A trip to Higgy’s gaff in Long Eaton to watch the Nottingham Test match is never boring, and this game was certainly no exception!
Arriving as I did on the Wednesday night, before the main meal, there was the aperitif – an evening T20 game between the Barmy Army and Clifton Village CC.
Higgy and his friend Ryan were playing for the Barmies, along with Billy Root, (Joe’s brother) and Alex Macdonald (Yorkshire and England ladies.) My involvement was simply as a beer-swilling observer, along with Ryan’s dad Tony and brother Lee, who would also be our companions later in the week at the Test match.
Clifton Village batted first and despite two wickets from Ryan, managed a modest 230 or so from their 20 overs, therefore the pressure was on the Barmy Army as they began their chase.
Billy Root took first strike, opening with Higgy, and he did quite well in the first over hitting several boundaries. In the second over, Higgy tried an uncharacteristically aggressive shot and was caught at cover for one of the many ducks I would see that weekend.
A steady stream of wickets then followed until young Ryan found himself in the middle, batting with Alex Macdonald (Yorkshire and England ladies).
After a rushed single Ryan found himself on the floor in a heap at the non-strikers end, having pulled a muscle in his own rear end.
“Is that our Ryan on the ground?” asked dad Tony. “I can’t tell the difference!”
Now the Barmy Army clearly play to their own rules in many things, and in this game they used fifteen batsmen in their innings, including letting Billy Root bat four times, in order to chase down their target.
They fell short eventually by just 100 runs. It was later revealed that the game would not be counted as a First Class Fixture.
Billy Cooper the trumpeter who is once again‘barred’ inside Trent Bridge with his bugle, conducted a revealing question and answer session with Billy Root after the game.
Billy Root was the nominated twelfth man for the Test match, and revealed to us that he had detected a kind of ‘false togetherness’ in the Australian camp when he had seen them training – in other words, the disharmony referred to by the press was probably accurate.
The questions eventually broke down into trivia about Billy Root’s older brother and he revealed that whenever Granny was watching Joe on TV and the “Rooooooooot” noise was made by the crowd, she always said:
“Why are they booing him?”
Arrive at Nottingham station and after a hung-over twenty minute journey on a hot, packed train I am feeling distinctly woozy.
On leaving the platform I am accosted by a giant chipmunk which seems to want to get very friendly. All I can muster in response to the greeting is:
“Watch out for any American dentists with shotguns, mate…”
Outside there is a drum band, which is not exactly what I would have requested this morning.
We take our seats early in time for the toss, which England win.
Definitely a bowling morning with overcast, leaden skies and spits of rain and the Australians are duly inserted.
Matt Prior is sat near us in the New Stand, but he is not wearing his Yorkshire “Wensleydale Creameries” shirt today.
The first over commences….two wickets. The next over starts. Another wicket.
Australia are 10-3!
The following hour can only be described as an absolute rout, during which Australia completely fail to adapt to the conditions and the moving ball.
Stuart Broad takes 8 wickets for just 15 runs and the highlight is a stupendous low catch in the slips by Stokes which has even the bowler gaping in astonishment.
Quite simply this is the best I have ever seen England bowl and field.
Broad, aided and abetted by Wood and Finn, destroys the Australian batting order and records tumble faster than our brains can digest them.
The fastest 5 wicket haul in Test history – 19 balls.
The shortest Test innings in history – 111 balls.
Extras are the top scorer with 14, and the next best score is Mitchell Johnson with 13.
Altogether, put into context, a complete and utter disgrace.
When Australia limp to 50-9 the crowd rise as one in sarcastic applause and in the end Australia are all out for just 60.
In my various trips down under I have seen some right old rubbish served up by England at times but never anything as bad as this.
I find myself feeling sorry for the identikit Aussie fans sat together in two large groups in our stand as the Sky cameraman zones in and begins to pick them out on the big screen, but quickly extinguish the feelings.
Remember the World Cup and the five-nils, Midnight.
No pity. No pity.
Even more alarming than the tumbling wickets, during the morning I receive a communication from an old work mate in which he states he is going into hospital this weekend to have his coccyx removed. Needless to say given the state I was in, I had to re-read the text message several times before what was really happening sunk in.
Wayne, I hope you are better soon and that life without your coccyx does not prove too inconvenient for you and the wife!
At lunch we all repair to the Larwood and Voce pub alongside the ground, where we sit in incredulous triumph quaffing ale all afternoon.
We wobble back into the ground after tea to see a sublime century by the older Root brother, helped along by a confident knock from Jonny Bairstow and despite the latter getting out before the close, we are clearly already on course for a large score and regaining the Ashes.
The Trent Navigation pub is our venue of choice at stumps.
Although we do manage to catch the 9.38 service back to Long Eaton for an appointment with the Al Nasib curry house, after almost reaching our destination our train is diverted back to Nottingham due, we are told, to a fatality at Spondon station.
Whether the ‘jumper’ was an Australian selector was never revealed to us.
An RAF cadet band are playing for us at Nottingham station today and ‘The Great Escape’ is included in their repertoire. Wishful thinking by Australia, I wonder?
Time to peruse the BBC Sport website before play begins and it is clear that the World has been having a laugh at Australia’s expense.
There is a picture of Michael Clarke scratching his head next to Alastair Cook.
“I don’t know whether to bat or bowl this morning!” says Clarke.
“Why not do both!” says Cook!
Mobile phones have come alive with a picture message of an infamous Australian TV light entertainer, currently held during Her Majesty’s Pleasure – can you tell who it is yet? – grinning gormlessly:
“I’m the only Aussie who won’t be out before lunch!” he says.
My favourite tweet is from Have I Got News for You:
“The RSPB would like to thank the Australian cricket team for boosting the UK duck population!”
