Ashes August 19, 2009

England's win and Ricky's flight to Argentina

I have finally emerged from my special shed at the end of my garden that I keep for emergency situations, such as nuclear war, Armageddon, a large meteor homing in on South London, and mentally recovering from watching England being humiliatingly
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I have finally emerged from my special shed at the end of my garden that I keep for emergency situations, such as nuclear war, Armageddon, a large meteor homing in on South London, and mentally recovering from watching England being humiliatingly obliterated in a crucial Test match. I spent six months in there after Adelaide 2006. I remain unconvinced that I did not re-emerge too soon.

The £20 I forked out on a fifth-day ticket for Leeds proved to be one of my less sound financial investments, alongside the purchase of a surfboard made of salt, my bet that a zebra would win the Grand National by 2007, and a contribution to the research and development budget of a company making a sausage howitzer for rapid feeding of crowded school dining rooms.

Was Headingley operating a Nigerian-banking-style internet scam, preying on vulnerable and easily-misled cricket fans such as myself by promising an unforgettable day’s cricket, with England potentially winning the Ashes and adding a new entry to its Top 10 List of Greatest Ever Moments, for just £20 – the price of four £5 notes − when they knew full well that England were planning to collapse like a Victorian lady at the unexpected sight of a gentleman’s danglers? I knew it seemed too good to be true, but I was sucked in and the media were so persuasive I felt I couldn’t turn them down.

In the event, my Tuesday holiday at Headingley transpired to be a fairly dull experience, sitting alone in an ugly, empty stadium with a copy of Wisden, a pair of binoculars and an imagination. However, even trying to pretend England were knocking off 300 to win on the last afternoon proved impossible, and I ended up envisaging a mid-afternoon collapse and Ricky Ponting sprinting around the outfield with the Ashes screaming, “Yes, yes, yes, we’ve done it – we have vanquished the mightiest of the mighty.” To make matters worse, play in my imaginary final day ended late due to bad light and I missed my train back to London.

Even the most ardent positivist in the England camp would concede that the fourth Test was a bit of a disappointment. The prize was within touching distance, but, instead of reaching out and grasping it, England tripped over their own shoelaces, landed headfirst in a bucket, staggered around blindly with the bucket lodged on their head, walked into a plate-glass mirror, staggered backwards, fell over a dog and tumbled out of a 15th floor window.

Nevertheless, as the players of both teams have been chanting with monk-like repetition, it is Only One-All And Still All To Play For, despite Australia’s pronounced statistical superiority (they are averaging 13 runs per wicket more than England, more on which in tomorrow’s statfest of a blog).

Furthermore, looking at History, that most seductive but useless of guides, the best Australia can hope for from this match is a draw. They have never won a decisive Ashes Test without the following two criteria being fulfilled: (1) Don Bradman is in the team; (2) it is the 1930s. Neither of those looks likely to happen at The Oval. Ponting and his men will therefore have to hope that England cannot force a victory.

So, this is it. After all the build-up, the years of waiting, the endless speculation, and the nationwide frenzy of anticipation, finally, on Thursday, Jonathan Trott will make his Test debut. And the 2009 will reach its denouement.

I confess to knowing little about the former South African, but he has a solid overall first-class record and, as a horse for this particular final Test course, has been picked when bang in form, and a loud bang at that. In previous times, the England selectors seemed to shy away from picking new players if they were in form, preferring to wait until they were struggling, and preferably, having to face top-notch opposition, before throwing them in, in an effort to undermine their confidence and self-belief for the long-term. It was a curious tactic, with hindsight.

Bell is lucky to be playing – if Rudi Koertzen had used his eyeballs at Edgbaston he would have had three failures out of three and be contemplating a prolonged period on the sidelines learning not to put his leg in the way of inswingers. But the stage is set for one of the great career-transforming double-centuries of all time.

