On Saturday morning, at parkrun, an Aussie runner said ‘so perhaps today we’ll find out who is going to win this test’. That was day 3, and we didn’t. I was sat high off to one side, in a $70 seat, as I had been for day 2. Just above the pool, where on day 2 I’d been round to the left, next to the big screen. And right in front of the loud but entertaining Aussies (who, unlike England, got quieter as the day went on – either booze shut them up, or the regular visits by smiling police officers did a job). Unfortunately the England fans in front of me weren’t on best behaviour. There are a few cricket traditions, drinking is one, which leads to making beer snakes – the best I saw was to my left on day 4, with people jogging over from other areas of the stands to add their collections, and the snake reaching almost the entire height of the tier. Then there’s the collective ‘scull’ exhortations, cries of ‘scull, scull, scull‘ going up whenever a punter comes back to the stands with a round, and most people pause and down one, or some, as best they can. The keen pour it into their shoe, a Gabba tradition, and drink it from there. And an Englishman in front of me did 5 in a row, which got some big cheers.
Sadly, 10 minutes later, in response to some ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie’ cheers, he and a friend were singing ‘No Surrender to the IRA’.
For crying out loud. The Brexit process may well rekindle tensions there, but that song never helped anything. Behind and to my right was a group of English blokes in fancy dress, singing loudly and showing off the witlessness of the standard English songs. Unlike the Aussies, they were unable to sing songs without swear words, which is a pity – it’s truly impressive that despite the macho nature of much of the commentary, and even the culture, the Aussies have worked on the public face of something like cheering at a mass public event, and made some things emphatically unacceptable. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good swear, finding newspapers that asterisk those words out excruciatingly embarrassing, for instance, but yelled a top volume in a public place, it can be intimidatory. Nice work Aussies – see also, general acceptance of other lifestyles, and growing popularity of womens’ cricket.
To day 4, then, at which I had a bargain $30 ticket. That put me in, from memory, ‘partial shade’, which meant ‘shade for the first hour’, down close to the pitch – a good view, but you get more perspective from a little higher up. The stadium was only half full or so, though, so when I got too hot I moved up to tier two, above the pool, where I’d been before. Some people had paid a lot more than my ticket prices – I suppose they were in the always shaded areas, perhaps not quite so side on as me. But I was happy with where I sat, even if I didn’t meet an Olympian’s father (Brian Cook, father of Beach Volleyballer Natalie) this time. I did see Gladstone Small on my way into the ground again, though, so that was exactly as in 2013.
By the end of day 4, it was finally obvious who was going to win. In the end, Australia, at a canter having just nudged ahead at the end of day 3. It’s all much more positive for England than 2013-14, but the result could well end up the same.
Rain came to Brisbane, heavily, two days later, as I left. They’d still have had time enough to finish the game had that happened on day 4, but earlier in the match it might have changed the shape of things.