Bealey Mitchell, Stuart Broad’s girlfriend, is sat nearby, and as Aggers says on TMS she is:
“Rather provocatively dressed.”
Bealey is of course a gorgeous blonde model, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot image her kneeling down to sand the front door step with a donkey stone.
After this game, I expect there will be no need for her to do so!
Play begins on time and England scent a quick victory.
Although wickets fall regularly, the scoring rate is consistently high, and the batting entertaining.
Manna from heaven after the previous years of dross.
Root does not add many, but Wood thrills us with some fierce hitting and then Moeen Ali plays a classy cameo knock comprised almost entirely of boundaries.
Mitchell Johnson’s second spell of the morning brings up his personal bowling hundred, and again the crowd rise as one in sarcastic applause.
Off to the Larwood and Voce again at lunch, but this time only for a couple.
A large contingent of Barmy Army members have plotted up at the Larwood and Voce to drink themselves into oblivion – not many of these ‘fans’ seem to have match tickets. As is usual in all my visits to Trent Bridge, they have commandeered the premier patio table outside the front of the pub.
Several weeks ago I picked up a book called “Amongst the Fans” by Patrick Collins, the Chief Sports writer for the Mail on Sunday. In this book, Collins takes a year off work to attend sporting events with the crowds watching the action, including a Test Match involving England at Adelaide. He is fairly scathing in his assessment of the behaviour of the Barmy Army supporters. At the time I read this, I happened to think his views were rather generalist and harsh, but my own opinion would be revised somewhat downwards later that evening.
Back into the ground and the Aussie batsmen appear to be having a steady sort of afternoon.
Spontaneous applause as Australia reach 61 without loss. This is a real cricket crowd, not an Edgbaston rent-a-mob.
Australia go on to reach 100 without any difficulties. Rodgers is eventually out, but the delivery proves to be from a no-ball, which the umpires do not appear to be monitoring properly. Instead, they are rather lazily relying upon DRS to check this, but only in the event of a wicket falling, thus depriving the batting side of ‘extras’.
Given ‘extras’ were Australia’s top scorer in the first innings, this policy must be particularly disadvantageous to our colonial friends!
Shortly afterwards Rodgers does get out, and the anticipated clatter of wickets follows as the Kiwi demon Ben Stokes bowls like a man inspired.
Australia are seven down when bad light and rain finally curtail play slightly early.
We leave the ground and head for the Navigation where we successfully gain a table outside. But not for long. Soon, the Barmy Army arrive from the Larwood and Voce in a very inebriated state. One of their number – I am not naming names, if you are reading this, you know who you are – staggered over to our table and insisted upon claiming Ryan’s seat while he was away at the bar. Despite protests from dad Tony he would not budge from this seat and came out with some rather disparaging remarks to justify his arrogant and ignorant behaviour. He was immediately followed to our table by other drunken Barmy Army specimens and soon our table had been well and truly annexed.
Lee, Ryan and Tony headed inside the pub, soon followed by the writer, but not before I observed the phenomenon of ‘Barmy Army credit card roulette.’ In this silly game, all the participants put their credit cards into a hat and these are subsequently drawn out one by one, with the last card remaining having to buy a very expensive round of drinks for all the players.
This got too much for Higgy, who declined to participate and also followed us inside.
About twenty minutes later, the joker who had caused the rumpus appeared at the bar inside.
It seems he had lost at ‘credit card roulette’ and in addition to having to buy a massive round he now felt guilty enough about his earlier actions to offer to buy us a drink, which was declined.
If your obnoxious behaviour makes you feel guilty, why do it in the first place?
Patrick Collins, maybe you are onto something after all.
Graeme Swann and his band then performed live, which seemed to be enjoyed by most, and we then retired once more to the Al Nasib in Long Eaton to meet Kirsty, Ryan’s girlfriend: with the exception of Ryan’s brother Lee.
Lee does not like foreign food and preferred instead to stay drinking in Nottingham.
Maybe at last we have found a fellow food fascist for Freddie!
No such issues for Higgy, who ordered a dish called Dum Dum Chicken.
Sounds as if it might be a little messy on its way out……
Buying a day three ticket has been a huge gamble in this Test series and just Higgy and myself are in attendance today.
However I would not have missed this morning for anything.
Waiting until all the Australian fans were in situ in their seats, I marched past them at the front of the stand in a New Zealand World Cup shirt.
“You should support a proper team!” I shouted.
Oh, how they laughed. All my memories of that horrific World Cup were thus exorcised.
Despite the prospect of very little cricket to watch, the ground was pretty full with very few empty seats in evidence.
When England regained the Ashes after just forty minutes play, we were just one ball over the ‘100% refund of ticket price’ threshold, dammit.
Never mind, it was worth thirty quid to see Michael Clarke resign and cry at the presentation, and to be totally fair there was a lot of dignity in his speech.
Alastair Cook also dropped his guard for once and we saw an outpouring of some genuine emotion instead of the more usual meaningless sound bites.
England won by an innings and 78 runs. What a thrashing.
Stuart Broad won the man of the match, as Cilla was to say, surprise, surprise.
After this it was off to the pub to watch some sterile and boring football from the other Old Trafford, and then back to Long Eaton CC for a few relaxing beers. When we arrived, one of Long Eaton second XI younger players, 16 year old Sam, was batting and had his highest score to date, which he eventually converted to a maiden fifty. The congratulations from all present were heart-warming, and Sam’s dad even departed home diplomatically early to allow son to indulge in his ‘jug’- a few naughty Fosters.
What is the world coming to?
Thanks to Higgy, Tony and all the friendly folk at Long Eaton CC for their warm welcome during my stay for this game and also on my journey home from Edgbaston several days ago.
We finally have an International cricket team worth watching. Hallelujah indeed.