Travelling tittle-tattle, tall tales and shameless name-dropping by Jon ‘Don’t Call Me’ Norman

About Me

Friday, 21 August 2009

Mixed emoticons

Forgive me if you've heard this one before..........A friend of mine called Alex had a trip to Australia planned. He was to set off from England, take in the sights of India and parts of Asia before arriving in Sydney around Christmas time where he'd stay with his best mate Damien.

As with most trips of this magnitiude it took a lot of planning a long time in advance. And Alex was delighted when he realised that England would be playing the final Ashes Test of the 02/03 series in Sydney a day after he got into town. The minute he found this out he was immediately on the phone to Damien to ensure he arranged tickets for the both of them. Day two at the SCG. What a way to finish off the holiday of a lifetime and welcome in the new year at the same time.

As the months ticked down to departure he received regular reassurance that the tickets were to be forthcoming. Damien worked in the city and was confident he could source two seats at the corporate end of the scale. Alex boarded his flight to India with a spring in his step.

A three month tour followed taking in the greatest sights India, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand can offer. But at no point did Alex ever lose sight of what he really wanted. A ticket at the SCG watching Australia versus England.......You can pretty much guess the rest.

With weeks to go until he got to Australia Alex received the news he was most dreading. Damien hadn't come good with the tickets. Despite having a year to arrange he'd relied on friends even less trustworthy than he'd ended up being. Alex would not be one of the 45,000 going to the ball.
By the time Alex and England rocked up in Sydney the series was lost. But despite the 4-0 scoreline there was something riding on the contest for the feeling within Australia was that this was to be the legendary Aussie captain, Steve Waugh's last ever Test match. And on day one of the match, the time Alex arrived in Sydney, England were making a game of it at last.

And so it came to pass that the day that Alex was supposed to be at the SCG he was in fact watching it on TV on a sofa in a house in Sydney, a stones throw from the cricket ground, close enough to hear every cheer, gasp and roar from the capacity crowd as Steve Waugh struggled to hold together the Australian first innings.

For England were by now on top. Andy Caddick and Steve Harmison had reduced Australia to 200-odd for five after England had posted 362 in their first innings. But Waugh was playing in his final Test at his home ground in front of his own people and he was not to be denied. With the clock ticking down he moved into the 90's and with just one over left in the day was four short of a historic hundred.

As the crowd starting stamping their feet and banging their fists on the advertising hoardings that final over was about to be bowled by the off-spinner Richard Dawson. He didn't know it at the time but though it was to be his final Test match he was moments from writing himself into the history books.

As Alex got comfortable on the sofa the first three deliveries were defended. But amid deafening noise the fourth ball was hit for three runs to leave Waugh on 98 but stranded at the non-strikers end. Adam Gilchrist found himself on strike and he became an immediate hero by sneaking a single off the penultimate ball of the day.

By now Alex had only to open the window above his head a notch to hear the crowd baying for their local boy to hit the runs to register the most famous of all his 32 centuries. Dawson approached the wicket and turned his arm over. Momentarily the noise was silenced as the ball travelled through the air, it dipped, bounced and Waugh cut it away majestically to the boundary for four and his hundred.

Both English and Australian fans went crazy and back in his former friend's living room Alex watched on TV. Then after a suitable pause to take in all that had just happened the legendary cricket commentator, Richie Benaud said the four words that drove home just what Alex had missed that day. "Best days cricket......ever."

I've dined out on that particular story for a few years now. And today I lived it for myself. For after watching an intense but relatively uneventful morning session I was left The Oval today under dark clouds. With covers on the pitch I walked the short distance to the Pilgrim Pub on Kennington Lane where I was to produce a live show for talkSPORT between 4-7pm.

I left my dad, sister, brother-in-law, friends and work colleagues at the ground and made my way to a pub the other side of the gas holders, synonymous with Surrey Cricket Club. So close that I could hear the crowd roar every time a wicket fell; at least it meant I never missed a wicket on the television. Eight times I looked up at the screen on cue; in one magical session of Test match cricket. It was the definitive session of the summer. And I was in the pub.

Oh woe is me, WOE IS ME!!!!!!!!!! How could it come to all this? After winding my way across the planet and back watching England get pounded by the Aussies I had to go and leave the ground then. Ah, who am I kidding? I've got tickets for tomorrow and Sunday. And for once I'm not working which means I can drink a beer, cheer at the top of my voice, punch the air, shout and dance and get act thoroughly unprofessional as England, hopefully, win the Ashes in front of my eyes. Bring it on muthaf*ckers!!!!!!

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