England need major contributions from players who have failed to deliver them so far, and if they (and especially Flintoff) make a good or even non-cataclysmic start, the crowd, occasion and prospect of another drunken bus-tour around London and a chat with the Queen could inspire them to close the gap in quality between the sides that seemed apparent before the series and in Cardiff, then went AWOL for a couple of Tests, before re-emerging as a chasm in Leeds.

I still think England have a chance of ensuring that their Ashes blimp soars victoriously to the skies on the helium of adrenaline and history, rather than merely Hindenburging into an inferno of defeat at the first opportunity.

The good news for England is that, so far in this series, the performances in one match have generally not given many hints as to how the teams would play in the next. And they will know that, if it is a close game (and let’s hope that it is – there hasn’t yet been a match in this series in which both sides have played well), Australia may start thinking about how they really should have had these Ashes wrapped up and under the Christmas tree by now. And Ricky Ponting may start thinking how the last Australian captain to lose two Ashes series in England, Billy Murdoch in the late 19th century, ended up playing for England less than two years later. No-one could cope with that Bazooka Of Damocles pointing right into his face.

THE CONFECTIONERY STALL OVAL TEST PREDICTION

What the heck. England to win. I don’t really think that, but I’m trying to give optimism a go, just for a change. Flintoff to be knighted at tea on the final day before ripping through the Australian tail to clinch victory. Ponting to burn an effigy of himself on the outfield before going into hiding and being sighted in Argentina some years later.

Brace yourselves for some hard-core Confectionery Stall stats tomorrow morning.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • HRV on August 20, 2009, 9:18 GMT

    Hilarious as usual! Poms winning - Dream on as Aerosmith said.. Having said that I would also like to see Tricky Ricky blogging from Argentina!

  • HRV on August 20, 2009, 9:18 GMT

    Hilarious as usual! Poms winning - Dream o as Aerosmith said.. Having said that I would also like to see Tricky Ricky blogging from Argentina!

  • Nathan on August 20, 2009, 7:52 GMT

    @magibbon, all I can say is that you seem to be in a minority of one. This, as with most if not all of Andy's musings, is funny, funny stuff and if the humor of it lost on you then I think that says more about you than the writer's ability!

  • Nitin on August 20, 2009, 4:49 GMT

    Hi Mike

    I'm quite keen on following your foot steps and start collecting pics along with comments as a hobby. Would you be kind enough to give me a head start by sharing some of your collection? My email ID is nittsmehta@gmail.com.

    Appreciate your help.

    Cheers Nitin

  • Avik on August 20, 2009, 4:35 GMT

    I find your blogs incorrigibly hilarious. However, I do believe you outdid yourself when you dreamt of Ricky Ponting exclaiming “Yes, yes, yes, we’ve done it – we have vanquished the mightiest of the mighty” in the imagined final day of Headingley. My man Andy – let’s take a ‘rain check’ here; the England test team is by no means the mightiest of the mighty, in fact it’s not even mighty. Barring the soap opera of Fred retiring after this series (and that is a true irreplaceable loss), England has really not set the skies blazing; ok maybe one combined spell of Onions and Anderson in the entire series did show us what good bowling can do to a game of cricket. Frankly though, if one evaluates objectively, this team is really an average team which is running on the combined steroid dosage of Fred’s farewell and the Ashes glory – nothing more and nothing less. I hope I’m wrong but I do believe England lack the skill sets to pull of a series win against any reasonably strong test team.

  • David Elias on August 20, 2009, 0:49 GMT

    Seeing as you are a one-eyed whinging pom, this article is as close as you well get to saying "We got bent over by the aussies" so i'll just take this ad a compliment.

    and as far as the "deciding ashes test" goes - usually we have own the series by the 3rd match so there is no decider.

    rubbish team, rubbish supporters, rubbish country.

  • Greg on August 19, 2009, 18:35 GMT

    For Magibbon, below. "Arrogance: 1. Superciliousness; hubris; unwarranted pride. 2. Believing that your own opinion on the comic qualities of an Andy Zaltzman post is definitive, despite the fact that 27 out of the 28 comments posted before your one point in precisely the opposite direction."

