and batted, meaning an early bowl for Broad.
His first ball - a no-ball, hit for four by the failed prizefighter David Warner.
Cue the witty Gabba crowd : "Broad is a w*nker! Broad is a w*nker!"
I'm pleased to report that our alleged onanist took five wickets that day and actually turned some elements of the Aussie crowd on to his side. Well done Broady.
Broad also batted well on day two, scoring 32.
A pity about the rest of the side, who were pathetic, collapsing in the end to 132 all out.
The Blades, Lofty and myself had to endure all kinds of indignities from the rabid, feral crowd and after The Blades and myself had departed for the pub at tea, Lofty had the final insult of a tsunami of spilt beer flooding down the terrace from above onto him and ruining his Versace cricket bag, which he had left on the floor.
Day three was even worse, so bad in fact that we left the ground at lunch for the Chalk pub, did about an hours sunbathing afterwards back at the ground, then retreated to the motel pool at tea. On the way back I unfortunately had a verbal altercation with a couple of the friendly locals.
By this time, my feelings of affection for Brisbane were growing rather thin.
Drowning our sorrows in the local pub that night, Mr Blade and myself were assailed by two legless, feral locals, who started spouting their anti-pom diatribe. The TV was showing the rugby league match between England and New Zealand, and when England scored a try one of these idiots threw his shoe at the plasma screen.
We were then treated to the sight of the offender being bodily removed from the premises by a very large bouncer - carried to the door by a forearm lock on his neck. Hilarious.
Day four of the Test started well, with Cook batting solidly until a thunderstorm struck at 2pm. However this seemed to disturb rather than help England and when play resumed at 3.30pm another dreadful collapse occurred. Broad entered the fray to the customary obscene catcalls, hit a four, then was promptly dismissed. Enough for me. I departed the ground with 8 wickets down.
No doubt the England management will trawl their usual stock of sanitised platitudes to try to explain this shambolic performance.
For me, the game is now up, and no manner of excuses will explain the sorry display we have had to endure from this England team, who were quite simply blown away.
Too many complacent players not performing and some probably past their best.
We need some fresh faces - simple as.
As for Brisbane - well, the friendly motel and pub aside, I shall be glad to leave.
The Gabba is a most hostile ground, inhabited largely by bigoted rednecks who seem to have more interest in hurling abuse and beach balls than watching cricket.
Brisbane has risen to second position in my 'horror venues' list, behind East London in South Africa.
In a nutshell -on second thoughts, KP's view on the city is probably spot on!