... and the view from Australia: 'This isn't right. This is scary'
Monday 12 September 2005
A: A bowler.
Now the answer must include the batsmen Andrew Strauss, Michael Vaughan, and Andrew Flintoff. Australian centuries were few (singular, in fact) before the final Test, but at home, watching on television, we've scored a record number of 100-plus pulse rates as Aussie batsmen faced a shock-and-awe bowling campaign.
It began with the second ball of the first Test, with a vicious blow to Australian opener Justin Langer's right arm from Steve Harmison. Excuse me, Englanders, but this isn't cricket as we in Australia know it. Where were the lame long-hops? Where were the tradesman-like medium pacers who wouldn't earn a new-ball role with a decent Sydney grade team? Where were the county hacks serving up five-per-over average-boosters to an alert Aussie top order?
During yesterday's lunch break, with Australia sinking, local television announced that beating up British backpackers was now permitted. Australians regard cricket far more seriously than do the English; almost as seriously as New Zealanders regard rugby union.
Should England reclaim the Ashes, know this: it will hurt us much more than it will please you.
Oh, how it hurts. Andrew Denton, a television presenter, watched in terror during England's wild second Test assault. "This isn't right," he said, turning pale as yet another Australian delivery was slammed to the boundary. "This is scary."
Denton's mood wasn't elevated at all by the fact that his wife had won two major national writing awards earlier that night. The man has Australian priorities.
Some Australians almost of voting age have never known England to hold the Ashes. Theirs is now an alienating era. Thank you, England, for contributing to the destruction of our young, many of whom previously dreamt of easy careers coaching English county sides. I'm speaking here of the blind and the lame.
That heartbreaking end to the second Test? When England won by two runs after Michael Kasprowicz was given out caught behind off Harmison? I was at a red light when the fatal wicket fell, and not a car moved when the lights changed. On my left, a driver's head rested miserably on the steering wheel. On my right, a full-scale domestic argument raged. Sure, it may have been over trifling issues of household finances or infidelity, but the intensity convinced me it was entirely about the injustice of Kasprowicz's dismissal. I bet the wife was English.
Well, good luck to that marriage. And good luck to England, who have played this series in a manner which at once appals Australians (you're playing like Australians, after all) and is admired by them. Let's hope a last-day miracle rips the Ashes from your grasp.
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