  • Baseer on August 19, 2009, 16:35 GMT

    Brilliant as usual, Andy. I followed "Yes, its the Ashes" show which was wicked too. Just wish it had another episode.

    Its a shame that a few people here fail to appreciate (or even understand) humour but you carry on with the great work!

  • Sean on August 19, 2009, 14:10 GMT

    You see mate, my prediction / dream is that Ponting picks up the knighthood, but on Day Three (Headingly II), and that Flintoff ends up lost in a series of dimly northern boozers for the next decade and a half.

    I know it is a BIT fanciful, in that only half of my prediction is guaranteed, but a man has to dream.

  • Taha on August 19, 2009, 13:52 GMT

    Excellent stuff Andy 'England tripped over their own shoelaces, landed headfirst in a bucket, staggered around blindly with the bucket lodged on their head, walked into a plate-glass mirror, staggered backwards, fell over a dog and tumbled out of a 15th floor window.' Genius

  • HRV on August 20, 2009, 9:18 GMT

    Hilarious as usual! Poms winning - Dream on as Aerosmith said.. Having said that I would also like to see Tricky Ricky blogging from Argentina!

  • HRV on August 20, 2009, 9:18 GMT

    Hilarious as usual! Poms winning - Dream o as Aerosmith said.. Having said that I would also like to see Tricky Ricky blogging from Argentina!

  • Nathan on August 20, 2009, 7:52 GMT

    @magibbon, all I can say is that you seem to be in a minority of one. This, as with most if not all of Andy's musings, is funny, funny stuff and if the humor of it lost on you then I think that says more about you than the writer's ability!

  • Nitin on August 20, 2009, 4:49 GMT

    Hi Mike

    I'm quite keen on following your foot steps and start collecting pics along with comments as a hobby. Would you be kind enough to give me a head start by sharing some of your collection? My email ID is nittsmehta@gmail.com.

    Appreciate your help.

    Cheers Nitin

  • Avik on August 20, 2009, 4:35 GMT

    I find your blogs incorrigibly hilarious. However, I do believe you outdid yourself when you dreamt of Ricky Ponting exclaiming “Yes, yes, yes, we’ve done it – we have vanquished the mightiest of the mighty” in the imagined final day of Headingley. My man Andy – let’s take a ‘rain check’ here; the England test team is by no means the mightiest of the mighty, in fact it’s not even mighty. Barring the soap opera of Fred retiring after this series (and that is a true irreplaceable loss), England has really not set the skies blazing; ok maybe one combined spell of Onions and Anderson in the entire series did show us what good bowling can do to a game of cricket. Frankly though, if one evaluates objectively, this team is really an average team which is running on the combined steroid dosage of Fred’s farewell and the Ashes glory – nothing more and nothing less. I hope I’m wrong but I do believe England lack the skill sets to pull of a series win against any reasonably strong test team.

  • David Elias on August 20, 2009, 0:49 GMT

    Seeing as you are a one-eyed whinging pom, this article is as close as you well get to saying "We got bent over by the aussies" so i'll just take this ad a compliment.

    and as far as the "deciding ashes test" goes - usually we have own the series by the 3rd match so there is no decider.

    rubbish team, rubbish supporters, rubbish country.

  • Greg on August 19, 2009, 18:35 GMT

    For Magibbon, below. "Arrogance: 1. Superciliousness; hubris; unwarranted pride. 2. Believing that your own opinion on the comic qualities of an Andy Zaltzman post is definitive, despite the fact that 27 out of the 28 comments posted before your one point in precisely the opposite direction."

  • Baseer on August 19, 2009, 16:35 GMT

    Brilliant as usual, Andy. I followed "Yes, its the Ashes" show which was wicked too. Just wish it had another episode.

    Its a shame that a few people here fail to appreciate (or even understand) humour but you carry on with the great work!

  • Sean on August 19, 2009, 14:10 GMT

    You see mate, my prediction / dream is that Ponting picks up the knighthood, but on Day Three (Headingly II), and that Flintoff ends up lost in a series of dimly northern boozers for the next decade and a half.

