The Last Post

I write this having been back in the cold, wet and windy UK for a couple of weeks. This has given me time to adjust to what is, quite frankly, a far more mundane existence. It has also given me time to reflect on my trip.

My trip has been an amazing experience and I have many memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life. Pretty much everything I have done on the trip has been fantastic but there have been two real highlights that stand out.

The first is the 6 days I spent on the South Island of New Zealand. I loved the wonderful scenery and doing some amazing things including whale watching, a heli-hike onto Franz Josef Glacier and jet boating.

Whale watching at Kaikoura

Whale watching at Kaikoura

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Hiking on Franz Josef Glacier

Hiking on Franz Josef Glacier

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

The second highlight was the week in India touring the “Golden Triangle” with G Adventures. I loved travelling through such a vibrant country seeing some amazing sights, experiencing the culture and eating some absolutely fabulous food.

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Jaipur

Jaipur

Palace of the Winds

Palace of the Winds

Trying to make a puri

Trying to make a puri

Amber Fort

Amber Fort

I have seen some amazing sights Including:-

Uluru

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The Taj Mahal

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Sydney Harbour

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The cricket obviously didn’t go according to plan. I watched every one of England’s losses to Australia and became increasingly resigned to the entirely predictable nature of these defeats. Disappointing as the cricket was it gave me a base to explore the great cities of Australia. I was part of the world record attendance for a test match at the MCG on Boxing Day.

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Some stats!! My trip took me away from home for 79 nights. I travelled in 5 countries – Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, India and the United Arab Emirates. I went on 17 flights and travelled with 8 different airlines. I stayed in 20 different hotels. So making all these flights certainly means I have had an impact on the environment. All the air miles equate to 4.85 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The driving I did in New Zealand, 1095 kilometres, added a further 0.26 tonnes of CO2 emissions. I am investigating what I can do to offset this.

Best airline – QANTAS. I flew with them more than any other airline. Great service delivered by “real people” not the archetypal young “trolley dolly” you find elsewhere.

Best airport – Dubai. Space age. Roomy. Waterfalls!

Worst airport – Goa International Airport. Dirty toilets and rowing cleaners. Make sure you scan your luggage first! I also had issues at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport with baggage coming off the wrong carousel and lengthy queues for biosecurity checks.

Favourite hotel – The Point, Brisbane. Great service and a room with a fantastic view. Well located for the Gabba and the free boat service into central Brisbane. I also had fantastic service and food at the Resort Terra Paraiso in Goa. Excellent towel and pillow art by housekeeping!

View from my room at The Point, Brisbane

View from my room at The Point, Brisbane

Free city hopper boat service in Brisbane

Free city hopper boat service in Brisbane

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Housekeeping art at Resort Terra Paraiso, Goa

Worst hotel – Great Southern Hotel, Sydney. Room very dated and felt claustrophobic

Favourite cricket stadium – Sydney Cricket Ground. Blends futuristic new stands with well preserved old pavilions.

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Worst cricket stadium – The WACA, Perth. Little shade and needs urgent redevelopment.

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So would I do it again??? The trip has been very much a once in a lifetime opportunity. It has cost a pretty penny and I now need to start earning again. 11 weeks away is a long time and there were times particularly around Christmas and New Year when I was really starting to miss family. Keeping in touch through instant messaging, email, FaceTime and Facebook has been invaluable. When you can talk to somebody and see them on screen the world does not seem such a big place.  I have loved experiencing the different countries and cultures and a much better climate. So yes I would definitely do a big trip again but not for as long.

Has the trip changed me??? Well I don’t feel any different. It may have given me a different perspective on a few things. The trip has definitely given me the desire to travel more and explore further some of the places I have been to.

A successful trip can only take place with help from others. I have had great support from friends and family. They seemed to think my trip was a much bigger deal than I thought myself and showed this with a great send off before I went away. I was worried about my house being left empty for an extended period of time. Thanks to Mum and Dad and my next door neighbours Kathryn and Steve for keeping an eye on it for me whilst I was away. My house remained totally intact whilst I was away but ironically suffered storm damage within a week of my return!

