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First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
For two nations the Ashes series is the ultimate sporting contest. Besides which the only way to secure sleep between days (nights) of cricket was to travel to Australia.
If you are really sharp this may become clear, but I will keep you in suspense - and it isn't Australia.
One thing I'd change
Well, several things actually:
The tedium of having to watch too much modern-day "celebration" of any batting or bowling milestone. Be happy, yes, but the jingoistic, arrogant, self-congratulating exhibitionism currently indulged in by players, much of it aimed at their team-mates in the pavilion, is done to excess. They should remember that at that moment the paying public is acknowledging the feat in question and such appreciation should be accepted with grace and humility as was once the case. Perhaps you can't remember Jim Laker taking 19 wickets - and how he and his team celebrated this not-so-modest achievement?
Development of the SCG has resulted in the loss of the old scoreboard and the current partial information given by electronic versions is not good enough.
Isn't it maddening how many people move from their seat during the course of an over?
This is one case when it is invidious to pick one because there can seldom have been a team where all its parts have worked together so successfully. Even Paul Collingwood, in the last minutes of his Test career, played a crucial part by bowling the run-machine that has been Micheal Hussey.
When we organised this trip months ago, and on the basis of history, we packed to take with us a ridiculously optimistic hope of victory. Ridiculous and, it turns out, right...
Apparently we must all watch Steve Smith because we are told he is a real cricketer in the making. I just can't see the evidence yet. Regrettably I have to report that what he does do on an epic scale is to spit like a gargoyle in a thunderstorm. A truly reprehensible habit picked up, I suppose, from football and tennis. When sportsmen share the same small area of otherwise pristine turf it should be absolutely forbidden to lubricate it in this insanitary and Neanderthal way. Or am I missing something?
Australia's second innings began purposefully and for the fielding side a breakthrough was urgently needed. Shane Watson was batting for Australia with his usual verve and conviction. Unfortunately his partner was Phillip Hughes, who was batting for Hughes - to the extent that, when they both ended up at the same wicket Hughes made a quick jump back to ensure that it was Watson who had to make the long walk home.
There must be many, like me, who have had a radical change of mind over the merits of the Barmy Army. The moronic and aimless chanting of yesteryear have evolved into a witty, often musical, intervention which brings smiles to everyone's faces. They should continue to expand their repertoire and publish it so that everyone can join in.
The ground has been almost full throughout the match, adding hugely to the atmosphere, but there is a difference between the reactions of the two countries' fans to defeat: we carp and criticise where the Australians prefer to try not to notice, often leaving their expensive seats or just not turning up at all.
Banner of the day
With due immodesty - the shirts on our backs. Designed online weeks ago, in the hope that by the time we came to wear them Australia would not have rendered them irrelevant: a flag of St George, front and back, with the slogan DUST TO DUST - ASHES TO ENGLAND. It has worked, hallelujah and may they be wearable for many years to come!
Sombrero (essential), sun-glasses (essential), jersey, book, white shirt, vest and camera.
Opinion of the opposition
I had thought that this was the year in my lifetime most likely to yield a one-sided England series win, after so many the other way round, but the Australians' use of sport as their standard in life can never be written off and they keep you on tenterhooks (Perth - what sort of tenterhook was that?) to the end. It's just as well they're not so hot on culture (OK, I hear you, Neighbours fans).
Made much better than my visit 16 years ago by the absence this time of a thick drizzle which back then prevented a finish to a great match that had been likely to result in a rare English win.
Marks out of 10
Cricket is always ten out of ten. This time even more so.
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