As originally posted on my Tumblr site just after the events of each Ashes Test in 2013/14 – note the prescient first paragraph comment that “there could be a repeat of 2006/07”. Mitchell Johnson really was that devastating… Cricinfo match scorecard here
Well then: Brisbane, what to say? There’s no getting around this – a pretty dismal Test match for an England fan. And yet, still a great experience and bizarrely enjoyable. I’m planning to not write too much about the cricket in this blog, as that’s only one (albeit large) part of my Australian expedition and there is a fair bit of writing about Ashes Tests generally, but I do have to acknowledge that England were totally blown away after a successful first day. That said, it’s well known that England often struggle on their first Test away from home and do often recover – have to hope that is true this time too, or there could be a repeat of 2006/07 (aka “the Ashes series that never happened”). We’ll see what the next match in Adelaide will bring I guess, time to remain positive, that’s the beauty of Test cricket; the ebbs and flows of the game.
What about Brisbane and early impressions of Australia then? Well, it’s generally seemed simultaneously fresh and familiar, very crudely perhaps like a cross between Britain and the USA (a lazy comparison I concede). Brisbane itself seems OK, some lovely scenery/sights (for example their redeveloped South Bank with “urban beach”, from a distance crossing a bridge this is actually reminiscent of London’s South Bank due to some of its concrete brutalist architecture but further inspection destroys this idea) but perhaps not as lively as one may expect from a city of 2m people, especially during week nights, when it can be a bit dead. There’s also the extra challenge of trying to seek out areas away from the “Barmy Army” hordes, which can be difficult when it’s quieter generally.
All that said, I have had some good nights out, with the best neighbourhood being Fortitude Valley. I went there on the Friday night for some beers and to see Mikal Cronin (San Francisco based garage rock act) play at the Black Bear Lodge – a really good gig and in a much smaller venue than you’d get in London, plus it was like the “old days” in that I just turned up and bought a ticket on the door; no chance of that in London, even for Mikal Cronin and I speak from experience here. As I enjoyed my time in “the Valley”, I went back there on Monday night along with approximately 12 other people it seemed, so had to head back to Brisbane’s main centre to find some more people to chat to/annoy. I appreciate it was a Monday but Camden/Islington etc would have a bit more life then. Away from nightlife, I’ve seen most of the sights here and been on a city boat trip so well and truly in tourist mode I would say.
Finally then – some thoughts on the cricket. All started well the night before, when I went to a pre-game function that is part of my package over here. I wasn’t sure what to expect really but it promised some free booze so I thought I’d see what it offered and I was pleasantly surprised. It was a 2 hour Q&A type session hosted by the former Aussie bowler Damian Fleming, with guests including Michael Vaughan, Mitchell Starc (current Aussie bowler, currently injured) and Australia’s coach, Darren Lehmann – pretty impressive he was there the night before the game.
This all helped to build the anticipation and walking to the Gabba (Brisbane’s cricket ground) the next day, it felt like being a kid on Christmas Day, with the excitement of it all. A great, proper oval ground and very different to English cricket grounds, it felt a privilege to actually see the first ball of an Ashes series in Australia being bowled. And the first day, certainly first two sessions, went well for England too – the next 3 days not so much of course. Despite the result, it has been great to properly watch a Test unfold in the flesh and see just about every ball and incident while actually being there.
Strong support for England too, I reckon about 20% of the crowd were English, closer to about 40% on the fourth day when Australia wrapped the game up to a huge amount of empty seats, despite it being a Sunday and Australia obviously going to win, a poor show from the locals I reckon. That said, all the Aussies I’ve spoken to have been great here – all very sporting about the cricket too despite a ridiculously rabid and partisan press here. I understand this is even being talked about in England, especially the fact that the local paper refuses to name Stuart Broad and refers to him as “27 year old medium pacer” instead – pathetic and childish I would say, with this seen as an embarrassment from the good blokes I’ve spoken to here.
VIDEO BELOW: This biblical downpour was cheered by England fans at the Gabba on the last day of play, but just delayed the inevitable. It disrupted Alastair Cook’s concentration, he was soon out after the resumption of play and that was that…
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