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Aug 9 – Day 1 at Durham

Day 1 – Fourth Test – Durham

Coach2.0 announced one change to the ‘almost’ Old Trafford XI. “Mantis in, Mr. D out . . . ‘on rotation’.”

Plopper held The Kid’s hand in sympathy because Darren had finally told The Kid he had less chance of playing in either of the remaining tests than Kevin07 has of winning the ‘only poll that really counts’ in September. According to Sarah, The Kid (who is new to elections) furrowed his brow, chewed his lip, and said politely: “I guess that is reasonably small then.”

“Quite tiny really,” Darren replied, as he pulled another leg off a huge Daddy Long Legs he had found trapped in his DSM.

Plopper, who says he is a registered voter, knows he only had to tame the Firebrand KP once with his deceptive arm ball to be worshipped as much as any small town homecoming queen. “The Pope might even accelerate his beatification,” volunteered The Freak, “if he does him a second time with a miracle spinning Duke!”  Plenty of laughter followed.

Then the doors closed and Coach2.0 went through the game tactics player by player, expecting The Captain to forfeit the toss by calling heads. “On a slow turning pitch, patience is the key,” he said, quoting from the 4 volume leather bound bible titled “Durham pitch: coal mining in the North East 1815-1950” every touring Coach receives on arrival in Durham.

The Prof sported a wide grin. “We will win,” he said knowingly.

The Prof’s fracking set up at Durham

The Prof was apparently ‘off line’ half the night talking to the oil and gas men we had met at OT, who happened to be fracking near Chester-le-street. As usual, Prof never telegraphs his chess play. He prefers to let events unfold, guiding events with a helping hand where necessary. [Ed. Dr Who pretensions?]

At the ground, The Captain called heads and lost the toss. “We’re happy Nass,” he said.  “Either way we need to play well to win. Cheers.”

The pitch was slow and the bowlers worked patiently for wickets. Nothing looked likely until after tea when the English disintegrated losing 6 quick wickets to be 9 fer before a last wicket fightback of 38 lifted a poor score to a passable total.  Yet all credit to Plopper with 4 for less than 50, including the Firebrand’s wicket off his miracle arm ball.

The Captain was very pleased. The Prof even more so.

“According to plan?” I said.

“Quite,” the Prof replied.

“Well? This is no time to hold out on me Prof,” I insisted rather impatiently.

“Alright. If I must.”

The Prof said that the oil and gas frackers had repeated their OT Midnight Manoeuvres during the night at Chester le Street. But the bedrock is different, causing coal seam gas to leak from the pitch like exhaust from an ageing Holden. Apparently a coal seam lies under the pitch stump to stump. The gas lay about the wicket so heavily respirators were needed so they could lay pipes underneath the pitch to capture the gas and pipe it to a 24 hour Pizzeria outside the ground. At Prof’s suggestion, they added three automatic overflow outlets to the crease at both ends.

Things went well until after tea when the Pizzeria notified The Prof that a party of 60 touring Aussies had cancelled their lunch appointment – the cricket was too ‘absorbing’, they said. The gas quickly filled the keg barrels at the Pizzeria and began to  leak from the overflow outlets, enough so the Prof said to upset the English bats who complained they saw three Dukes not one when batting at the Northern end during Plopper’s miracle spell. They were unsure which ball to hit so they played for one of the arm balls and missed all three.

Rough justice one could say. If Chef knew of Prof’s pitch innovations he would definitely ask for an apology, forget about the morality of smoking or the impropriety of piddling on bouncers in Brighton, and become a card carrying member of the Anti-Fracking League of the North East, along with DI Gower. Instead, the English cricketing twitterati seem, temporarily, to have turned their backs on their national team in the same way that William Wallace turned his back on the English at Falkirk.

At least it’s summer with no rain to spoil our party, yet.

England 9/238


COMING SOON – From Ashes to Ashes – The Agony and the Ecstacy of the 2013 Ashes Series. OUT EARLY SEPTEMBER. Sign up here to find out when!

OUT NOWThe Ashes Files 2013. The secret applications file that Cricket Australia assembled when they threw applications open to all comers. Ebook available at amazon now.

OUT NOW: Coach2Coach – The story of Australia’s chequered preparation for the 2013 Ashes, as told byThe 17th Man. (US/UK)

© 2013 Dave Cornford, Jeremy Pooley & Jock Macneish

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