A big thank you to my travel agents, Round the World Experts, and in particular Nigel Wright for turning my dreams into reality.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog. I have enjoyed writing it and it is something I can always look back on. The blog seems to have generated quite a lot of interest – It has had over 4300 views and over 100 comments.

Finishing the blog helps me put the trip “to bed” and allows me to focus on the next phase of my life which starts with the search to generate an income.

My first ever camel ride in the Dubai Desert

My first ever camel ride in the Dubai Desert

Book Review – The Ashes According to Bumble (David Lloyd)

So my next book review goes back to the cricketing theme of many of my earlier blog posts. It feels a little weird to be reading a book about cricket and the Ashes after the series in Australia has been completed. But anyway…

The book is a funny and entertaining read in typical Bumble style. There are many amusing stories and anecdotes. It’s an easy read.

I have two favourite stories in the book.

The first involved a sledging incident between the Aussie batsmen Mark Waugh, one of the famous Waugh brothers.  A number of years ago England selected a bowler called Jimmy Ormond to play against Australia. When Ormond came out to bat Mark Waugh shouted over.  “**** me. Look who it is. Mate what are you doing out here? There’s no way your good enough to play for England.” Ormond replied “maybe not but at least I’m the best player in my family”.

The second involves a game of golf between David Lloyd (Bumble), Mike Selvey and Christopher Martin-Jenkins (CMJ). The game took place, in Queenstown, when England were touring in New Zealand. CMJ, who is sadly no longer with us, had a reputation as a delightful eccentric. As they were warming up before the round he remarked. “Marvellous place this, isn’t it? Did you know it was designed by Ray Charles. You know the famous New Zealand golfer”. Selvey, carried on the conversation. “Yes and I believe there are a number of blind holes on this course”. “So I understand” replied CMJ who was totally oblivious to the gag. The famous Kiwi golfer is Bob Charles…

The book was written before the series in the English summer. There is a section where Lloyd is castigating of the Aussies and some of their players which he may now regret writing… “They’re not very good it’s as simple as that. They’ve got one batter in Michael Clarke, they haven’t got a spinner and this lauded pace attack I keep hearing about must be a drastically different one to the one I’ve witnessed over the last couple of years because it’s not much cop”. Having just witnessed the 5 nil whitewash I beg to differ…

Another book to be donated to the hotel library. Not sure what they will make of it in Thailand…

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400 Richie Benaud impersonators!

The highlight of day 2 of the second test match was not the cricket!! It was a group of around 400 Aussie guys all sat together, dressed in the same outfits as a tribute to the legendary commentator Richie Benaud. They all had light suits, grey wigs and carried a Channel 9 microphone. It must take a lot of organising and I’m not sure how they do it. They were a lively bunch and by the end of the day many of them seemed to be struggling to stand up due to alcohol. When Mitchell Johnson came into bowl they stood up and shouted “Mitchell, Mitchell!” whilst waving their microphones in unison. At one point there was a commotion involving someone sat behind them in the entertainment area. From tv coverage next day what happened was that the “Richie’s” got former Aussie Prime Minister Bob Hawke to skoll a beer. “Skoll” is Aussie for “down in one”. He did it successfully. Not bad for a man in his 80’s!

The Richies!

The Richies!

More Richies!

More Richies!

Two Richie's

Two Richie’s

A Richie and me!

A Richie and me!

Bob Hawke skolling a beer in front of the Richies

Bob Hawke skolling a beer in front of the Richies

Bob Hawke gives the thumbs up after downing the beer in 10 seconds

Bob Hawke gives the thumbs up after downing the beer in 10 seconds

 

Richie Benaud has been away from the screens this summer. He suffered a car crash last October in Coogee, a Sydney suburb where he lives. He crashed his beloved 1963 Sunbeam Alpine into a parked car and then a brick fence. He suffered a cracked sternum as well as back and shoulder injuries which continue to hamper him. He is currently back in hospital whilst having further treatment on the lingering back problems. Best wishes Richie!

