Sunday, 12 July 2015

A Great Day at the Cricket - The Ashes in Cardiff

The England cricket team get a massive welcome on to the pitch at Cardiff yesterday morning
Ok I should preface this post by addressing my Australian cricket friends who follow JJ's Wargames, you might want to look away now.

Followers of the blog will know I do love a game of cricket now and then and there is no bigger game of cricket than when the "Ashes" come round and it's time to take on the Aussies.

History of the Ashes

The Ashes refers back to 1882 when following the Australians first Test win in England at the Oval the British newspaper "The Sporting Times" announced the death of English Cricket and a little terracotta urn containing the ashes of a burnt cricket bail, the little piece of wood that is one of two that are placed on top of the three stumps at either end of a cricket pitch, was created to commemorate this momentous Australian victory. Ever since that "dark day" England and Australia have competed for perhaps the most contested little trophy in a series of five, five day cricket matches called Test matches to establish the bragging rights at opposite ends of the globe.

England's number one strike bowler - Jimmy Anderson who got a little over-enthusiastic yesterday and picked up a warning from Umpire Erasmus for running on the pitch
Both sets of fans and players are passionate for the game and the matches are characterised by affectionate banter coupled with an absolute determination to win that has created a series of games that currently sees Australia holding the Ashes after a terrible tour by England "down under" where we suffered a five - nil thrashing and had to go away and rebuild. The current wins v losses sees the Aussies sitting on thirty-two series won to thirty-one for England and the opportunity for England to come back with a new look team, a more aggressive approach to their game and a big bit of home advantage.

Australian opener David Warner made a determined fifty two runs before falling lbw to Mooen Ali just before lunch
The game yesterday was the fourth day of the First Test being played at the Swalec Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. That might seem odd that England are playing in Wales until you remember that it is the England and Wales Cricket Board ECB that oversees cricket in England and Wales and there have been some great Welsh players in the England team over the years, so Cardiff is great stage for this show piece cricket series.

Large England slip field - If you know nothing about cricket, the number of fielders standing behind the batsman tells you if the fielding side are on top.
The ground was already packed when we got to our front row seats with a strong following of Aussies who made the trip over to come and support their team. The game was set up for an England first match win in the series with England setting the tourists a total of  412 runs needed to win and with England having two days to bowl them out. The weather reports were suggesting rain on the Sunday so we were all hoping England could get the job done in one day and with the opening fast bowlers, Stuart Broad and James Anderson operating at both ends things were looking positive as both bowlers kept beating the bat and Australia struggled to score.

Stuart Broad in action, for me the pick of the England bowlers yesterday with none of the Aussies looking comfortable at the wicket when he was bowling
With a brand new ball in hand and the pitch and weather looking great, the England pace bowlers made batting very difficult for the two Australian opening batsmen, but with only one wicket down, Chris Rogers caught by Ian Bell in the slips off Broad for just ten runs, and ninety-seven runs on the board, coming up to lunch the England fans were willing another wicket to fall before the break.

Moeen Ali in action yesterday in Cardiff - Ali started the Australian collapse,taking Warner's wicket just before lunch and finishing with three wickets for fifty-nine runs
Cometh the hour cometh the man, with just a few overs left before lunch, Alastair Cook, England Captain, brought on the new England spinner Mooen Ali who produced the key breakthrough moment by catching a well in David Warner, leg before wicket (lbw) looking to play defensive before the break.

Steve Smith comes to the wicket to resume the Australian innings after David Warner's dismissal
Cricket is a funny game and one that really exemplifies that curious maxim of the mind being the key to events. A team playing on the second day of a test match in its first innings with every thing to play for and a certain mental freedom to perform is not necessarily the same team that plays on the fourth day in it its second innings chasing a total of 412 runs facing a team high on the adrenalin of success with a crowd willing them on to further efforts. Suddenly the Australian task of seeing out the two remaining days, let alone passing the required number of runs seemed that much more unlikely and the batsmen at the wicket seemed unsure of whether to attack or defend.

Joss Butler, England wicket keeper and Alastair Cook, England captain ready themselves behind the stumps
At moments like these, the crowd can sense that uncertainty and just add to the mental pressure with cheers heralding the England bowlers run ups followed by the long ooooh as another ball narrowly misses the edge of the bat as it whistles through to the wicket keeper.

The fall of Warner's wicket before lunch seemed to unleash that uncertainty upon the Aussie batsmen as Stuart Broad caught the sense of the moment, bringing Steve Smith's thirty-three run innings to an end when he was caught in the slips by Ian Bell.

