Ashes Diary: A good-luck wish to the Empire XI from the boys of the Empire XV

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Aussies have made much of the foreign provenance of the English squad this time round.

Allan Border summed up the view of the man on the Wagga Wagga omnibus when he said: "It should be the Empire XI. They got any Poms in their side?" Normally, of course, they'd concentrate on England's shortcomings as a team but given the tourists might actually win this time, they've had to change tack.

News of a good-luck message from the England rugby team (who, lest we forget, tore the Australia XV apart a few short weeks back) is unlikely to change minds Down Under. All four of the rugby boys who yesterday recorded the message for the Ashes squad were born outside of England.

Hendre Fourie, the South Africa-born flanker who did not start learning English until he was nine, urged Andrew Strauss's men to bring home the urn. Shontayne Hape, the former New Zealand rugby league international, then put on an Australian accent for his piece to camera – which will not have been difficult seeing his whole family live in the country. Even Simon Shaw, the veteran Wasps lock who held the microphone, was born in Kenya, while Matt Banahan hails from Jersey.

Warne outwitted

Shane Warne is everywhere Down Under. Not only is he an integral part of the Sky and Channel 9 (like Sky, but less cerebral) commentary teams but his cheeky face pops up on the sight screens, albeit obscured by a fast food product he advertises and, we can safely assume, enjoys. One place he is no longer to be found is actually on the field, a fact that appeared to perplex Coldplay's Chris Martin, one of the spin legend's first guests on his chat show Warnie. "You didn't have to run very far," he asked. "Why did you stop playing?" Warne, for once, was stumped.

Beer is still hard to bear for Poms

It's an old, old story: Poms complaining about Aussie beer. The Barmy Army are in Brisbane in reasonable strength (despite the muscle-bound Aussie dollar) but the same can't be said of the beer at The Gabba. Bournemouth's Giles Wellington, quoted in the local paper, is one of those who have been disappointed by the 3 per cent lager. "One thing we don't like is the strength of the beer in the ground, it's ridiculous, it's mid-strength," he said. And this in a country where once upon a time, as long as you could carry it, you could take it into the ground – assuming, of course, that it was yellow, cold and tasteless.

God bless Bumble, the king of Twitter

Twitter is part and parcel of the sporting scene these days but the observations of our heroes are not always worth the iPhone they've been tapped out on. This Gabba Test has generated a lot of Tweet heat but not much light thus far, with Damien Martyn's contributions among the more tedious. "Anderson and swann looked good swann did his job for the skipper holding up an end big day tomorrow even bigger first session," he wrote yesterday. Thank God, then, for David Lloyd, who kept it short and sweet in his description of a major event in Sky's commentary box towards the end of the second day. "Beef... just erupted... box emptied." For non-cricket fans, "Beef" is Ian Botham.

Doing battle (literally) in the other Ashes

Meanwhile, in another Ashes in another country, England are one-up. British and Australian soldiers serving together in Afghanistan's Helmand Province are holding a five-match series for the Afghan Ashes. The British gunners narrowly beat their Australian counterparts in the first eight-a-side, 16-over contest at Forward Operating Base Budwan.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Craig Mason, the Battery Sergeant Major of J (Sidi Rezegh) Battery Royal Horse Artillery, who top-scored for the British in the opening match with 52 not out, said: "The friendly rivalry between us is all part of Army life. At the end of the day, though, cricket aside, we are here to do a professional job and having the Australian gunners here can only strengthen the team." I bet he wouldn't be saying that if he'd lost.