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A DVD has arrived here courtesy of Messrs Sunset + Vine presenting the highlights of the second Ashes Test of the present series between England and Australia. I was grateful to get it, given that I was on holiday well away from the country when the match was played. But really, was it, as S+V and the DVD’s title claim, the “greatest Test ever”?
Given the advertising age in which we live, such claims can be casually made with a flurry of spin that would do Shane Warne proud. We’ve just come to expect it.
However, and though it’s almost beyond living memory now, could I commend as the greatest ever Test the one that I thought most people agreed on till now, namely the 1960 encounter between Australia and the West Indies in Brisbane.
Aussie skipper Richie Benaud arrived on the morning of the last day expecting to see the outfield mown nicely to within an inch of the turf, a factor which would have helped Australia who were batting last. But a burst of morning rain had made this too difficult for the groundsman, and the subsequent picture painted by Benaud of the scene was one of clover and daisies occupying much of the ground around the boundary rope.
Approaching the climax of the day and with four needed for victory, the Aussies duly cuffed one into the long grass, could only manage to run three as it was brought to a halt and, on the fourth, saw Ian Meckiff run out by a perfect throw from the deep by Conrad Hunte.
Australian slow left-arm bowler and number 11 bat Lindsay Kline duly fended Wes Hall towards square leg, made off for the winning run but was run out by Guyanan Joe Solomon, who had only one stump to aim at. The match concluded as the first ever Test match tie.
The footage exists somewhere, no doubt on ancient film since even video was at this stage still some two decades away, and it really would be worth watching. Maybe ex-ITV Sport producer Jeff Foulser and others down at Sunset + Vine - the very name of which is intended to induce a sense of late afternoon nostalgia - could be persuaded to get a historical series together.
What may come to haunt the Aussies in this series is a factor that we haven’t seen for sometime in an Australian team and that I thought they’d all but thrown out of the window - namely friendliness and that sense of saying “fair do-s, mate” to the opposition.
There was so much of it floating around in the Edgbaston Test that it all became reminiscent of the days of Kim Hughes in the early 80s. Ricky Ponting goes out of his way to be reasonable and Shane Warne could be seen roundly congratulating Freddie Flintoff for his second innings batting performance - it was all enough to make the likes of Allan Border and Steve Waugh spit.
I have no doubt those were fair and honourable men, but they made a point of not congratulating the opposition in public. Border made every effort not even to fraternise in private. Out of this came the Aussie machine that couldn’t stop winning.
Maybe the latest developments aren’t so much a cause of Aussie fallibility as their subliminal recognition of it. Ponting, Warne et al may have quietly recognised that they’re on to a loser and come round to thinking that it’s time again to start being nice.
I recently returned from the New England coast of the US where the Boston Red Sox are four up in the American League despite often indifferent form this season. After 80-odd years of trying to win the World Series, their triumph last year now has them winning almost inspite of themselves. It only goes to show what can be done when belief enters the equation, as in the case, for example, of the German football squads of old.
That said, the Boston fans remain as sceptical as ever, rarely believing it when their team does well and dismissively chiding “here we go again” when it doesn’t.
In this, it is remarkable - for all the cultural divide between the US and the UK - how alike the fans of New and Old England are. I refer you to the recent article on English sport and its fans by my colleague Simon Kuper ‘Don’t worry, it won’t last’.
During his BBC radio commentary on last Sunday’s game when Arsenal visited Stamford Bridge, Alan Green brought attention to the fact that the three men on Chelsea’s substitute bench had cost £70m. He said this showed the “skewed” nature of football’s economics. Forget football, Alan, it’s a statistic that underlines the presently screwed economics of our world.
I see David James has talked himself into international retirement. Did I hear correctly after the 4-1 defeat by Denmark that he was going away to “consult his journal”?
James is far too honest and is placing himself in that characteristic role of goalkeeper as victim. He is surely about to become one and can bid goodbye to what promised much but turned out to be an unfulfilled career
Sven won’t tolerate James’ inner turmoil. In his book - Sven-Goran Eriksson On Management: The Inner Game - Improving Performance (I was reading it at about the time he was having that affair with the former ITV-weather lady, bumped into him at Heathrow and got him to sign it) he talks critically of people who have one foot on the accelerator and the other on the brake.
James is one such. He worries and thinks too much, which is fatal for a goalkeeper. He would have better paid heed to that maxim ‘never say sorry, never admit a mistake’ of the US business world. Football is no less a primitive jungle.