Australia Tour 2013/14
New Years Eve was different in 2013.
Certainly, I cannot remember watching a cricket match on this particular night before, although I'm sure that some of our dear departed commentators and players of the past would be turning in their graves if they could observe the circus this has evolved into.
I refer of course to the KFC Big Bash. The match we saw being the Adelaide Strikers versus the Perth Scorchers. The Blades are members at Adelaide of course so we had excellent seats in the members area - surprisingly enough, just in front of a bar.
The game started quietly enough, with Lancashire legend Simon Katich making a stylish 40 for Perth, naturally applauded by the writer, and the home crowd seemed subdued. Then as wickets started to fall, strange things began to happen. A huge trampoline had been strategically placed at each corner of the ground and at the fall of each wicket, the trampolinist climbed on and started performing somersaults, to the accompaniment of flame jets and loud 70's rock music, such as "Smoke on the water."
At cow corner stood a boxing ring structure containing an Australian celebrity (that I'm afraid I didnt recognise) suitably miked up for TV, whose role it was to take a crowd catch, should the ball be hit his way. At home, a chosen family watched the game on TV, all the while gorging themselves from craftily placed, camera hogging, KFC bargain buckets on the living room table.
If the celebrity took a catch, he would win $240,000 for the nominated family - with the money rolling up each game if not won - to a maximum of one million dollars.
I hope the English Cricket authorities take note and follow suit with this idea.
I can just imagine Keith Chegwin wearing a duffle coat and being fed hot soup, sliding around in a wet boxing ring at Old Trafford in the stygian gloom, waiting in vain for a catch from Paul Horton, with an umbrella up to protect his hair from the constant drizzle, while "Its Raining Again" booms out over the PA system.
Or maybe my imagination is running riot with that one.
Actually, I would recommend that the 'catching celebrity' brings a good book to read, judging by the complete inability so far in this series of the batsmen to hit the ball into his area.
Back to the cricket and Perth scored 150 ish making a decent game of it then it was Adelaide's turn to bat. Alex Hales came out and creamed the ball to all parts. Maybe our new England selector should be looking at him?
In the middle of the Adelaide innings some inconsiderate folk down by the river decided to commence their New Year firework display early and the noise was similar to the bombardment on the Somme. How the batsmen managed to concentrate through this racket I will never know, but they did, and Adelaide won in the 19th over to the delight of the partisan 26,000 crowd.
After the game finished a stage was quickly brought on to the pitch and set up next to the wicket and within ten minutes we were treated to a singing performance by the winner of Australia's 'The Voice' contest (who actually had quite good lungs) and a lightshow, which in the eerie half light made the dancers in front of the stage look like 'Carousel' hopefuls from ' Logans Run'.
All in all , a real spectacle and you would have to be a real cynic not to enjoy the show.
Rollerball cricket looks as if it is here to stay.
After the cricket we fought our way through the crowds back to the Lifesavers Bar at Henley Beach, which was strangely quiet, despite the presence of three bouncers on the door. On the way in, two Aussie policemen were on patrol, and I politely wished them good evening and a Happy New Year, to be completely and utterly blanked - which at the time seemed odd.
We watched the fireworks along the coastline until being last out of the bar at about 1am, then retired back to the Blade Mansion for a few more modest sherberts until about 3 am.
Unsurprisingly, a quiet day followed. On watching the TV coverage of NYE in Australia I suddenly understood why the police had appeared rude and distracted the previous night. The carnage and number of arrests reported around the main cities was quite staggering, much worse than in the UK, despite the much smaller human count. I guess the police knew or suspected what was in store for them later! To me, it just confirms a well-observed theory that the Aussies cannot take their drink, which is why half-strength swill disguised as beer is served at sporting events.
Cyclone Christine - not to be confused with White Tornado Cleaning Christine - had by now reached South Australia meaning that the weather turned wet and miserable by the time it became neccessary to say a sad goodbye to the Blades and fly to Sydney for another potential torture session at the Fifth and final Test.
My flight out of Adelaide was late, and as the plane started its descent into Sydney it hit extreme turbulence.
In the row opposite my aisle seat, a shaken up baby projectile-vomited upon his unfortunate parents, and I can only say he must have had a bumper meal before take-off.
On arrival in Sydney I soon met up with Lofty, who was surprisingly staying in a backpackers just behind the pub where I was based. We went into Sydney to link up with Posh Margaret, Steve, Richard, Nigel and Helen and were introduced to another member of the Howzat clan called Mark - a rowdy, noisy sort who was sharing a room with Richard. Mark was only with us for part of the evening as he was performing competition karaoke later that night.
We all decided to go for a Chinese meal, which in my case in this city was always going to be a mistake, given the memories of the 'chicken-skin curry' incident in 2006 so thoughtfully recorded and put on U-tube by PC Tintin.
Three of us had ordered crab croquettes, and when these arrived unfortunately they were devoid of any crustacean flavour whatsoever, and duly dispatched back to the kitchen. However on this occasion, unlike in 2006, the restaurant manager (from Essex!) came over to us, admitted that he had tasted the food and that it was sub-standard, and promptly knocked the cost of our starters off the bill. Later, he provided a free dessert to us all, which was excellent. So at last, some decent customer service in Sydney's Chinatown, but my advice to any visitors would still be - stay away.
Lofty and myself had rather too many beers that night, and I ate a late breakfast as a text message arrived from a mate in England:
"Words fail me, have you seen the f*cking England team!"
It could only mean that the Fifth Test was about to start......