WARNING: Whilst this blog is about sporting honour and sportsmanship, it focuses on cricket. For those of you who have no interest I understand if you turn away NOW!
Wow. What a great Test match!
The first game in the famous Ashes series had everything didn’t it? The only thing missing was an Aussie win of course, but I promise I won’t harp on about that here. (Note to all Poms: it’s a marathon not a sprint…)
At Trent Bridge, there were brilliant performances on both sides, tension beyond belief, a DRS (decision review system) that created more debate than clarity – and then there was THAT moment when Stuart Broad didn’t walk when he was clearly out. I’ll come to that in a moment, but this was a Test match that proved the five-day game is THE unbeatable form of cricket. The stands were full and the ebb and flow, the strategy and the intrigue ran far deeper than anything a One Day International or T20 can provide. Rather like real, fresh coffee, it was far more enjoyable than any of that instant crap.
In an Ashes series, there’s an intense rivalry which makes winning even sweeter and losing a bigger kick in the guts. The sledging amongst the players (let’s call it badinage) is on a different level too, although I do hate it when a bowler gets right in a batsman’s face with bulging eyeballs after he’s got him out. By all means, chuck a few well chosen phrases in his direction when he’s played and missed, but please, go and celebrate with your own team when you finally win the battle.
Trent Bridge was the first of TEN consecutive Test matches spread across two series in both countries over the next 6 months. After such a great five days, this might sound a little strange but I reckon that’s a bit daft because you can definitely have too much of a good thing. We’ve just seen the British & Irish Lions in Aus for the first time in 12 years and the anticipation, excitement and resulting spectacle was a joy to behold, even if the result wasn’t. I hope the intensity and interest in The Ashes doesn’t burn itself out and end with the ECB and CA bean-counters the only people thankful for the schedule.
Whatever happens, the next 6 months will build a catalogue of stories, incidents and memories and there was one such moment in Nottingham. At just 19-year of age, Ashton Agar hit 98 batting at number eleven for Australia. He drove, pulled and cut like a veteran but finally holed out when two short of his century. I’d have been gutted, but Ash simply smiled and shrugged his shoulders. Oh the innocence of youth! Marvellous.
And now to Stuart Broad.
When Broad edged to Michael Clarke at slip, the whole world saw it – or rather, the whole world, minus the bloody umpire. For reasons best known to himself, Aleem Dar didn’t give it. The Aussie players knew it was out. TV commentators knew it was out. Spectators around the world knew it was out – and so, no doubt, did Stuart Broad.
Australia had used up all their challenges on the Decision Review System so the umpire’s ruling was final although why on earth a team should automatically lose one of their challenges even when they’re proved right, is beyond me… But anyway, Broad stood his ground and waited for the umpire to make his judgement. He has every right to do exactly that and in this case, he got lucky. If it had been an Australian in that position, he’d probably have done exactly the same, but whether the cap had three lions on it or was baggy and green is irrelevant.
Dignity, spirit and honour are the bedrock of cricket’s tradition, popularity and charm and Broad’s refusal to walk, was shamefully out of place in such a great contest. This is not a pious rant from an Aussie looking for a pathetic excuse because we lost. Yes, I was annoyed, frustrated and disappointed and I knew I was going to get horrendous stick from all the Poms I know (I can’t call them mates at the moment) but that is genuinely not the issue. After all, the Poms were on the wrong side of a couple of decisions too; this is not about the result.
For the sake of cricket, I’d love to see the two captains make a public statement and declare that every batsman will respect the game’s traditions and walk if he believes he’s out. Is that a naive notion? In this day and age, perhaps it is, but wouldn’t it be wonderful and show great leadership if Alistair Cook and Michael Clarke could send a message to the rest of the world that Test cricket’s traditions are not to be forgotten?
For we cricket tragics at SKINS, we believe that the game is much bigger than what happens on the oval; we see cricket as a metaphor for life. When England and Australia meet, it’s a rough, tough playground and that’s the way it should always be. But let’s fight with honour and leave neither an Englishman nor an Australian with any leeway when it comes to excuses.
Bring on Lord’s!