Fifth Test, Sydney January 5, 2007

Goodbye to all that

‘I’d be upset if I wasn’t upset about it.’ Justin Langer.

Several times today the Barmy Army bugler Billy Cooper showed off a new addition to his repertoire: the Last Post. This is mine at Eye on the Ashes. I have filed a report for Guardian Unlimited, and a series round up for the newspaper, so here are just a few passing observations.

Andrew Flintoff spoke well at his press conference – as well as he has, at least. He wore his England cap, as he usually does: a statement of allegiance now that the statement of intent is irrelevant. He was asked some good questions, and gave no excuses. Christopher Martin-Jenkins asked him about England’s circumscribed preparation. Flintoff declined to use it as a prop for England’s meekness at Brisbane: ‘I was ready to play a Test match.’ The question remains, I think, whether he was ready to play a Test match against Australia in Australia.

Justin Langer, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath bounced beautifully off one another. Langer, as ever, spoke in tongues, saying that he was upset on the eve of the match, although this did not upset him: ‘I’d be upset if I wasn’t upset about it.’ Unimproveable. Asked about what he would do with his cap, he said he thought it deserved the protection of thick glass, not the cap from the outside world, but the outside world from the cap, which stank to high heaven. ‘He’ll have to find something else to wear to bed now,’ said McGrath. In fact, I’ll miss Warne and McGrath for their comic timing as well as their cricket. ‘5-0,’ said McGrath, a propos of nothing, as he sat down ‘It’s nice that Pigeon got one right,’ said Warne. ‘I only got one wrong,’ retorted McGrath. Pure gold. Ponting himself looked slightly flushed, maybe even a little teary. He admitted, in fact, to avoiding TV cameras on the field, as he had been feeling quite emotional.

Me, I'm beat. I’ve written more than 100,000 words in the last six weeks for various outlets, so I must confess to feeling a selfish pleasure at the last day of the series. The Australians have been scintillating to watch, like the Harlem Globetrotters in their skill; England have looked, not surprisingly, like the Washington Generals. I’m delighted for Warne, McGrath and Langer that they should have gone out under circumstances that became them. There is a sneaking satisfaction, too, that Rudi Koertzen is one series closer to retirement.

Thanks to those who corresponded, except to those who were deliberately or gratuitously unpleasant, who I hope suffer miserable lives and painful deaths. Comments to blogs are evidently as graffiti to the toilet door: inevitable but greatly varying in quality. My favourite comment was Crullers’ timely recollection of the Wonder Twins. Thanks to those who were so solicitous of Trumper the Cat: alive, well, and probably asleep at home in Melbourne, in my girlfriend’s tender care.

As I compose this last post in the SCG press box, far beneath me on the outfield there continues a long, sprawling, noisy and cheerful game of cricket using bins, plastic bats and tennis balls. Over the last three or so hours, it has involved about a hundred people, from children of six to men of sixty, plus a score of girls, all either groundstaff, caterers, or bar staff. That must be almost as reassuring a sight for Australian cricket as what we saw this morning. Now, it’s back to the studio.

Gideon Haigh is a cricket historian and writer

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