If you listen carefully to England’s end of day four press conference, then alongside KP’s imitation of Michael Vaughan’s creepy third-person interview style and Swanny’s latest attempt at Christmas cracker humour, you might also detect an undercurrent of sympathy for Australia. You’d be right too, although any signs of compassion from Team England aren’t motivated by misguided feelings of empathy towards fellow sports professionals, more by the knowledge that if there’s one thing that pisses on an Aussie’s barbie from a great height, it’s the thought of pity coming at them from the Poms.
We are, in short, trying to sledge them with kindness. It’s the one thing they won’t expect, as that particular emotion doesn’t exist in an Australian sporting lexicon which is pretty much restricted to happy, sad, drunk and cruciate ligament injury.
There’s already evidence that we’re getting to them, with signs of frayed tempers in the Australian camp, not least Ricky Ponting’s recent foot stamping about Jimmy Anderson calling his friend rude names. Management think he’s one, well timed, “hard luck with all those dropped catches” away from punching someone. I’ve got “Koala” in the team sweep. Although Eoin has drawn the really hot ticket with “Shane Warne” – not only a more deserving target than my pick, but, let’s be honest, these days a far less mobile target for a potential assailant.
Another nine overs of chasing leather this morning probably hasn’t helped Australia’s mood either. Their bowling’s taken a real mauling in this match. Even a consolation wicket for Doherty hasn’t stopped his pitch map looking like a Jackson Pollock action painting of grief. What the hell were they doing picking him? He must have compromising photos of David Boon with a soft drink and salad.
It’s Michael Clarke I really feel sorry for, though. Bats beautifully for three hours then gets out to someone who hasn’t taken a wicket since you could say “Australian spin attack” without smirking. Don’t blame him for not walking, by the way. Our close fielders had been winding him up all day that Lara Bingle was lurking round the dressing room entrance, so he was naturally desperate to stay in the relative safety of the middle. Ironic really; he started the innings with his batting standing up like Lara’s nipples at an Australian Sportsman of the Year ceremony, and ended it with a huge cock-up. If anything, you’d think that’d bring back happy memories.