The Sydney Cricket Ground

Having now visited all 5 of the grounds in Australia that have hosted the Ashes fixtures I have to say that I think the SCG is my favourite. I love the way that the two beautiful old stands have been retained whilst the ground is redeveloped. These old stands the Ladies Pavilion and Members Pavilion sit next to a huge new Northern Pavilion within which are contained the MA Noble and Don Bradman stands. The new stands were completed on the eve of this test match – actually more work is needed to 100% complete the work as the roof is not fully finished. This new stand was getting rave reviews from the SCG members who were using it for the first time. I was seated in the lower tier of the Brewongle stand. It was a decent view. The facilities were not the best that I have seen in comparison to the Gabba, Adelaide Oval or MCG but there plans to redevelop this stand along with the Churchill and O’Reilly stands. On balance the SCG gets my vote as my favourite of the 5 venues for the way that old has been retained whilst redeveloping new stands. I also had the best view of the scoreboard at the SCG. That’s important!

The Ladies and Members Pavilions with the Sydney skyline in the distance

The Ladies and Members Pavilions with the Sydney skyline in the distance

The new Northern Pavilion

The new Northern Pavilion

The scoreboard and the Bill O'Reilly stand

The scoreboard and the Bill O’Reilly stand

My second favourite ground is the Adelaide Oval. They have built some massive magnificent new stands there. But all the old stands have gone. The main item that had been retained to preserve history is the lovely old scoreboard.

Third is the MCG. It’s massive and I had a fantastic view. However it is all a bit the same. It’s a huge bowl. It is gob smacking when you first see it.

Fourth is the Gabba. To a large degree a smaller version of the MCG. I had a great view of the pitch but not of the scoreboard. Also this was the one ground where I was in the shade all day. That is very welcome when your watching cricket. It doesn’t have much character though.

Fifth and by some distance is the WACA. It desperately needs redevelopment. There are a hotch potch of old and temporary stands. There is also little shade which is a big issue given the heat experienced there during the Australia summer. The facilities are also by far the worst I experienced. I like the grass banks though! The WACA needs to work hard to retain it’s test ground status. I hear the ground at Hobart is in better shape to host test cricket although it’s more likely to rain there!

Ashes 5th Test at Sydney – A 5 nil whitewash

The outcome of the 5th test was entirely predictable given the gulf between the two teams that I had witnessed in the earlier 4 fixtures. In fact the script could almost have been written before the match started.

So we saw 2 England batting collapses and in both innings they failed to score over 200 runs. A number of terrible shots were played often by England’s most experienced batsmen. It really looks like the intensity of this series has got to them. Decision making over which balls to play and which to leave is generally much much poorer than you would expect from players of this talent and experience. I think their brains have become scrambled meaning they can not think clearly out in the middle. The England tail yet again failed to score many meaningful runs when the top 5 had failed.

Yet again we saw England’s bowlers getting us into a good position. On day 1, after Alastair Cook won his first toss of the series and put Australia into bat on an overcast morning and with a green tinged pitch. just after lunch the Aussies were 97 for 5. Then we saw a combination of poor England bowling, they bowled too short after lunch, and another fantastic innings from Brad Haddin well supported by Steve Smith. So Australia are let off the hook and managed to compile a score of 326.

Michael Clarke departs the field after being out for 10 on the morning of day 1 with England on top

Michael Clarke departs the field after being out for 10 on the morning of day 1 with England on top

Broad bowls to Harris as England let a good position slip on day 1

Broad bowls to Harris as England let a good position slip on day 1

What was particularly galling about this defeat was that it happened in under 3 days. The England batting performance in the second innings was particularly pathetic. They were all out in only 31.4 overs. There was little fight and it looked like they couldn’t get out of the SCG quickly enough. Did they have a plane to catch?

England’s cricket supporters who have travelled to Australia at huge cost and in big numbers deserved far far better.

