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Ashes Diary of the 17th Man – Jun 14

Napoleon’s nose has seen the sights
A lot of trouble and a lot of strife
But I’ve always thought and I think I’m right
It’s a beautiful city on a starry night.(The Lagan Band)

Belfast. It is no less enticing in the morning light than it was in the late afternoon yesterday when we roamed the grounds of Stormont Castle with our very hospitable Irish hosts. We are all in fine spirit.

The pre-breakfast team meeting this morning was very orderly. No surprises off the field. Yet Rocket Man, bless his heart, detected a subtle shift in language from “WATCH the moving ball” to “HIT the shaping ball”. Darren and the Communications Director had worked all night on shifting every communication to the batting squad from a passive to an active tense in an effort to light a fuse under the opening bats to combat the magic of the shape-shifters. This generated some movement (giggling I thought) from some of the seamers in the second row, but nothing from the sleepy bats. The Freak fired three sticky butter menthols across the aisle, stood up, shaped a classic forward defensive shot and asked  “Can I order a shot with that?” The bats turned one eye to their left, as pigeons do, shifting on their perches, surprised to find the bowlers bobbing up and down shaping the few shots they could manage.

It looked like a rap party until Darren began to unpack his prized portable gramophone and the pigeons threatened to join in. This was too much for the Coach on duty (not to be confused with the Coach) who hollered “I’ll order some runs as well. Do you think you can manage it?”. Lord knows how long he had kept that line under wraps but the message got through. Not a bad effort for a choreographed YouTube event. Something to ward off the sprinkler heads, if we start winning.

No rain today. We managed to see off the Irishmen at 6/234 floating on a big hundred from someone very close to me and a well compiled half-ton from an alter ego in the middle order. However, the Irish shape-shifters still have the game evenly poised, having sent us in.

Dust to Dust Prof Final TThe Prof and and one of the young guns (a closet artiste) hired a team of leprechauns from the Belfast School of Modern Art to design a light-hearted but uplifting artwork to complement the personal blogs some are publishing on the team’s official site. He wanted to hire a war artist given the strain we are all under, but they are all on location with Julia Gillard in her own phoney war with Kevin 07*.

They thought Belfast artists would be just as empathetic. It is due for presentation on Monday.

The Irish invited us to an evening of traditional folk music and fare at Pat’s Bar with a host of ruddy, caricatured, hard swilling locals. Amid the slosh of ale and melodic good cheer, the bodhran belted out steady time for the heady mix of dancing fiddle, penny whistle and mandolin that bounced across the crammed bodies to every beating heart. Between it all the Prof and I managed to down a bucketful of colcannon and chat to Hollywood in England.

The CT team has been preparing day and night in shifts in the nets (indoor and outdoor) in an effort to bat themselves into form. Hollywood and Puff had the dead man’s watch last night. They bowled to each other because the bowlers didn’t turn up not wanted to break the team curfew. Coach was disappointed. Puff’s face filled the screen momentarily to say that Mantis and The Natural have now bowled so many overs they may be rotated out for a month. We could hear the three of them cracking up in the background with Mr. G, chins up.

The band closed with a melancholic rendering of an old favourite that brought a listening ear and glistening tear to even the most ardent pub prattler:

Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountainside
The summer’s gone, and all the flow’rs are dying…..”

Rocket Man and The Freak are ready to clean the Irish up tomorrow hell bent on winning their own phoney war with the England quicks.

*Kevin Rudd, acerbic former Australian PM who wants to destroy Julia G. for knifing him in 2010. He won’t let her forget it. Et tu, Brute?

Meet the Squad here

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© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

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