Aliens at ‘eadingley!
July 23, 2010

It were right cold at ‘eadingley yesterday!

Beneath leaden skies and sheltering from a biting wind full of Yorkshire grit, a sparse crowd had gathered to watch the spectacle. It was a day for a flat cap, muffler and a thermos of piping hot cream of tomato soup.

The aliens clattered down the steps of the ufo that has alighted amidst the old north stand striking a discordant note that reverberates around this historic Leeds sporting venue. It carries the name, the Carnegie Pavilion!

The scene might have been from a Spielberg movie. It was not difficult to imagine little green men emerging from this equally green monstrosity, but instead it was the alien cricketers of Pakistan and Australia who had been condemned to play this second test, of a two match series, in some distant corner of England’s green and pleasant land.     

The local Asians and Australians have not responded in the numbers expected when Headingley was selected to stage this match. The occasional crescent and star twinkled against a fluttering green background but there were precious few men from down under sporting the gold and green.

Those Yorkshire members present had come largely out of curiosity and the opportunity to watch some international cricket, devoid of the emotional commitment involved when England play. Of course they were not averse to rooting for Pakistan, based on the anybody but the Aussies principle, and to offering captain Ricky Ponting the benefit of their combined wisdom and wit!

However, late in the day RP had the last laugh, well more a grim smile of determination really. His Australian team, although still behind in the game, had rallied from their catastrophic first day dismissal for 88 restricting Pakistan’s first innings lead to only 170, when it should have been much more, and by the end of play had all but eliminated the deficit for the loss of only two wickets.

On the way Ponting had survived a first ball appeal for lbw, that looked plumb to every one in the ground but umpire Rudi Koertzen, and made the most of this good fortune to register the top score to date, a determined 61 not out. Along the way, when on 40, he passed a significant personal milestone of 12,000 test match career runs which puts him 2nd in the all time list of scorers.

In recent years Ponting has often been subject to English boos and jeers when walking out to be bat (not cricket in my opinion) but thankfully the Yorkshire faithful gave him the tremendous ovation his achievement deserves.

It was a day of records in the cricketing world. Thousands of miles away in Galle, a wonderful cricket setting I once visited when holidaying in Sri Lanka and now thankfully restored following the tsunami of 2004, Muttiah Muralitheran, wizard of spin, claimed his 800th test wicket.

It was achieved in dramatic style, Muri in his last match before retiring from test cricket, taking the final Indian wicket to win the match for Sri Lanaka and end his career on a land mark figure which is unlikely ever to be surpassed.

Meanwhile, nearer to home, Stuart Broad bowled my team, Notts, to an emphatic victory over Warwickshire at Edgbaston. He finished with a career best 8-52 in what was a rare appearance for the county due to his central contract with England.

This result leaves Notts nicely poised to take the lead in the county championship race and they still have a game in hand on current leaders Yorkshire.

Nest Thursday Broad and, Notts team-mate, Graham Swann will be returning to England International duty in the First Test against Pakistan at their home ground, Trent Bridge. I hope to be there, weather permitting.

Now that is a ground with a proper pavilion!

‘Do you come from a land down under?’
July 8, 2010

Isn’t it funny how certain songs creep up on you, and then as Kylie famously sang, “I just can’t get you out of my head!”  

One that I’ve been plagued by lately was also born out of Australia; ‘Down Under’ by ‘80s band Men at Work.

I hadn’t heard it for ages until I went to watch the recent England v Australia ODI at Cardiff. As each Aussie batsman trudged from the pavilion out to the middle they were accompanied by MaW’s  unforgettable tune and lyrics which remained with me for several days after. All together now: 

“I come from a land down under
Where beer does flow and men chunder
can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover.”

Personally I would prefer to see them come out to bat with another  bit of Kylie: I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky ” –  but that’s another story!

As I was flicking through the paper yesterday, Men at Work were there again.  Apparently a judge has ruled that the well-known flute riff from ‘Down Under’, “where women glow and men plunder”, was indeed plundered from that other well-known 1930’s Aussie hit, “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree”.
The top or bottom is, the band have got to pay 5% of royalties to the publishing company that hold the copyright. So I guess the kookaburra had the last laugh!  

Any how,  the song stuck with me again. But later, as I was mowing the lawn, I got to thinking (as one does during this most tedious of jobs) what other, never to be forgotten, ‘classics’  have our Antipodean friends contributed to 20th and 21st Century pop culture? 

To be honest I’d set myself a difficult task. Having taken away Kylie’s Greatest Hits I was in the realms of, “Can you tell what it is yet?”, Rolf Harris (seen here showing off his didgeridoo) and, Sun Arise, Tie me Kangaroo down Sport, Jake the Peg (with the extra leg, diddle, diddle) etc. etc.

When I delved even deeper into the recesses I dredged up I Remember You (well only just actually) from ‘60s yodeller Frank Ifield. After that I admit to giving up.   

Having trimmed and edged the lawns to perfection, I took the last resort, Wikipedia, where I found I’d underestimated the musical talent from down below – well just a little bit! The top 4 Australian recording artists of all time are as follows:        

The Bee Gees (1958-2003) top the list with an estimated 220 million in record sales. Well I guess the UK and the USA  both might argue the toss here and lay claim to them – but no worries the Aussies are welcome!   

In second place AC/DC, (1973-present), with 200 million sales from the heavy metal rockers, but more problems here too. All the group members are Scottish or English, except one, and they perform out of the States, but are classified as an Aussie band, having originally formed in Sydney.

AC/DC  don’t do ‘catchy tunes’ of course, but their 1980 album Back in Black has sold 49 million copies world-wide. This makes it the highest selling album ever for any band and 2nd only to Wacko Jacko’s Thriller in the all time best-selling albums list!     

Olivia Newton-John (1966-present). 100 million sales for the bronze medallist and just when I thought I’d found a bona fide Aussie, well actually no! 

O N-J was  born in Cambridge to a Welsh father and German mother. Her Dad was an MI5 officer on the Enigma project at Bletchley Park and, apparently, the officer who accompanied Rudolph Hess into custody during World War II!   

Having emigrated to Aus in 1954, aged six, she went on to carve out a pop career with largely country-style music until 1978 and Grease.

As a 29-year-old playing high school senior Sandy, along side John Travolta’s Danny, her career really took off and she became only the 2nd female artist ever to have 2 top 5 singles simultaneously, Hopelessly Devoted to You and Summer Night, both taken from the Grease soundtrack.    

Kylie Minogue (1987-) with 60 million sales comes in a surprising 4th but fair dinkum mate, we’ve found an out-and-out Aussie at last. Kylie (seen here starring as Little Red Riding Hood!) first achieved recognition as Charlene in the TV soap Neighbours before chugging her way to number 1 in the charts with the Locomotion (1987).

Having reinvented herself and relaunched her career several times since, she is of course a genuine Australian national treasure.   

All of that ‘trivia’ because I couldn’t get some tune out of my head, while mowing the lawn. Incidentally in this morning’s Sky News review of the papers a Daily Mail article was flagged up, which claims, the way to a woman’s heart is no longer through chocolates and flowers but the rather less romantic avenue of vacuuming and ironing!      

So I’d better go and do battle with the Dyson then. Another tedious chore – I wonder what earth shattering questions I can resolve today?