At the end of the game I did not linger for long. I watched the immediate celebrations of the Aussie team and headed out of there. I felt strangely emotional for a few seconds knowing this was my last day at the cricket on this trIp. In total over the last 7 weeks I have been to 20 days of ashes cricket and have only missed the last day in Perth and a couple of sessions in Melbourne. Although the results have been incredibly disappointing I have found much of the action compelling. The most memorable sessions have been the England batting collapses often when Mitchell Johnson was steaming in bowling at 145 km/h plus. He rightly was named man of the series. When England collapsed on day 2 at the Gabba amidst some incredibly hostile, fast and accurate bowling from Johnson the die was cast. Johnson had the X factor and England have no equivalent bowler. The speed of the bowling they faced unsettled the whole team and I don’t think they ever recovered from the shock of what happened on day 2 at Brisbane.

Oh dear!

Oh dear!

Boyd Rankin is out to confirm the 5-0 whitewash

Boyd Rankin is out to confirm the 5-0 whitewash

The Aussie players celebrate

The Aussie players celebrate

Jubilant scenes

Jubilant scenes

Steve Smith applauds the crowd

Steve Smith applauds the crowd

My last look at the SCG

My last look at the SCG

New Years Eve in Sydney

I was booked on the midday flight from Melbourne to Sydney and was at the airport in plenty of time. The automated Qantas check in system at the airport give gave me the option of boarding either the 11am or 11.30am flights instead! Get in! So I ended up boarding the 11am flight. Just before the flight boarded I saw Aussie off-spinner Nathan Lyon clad in his international tracksuit carrying a baby. Perhaps I was flying with the Australian cricket team? As I was boarding and walking through business class I saw Lyon again and Ryan Harris sat with their WAGs. A tall dark haired guy in a track suit got out of my way as I walked past. I turned round and saw the unmistakeable moustached face of Mitchell Johnson. I attempted to give him a hard stare in the style of the stares he gives our batsmen. I’m not sure if the whole team was on the flight. I just saw those 3 and also Darren “Boof” Lehman in arrivals in Sydney.

On the flight I was pleasantly surprised with the scenery with most of the flight seemingly over mountains with many lakes. Were we crossing the Blue Mountains? As the plane descended we were rewarded with clear views of the harbour bridge and opera house and the stunning natural harbour.

Later, having checked in to the hotel I headed out to get my bearings and suss out my plan for viewing the New Years Eve fireworks. I am staying on George Street, in Chinatown, and around ten minutes from Darling Harbour. I headed there first. The harbour was busy with people enjoying the New Year’s Eve sunshine. I was aware that at 3pm there were already people getting in position for the fireworks that night!

The New Year's Eve stage in place at Darling Harbour

The New Year’s Eve stage in place at Darling Harbour

From Darling Harbour I headed in the direction of Circular Quay. I headed past a huge construction project that is underway at the top end of Darling Harbour in an area called Barangaroo. This redevelopment will lead to further hotels, office space (including skyscrapers), residential, retail and leisure facilities within Sydney’s central business district. So next time I visit Sydney it will look noticeably different.

I stopped for a coffee at Walsh Bay and got my first glimpse of the harbour bridge. I saw huge crowds already in position for the fireworks on the other side of the bridge. I walked round to circular quay and got an excellent view of the opera house. It was already getting very busy some eight hours before midnight. I needed a plan!

The Harbour Bridge viewed from Walsh Bay

The Harbour Bridge viewed from Walsh Bay

The crowds in place for the fireworks 8 hours in advance!

The crowds in place for the fireworks 8 hours in advance!

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I walked along George Street for around half an hour before I reached my hotel. I turned on the tv in my room and learnt that there were to be fireworks earlier in the evening at around 9pm and that they would be at Darling Harbour as well as around the harbour bridge.

So I headed out again at 7.30 and went to Darling Harbour. As dusk approached the crowds swelled. There was a stage set up in the harbour and the entertainment included Chinese dragons and fire dancers. The crowds included lots of families and kids and the ethnic mix was highly oriental reflecting the part of the city I was in. At 9pm the fireworks started and were fantastic. Definitely better than Denby Dale Cricket Club Bonfire Night fire works! I did however feel that this firework display was a mere starter for the main course to come.

