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Dec 29 – Day 4 – Fourth Test

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” (A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens)

The Prof was on the phone to his bankers. The Dalmatian Coast hotel, the main investment in the Players Pension Fund no 8, was forecast to return 60% in 2014. Coach2.0 and the Pension Board (me, The Freak and The Prof) were very pleased.

The Prof was considering expansion along the coastline towards Macedonia. The bankers were salivating at the prospect, driven by a deal that gave them the rights to retain the profits from currency arbitrage in exchange for a 1% interest rate on expansion funds from QE funds the US banks had retained as ‘excess capital’, initially to pay bonuses to the Big Cahuna’s on Wall Street which had propped up Christmas spending on 5th Avenue.

The Freak muttered something unprintable from behind a bundle of newspapers. He said he was more comfortable robbing KP of runs than manning the barricades in Paris. He was gorging on the Test wash-up, tallying Day 4 player mentions in the The Age with his sharpie. The ‘old boy’ UnLucky and the broken Hollywood topped the list.

UnLucky scored the only century of the four days to match his first innings 71. Never elegant, he applied patience and discipline [Ed. He told me he wanted a ticket to South Africa] in a game where few batsmen could be bothered to stick it out. Hollywood claimed he stayed at the wicket longer than planned to nurse the old boy to his 100 and hit the winning runs; UnLucky claimed he held on after his “elegant Mark Waugh cover drive” to coach Hollywood to another 50, and only gave way for The Captain when he received Sarah‘s imploring wave from the shadows of the balcony. She was in fact spraying air freshener in the tense atmosphere of the dressing room. The Natural was pacing the place like a caged lion, letting off all sorts of snarls and steam. He took no responsibility.

An ageless Wicky turned around and said “I can hear Hollywood from here. His joints have more creaks than an old weatherboard on a hot night. You can hear him swaying as the bowler comes in.” The Freak added that Hollywood was louder than a low flying 747. Apparently, he had been in the shower when Hollywood took a quick single. The taps started to hammer and a crack opened up near the grate. He ran out into the dressing room in his birthday suit thinking the sky was falling in. This unsettled Trapper and Mr G who were padding up; neither trust the middle order.

They all emerged on the balcony as white as sheets. Of course, The Freak was bathed in a fluffy white gown borrowed from the hotel. It took a while before they all stopped shaking. Sarah said it was post traumatic stress. She had it once the morning after a huge night out. She set up a quarter hour intensive session with Darren, the team psychoanalyst. Puff, who loves Darren, pushed Trapper and Mr G through the door with their helmets on and locked it from the outside. When he let them out an hour later, the boys said they realised they were normal. Darren said he felt better. And Puff said his faith in the middle order was restored. The Freak never turned up to his session.

Anyway, The Captain made it to the middle and stayed there until the end with Hollywood. Who knows what they said to each other after the final runs were scored – something like ‘how easy is this then, eh?’ seems fitting; they were both laughing.

I cannot say what a fourth victory celebration is like so soon after losing 7 of the previous 9 tests before this series, but it just gets better. If I am guilty of a terse Neil Armstrong-like explanation of how he felt to be the first person to walk on the Moon, don’t be humbled. [Ed. Norman Mailer wasn’t. He was just bloody disappointed that Armstrong could not describe his experience at all, and campaigned relentlessly for illiterate engineers not to be chosen to be the first to land on Mars] Bright lights, plenty of tucker and ticker were on display. UnLucky, Wicky and Tatts did a moon walk on a table before it crumbled under the strain amid lots of shooting stars, head spinning, and a yelp of hammy pain from Hollywood at the bottom of it all. A bruising night. The sort of night The Natural finds soothingly authentic.

The English ‘celebration’ was more austere. Very subdued I would think. They came close to winning until Chef OUTed himself on the third afternoon; it was all over in the blink of an eye really, thrown away like cheap confetti at a group wedding.

The Captain sent Chef a signed triptych photo of He and Hollywood embracing, with the downcast shattered faces of Chef and his band in the background; Ian Bell lingering at the crease despondently, and an expressionless Jimmy after grassing a sitter in the outfield. Chef asked for 11 copies. He is livid, or as livid as he gets.

“We were there 3 months ago” The Freak reminded me back at the hotel.
“What will Chef say to them?” I asked.
“Practice, practice, practice. Nothing else”, The Captain said as he passed.
Someone said “And fight with the narrow belligerent fury of a peasant defending his fields.”
The Prof raised an eyebrow, surprised at the reference. The Freak was working up to some witticism “See ball, hit ball is as hard as it gets”, he said. “Coach2.0 says so. Cricket is only a game….”

England will one day #RISE from the Ashes; hopefully not before we have slaked our thirst.

“More beer anyone? The lorry the English ordered has turned up”, Puff announced in a squeaky voice. He was in his element. We went to examine it full of excitement. Puff rolled up the door.
“Where’s the beer?” he screamed. The lorry was empty, except for 11 rotting lettuce heads on banana pikes strapped to the sides, and a message from Deep Third taped to the floor:

 “Looking forward to the carnage in Sydney.”

A rather imprecise statement but one best taken at face value. It is the best of times.

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