'Stick that in your didgeridoo and smoke it'

England fans take pity on defeated Aussies
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The Independent Online

"Stick that in your didgeridoo and smoke it," bellowed Andy Ray, a salesman from Yorkshire. "It's the most intense piece of Ashes cricket I have seen in 29 years. England are actually competing against Australia for the first time in my life. We have been knocked over by them for too long."

"Its fantastic, we're giving Australia a kicking," said John Cleary, 30, an engineer from Oxford. "I think we'll be number one in the world - for a couple of years anyway. If Shane Warne wasn't playing, they wouldn't be anywhere."

During the closing half hour of the drama at Trent Bridge, in Nottingham, the tension in the pub among the rival fans was tangible. "We're destined to win, but the nerves of the English batsman are getting the better of them. We're stumbling to victory," Matt Bradford, 30, said as he watched Geraint Jones being caught. "We'll definitely beat them though."

It may be a gentleman's sport, but the cheers and chants for England from the crowd transfixed by the big screen had replaced the polite clapping associated with the sport. "Football is dull compared to this season's cricket," said Gareth Hodges, 25, a policeman from Acton, west London. "We should be 3-1 up by now, but we threw the last one away. We've got a better side than the Aussies though, they've got too many old guys on their team." The only people left looking gloomily into their pints at the end of the Test were the Australians, shell-shocked that for once England could put up a fight. "Disappointing," said Carolyn Duncan, 22, from Melbourne. "We're drowning our sorrows already," said her friend Louise Chard, 25, a receptionist from Melbourne who is living in Stockwell. "We thought they would sweep out like they have over the past decade."

Nikole Cymbalac, 27, a science teacher, said: "I'm in England and we're getting beaten. But we're just letting the Pommies think they're in with a chance. We've got another Test to go, and we'll retain the Ashes at the Oval. At least, finally, there's a competition. We are getting to watch some good cricket."

"It had to happen one day," said Chris Trott, 24, a labourer from Queensland. "We've dominated world cricket for the last decade. But this time we're in trouble. It's a bad time to be losing, but just wait for the Rugby League."

Shane Gleeson, 26, was feeling philosophical. The Sydney-born cricket fan has been in London on a working-holiday. "At least it's a contest," he said. "It's not one-sided, and though Australia might not win they are going to retain the Ashes. Australia thought it was going to be a walkover, and it has taken them by surprise that England are putting up a good fight. It's better for cricket to have a contest like this, at least there's a bit of competition."

Jeff Smith, 31, had arrived in England this morning on business, and headed straight for the pub. "It's the best series I've seen," he said. "There's been a lot of drama. England should have won the third Test but we held them off. Australia have been so dominant for such a long time that it has tended to get a bit boring. But England have improved over the past few years and it's a better match if there's some competition. It's good for cricket worldwide, because it has been so tense. Shane Warne has held us up, but Andrew Flintoff is a top-line batsman and bowler. I am going to get some grief when I walk into the office on Tuesday morning."