Crowds gathering at Darling harbour

Crowds gathering at Darling harbour

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I headed to the Barmy Army New Years Eve party at the Paragon Hotel. I spent an enjoyable couple of hours or so there. They had a Coldplay tribute band playing and in between breaks there was Barmy Army song singing led by Billy the Trumpeter.

At 11.45 I headed out of the Paragon to look for a vantage point. Police had stopped any more people getting into the Circular Quay viewing area. So I headed with others at some speed to a road that was up above close to the harbour bridge. I was in position by midnight and saw some fantastic fireworks. Unfortunately I wasn’t in a great position. In cricketing terms I had a view from square leg rather than from behind the bowlers arm. This meant that I didn’t see the fireworks going off at the opera house and for those on the bridge I had a side on rather than front on view. Oh and I also had a street light in the way!

It was a great experience and after the fireworks had finished, after about 10 minutes, I walked down George Street with the massive crowds.

The crowds heading down Geroge St after the fireworks

The crowds heading down George St after the fireworks

I enclose here some of my best photos and some I found online. I am sure you will be able to tell which is which!

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Australia go 4 nil up in the Ashes

I have been watching this series from the start in Brisbane. During today’s performance I started to get angry!

The day started with Australia on 30 without loss requiring 231 runs to win the match. Although Australia were firm favourites this would have been the highest fourth innings score to win a test match at the MCG for many years. I was just about to take up my seat shortly after start of play when I saw a chance dropped in the slips. It looked to me as if Alastair Cook had dropped a difficult chance at first slip off Stuart Broad’s bowling. On the radio commentary, they blamed Jonny Bairstow for not diving across from wicket keeper to take the catch. Broad was surprisingly taken out of the attack after bowling just 2 overs. Soon after this Cook drops a total sitter off Ben Stokes’ bowling. Catches win matches!!

After only half an hour of the day part time off spinner Joe Root came onto bowl. What’s going on? Aren’t we trying to win this match? We need our front line bowlers not part timers?

Joe Root brought into the bowling attack after 30 minutes

Joe Root brought into the bowling attack after 30 minutes

A wicket falls. Warner is caught behind from Bairstow. A wicket for Stokes. 64-1.

in the Aussie first innings England bowled really well. They bowled really tightly and made it difficult for the Aussies to score. In this innings England are really sloppy. Runs flow easily at 4 an over and the fielding is sloppy. Cook takes an age to make fielding changes and some of the crowd, including me, get annoyed.

Australia reach 100 for the loss of one wicket. Rogers gets his fifty.

Our front line spinner, Monty Panesar, hasn’t bowled yet. What’s going on? Cook finally turns to Panesar when the score is 118-1. But it’s far too late. Monty bowls badly and is hit for 10 off one over.

Runs continue to flow. A century partnership between Watson and Rogers. Then Chris Rogers gets his 100 off just 135 balls. Soon after Shane Watson gets his 50 off just 70 balls. Interestingly, 39% of Chris Rogers runs were through 3rd man but Cook refuses to place a fielder in that position.

This is getting embarrassing. Bresnan goes for 14 in one over. It’s a shambles.

Rogers finally departs for 116 and gets a standing ovation as he leaves the field. A wicket for Monty. However scoring continues to be very quick. Monty goes for 14 off an over.

Before long, at 2.26pm, Australia reach their target. I decide not to linger for the presentations.

An embarrassing scoreline

An embarrassing scoreline

I am now beginning to seriously question our captain. Some of the decisions today were, to me, inexplicable. Is the pressure of the job getting to him? Would it be better if he reverted to batting?

Over the four days of the test match the total attendance was 221,865. That’s a staggering number of people. I have enjoyed the spectacle of watching a match at the MCG but not the England performance.

I had an excellent seat to watch the action. It was two seats away from a seat which marks the point where the biggest ever 6 hit at the MCG landed. In 1993, during a Sheffield Shield match, a shot by Simon O’Donnell from the bowling of Greg Matthews landed there. It’s denoted by a plaque and the seat is a different colour to the others in the section. All I can say is it must have been one helluva strike!