    I know it is a BIT fanciful, in that only half of my prediction is guaranteed, but a man has to dream.

  • Taha on August 19, 2009, 13:52 GMT

    Excellent stuff Andy 'England tripped over their own shoelaces, landed headfirst in a bucket, staggered around blindly with the bucket lodged on their head, walked into a plate-glass mirror, staggered backwards, fell over a dog and tumbled out of a 15th floor window.' Genius

  • Mr Wicket on August 19, 2009, 13:27 GMT

    In the great scheme of things it's not so long ago that England beat Australia by an innings and 579 at the Oval. All it'll take is a triple century from Cook, big hundreds from Bell and Flintoff, wickets from Harmison and Panesar ...

  • Raddaya on August 19, 2009, 13:11 GMT

    Best.Ever.Prediction. Only problem: you'll get me fired someday for laughing at work.

  • Greg on August 19, 2009, 12:52 GMT

    You swine, Zaltzman. I read the bit about the sausage howitzer while drinking a cup of coffee. Now I have scalded the inside of my nose.

    Good work that man. If England's middle order show the same application and creativity, there will be no need for recourse to the emergency shed this time round. Which, I fear, is an indirect way of saying it's time to fill it up with cans of food and tetra pak drinks with a long date.

  • Andrew Dodds on August 19, 2009, 12:45 GMT

    I'm going for a less optimistic:

    Day 1: Australia 370-2 (Watson 170*, Ponting 155). Reporting focuses heavily on 2003. Strauss 'Upbeat'. Flintoff limping. Day 2: Australia 904-4dec (Watson 500*, Flintoff 3-277 bowling on crutches). England 37-2 at close. Press coverage focuses on highest totals in defeats. Strauss 'Upbeat'. Day 3: England 176 (Flintoff 37 from a wheelchair, Anderson 55) and 133-0(f/o). Press coverage focuses on victories after following on. Strauss 'Upbeat' Day 4: England 311(Flintoff 112, played from hospital trolley), lose by inns & 417. Strauss 'Disappointed, but Upbeat'.

  • ucc on August 19, 2009, 12:04 GMT

    Funny, funny guy.

  • Allan on August 19, 2009, 11:53 GMT

    Outstanding article - hilarious. But Ponting doesn't care about stats so the possibility of being compared to Murdoch won't bother him, just the thought of defeat.

  • Allan on August 19, 2009, 11:52 GMT

    Outstanding article - hilarious. But Ponting doesn't care about stats so the possibility of being compared to Murdoch won't bother him, just the thought of defeat.

  • Optmisitix on August 19, 2009, 11:33 GMT

    Lots of funny lines in there - thanks for the chuckles!

  • EKC on August 19, 2009, 11:23 GMT

    Never mind. England will lose the last test and will spend the next two years under-preparing for every major tournament saying that they are actually preparing for the next Ashes. And then, they will go on to lose that one as well. Been seeing this circus for a long time now.

  • Aravind on August 19, 2009, 11:16 GMT

    Love your blog man.. here's a req.. can u write more freq even if they are shorter? had to wait long for this one but it was worth it...

  • Shirish on August 19, 2009, 11:03 GMT

    Top class stuff as usual from the Confectionery Stall. Ponting hiding in Argentina is absolutely priceless just as is Flintoff being knighted before ripping through the Australian Tail. Still I would say Trott will need to not just Trot but to Gallop and Bell will have to jangle and not just tinkle.

  • joey on August 19, 2009, 10:06 GMT

    "They have never won a decisive Ashes Test without the following two criteria being fulfilled: (1) Don Bradman is in the team; (2) it is the 1930s. Neither of those looks likely to happen at The Oval." Brilliant writing - made me laugh out loud.

  • joey on August 19, 2009, 10:05 GMT

    "They have never won a decisive Ashes Test without the following two criteria being fulfilled: (1) Don Bradman is in the team; (2) it is the 1930s. Neither of those looks likely to happen at The Oval." Brilliant writing - made me laugh out loud.

