Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ashes To Ashes, The Punt For Punter?

England's cricket team are on the verge of retaining the Ashes - for the first time since Mike Gatting's side managed the feat in Australia in 1987. On the third day of the fourth test in Melbourne Straussy's boys had the Aussies somewhat on the rack, scoring five hundred and thirteen in their first innings in reply to Australia's ninety eight. At the close of play, the men in the baggy green caps were one hundred and sixty nine for six in their second innings, still requiring another two hundred and forty six runs to make England bat again, and with two days left to play (and no obvious sign of any rain in sight). Effectively, the Aussies are actually seven men down as Ryan Harris is unlikely to take any further part in the match after unluckily suffering a stress fracture to his ankle. So, it's increasingly likely that sometime in the earlier Godforsaken hours of tomorrow morning, England will take an unassailable two-one lead in the series, with one test - at Sydney - to play. And so will retain the urn which they won at home in 2005, lost in 2007 and then regained in 2009. Should it happen, this would mean that Andrew Strauss will join the names of Gatting, Mike Brearley (1979), Ray Illingworth (1971) and Len Hutton (1955), Douglas Jardine (1933) and Percy Chapman (1929) as the only England captains to win a test series in Australia since before the first world war. Of course, the Australian press has been thoroughly sporting and magnanimous about the whole thing. Particularly in their attitude towards both the Whinging Poms and their own side.

Which is always so refreshing when compared to our own jaundiced, myopic tabloids.

Anyway, that brings us, nicely, to today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. In 1971, as previously noted, Ray Illingworth's England side - Geoffrey Boycott, John Edrich, Deadly Derek Underwood, Jon Snow, Alan Knott and a very young Bob Willis included - went down under and regained The Ashes for the first time in twelve years with a two-nil victory again Bill Lawry's Australians. It was something of a fractious and bad tempered series and, when the England side finally got home, after playing a couple of additional tests in New Zealand, they chose to celebrate their victory by releasing a record. Bad move.The squad were immediately hustled into the recording studio just days after arriving, jet-lagged, back in Blighty. What they ended up a party to was 'The Ashes Song,' a celebration (lyrically, if not musically) of their victory penned by the BBC's Test Match Special commentator and resident wit Brian Jonners Johnston and the Observer journalist Jon Henderson. 'Sydney we thank you for both of our wins/But not for those bottles and tins,' went the chorus. 'Soul Limbo,' it wasn't. Released on the Decca label (with an adaptation of 'Hello Dolly' - in honour of Basil D'Oliveira's heroics during the series - on the b-side) it spectacularly failure to disturb the charts, which in its week of released was topped by T Rex's 'Hot Love' and Dave and Ansil Collins with 'Double Barrel.' This flop was, subsequently and somewhat bizarrely, blamed by some members of the team on Arsenal football club who released their double-winning song 'Good Old Arsenal' (co-written by Jimmy Hill, incidentally) the same week. It wasn't until 1973 that the cricketers finally received their performance royalties - a meagre fifty three pounds and eighty six pence between the seventeen of them. So, let this be a warning to all of you sportsmen who think you can hold a tune!