Marking the spot where the biggest. 6 at the MCG landed

Marking the spot where the biggest. 6 at the MCG landed

So with the match finishing a day early this gives me more time to explore Melbourne. Stay tuned for blog updates on this.

4th Ashes Test at Melbourne – Day 3

I have been getting behind with my blog entries so I decided to get up to date today. To enable this I stayed in my hotel room and blogged whilst watchIng the cricket coverage on Channel 9. This was the first time I have had the opportunity to watch the cricket on TV. It’s not bad to be honest. Not dissimilar to sky back home. It’s fronted by the polished but always slightly too smug Mark Nicholas. Their commentary team includes Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Michael Slater, Ian Chappell and Bill Lawry. To give some English balance they have Michael Vaughan and David Lloyd providing commentary alongside their commitments to the BBC and Sky respectively.

England started the day requiring only one wicket to finish off Australia’s second innings. However this was easier said than done and having resumed overnight on 164-9, the last wicket pair of Haddin and Lyon put on another 40 runs. The channel 9 commentators were highly critical of Alastair Cook’s captaincy during this period. They thought his field placings were far too defensive and he wasn’t asserting himself over the team.

So England had a second innings lead of 51 runs. England’s second innings started well. At lunch they were 54 without loss. Alastair Cook was playing really well but Michael Carberry was struggling to get runs.

Soon after lunch Cook gets a well deserved fifty. He then gets snared lbw by Mitchell Johnson and is out for 51. England are 65-1.

Joe Root is given out, caught behind, for a duck. He is reprieved after a DRS review.

Carberry’s batting struggles are finally over as he is out for 12 after batting for over 2 hours. Root is then run out for 15. He takes a chance on Mitchell Johnson’s left arm and is a yard out of his ground. What a suicidal run to take! Then Bell is out for a golden duck. A wicket for Lyon. 3 wickets have been lost in 5 balls. Another England batting collapse!

When I leave the hotel to walk to the MCG, England are 100-4. No wickets are lost on my 45 minute walk. At tea England are 115-4 with Pietersen and Stokes playing sensible cricket.

After tea Stokes falls for 19. He takes on Nathan Lyon but is caught at mid on. Why play that shot?

Johnson comes onto bowl. It’s really windy out there. Rubbish is blowing across the pitch and the bails keep blowing off. It all starts to kick off when KP backs away from a delivery just before Johnson releases the ball. In frustration Johnson throws the ball really close to KP. Words are exchanged in the middle.

KP batting in England's second innings. He and Cook were the only batsmen to acquit themselves well

KP batting in England’s second innings. He and Cook were the only batsmen to acquit themselves well

A chaotic scene with rubbish blowing across the pitch

A chaotic scene with rubbish blowing across the pitch

Bairstow is playing shots. He hits a couple of sixes and a couple of fours. However Johnson angles the ball across him, Bairstow has a nibble, and is out for 21. The score is 173-6. Bresnan and Broad quickly follow Bairstow back to the pavilion. They are both wickets for Lyon and have got out for ducks playing poor shots. Three wickets have been lost for 1 run. The second batting collapse of the day.

Kevin Pietersen is running out of partners. He needs to get some runs. He tries to hit Lyon for 6 but falls short of the boundary and is out for 49. Lyon has taken 5 wickets.

Monty Panesar is out for a duck and England are all out for 179. How very very disappointing to have collapsed from a promising position at lunch.

So Australia need 231 runs to win the match. At close of play they reach 30 without loss without any close calls.

Something needs to change with this England batting line up. History keeps repeating itself!

4th Ashes Test at Melbourne – Day 2

Having batted very patiently on day 1, Kevin Pietersen started day 2 in a different mindset. He hit a 4 from the first ball of the day. It looks like he means business! Bresnan is out from the first ball of Mitchell Johnson’s first over. He is unable to successfully fend off a short ball from Johnson and is caught at short leg. KP is out from the 5th ball of the same over. He hits across the line of the ball and is clean bowled. It was a silly reckless shot.