  • Rick on August 19, 2009, 10:03 GMT

    If Freddie plays the full 5 days, the medical staff deserve knighthoods!

    PS - Given your accurate comments re selection policy, will your next podcast have interviews on that subject with Tim Ambrose, Owais Shah and Robert Key?

    Keep up the good work!

  • Firoz Iqbal on August 19, 2009, 9:38 GMT

    Wishful thinking on the part of an English cricket fan from that foolish Burmi Army supporter typically living in a fool's paradise. Bound to be proven wrong and to eventually hide his face out of shameful embarrassment in a London suburb PUB.

  • Rahul on August 19, 2009, 9:35 GMT

    ***** They have never won a decisive Ashes Test without the following two criteria being fulfilled: (1) Don Bradman is in the team; (2) it is the 1930s *********

    Ha Ha Ha... Golden. Considering how many decisive test matches have occured since then.

  • Sam on August 19, 2009, 9:33 GMT

    Hindenburging into an inferno of defeat: pure poetry.

    Why am I upset, I didn't expect England to do well before the series, the small matter of thumping the Aussies at Lord's shouldn't have got my hopes up...

  • faux pas on August 19, 2009, 9:29 GMT

    Humour and self-inflicted sarcasm is the last recourse of the english cric fan. the players themselves will do well to learn from andy's handy tips on bunker-building and tumbling over tea-pots.

    hope to see some 'original' quant. analysis tomorrow which has not yet been done!

    cheers..

  • Andi on August 19, 2009, 9:07 GMT

    "Hindenburging" ... my new favourite verb.

  • Gareth Strachan on August 19, 2009, 8:55 GMT

    "Ponting... going into hiding and being sighted in Argentina..." Crumbs, I didn't know Ponting was a Nazi. Be interesting to see some stats on cricketers who also played a part in totalitarian regimes.

  • ben gunn on August 19, 2009, 8:32 GMT

    If Argentina is full, I'm told Tristan da C/huna does a nice line in lobsters and potatoes. Fitting fare if the Aussies lose the psychological ascendency. The first day may be pregnant with prospects, full of drama and short on play if the weather intervenes.

  • Oz AL on August 19, 2009, 8:17 GMT

    Andy you possibly might not believe this but as an Aussie,I CAN`T WAIT FOR YOUR NEXT POST!! Mate you are a legend,always have a giggle.Cheers mate...luvya

  • Mike on August 19, 2009, 7:28 GMT

    Nice read Zaltzman. But I was curious which incident has been refered to in the picture, as in what England players are teasing Ricky for? I have a hobby of collecting interesting cricket pics and write comments. Can somebody help? Thanks

  • Rishabh on August 19, 2009, 7:16 GMT

    This post is such a bright ray of sunshine, isn't it?

  • Anuj on August 19, 2009, 7:14 GMT

    Absolutely love your sense of humour ! Can't wait for your next post.

  • Theena on August 19, 2009, 6:55 GMT

    The photograph that you've used is hilarious. As is this particular piece that you've penned. Good show, Mr Zaltzman.

    My predicition: England will be more nervous than a bunch of virgins at an orgy.

  • azad on August 19, 2009, 6:29 GMT

    Although the Aussies are without their heroes of the last Ashes Win, they are capable of winning the Ashes this year too. You can stand on your hands and provide all the stats to show a Poms win, but I will bet you the Aussies will win.

    The Poms are missing KP, not Flintoff, although Flintoff is said to be an all rounder, there is nothing to show him as a real all rounder. KP is the missing link for the Poms, the Poms may have to recruit a few more South Afrikaans if they are to beat the Aussies in the next Ashes or get Graham Gooch, Wessels to play for England.

    Cheers

  • azad on August 19, 2009, 6:28 GMT

    Although the Aussies are without their heroes of the last Ashes Win, they are capable of winning the Ashes this year too. You can stand on your hands and provide all the stats to show a Poms win, but I will bet you the Aussies will win.

