When I was planning this trip I noticed that England were playing a two day game in Alice Springs. I decided to add this game to my itinerary as it gave me the opportunity to see more cricket and also experience the Australian outback. I leave tomorrow for a 3 day tour to Uluru, Kings Canyon and other Red Centre highlights. The last two days have focused on the cricket.
The match gave the opportunity for England to get some match practice ahead of the second test which starts in Adelaide next Thursday. In particular it gave some of the back up batsmen opportunity to put their name in the spotlight with a good performance. There is now a batting vacancy following Jonathan Trott’s withdrawal from the tour due to a stress related illness.
The match was held at Traeger Park which handily is directly opposite my hotel! the cricket ground is named after Alfred Traeger who is an Australian inventor who invented the pedal wireless used by the flying doctor service. It’s a very different stadium to the one I visited in Brisbane. There is one permanent stand seating 250 people. The remaining spectators sat on grass banking or in temporary stands. I took up a seat at the back of a covered temporary stand. Given temperatures were forecast to reach close to 40 degrees shade would be very welcome.
It really was an idyllic setting with views of the McDonnell ranges.
On day one I met two Aussie guys – Jim and Chris who lived in the northern territory. They were great company and treated me to a sausage sandwich. Thanks guys! They are keen cricket fans and along with many other Aussies living out in the northern territory were very excited that England had come to town. The local paper “Centralian Advocate” had published a souvenir edition to mark the occasion. As the day commenced i became increasingly distracted/entertained by a group of Aussie guys who had travelled here mostly from Sydney for a lads weekend. The volume level increased in line with number of tinnies of Carlton cold that they had consumed. It was all in good humour though.
Back to the cricket……. England batted. The Australian chairman XI consisted of state players who in most instances were second XI players. They were far from household names. On paper England had by far the stronger side. A succession of England batsmen got in and then got themselves out. The main player to do himself justice was Zimbabwean born Gary Ballance who scored a confident 55 before being run out after a mix up with Ian Bell. England declared at 212-7. The Chairman’s xi reached 16 without loss at close of play.
On day 2 I resumed my seat. It was going to be another hot one! I was sat with a couple, Phil and Rachel, from Sheffield. Phil had been out on the ashes tour starting with the warm up games and had been joined in Brisbane by Rachel. Phil had taken redundancy from a job as a civil servant. Rachel is a part time GP. Following redundancy, Phil had essentially retired and handed me a business card which stated “Sheffield United and Yorkshire Cricket fan. England Football & cricket tourist”.Phil and Rachel had seen England play cricket in Australia, South Africa and India. I must admit to being very envious of Phil’s lifestyle apart from Sheffield Utd bit!
The Chairman’s XI managed to score 254-8 before declaring. England’s seam bowlers Finn, Rankin and Stokes didnt impress but the spinners Swann and Panesar took 7 wickets between them.
England then batted for an hour to reach 47-1 at close. The match was drawn.
the barmy army used the day to try out some new songs. my favourite was “Carberry fields forever” although the Ben stokes song “hokey stokey” needs more work…
England failed to impress with a number of players still clearly off form. I do not feel particularly optimistic for our chances in the second test but England do have a history of underperforming at the start of a tour before turning things around. My team for the second test is Cook, Carberry, Bell, Pietersen, Root, Bairstow, Prior, Broad, Swann, Bresnan ( if fit enough), Anderson.
I have brought loads of books with me on this trip. Many given as gifts. By the time I get to India I need to be travelling light. So as I finish a book I will be leaving it behind. I hope those giving these as gifts dont mind too much…. The first book I have finished was Simon Briggs’ “stiff upper lips and baggy green caps”. It is a really entertaining history of the ashes with some great stories and characterisation. I highly recommend it.
So tomorrow I go to Uluru. Am very excited!