The great affairs of the heart (or maybe even below the waist!) have been played out in dramatic literature or on classic celluloid in Hollywood for centuries. So, too, have the great romantic tragedies of the heart, where love and hate do battle behind closed doors with true love, we’re led to believe, conquering all. Sadly, Shakespeare died before Ashes cricket was born and one can only imagine what brilliant use of the English language he may have scribed about this game. Of course; Afferbeck Lauder tried in 1965 in his book ‘Let’s Stalk Strine’ to compile an original AusSpeak dictionary, but it never quite replaced the great Oxford edition with HOWZAT? just a late 20th century aberration. Words aside, the current Ashes cricket competition, far more potent than the political conspiracies and passionate intrigues of the heart Shakespeare did write about, challenges both the Poms and the Aussies to cut the umbilical cord of polite cordiality on the diplomatic front and replace it with the traditional tapestry of our love/hate affair of the heart played out on a far more gentle and gracious pasture than in a boudoir. Of course, English spin superstar, Graeme Swann, swung the first swipe at Australia’s potential spin supremo (and our quest for victory) when his hands swooped on Agar’s ball at 98 to wipe the smiles off the faces of all Australians, especially his mother who hid her head in her hands as I’m sure so many of us Down Under did, too. I wasn’t even sure what position on the field Swann was in as he caught the ball as gully, silly mid-on, third man, fine leg, cover et al simply stun me, but how many pundits of our game can identify this puzzling cricket parlance? Or am I the only one, and of course, a mere female, who can’t seem to remember the tricky terminology from Test to Test? It does get unsurprisingly easier as we reach the Second Test unless you’re not really listening to the commentators on TV who with regular monotony remind us where everyone is standing. And if it’s Clarke as captain on the field, then the commentary gets more and more boringly predictable as he changes fielding positions almost, but not quite, every new over; all changes conspired to keep the opposing batsmen confused and insecure about where to smash the ball. The mysterious nature of our cricketing culture, yes, David Gower; we DO have some culture however incapable you are in understanding it, but maybe then, you don’t smoke, and probably never have, nor imbibed a few too many beers nor indulged in the hedonism of haute cuisine as Lehmann obviously has. This culture, confined as it may be to a tough piece of turf at times, can certainly keep some bemused as well as bewildered, but then, Swann and his band of merry men are just passing time till they’re tapped on the shoulder with ‘SirHoods’ while simultaneously, Swann, at least, is patiently practising his Powerplay (sorry, that’s ODI lingo) for Parliament when he becomes PM in 5 years, by delivering his erection (whoops) election promise to all Poms of a 5-0 whitewash Ashes win.
Certainly, cricket purists might still be pondering a real contest as the First Test at Trent Bridge isn’t even over, and there’s more, as they say, to pontificate about. Meanwhile, I’m contenting myself to a more entertaining education without Gonski or any resources except attuning myself to all sorts of audible acoustics and accents with West Indian Michael Holding the triumphant televisual talent. But then, my first ever cricket match as an 11-yearoldsomething was at the G in the historic Australia Vs West Indies Test 1960-61 and I have lusted after big, black men ever since! (Growing up in middle-class Melburbia in the 50s and 60s there was never a black person to be seen). But then, maybe I just can’t help myself as their bodies are excitement incarnate. So, instead, I fantasised about teenage prodigy Ashton Agar before he even made it to 50 (A Toyboy at last!), enjoying watching his cute, almost naive innocence on the pitch while amazed at how he wielded the willow with such cool professionalism at the same time. Having nothing to lose, or without fear of failure at his tender age, was undoubtedly, a big bonus. I prayed (on the first occasion in my life) to the God of Cricket (though of course, there isn’t one as Greek mythology didn’t deify sport unless you count the Ashes as ‘war’ of a kind and worship Zeus) that Hughes would stay at the crease as Agar’s maiden century became more credible. Other international Test records such as the highest score for a 10th wicket partnership and highest 11th man scorer, on debut as well, became past history and it was like Holger Osieck’s risky foresight in playing Josh Kennedy in the last minutes of the final World Cup qualifier against Iraq when he kicked the winning and only goal for the Socceroos to send them to Rio next year. Was Lehmann also going to make sporting history as our new messiah for his selection of Agar, as was he, could he, a 19-year-old, win the Ashes first Test for Australia when he hadn’t even taken a wicket? A saviour of success when our top order batsmen could only be hanging their heads in shame? Or were we all getting so far ahead of ourselves that any smart shrink would just prescribe some anti-psychotic pills for our delusions of grandeur? The nervous excitement passing from the pitch to our TV pictures probably emptied the fridge of a week’s supply of beer as the countdown got closer and closer to a 100 and when Agar buried our 87 bogey the road seemed clear ahead, laughing as I did at the socks TV advertisement when David Warner claimed he could ‘go harder for longer’ (I can’t even recall the brand of socks) which helpfully, dissipated my nervous anxiety as Agar reached 98. Then, it was over. Heartbreak and pain, so near and yet, so far, as I sat on my couch applauding his magnanimous effort on my own, thousands of kms away from Nottingham. He would never know how many incorrigible cricket addicts acclaimed him back home, but his simple shake of his head and his sweet, boyish smile said it all as he walked off with Hughes patting him on the back. There was another innings to contest and hopefully, adding to his adulation (so well-deserved) with wickets in the next couple of days. Meanwhile, Swann might just have to reconsider his choice as a clairvoyant and abdicate his crown as a comedian! (At least in print as I recently read his words of wisdom). But maybe, a future in Opposition in the back seats of Westminster might be more plausible as a prophecy, but then, I’m just an uncouth and uncultured Aussie after all, who enjoys wining and dining, not to mention a cigarette or too afterwards. Who’s Michael Parkinson, David Frost, Helen Mirren, Margot Fonteyn, Pavorotti, Picasso and Stephen Frears? Whoops again, just my memory’s muddled when I forget to take my medication!