Okay, I admit it. I want Australia to win this test.
It might be sleep deprivation or the first sign of lunacy following two days of waiting for my sodding ISDN to work. Maybe it’s because this English team is just a little too methodical to get that excited about or that the Aussies are made up of guys I kind of feel sorry for. Hell it might just be the fact I can’t be bothered to sit here for three days watching a bore draw.
Whatever the reason it’s not something that sits right. My teenage self would be horrified to hear this. I can imagine him now, smoking a Silk Cut, listening to The Orb & shaking his head in disappointment. “Don’t judge me!” I feel like telling him. That and that maybe he should consider washing his clothes a bit more regularly.
I blame my job. Working in sport warps you in much the same way betting on it does. I remember one Fulham game in the season we were coasting our way to the Championship title & a bloke on the Hammersmith End had wagered money Fulham would win 3-0. At half time we were 3-0 up meaning for the rest of the match he didn’t want Fulham to score. It was at this moment I stopped betting on my team.
It doesn’t need money to change perception. For years my mates would spend a good hour at the pub every Saturday dissecting fantasy football teams before then spending the next hour talking about real football teams. It became such an important part of our lives that I still know exactly how many mini-league victories I have even though I stopped doing it years ago: Three, one Premier League, one World Cup and Euro 2004.
Our group’s obsession with fantasy football got so ridiculous that I would be celebrating a Fulham goal only to turn to my mate who (sporting a stupid grin) would be shouting ‘Dream Team!’ signalling he had the player in his side. I remember being disappointed Clint Dempsey had scored because my mate was going to get seven points for the goal. It really doesn’t take much for lifelong loyalties to be forgotten.
Eventually I realised it was time to give fantasy football a rest when I went an entire season hoping Chelsea wouldn’t concede a goal because I had John Terry & Ricardo Calvalho in my team. That really is wrong & so is supporting Australia in an Ashes test.
With three days to go Australia have scored 527 and have set themselves the target of bowling out England twice. England, big outsiders for anything other than a battling draw are under way and currently without loss. Moments ago the captain Cook edged behind and the ball just dropped short of his opposite number Michael Clark and part of me wanted him to be out. A long period of soul searching awaits.
Or does it? For while the fan in me who trudged around Australia watching England lose 5-0 would disagree it makes sense to want an Aussie win as it keeps this series alive. With two tests remaining in Durham and London it would be a struggle to keep momentum going over ten days with the outcome decided. The only outstanding question whether England could complete the same whitewash. Even that isn’t looking likely now.
A defeat for England would also inject something that has been noticeably lacking in this test. Tension. This is the first Ashes test match I can ever remember watching lacking fear factor. Fear of defeat, fear we won’t win, that we can’t save the match, that the other team will, that the rain will come, that it won’t arrive, that my favourite player won’t score any runs, that Ponting/Hayden/Waugh will.
At 2-0 up against the worst Australian side in living memory & nearly a decade of home Ashes series wins in the memory bank it’s almost become a formality. And there’s nothing worse than watching a formality especially when spread out over two or three days or one or two tests. This must be what it was like to be an Aussie cricket fan for so long. In the end fans got so tired watching them churn out victories they realised the only way their own team could be beaten was to turn against them.
So, yes teenage self, I do want Australia to win this test so that this series can come alive once more. So I can travel to Durham fearful that these words will come back to haunt me. So that I can get a bit of this back in my system, and that so when England win I can celebrate & marvel at the magic. So that we can give the Aussies a sniff of hope and then just when they think they’re within touching distance of the greatest come from behind series win in history England hit straight back and DESTROY THEM AGAIN MAKING PHIL HUGHES AND STEVEN SMITH CRY AND MICHAEL CLARKE RETIRE AND SHANE WATSON BECOME A MONK AND AUSTRALIA SINKS INTO THE SEA IN SHAME.
And then Joe Root got out and I felt a bit guilty writing this article. I like Joe Root.