The Prof reappeared today fresh from his time away… in Greece. When I picked him up outside the airport in his Rolls, he greeted me like a long lost sibling, flicked me a cheap statuette he picked up from a street merchant in Athens, and jumped straight into the back seat. I was left, with the help of two bystanders, to toss in his back pack after him. It weighed a tonne and extracted a mild grunt from the back seat as it hit its target.
“Steady on Parker.”
“Parker’s out with the WAG’s, you swine, reacquainting his effete predisposition with the Paddington high street”, I replied, as I roared across a zebra line into the traffic.
The Prof ignored my taunt. A beach, then an island, then a price made its way across the journey map on the console.
“Can the Players Pension Fund afford that?” I replied none too pleased with his back seat smirking.
“I outbid a couple of portly German bankers for it. Ikaria is as Greek as it gets. Pristine beaches, traditional simple people, hot springs, wild landscape. Authentic 5 star luxury and enough space for a big airport.”
“And the locals.”
“Over the moon. Jobs and growth 17th, jobs and growth. Lifestyle preserved to eternity. All upside. The big equipment starts docking tomorrow.”
I stared at him in the rear view mirror.
“It’s all good. We’re building an underground casino for the high rollers to pay it off.”
I veered away from the centre line.
“I cut the trip short when I saw England collapse. Has anyone complained about the pitch?”
“No one I’ve replied to. Trapper told me to direct all enquiries to him. The Captain doesn’t need to know. But the weather boy we used from the Met Office in 2013 is looking for a job.”
The BBC has canceled a forever contract with the Met Office. It is courting weather forecasters from New Zealand and the Netherlands, two minor cricketing nations who know more about predicting natural disasters than they do about fickle weather patterns over test cricket ovals in the north of England, or anywhere else. Listening to a Kiwi accent explain that spring is just around the corner or a Dutch voice ex-plain that cannabis rings from Amsterdam are responsible for the heatwave over London will go down well with Ch4 viewers.
The BBC-met relationship hasn’t been the same since predictions of a barbecue summer in 2009 were washed out by wild weather, although the fine print then did predict a 20% chance of a wet summer. We called the Met Office lad from the car radio to ask about Day 4 weather. He didn’t have a clue except to say that cloud cover meant rain and it looked cloudy towards London. Weather forecasting he said is probabilistic not deterministic. In any particular location, it depends on initial conditions and various microphysical processes like rain dances, prayer (God is an Englishman) and climate change. Preparing a dodgy pitch according to instruction and weighting the toss is much easier.
We took the field in the morning, and left it to The Freak (3) and Junior Junior Marsh (1) to clean up the last 4 wickets before lunch and then when the clouds parted briefly in the late afternoon. The Freak has been a quiet card this series biding his time eating bananas watching the Ashes slip away until he could get on the field in a dead game to show the pace duo that wasting the new ball is as absent-minded as letting your best mate go out with your girlfriend. God knows whether the pacemen learned as much from stuffing up as we did from watching them stuff up. [Ed. Australia is God’s country.]
So we won at The Oval by an innings and 44 and lost the series 3 lashings to 2 lashings, not a single Day 5 finish, two Day 4 finishes and two Day 3 finishes. That’s enough for the 6th and 7th tests.
The team congratulated The Captain all yesterday and today. In the end he was sick of it all, the handshakes, honour guards, the black arm bands, the interviews, the praise and ceremony, all of it. In particular, turning around to find the team at the rope clapping when he wanted them behind him taking the field. He clocked off with a wave of the hand, a stoic gait and a grim determination to see it through to the end, beat the rain and win, without shedding a tear. He said he was sick of crying on TV. [Ed. I was sick of buying lemons. (Sarah, Director of Marketing)]. Retirement never looked so good for Mrs Captain.
UnLucky felt the same. He was just glad at 35 to have the opportunity he should have had earlier. It was all upside – one of the few batsmen to retire while his average was improving, and pick up the Man of the Series for Australia on the way. His only regret? “I never ran out Dave Warner without scoring.”
The rest of us are glad the series is over. 15 Ashes tests in 24 months. These contests have well and truly hit the law of diminishing returns.
The upside for Trapper, the new Captain, is very sunny. As The Prof said, no more rubbish about hamstrings or ‘will he, won’t he’ comeback sagas. Number 23 is retired, number 66 can finally rest in peace.
On the other side of the world, Kumar Sangakarra retired. His record 133 matches, 12,350 runs, av 57.71, 38 centuries, 52 50’s marks a secure legacy. But the game is about the Big 3 (India, Australia, England) isn’t it?
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
(Jerusalem, William Blake)
Australia 481. England 149 & 286