Ashes July 25, 2009

The official (Confectionery Stall) Ashes quiz

As promised, here is Paper 1 of the Official Confectionery Stall Multiple Choice 2009 Ashes Quiz/Exam. Answer the following four questions to the very best of your ability. No cheating. Read your answers aloud to your computer or a trusted household pet, then wait and see what happens.

All those scoring above the Test batting average of their favourite player are entitled to draw themselves a certificate, and scribble their names onto a Test scorecard from an appropriate edition of Wisden.

QUESTION 1: Where does the Lord’s victory rank amongst the great achievements in British history?

(a) Not very high. It’s only a game. And Australia were, for the most part, garbage. When a solid but habitually unspectacular opening partnership such as Cook and Strauss put on 196 in 40-odd overs without having to think about taking even half a risk, you know you’ve bowled like a skip full of rotting potatoes.

(b) Quite high. Below Shakespeare’s plays, but above Buck’s Fizz winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1981. One of the great monkeys has been removed from the national sporting back, but that will be forgotten if England allow the monkey to then climb up a tree and urinate on their picnic by failing to win the Ashes.

(c) Top of the list. Bar none. The Cardiff-Lord’s double was the finest escape-followed-by-victory combination since the Dunkerque-Battle-of-Britain one-two in 1940. However, bearing in mind that Britain had prevailed in a world war just over 20 years previously, the Lord’s win has even greater rarity value.

QUESTION 2: Why did Australia play so astonishingly badly for large and decisive parts of the game?

(a) Because they are a largely inexperienced team, and therefore prone to inconsistency, with some key players out of form. We don’t yet know how good they are. Their impressive series win in South Africa looked like a resurgence after back-to-back defeat in India and against the Proteas. But was the away victory over Graeme Smith’s team what economists would call a ‘dead cat bounce’ – the short-lived but misleading rise of a plummeting stock before it plonks back down onto the ground, lifeless and worthless, like a cat lobbed out of an office window? If so, can Ponting and Nielsen resuscitate the cat? Are the Australians willing and able to kneel down and give mouth-to-mouth to a cat? Or is the cat actually fine? Did the cat deliberately throw itself out of the window to pass the time on a dull afternoon, play dead for a while to attract some attention, whilst planning to leap back to its feet and miaow, “I’m fine, never felt better, what are you all fussing about? I suppose a bowl of milk’s out of the question?”

(b) Because the entire Australian nation has completely lost its manhood. Where Merv Hughes sported a moustache that simply bellowed, “I mean business, and I’ve got half my lunch stuck on my upper lip to prove it,” now Peter Siddle has a small and unforgivable tuft of hair languishing apologetically below his mouth. And what about Haddin’s comments about Hauritz’s finger dislocation? “I don't know if I can talk about it,” wept the wicketkeeper, wiping a tear from his eye with a trembling glove. “I don’t like seeing those things,” he continued, whilst calling for a little teddy bear to cuddle to help him through the ordeal. “My stomach can’t handle it,” he concluded, before running away and hiding under a desk until he was sure it was safe to emerge. Allan Border must be spinning in his still-empty grave.

(c) They didn’t. No less an authority on the matter than Ricky Ponting said so, and he should know.

(d) Because of Rudi Koertzen.

Michael Clarke took his test after reaching his hundred. Be inspired © AFP

QUESTION 3: So did Michael Clarke really, honestly, mean it when he claimed before the first Test that “we’re as good as any team I have been part of for Australia”?

a) Yes. Absolutely. He believes it to the very bottom of his baggy green soul. But he is also suffering from major amnaesia after headbutting a large, moving truck. He cannot remember anything from before June 2009.

b) No. He’s not a total idiot. But, in the circumstances, he was unlikely to say: “Hauritz is a decent tweaker, but let’s be honest, he’s barely fit to play the same sport as Warney. Siddle gives it a go but if he’s Glenn McGrath then I’m Cyndi Lauper. And Mike Hussey is nowhere near as good as that guy Michael Hussey who played for us a couple of years ago.”

c) Yes. But he didn’t finish the sentence. He was distracted by a low-flying buzzard before he could continue: “... that has contained five players whose name begins with H. No doubt about it.” Or, possibly: “... at motorcycle pyramids. Yeah, we’re great at the old team stunt riding. Managed to get all eleven of us balanced on a Kawasaki last week whilst Punter pulled a wheelie. Bradman’s so-called ‘Invincibles’ could barely even ride a bicycle by comparison.”

QUESTION 4: Did Strauss really catch Hughes?

a) Yes, sure did, went in clean as a nun’s whistle. Look in the scorebook if you’re still not sure. Or, more practically, look at a scorecard in a newspaper or on the internet, they’ll probably be easier to access than the actual Lord’s scorebook. But the point stands. He’s the England Cricket Captain. Not any old Cricket Captain. The England Cricket Captain. By definition, he is the most honourable man in the known world.

b) Possibly. He probably caught it on the end of his fingers, but it might have brushed the grass on its way in, which he would not necessarily have felt. This explains why he celebrated spontaneously, and without the evil glint in his eye or demonic cackle that surely would have been present had he been pulling a fast one.

c) No. Clearly not. The ball almost bounced over his head before he caught it. The fact that he even thought about claiming the catch proves that the entire English nation has not only gone to the dogs, but it has dressed up in a cat outfit and is waiting for those dogs to eat it. This ‘catch’, if such a word is applicable to such an act of nefarious naughtiness, proves that the public school system is nothing more than a factory of cheats, liars and hoodwinkers.

The remaining questions will be unleashed on Monday, including (in case any of you wish to do some revision before sitting Part 2): How much will England miss Kevin Pietersen? What is the solution to disputed catches? Who will win at Edgbaston? And, in retrospect, could the 12th-man glove-trundling incident in Cardiff have been the most important single moment in English cricket history?

The correct answers will be given after the Edgbaston Test, or possibly after Headingley, or even after the Oval, depending on when the truth makes itself known to the relevant authorities

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer