The bus wound it’s way through the city streets, picking it’s way through the debris of the night before. While we were tucked up safe in our beds, it’s clear that Sydney went on a post-fireworks bender, with a small army of council workers now sweeping slowly through the rubbish, broken glass and still-sleeping revellers under an overcast sky. The cricketers’ offspring chattered away, scrubbed clean and hair tamed ready for the one official function they would have to endure. This time it’s both teams as well as WAGs and children at Kirribilli, the Sydney residence of the Australian PM.
I’m glad I don’t have to worry about how my children behave at a do like this, and I was certainly glad I hadn’t pushed to get Dad in invitation. Sarah (from Marketing) had hinted that there was an opportunity for local players to get an extra ticket or two, but the thought of Dad hobnobbing it with the PM and the English players sent a chill up my spine. The idea of him being able to contain himself and comply with half of the things we got told in the protocol meeting was laughable.
After the official glad-handing was over, one of the PM’s staff produced a plastic cricket bat and stumps and a tennis ball, hoping for a nice casual “backyard cricket” PR shot with the PM, but he should have known better. The English team were completely not interested, and hung around in the shade of the verandah sipping on mineral water and looking like they’d much rather be at home watching a repeat of the Edinburgh Tattoo on telly. The kids were enthusiastic to play, but it was of course Puff who seized the bat and took guard, facing a young girl. I’m not sure who of the team she belonged to, but she put in a good yorker and ripped straight through Puff’s defence, sending the plastic stumps flying.
I thought Puff was about to explode, but he was very calm. “Can’t get out first ball,” he said with a smile and no sense of irony. He waved at Bell and Cook, who raised their glasses a little in acknowledgement. The bowler was nonplussed, and stomped back to her mark. Puff took guard again, and the assembled crowd started to pay more attention.
The next ball was another ripper, just a little shorter, but this time Puff was up to the task. The plastic bat wooshed through the air and made contact with the ball with an almightly thwack. The ball shot straight for one of the windows nestling quietly in one of the building’s elegant gables, hitting it square in the middle and rebounding into a manicured hedge. “Bullet proof glass,” The Prof muttered.
While everyone’s attention was focussing on the ball, they missed the silent progress of the bat, which had slipped out of Puff’s grip and was sailing through the air in the direction of the official party. The Prime Minister’s personal security detail were protecting the flanks, so it was fortunate that the PM saw the bat and ducked it with practiced aplomb, just as if it was a hard policy decision. The Cricket Australia officials likewise showed off their avoidance skills, leaving a waiter holding a tray of full champagne flutes to take the brunt of the impact. The crash of broken glass and the scream brought the minders in, with three of them throwing themselves onto the hapless waiter as if he was an unexploded bomb. The PM was lead away, and the bat put into a large plastic evidence bag.
The party ran out of gas pretty quickly after that. We returned to the bus and spent the late afternoon having a solid net session – unlike the opposition who seem to think that they’ve had enough batting so far this tour. Strange – I think the only English batsmen who’s spent long enough in the nets this summer is Piers Morgan.
(c) Dave Cornford and Jeremy Pooley