Sydney Director’s Cut: 2nd to 13th January 2014

As with Melbourne, having previously posted a cricket focused shorter account of my time in Sydney, here’s the more detailed version as originally published on Tumblr at the time…

My final stop on my Australia/Ashes odyssey saw me in Sydney for a bit under two weeks, plenty of time as it turned out due to the most inept and woeful England cricket performance of the tour, but I’m not going to talk about that just yet. Overall, I had a pretty good time in Sydney but I also am now looking forward to heading home (currently writing this at Sydney airport en route to Dubai for a quick pit-stop before going back to London). To start with, I stayed fairly central in Sydney, just below Hyde Park and at the top of the Surrey Hills area, so well placed for the city, some good bars/restaurants and also a nice half hour stroll to the Sydney Cricket Ground. After 3 days of misery at the SCG (interspersed with some pleasant evenings), I did the tourist thing for a couple of days – saw that bridge, saw that shell-type building etc; all impressive stuff but I think I could tell I was struggling from travel fatigue too at this stage. Probably most enjoyable was a boat trip around Sydney harbour, where as well as seeing the main sights, I stopped off at a picturesque enclave called Watson’s Bay for a good lunch with some fellow England sufferers.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Can y’guess where I am yet? On some boat near some building in some city down under

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Melbourne Director’s Cut: 19th December 2013 to 1st January 2014

After previously posting on this blog a cricket focused shorter account of my time in Melbourne, here’s the more detailed version as originally posted on Tumblr

I spent a total of two weeks in Melbourne and really enjoyed it there, so consequently this blog will be a bit longer than previous entries. I have split it up into two sections anyway – up to Christmas Day and then from Boxing Day onwards (warning: contains more scenes of England batting collapses, which some readers may find disturbing).


Putting Perth well and truly behind me, I arrived in Melbourne and headed to St Kilda, where I spent 4 nights before later moving on to central Melbourne. St Kilda is a Melbourne neighbourhood about 5 miles or so away from the centre and sits right on a pretty decent beach there, with a range of beachfront bars and restaurants, plus good selections on its main drag too. I was staying in a pretty impressive hotel and St Kilda was a good relaxed vibrant place to start; perhaps reminiscent of Brighton although much smaller and with a much better beach, so maybe not that similar. Well, they both have a pier that has seen better days anyway. It’s also easy to get into Melbourne (and around Melbourne generally) from St Kilda via a tram ride, which was useful as I did venture out of St Kilda most days I was there.

River Yarra

The River Yarra and a bit of Melbourne’s skyline

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Australia Road Trip, Brisbane to Sydney, 27th November to 2nd December 2013

Another missing Tumblr blog from here, my Aussie road trip between the first and second Tests of the 2013/2014 Ashes, all as written then…

A perhaps timely break from cricket in between Brisbane’s first (challenging to watch) Test and Adelaide’s upcoming second Test saw me spend the time driving down the Pacific Coast between Brisbane and Sydney, stopping in four different locations while en route, and it’s fair to say that the places I stayed were all indeed fairly different: Gold Coast, Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour and Newcastle. A good trip overall anyway and great to be behind the wheels of a motor again even if it took me a day to realise I could hook the car up to my iPhone via Bluetooth, meaning that I did have to listen to some terrible Australian radio while travelling to the Gold Coast; more on that right at the bottom of this entry.

Gold Coast

Sun, sea, surfers and skyscrapers: Gold Coast

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Travel Bonus: Dubai (the warm up/pre-season friendly), 15th to 18th November 2013

Starting to update some more of my travel blogs from Tumblr onto here, and hadn’t added this entry about my stop in Dubai before heading to Australia for the 2013/2014 Ashes…

So, here we go again – another big trip away, two and a half years since my last successful expedition to the USA. However, before the ultimate destination of Australia, it was a good chance to stop off in Dubai; primarily to visit my friend Ruggiero who lives there at present, but also I’ve always thought it would be an intriguing place to visit, but maybe not for too long. In summary, I’d say a lot of what I maybe expected was true, with a few surprises.

I was only there 3 days, but Ruggiero did a great job in showing me the sights – that said, before I went, my main request was to see loads of big/stupid buildings and he does live opposite the Burj Khalifa (the spaceship/tower that is now the world’s tallest building). That was where we started, with lunch and cocktails at the bar that’s about halfway up the Burj Khalifa, but still higher than the Empire State Building. A great start and it could have been downwards from there (b’dum tish), but no, a great weekend and it was really good to see some of Ruggiero’s varied haunts and meet one of his mates out there.