Broad is then out lbw. Another wicket for Johnson. He has now taken 5 wickets with the new ball. A spell of 5 wickets for 18 runs. Another devastating hostile spell of fast bowling reminiscent of his spells in Adelaide and Brisbane. There is some resistance from Monty and Jimmy. But then Monty leaves a ball from Lyon and is bowled. England have collapsed from 226-6 to 255 all out. Another batting collapse!

Disillusioned I go walkabout. I need a coffee and head to the bottom tier to find one. Whilst in the queue the Aussies start batting and I watch the action on a monitor on the concourse. Having got my coffee I watch whilst stood behind the section where the Barmy Army are sitting. Warner is out for 9. He miscues a ball from Jimmy Anderson high in the air and is caught by Jonny Bairstow. The Barmies sing a rousing chorus of “oh Jimmy Jimmy! Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Anderson”. I join in!

Soon after Ben Stokes gets Shane Watson’s wicket. The Barmies start singing the “Hokey Stokey”. Despite practising this on Christmas Day I am still struggling to remember the words and actions to that one.

At lunch Australia are 38-2. A good start by England. I head out of the MCG to go for a walk. I reach a pub called the Cricketers Arms and head in for a beer. It’s an old pub with cricket memorabilia on the wall. A sign on the wall in the bar refers to the authentic pre World War 2 Art Deco German bar fittings. Having enjoyed a VB I head back to the MCG.

The Art Deco bar at the cricketers arms

The Art Deco bar at the cricketers arms

The cricketers arms

The cricketers arms

After lunch Rogers is hit on the helmet by a ball from Broad. There is blood and a delay whilst he regains composure. Clarke is bowled by Jimmy and is out for 10. “Oh Jimmy Jimmy!”.

Rogers gets his 50 just before tea. In the tea interval I watched some pantomime going on in the nets at the MCG. TV personality Piers Morgan had been very disparaging on Twitter about England’s batting performances on this series and in particular how they have performed against Mitchell Johnson. This had led to some banter and ultimately to Morgan facing an over from legendary former Aussie fast bowler Brett Lee. Quite a crowd had built up to watch this. Lee steamed in. Morgan failed to connect with the bat in any of the 6 deliveries. During the over he gets hit on the body, backs away from a ball and is bowled by one delivery. It was a good laugh.

Piers Morgan facing Brett Lee

Piers Morgan facing Brett Lee

After tea, Broad breaks a partnership of 48 between Smith and Rogers. A great catch in the slips from Bell. Smith is out for 19. 110-4.

Bresnan strikes. Rogers is out for 61. KP takes the catch in the deep. Bailey is out for a duck after a DRS review goes our way. Thanks snicko!

Haddin is in and yet again in this series is batting well. Oh no! Jimmy drops Johnson off Bresnan.

Monty thinks he has a wicket. Haddin is given out lbw by the umpire but survives on a DRS review.

Johnson is gone! Bresnan gets him in the end and Anderson this time takes the catch. The Aussies are 151-7 and are rocking!

The crowd for day 2 is announced at 78,346. Another fantastic attendance!

Harris is out for 6. A wicket for Broad. Siddle then falls. It’s close of play and the Aussies are 164-9.

This has been the best day of the series for England. They have bowled really well with all the bowlers playing their part. They have bowled a good line and length and exerted real pressure. It’s been just like how the Aussies have bowled all through these series. England are giving a rousing ovation from their fans as they leave the pitch.

The tv cameras view at the MCG.

The tv cameras view at the MCG.

After play I was invited to go for drinks by the tour company my tickets have been supplied through. Former England player Adam Hollioake, who I met in Brisbane, is working for the tour company out here. He would be at the drinks reception with the possibility of a current England player. When I turned up there were a number of the tour party in the bar listening to Adam and Michael Carberry. This gave me the opportunity for a photo….

Me with Adam Hollioake and Michael Carberry.

Me with Adam Hollioake and Michael Carberry.

After Adam and Michael left I headed off to the Barmy Army bar, PJ O’Briens, for a couple of drinks. There was an excellent live band playing. I then walked back to my hotel along the south bank before crossing over a bridge over the Yarra River.

Melbourne at night

Melbourne at night reflected in the Yarra.