Mitchell Johnson the epitome of Aussie defiance in the face of adversity, produced an excellent seventy-seven runs before falling to Joe Root's bowling 
There then followed a collapse as England took five Australian wickets in an afternoon session that caused me to lose my voice. The trumpet call was sounding as the whole stadium was taken up with the chants of the "Barmy Army". A few spots of rain were felt and a few of the Aussie fans were seen putting up their umbrellas in a desperate attempt to convince the umpires to take the teams off. However the momentum of the game had irretrievably swung to the home side.

With the break for tea and Australia having slumped to 162 for 7 we knew it was only a matter of time before England had the first win in this series and there was a buzz of excited chatter in the ground as we all looked forward to the third and hopefully final session as England wrapped things up a day early.

Joe Root who finished the game as man of the match and with two wickets for twenty-eight runs to finish off the Aussie tail enders
Mitchell Johnson is Australia's experienced key fast bowler and has had torrid tours to England in previous series with his bowling performances. He is, however, no slouch with the bat and yesterday he showed what a difficult player he can be to get out, whilst knocking off seventy-seven runs that included nine fours and a pair of sixes for good measure.

Yours truely, Steve M and Tom, very happy England fans
England played, as they have done through this match, a clever game of bringing on spin bowling at both ends which offered the lower order Aussies the chance to score but left them at risk of getting out to the good ball. With plenty of runs on the board, the tactic relied on errors from lower order batsmen and they duly came with Johnson and Mitchell Starc falling to England player of the match Joe Root and Josh Hazelwood to Moeen Ali fittingly caught on the boundary by Root to finish the match with an almighty roar from the crowd.

Just what summer is all about - living the dream at the Ashes - Me, Carolyn and Tom following a fantastic day in Cardiff
We stayed on for the closing ceremony and comments by the two captains. I always feel what a hard job it is for the captain of the losing side to have to stand in front of the cameras straight after a hard fought defeat and answer questions about a performance before having had time to really assess the play.

Michael Clarke, Australian Captain doing the post match interview
Michael Clarke has always struck me a a thoroughly good chap and great leader of the Australian team and he came out and gave a very generous response to the England team. I know that England can expect a big fight back in the next test at Lords and this result has set up a very exciting series for the summer.

The England captain, Alastair Cook very pleased with the start but not complacent on what to expect from Australia after this result
The new look England set up is a breath of fresh air after the debacle in Australia and the Twenty Twenty World Cup and, with new management including an Australian head coach together with half the team made up of new players, it really seems like the beginning of a new era for English cricket.

This summer started with a bang with the tour of the New Zealand team who played with a high tempo and plenty of aggressive intent and was the model for the new look England style of play. The Kiwis ended up being well matched by England and the spirit of the play seems to have carried through into this Ashes series of matches epitomised by the comments of the England player of the match and in form Joe Root.

Joe Root - Man of the Match, an exciting new England player for the future
Joe Root seems to play his cricket with a boyish enthusiasm for the game which I hope he keeps throughout his career. In these days of extreme professionalism in all sports and with money driving a lot of the activity it is really great to see a player expressing an enjoyment for the game, whilst so many other players seem to carry a face of earnest intent. His play and attitude to the game seems to be a talisman for the team and it is obvious that he likes to win which can only be of strength to England if they hope to regain the Ashes this summer.

We had a fantastic day in the sun watching England at their best. This is our second visit to Cardiff to watch the cricket and the lovely people of Wales make this a very welcoming venue to come to. Perhaps its the welsh side of me that makes it feel home from home and the singing is certainly an attraction. Here's looking forward to an exciting Ashes series for the rest of this summer.

Next up - Its back to the painting with the 1/96e Ligne and then later this week we will play "Talavera -Dawn Attack".


  1. so you all survived the post game curry then.

    1. Hi Steve, thanks for your company, yesterday. We were knackered post curry and the back seat was well asleep by the time we got over the bridge. Oh, and we had to detour over the old bridge as they started roadworks at 8pm and closed the new one.

      My voice is shot today and God knows how Tom is managing a full day of lifeguarding on the beach today. Still looking forward to watching the highlights on TV tonight.

      Cheers mate, you are going to have come on the next one.

  2. One of my favourite times as a WACA Member is the fgive days of Test cricket in the Lille-Marsh stand in the Australian sunshine. Love painting to the BBC Test Zmatch Special team on the radio through to the wee hours whenever Australia tour England.

    1. I have coming out to Australia, following the cricket, down on my retirement list. Luckily Carolyn loves the cricket so I reckon we could plan a match into a holiday and the WACA is a fantastic ground and stadium, perfect for soaking up a bit of Aussie winter sun.

      Well there you go Carlo, we are kindred spirits at opposite ends of the globe. Like you, I find the painting time at the table slips by listening to TMS on the radio.