Dubai 2013 BK

In Dubai, with a massive spaceship growing out the top of my head

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Sydney Five-oh: Sydney Ashes Test, 3rd to 5th January 2014

The last of my Ashes diaries as originally posted on my Tumblr site just after the events of each Test in 2013/14 – as with Melbourne, this is a summarised version of my time in Sydney (and therefore fairly short with this Test not lasting 3 days).  Cricinfo match scorecard here

[After originally blogging about Sydney itself I then finally asked myself this tough next question…]: But hang on. Wasn’t there some other reason I went to Sydney? Oh yes, the fifth Test at the SCG. Despite the terrible performances in the preceding four Tests, this was the nadir with it being all over in 3 days this time, which at least gave me more time to explore Sydney, plus I do get a refund for my fourth day ticket too, so that is at least something. As ever with England, there was a bit of hope on the first day, as Australia were reduced to 97-5 just after lunch on day one before the inevitable Brad Haddin plus one other (in this case Steve Smith) show saved them before various batting collapses from England – and these two innings from England were the worst of the tour for various reasons I won’t go into now. As for positives, it was good to go to the SCG, although I was a little underwhelmed compared to the majesty of Melbourne’s MCG and actually think I prefer the Adelaide Oval too. Also, I did feel for the couple sat next to me, who had come over just for the Sydney Test. At least by going to all 5 Tests, I guaranteed I would be there for the approximately 6 sessions that we won in the entire series, as well as the best day (day 2 at the MCG).

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The Sydney Cricket Ground’s iconic pavilions

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From despair to where? (er, Sydney actually): Melbourne Ashes Test, 26th to 31st December 2013

As originally posted on my Tumblr site just after the events of each Ashes Test in 2013/14 – this is a summarised version of my time in Melbourne focusing mainly on my cricket watching rather than other adventures there.  Cricinfo match scorecard here

So, I’ll say this straight up – England’s defeat in Melbourne was probably the hardest of all so far to take, as this was a game we should (or certainly could) have won, unlike the first 3 Tests where we were comprehensively outplayed. The changing nature of the Test did however at least mean this was a contest and Friday (day 2 of the Test) was a superb, unforgettable day all round. Then came Saturday unfortunately. But I’m getting ahead of myself – let’s start with Boxing Day first.

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Boxing day at the MCG

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Hot Burritos #1 and #2: Perth Ashes Test, 11th to 18th December 2013

As originally posted on my Tumblr site just after the events of each Ashes Test in 2013/14 – now only 3 Tests in and the Ashes have already been surrendered…  Cricinfo match scorecard here

Perth, Perth: where do it all go wrong? After a very enjoyable first day in Western Australia, it all went downhill from there really. So, let’s start at the beginning then. My first full day in Perth at least was highly enjoyable – pretty hot but not too bad and helped by a relaxing cruise down the Swan River, with a cricket function later, where I heard from luminaries such as Graham Gooch and Glenn McGrath, before then heading to the nearby town of Fremantle to see a gig by Pond (great psych rock band, actually from Perth, who also play in the slightly better known Tame Impala), who were superb, and in a pretty good venue too, sort of like a halfway mix between the Garage and Koko, for those familiar with such London haunts. So, a great first day, putting me in a very good mood for the rest of my stay here.

Then came the weather and the cricket. (And apologies in advance for the negative tone of the next couple of paragraphs…)

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It’s not just the British press that lead with the weather: “Meltdown” in Perth with a heatwave coinciding perfectly with the Test.  46 degrees (celsius not fahrenheit)?  Just not cricket…

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Do the collapse (again): Adelaide Ashes Test, 3rd to 10th December 2013

As originally posted on my Tumblr site just after the events of each Ashes Test in 2013/14 – and it looks like I was already starting to be resigned to a disappointing England performance from the very first line…  Cricinfo match scorecard here

Second main city then, second crushing defeat in the cricket. I’m writing this blog en route to Perth, where for the benefit of non-cricket obsessives, England pretty much never win (and was the only place we lost when beating the Aussies 3-1 three years ago, which is seeming a long time ago now). But enough of that doom and gloom, what about Addo itself? Well, although it actually doesn’t seem the liveliest of places – not that surprising for a place nicknamed the “city of churches” – looking back on my week here, there was quite a lot to get up to, while also mainly managing to keep away from the Barmy Army when not at the cricket. Also, I caught up a fair bit with my old work colleague Simon during the week, who was out here with his brother-in-law Colin to catch the cricket, so it’s been good to have some comrades to also dissect each day’s painful play with and more besides.

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Lovely ground, shame about the result – at the Adelaide Oval…

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Gabbatoir Blues: Brisbane Ashes Test, 19th to 26th November 2013

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.

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Happier times: day one at the Gabba, aggressive field set to Michael Clarke

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My Ashes diaries from Australia: 2013/14

To kickstart my new blog and play around with it a bit before posting anything new, I’m going to start with publishing my reviews of each of the 5 Tests when England were sadly whitewashed 5-0 down under between November 2013 and January 2014.  A trip of a lifetime for sure with me watching every single Test in person, just a shame about the result.

The next 5 blogs were originally posted on my Tumblr site as I travelled around Australia so any predictions or looks forward were made at the time; so worth bearing in mind that hindsight can be a wonderful thing.  Also, they contain my thoughts on each of the 5 cities that hosted Tests, so there’s a bit of travel blogging and the like in there too (albeit not all, further ramblings can be found on my aformentioned Tumblr site).  So, enough gabbing and time to confront again the demonic sight of Mitchell Johnson and more…

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