4th Ashes Test at Melbourne – Day 1

The Boxing Day test match in Melbourne is a massive tradition. People in these parts are big sports fans and Boxing Day always attracts big crowds to the MCG.

After collecting my tickets I walked along the banks of the Yarra river towards the MCG. There were loads and loads of people heading in the same direction. At a bend in the river the MCG came into view. It looked huge! I was also impressed to see other sporting arenas in the area including Melbourne Park where the Australian open tennis is held. Heading over a railway bridge close to the MCG there was a clear view of the Rod Laver arena and outside courts. Melbourne is clearly a great place to come to watch live sport.

My first view of the MCG

My first view of the MCG

The crowds heading to the MCG

The crowds heading to the MCG

The Rod Laver arena viewed from the MCG. This is the main show court for the Aussie open tennis

The Rod Laver arena viewed from the MCG. This is the main show court for the Aussie open tennis

In entering the MCG I went looking for my seat. This was no easy task in a ground which can accommodate over 100,000. Having successfully found where I was sitting I looked around me. The MCG is a huge cavernous bowl and it’s jaw dropping when you first enter. I have been in huge stadia before such as Wembley and the Nou Camp but this feels on a different scale. I have a great view of the action from my seat which is close to behind the bowlers arm. I am quite high up in the 3rd of four tiers.

The MCG

The MCG

Another view of the MCG

A panoramic view of the MCG

My view of the action

My view of the action

The toss was held in very overcast conditions. Yet again it was won by Australia. The surprise was that Michael Clarke put England into bat. Now there is a saying in cricket that 9 times out of ten when you win the toss you should bat and the 10th time you think long and hard about bowling and then decide to bat. I can only think that Michael Clarke fancied having a go at the England batsmen under overcast skies. There were a couple of changes in the England line up with Jonny Bairstow replacing Matt Prior behind the stumps. Monty Panesar was in the team for the retired Graham Swann.

Day 1 was much like other days I have watched in this series. The Australia bowlers were excellent. They bowled a good line and length and made it difficult for the England batsmen to score. A number of batsmen got in, then got bogged down and then got out. Cook 27, Carberry 38 and Root 24 are examples. This was a big innings for Kevin Pietersen. He has endured much criticism on this tour for his peformances. He has massive talent but also a big propensity for getting himself out by playing daft shots. Whilst on 6 he hits a slog and is caught out on the boundary. However the substitute fielder, Coulter-Nile, can not prevent himself stepping over the rope. KP is reprieved.

Scoring is really slow. To be honest the cricket is a bit boring. There is talk on the radio commentary about this being potentially the lowest ever score in a  test match on Boxing Day at the MCG.

I had been set a challenge by Kathryn my next door neighbour back home. Her two brothers would be at MCG on Boxing Day. I had their seat numbers so it sounded quite a straightforward task to find them. They were on the 4th tier. It took me around 10 minutes to find the section they were sitting in. After a bit of an explanation between me and the steward she told the two brothers, Martin and Paul, that there was guy from the UK looking to meet them. Martin had emigrated to Melbourne 30 years ago and Paul is on holiday here with his wife Lynne. This was only the second time that they had spent time with each other in over 30 years. Martin last visited the UK back in 1996.

Me with Paul (left) and Martin (right)

Me with Paul (left) and Martin (right)

After tea, Bell falls for 27. England are 173-4. Pietersen is still in though. Soon after a drinks break, he is dropped by Bailey. Pietersen is not happy. There is a big delay whilst he goes down on his haunches. He wants another drink. The Aussies in the crowd give him dogs abuse. There is talk on the radio that he had swallowed a fly!

The crowd is huge. The official attendance is announced as 91,092. This is a record official attendance for a day of cricket. There are rumoured to have been bigger attendances in Calcutta but there are no official records. It was great to be part of a world record crowd.

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Before the end of the day Stokes is out for 14 and Bairstow falls for 10. At stumps England are 226-6. Pietersen is unbeaten at 67 and has been batting very patiently. It’s a good wicket though and so Australia will be happier with their days work than England.