Saturday, January 18, 2020
Home » Diary of the 17th Man » Aug 17 – Collapsible Middle Order.

Aug 17 – Collapsible Middle Order.

Day 2 – Aust V English Lions

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today I wish,
I wish he’d go away… (Antigonish, Hughes Mearns, 1899)

I feel this morning like I did as a child wandering through the rooms of the derelict house on the corner, next to the vacant lot with the sump, as night fell with a few friends. No one lived there. A yellowed shopping list, a few tattered National Geographic journals lay on a foldaway kitchen table where someone had left them. Only cobwebs and insects lived there, and the wind that whistled through the windowless frames in winter looking for warmth. The place had a cellar but we were never brave enough to descend the worm ridden stairs. When we were older and braver the old house had been bulldozed [Ed. to make way for fracking wells]. There was nothing left to remember.

Scoring runs on Tour is like entering a deserted house. People used to live there, but not any more. Other houses in the street are occupied [Ed. by bowlers who can bat], have a car out the front, with a trimmed hedge or low wall and beds of roses and the smell of cut grass on Saturday’s but not this one. [Ed. Note. The English XI have moved to the houses with water views and private jetties.]

Four day, three day, two day games provide much needed time in the middle, yet have made little impact on the house on the corner next to the sump. It seems as derelict as it did after India. A house still standing, united not divided, but in need of restoration.

“It is not such a Bleak House,” The Prof remarked. “We are improving. Coach2.0 has the scaffolding up on the south face and, straining your analogy, the skip is in the vacant lot and the builder’s sign has been hammered into the front lawn.”

“Tell that to the Top 6.”

“Following social media everyday is not good for you” the Prof replied. “Tours are a mental war like the man on the stair. There are no batting ghosts.”

wheelPerhaps not at 3/144 on day 2 at Northampton. But 30 minutes later we had suffered another mini-collapse to be 6/160. As the middle order strolled out and returned as quickly, I glanced at The Prof and past him to Coach2.0 and The Captain in ‘the Conning Tower’ as it were. Neither C said a word. After all, this is a practice game that has shed no light on Test form or selection choices. A chocolate wheel would be a better option.

I can imagine the thoughts of the middle order. But they must defeat these ghosts, their ghosts not the ghosts of Durham, for the bowlers to defeat England.


When I came home last night at three
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door… (slam!)


The Prof had a furrowed brow. “Don’t say a thing!” he warned as he opened his ipad. “Make sure The Oval is a shirtfront,” he wrote to the oil and gas men. “The Surrey bedrock is solid. No problems,” they wrote in reply.

“Read this,” he said with more confidence. The Prof showed me three short paragraphs in reply to the invitation from the Deutsche Cricket Bund to play three Tests in Germany

    “I am terribly sorry. Whilst I and the 17th Man are available to tour as fly in fly out ‘stars’ to Munich, the Australian Test team has its hands full to 2016 beating our ghosts.
    I have forwarded your invitation to NZCricket. They are a small country always searching for competitive opposition and a win.
    Do you play soccer or rugby? Our football teams are searching for a similar challenge.

    Best wishes, the Prof”

“Conventional but appropriate,” Coach2.0 added leaning over my shoulder. “Mike and Brendan will love it.”

“I have a separate message for DT [Ed. Deep Throat],’ the Prof continued.

It read: “Meet us at The Bluebell Railway near Sheffield Park on Thursday at 6am. Don’t be late.”

“What are you planning?” I replied.

“A simple exorcism, a prank, and a few other details. Nothing much,” he said as Mr X sat next to us.

Mr X said to us and no one in a stoic sort of way. “I must prevail.”

“We have faith.” I replied.

Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away

Prof’s exorcism, magic, luck, and a chocolate wheel will all play their parts in this Shakespearean play. It is not over yet.

[Ed. The lack of mention of the result of the Wallabies Vs All Blacks Test is of no significance]

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

Check Also


The 17th Man is pleased to announce the release of his two latest books – numbers ...

Leave a Reply