    The Poms are missing KP, not Flintoff, although Flintoff is said to be an all rounder, there is nothing to show him as a real all rounder. KP is the missing link for the Poms, the Poms may have to recruit a few more South Afrikaans if they are to beat the Aussies in the next Ashes or get Graham Gooch, Wessels to play for England.

    Cheers

  • Supersub on August 19, 2009, 6:22 GMT

    England has just about much chance a a snowball has of surviving in hell, of winning !

  • Krishna on August 19, 2009, 6:18 GMT

    Wonderful. True that after seeing Australia losing Ashes 2005, I have every reason to believe that Australia had found a knack of losing.

  • Murvis on August 19, 2009, 6:14 GMT

    Brilliantly Hilarious

  • magibbon on August 19, 2009, 6:10 GMT

    you're not even funny, who makes up this stuff. my dog could come up with better material than this. typical poms

  • Aditya on August 19, 2009, 5:56 GMT

    If England manage to win the final Test at the Oval I will eat not only my hat but also my hair.

  • Wizard of Oz on August 19, 2009, 5:53 GMT

    Andy, you've lost ya flam'n marbles cobber - the poms'r'in for a wollop'n

  • Vipul on August 19, 2009, 5:45 GMT

    'Hindenburging' - nice verbification of a proper noun. Love your writing Andy.

  • Manoj on August 19, 2009, 5:45 GMT

    Senor Ricky Ponting running a confectionery stall in a remote corner of Buenos Aires? Dont think it will happen. However much I want England to win, cant think of 'Tricky' Ricky letting the ashes slip through his hand. This man has a penchant for big occassions (remember the world cup final '03?)and I expect him, rather than Freddie, to be laughing at the end.

  • David Stapleton on August 19, 2009, 5:35 GMT

    Great article, I am still laughing about the comment, " I spent six months in there after Adelaide 2006." Luckily I have discovered the key to Australia winning or losing the fifth test.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • David Stapleton on August 19, 2009, 5:35 GMT

    Great article, I am still laughing about the comment, " I spent six months in there after Adelaide 2006." Luckily I have discovered the key to Australia winning or losing the fifth test.

  • Manoj on August 19, 2009, 5:45 GMT

    Senor Ricky Ponting running a confectionery stall in a remote corner of Buenos Aires? Dont think it will happen. However much I want England to win, cant think of 'Tricky' Ricky letting the ashes slip through his hand. This man has a penchant for big occassions (remember the world cup final '03?)and I expect him, rather than Freddie, to be laughing at the end.

  • Vipul on August 19, 2009, 5:45 GMT

    'Hindenburging' - nice verbification of a proper noun. Love your writing Andy.

  • Wizard of Oz on August 19, 2009, 5:53 GMT

    Andy, you've lost ya flam'n marbles cobber - the poms'r'in for a wollop'n

  • Aditya on August 19, 2009, 5:56 GMT

    If England manage to win the final Test at the Oval I will eat not only my hat but also my hair.

  • magibbon on August 19, 2009, 6:10 GMT

    you're not even funny, who makes up this stuff. my dog could come up with better material than this. typical poms

  • Murvis on August 19, 2009, 6:14 GMT

    Brilliantly Hilarious

  • Krishna on August 19, 2009, 6:18 GMT

    Wonderful. True that after seeing Australia losing Ashes 2005, I have every reason to believe that Australia had found a knack of losing.

  • Supersub on August 19, 2009, 6:22 GMT

    England has just about much chance a a snowball has of surviving in hell, of winning !

  • azad on August 19, 2009, 6:28 GMT

    Although the Aussies are without their heroes of the last Ashes Win, they are capable of winning the Ashes this year too. You can stand on your hands and provide all the stats to show a Poms win, but I will bet you the Aussies will win.

    The Poms are missing KP, not Flintoff, although Flintoff is said to be an all rounder, there is nothing to show him as a real all rounder. KP is the missing link for the Poms, the Poms may have to recruit a few more South Afrikaans if they are to beat the Aussies in the next Ashes or get Graham Gooch, Wessels to play for England.

    Cheers