England 6/226- Pietersen 67,Carberry 38, Harris 2/32, Johnson 2/59
Graeme Swann #1
Retirement. Swanny pairs up in 2015 with Phil Tufnell on their vaudeville TV show, The Spinning Geezers. Debuting in primetime, ITV soon buries it on Sunday afternoons, against the darts. Channel 9 fast tracks it. Each episode’s finale is Swanny and Tuffers singing, with grinning irony, a Spandau Ballet number
Always believe in your soul
You’ve got the power to know
Always believe in, because you are
Leading an unchanged eleven, Clarke wins the toss and bowls. Prior and Swann are out for Bairstow and Panesar. Broad removes his moon-boot and Hannibal Lecter mask to retain his place in the team. Diving wide, Smith drops Carberry on 2; a tough one, from the bowling of Harris. Heartening.
Cook is effervescent, scoring at a run a ball. Australia’s bowling is tidy with good line and length, but not menacing. Then Lyon turns it, gets it to bounce, and questions Carberry. Presenting as a hybrid of a kindly, but bonkers granddad and Uncle Terry from A Moody Christmas, it’s comforting to have Bill back in the commentary box.
Siddle claims the wicket of Cook, playing at one he should have left, and Clarke takes the sharp chance. It is emblematic of the English captain’s summer. A poor decision, taken by a batsman with a tremendous record, but perhaps not the leadership skill and imagination currently demanded by circumstance and country.
Root comes in, and Warney on Channel 9 and I resist all manner of adolescent puns. We both struggle. Siddle interrogates him. Root pokes about. At The Members’ End. See! It’s impossible.
Carberry grows in assurance, having multiple first innings starts this series. He needs to make a century to convince of his long-term position. He dispatches Johnson to the boundary with the shot of the session, a pull shot of majesty and power. At lunch England is 1/71. Sent in by Clarke, who’d have wanted at least three wickets, I reckon they’ve taken the early honours.
Graeme Swann #2
Sudden by international standards, Swann’s demise was glacial compared to my mate Bob’s at Greenock in 1986. At the start of his final ever over for the Kapunda Cricket Club he was a reliable medium pacer. Ten agonising minutes later his bowling career was dead.
It began with a couple of wides, progressed to a cancerous lack of confidence and culminated with Bob, broken, walking to the wicket like it was the gallows, and trying to complete a legitimate delivery. It often ended up at slip, or skidding forlornly, ashamedly, down to fine leg. His mental self-disintegration was total.
Subsequent pub analysis confirms that Bob’s fifteen-ball over only contained seven legal deliveries, and therefore nearly thirty years on, remains incomplete. I was at mid-off, and lobbed the ball to him, fifteen times. I felt increasingly like I was throwing him a box jellyfish.
Graeme Swann #3
Swann’s retired, declared the radio headline. Great, I thought, the Collingwood mid-fielder is grafting two horns to his forehead, and joining the Jim Rose Circus to star with the Amazing Mister Lifto, Zamora the Torture Queen and The Lizardman.
Oh, wrong Swann.
The English begin patiently. Clarke has mixed his attack about, using his bowlers in brisk, but barren spells. Watson swings it away, but not tantalisingly, as his bowling is often too wide. Carberry seems to have plenty of time. Did Clarke spot some demons in the pitch that, like Jeff Thomson’s sensitive and urbane qualities, aren’t actually there?
Watson bowls Carberry a ripper. It curls late and big. He leaves it. It crashes into his wicket. It will make the Best of Watto DVD. KP strides out to tremendous noise; cheers and jeers. With maturity and poise Root starts to build his innings. Expectation now as Siddle is about to bowl to his bunny, KP. It could finally get fascinating.
Johnson gets Root to edge one, but it falls short of Clarke at second slip. It offers some encouragement to the Australians. Now nearing 90,000 the crowd is justifiably quiet. It has been the most prosaic day of the series. I might start a Mexican wave, or assemble a beer cup snake if I can just locate some beer cups.
Harris lures the impish Root forward, who dabs feebly at an outswinger and snicks it. 3/106. If only Harris were a decade younger! The dismissed English batsman have all made useful starts, but with the now expected lack of concentration, contribute appreciably to their own downfall. KP and Bell decide survival is required, and refuse to follow their instincts. Like Cook’s captaincy, it seems pointlessly defensive. We have them spooked.
Lyon has bowled with variety, surprising the visitors with bounce and spin. He looks like he could do some damage. His control remains a chief attribute. A rare six is caught, but carried over the rope. Poo.
Graeme Swann #4
Swan retires, declared the radio headline. Great, I thought, Tippett the traitor is gone. He’s belatedly taken the morally correct path and hung up his boots. Homesick, he went back to that little-known Gold Coast suburb of Sydney. As you do. Buddy and Tippett on the SCG forward line would have been like two anacondas in a bath, wrestling over a ping-pong ball.
Oh, wrong Swann.
Graeme Swann #5
Possessing limited natural talent, but brazen confidence, he stole the advantage from the opposition and became an unlikely international celebrity and geezer role model. No, that was Ronnie Biggs.
Pietersen and Bell continue. Johnson bowls quickly, but spraying them like a tomcat. Lyon is afforded respect, but the English are channelling the dour spirit of Yorkshire men past, minus the sunny flamboyance.
Neither side has done much wrong. Neither side has done much right. The clouds have cleared, but the cricket remains grey. Clake’s decision to bowl looks increasingly peculiar. On this placid deck, I wonder what carnage Warner and Watson might have caused the fractured tourists, with Anderson struggling, Monty a well, Monty for a spanking, and Broad’s foot surely problematic.
As Kanye didn’t rap, “Oh hell, Bell’s gone into his shell.” The scoreboard is frozen. Boof is surely napping in his chair. Warney’s talking about the Ball of the Century. They’ve shown it now. Many times. The Warney carnival continues with his 700th test wicket. Like the car Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio spent horizontal time in during Titanic, the commentary box is steaming up. I turn on the fan. If they start showing scenes- there are no highlights- from Two and a Half Men, I’m going for a swim.
This wank-fest is interrupted cruelly by Ryan Harris getting Bell caught behind. It’s 4/173. Bailey then drops KP at mid-on. Harris is unhappy, but Bailey should be sent to the Old Bailey for that. KP starts spewing. Has he swallowed a fly? Perhaps the 12th man should bring out a spider. Boof wakes up. KP reaches fifty.
Stokes goes after Lyon and England reach 200. New fig in hand, Johnson gets the edge to Watson at slip. Maybe Clarke will receive vindication in the late, golden sunlight. Bairstow takes guard, and the Porno Mo is really flinging them now. Bairstow then leaves a Hummer-sized gap between bat and pad, and Johnson drives it onto the pegs. The crowd is ecstatic. A frantic, diving Harris just misses a Bresnan pop up. We head to Day 2 with the advantage.
Graeme Swann #6
An Antipodean Christmas had no appeal for Swanny. Pulling a cracker with KP is thorny when one or the other or both have their head/s somewhere warm and dark. The greatest Christmas cracker joke, according to our five year old is one that references both Swanny and Ronnie Biggs
Q- What do you call two robbers?
A- A pair of knickers.
Let’s hope, back in England, safely distant from those “nasty” Australians, and in the soothing bosom of his Nan, Swanny enjoyed his festive Yorkshire pudding and Benny Hill-inspired dessert, Spotted Dick.