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Soup of This Day #57: Captain Cook, Corporal Punishment and Major Star

August 29, 2011

Gascoyne Islands
Looking across the dry Gascoyne River bed towards a series of small wooded islands. These islands were where Longworth72 and wife were when they got the call about a house (6 months after this photo was taken). It’s also where Longworth72 asked his then girlfriend to marry him – Photo: Longworth72, 2006. Image cropped by Longworth72.

This post is a little unusual. It is Soup of This Day #57 but it was actually written and published after #58 and #59. Upon completion (A little after 9:00pm, Wednesday 31st August) I have adjusted the publication date so that it fits sequentially before those a fore mentioned posts. Since it is not about current events I figure that’s ok in terms of taking a bit of sequential licence. Also it’s my blog and I make the rules.

I want to take you back almost 5 years now. It’s December of 2006 and it’s a momentous time for Longworth72 and fiancée. We’d just spent the better part of the previous 4 years living in Carnarvon. In June of 2006, in preparation for a move back to our hometown of Perth we had purchased a house.

Over the phone, with only a grainy, distorted photo to go by.

The actual offer to purchase was made at 1:00am local time on a Sunday, with the Socceroos playing Brazil in the 2006 World Cup as a background. It was a stomach-churning amount of money on a gamble we had to make and I don’t remember any of the football match. I can tell you now though that Brazil won 2-0 and we got the house, which may or may not have been our dream abode at the time.

Fast forward to Tuesday, December 12th and with 2 dogs, 30 fish and a galah packed up in our 1992 Toyota 4Runner we drove the 900kms or so down to our new life in Perth. The cats got to fly down ahead of time. Which was lucky for them as it was a stinking hot day, somewhere around the 40c mark and to further complicate matters, Longworth72 had only just got his driver’s licence. Still, armed with an iPod loaded with Bill Bryson and Blackadder Goes Forth we made the journey without my fiancée killing me. Mostly because she slept the majority of the way and thus was spared my lame jokes and inane trivia. The galah just had to deal with it.

It was surreal to go from Government Housing Authority Teacher’s accommodation in sub-tropical Carnarvon (Where the desert meets the sea) to our own home in cosmopolitan Perth. Consequently I don’t remember much detail from that first few days, weeks or even months. Something I do remember though is a sporting event – The 3rd Ashes Test was on in Perth from the 14th and as is common for me, other memories hinge off that.

Some background: The Ashes are a series of Test cricket matches between England and Australia. They are named for the trophy, an urn, that legend has it contains the ashes of a bail, symbolising the death of English cricket following a loss to Australia in 1882. They are played roughly every 2 years and the hosting country alternates between the 2 combatants. In 2005 England had narrowly won the Ashes 2 Tests to 1 on home soil, capturing the urn for the 1st time in 18 years. In the Summer of 2006/2007 Australia was out for revenge. The 1st Test, in Brisbane had been won by Australia. The 2nd in Adelaide had again been won by Australia, this time after a trademark English collapse on the final day. As the series is a 5 Test 1 the English needed to bounce back in Perth.

In their 1st innings Australia made 244 on a typically dry WACA (Western Australian Cricket Association ground, known to all as the WACA) pitch. England responded with 215 and the match was evenly poised. It was still up for grabs late on Day 3 when Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist strode out to bat. Australia were 5 for 365, a lead of 394 with England yet to bat. If the Aussies collapsed the Poms were in with a real shout.

As the shadows were cast across the WACA Gilchrist, who had been out of form with the bat, tried to play himself back in. As to what happened next I’ll leave the telling to a favourite source. The UK’s Guardian Newspaper does a brilliant online text commentary, popularly known as OBO (Over By Over). I’ve reprinted excerpts from their 2006 coverage with Andy Bull the man at the keyboard:

94th over: Australia 382-5 (Clarke 85, Gilchrist 8 ) Four streaky runs get Gilchrist off the mark, and he seems to be batting with a determination to play nothing but absurdly aggressive strokes. A back-foot cover drive that races to the ropes just emphasises that feeling.

99th over: Australia 409-5 (Clarke 100, Gilchrist 17)
Still, Gilchrist has just tubthumped 13 off Monty’s over, with two fours through mid-off.

101st over: Australia 420-5 (Clarke 100, Gilchrist 28) Saj Mahmood comes on, for his seventh over of the innings, and is immediately smacked for four by Gilchrist.

102nd over: Australia 428-5 (Clarke 101, Gilchrist 39)
England have decided to bowl Gilchrist into form, so KP has served up some friendly dross which was summarily dispatched to various parts of the ground.

103rd over: Australia 435-5 (Clarke 101, Gilchrist 48) Gilchrist has 43 runs off 33 balls.

106th over: Australia 468-5 (Clarke 106, Gilchrist 74) The fifty comes off just 40 balls for Gilchrist, a feat he celebrates by hitting a huge six into the crowd, a feat he celebrates by hitting a huge six into the crowd, a feat he celebrates with… a hard-hit four through the leg-side. Incredible as it seems he finished the over with the biggest six yet. He is now 73 off 44 balls, with 24 coming off Panesar’s over.

107th over: Australia 477-5 (Clarke 114, Gilchrist 74) Few things are more painful than Gilchrist in full flow, partuicularly when he seems to be engaging in a contest with Michael Clarke to see who can get to their double-century first.

108th over: Australia 494-5 (Clarke 123 Gilchrist 81) Gilchrist has out-Freddied Freddy here, and so England have turned to Matthew Hoggard. Hoggy grimaces, and clearly doesn’t relish the prospect ahead. Easy to see why too, as Clarke, on one knee, slog-sweeps him from outside the off-stump through mid-wicket. And then he does it again. Gilchrist has just hit Hoggard out of the stadium over long-on. Absurd.

109th over: Australia 510-5 (Clarke 123 Gilchrist 95) And it’s time for Steve Harmison to get involved in the carnage. 52 runs have come of the last three overs. Two more fours and Gillchrist has 89 off of 50 balls, so he is in with a chance of the fastest century in Test cricket. Incredible, another four, from a huge swivel-pull and he needs seven from four balls. Two runs to third man. And a single from the last keeps the strike…two balls to do it.

110th over: Australia 517-5 (Clarke 127, Gilchrist 98) Two balls to go, five runs needed, and a world record at stake. Viv’s mark of 56 balls is the target to beat, and Matthew Hoggard is the bowler who may well cough up the record-breaking runs. But a single gives Clark the strike, and he runs a brace of twos to ease the tension a little. But now Gilchrist is back on strike, and he needs three runs from one ball – and Hoggy serves up a wide slower ball! Gilchrist doesn’t make contact, and he has missed out on the record.

111th over: Australia 527-5 (Clarke 135, Gilchrist 102) Absurd, incredible, brutal – take your pick. It’s been like watching a grizzly bear play swing-ball with a salmon on a string. Clarke pours liberal amounts of salt onto things with a chinese cut four.

Australia have declared at 527-5 which is a lead too grotesquely large to bother calculating. There are 35 minutes to play today, oh, and two whole days to play as well. It is hard to quite describe exactly what happened to England this afternoon. It was an unbelievable, clinical, destruction of their entire attack by Gilchrist. And now, and now, oh bugger, I’ve had enough.

And so effectively ended England’s Ashes fight for 2006/07. By the time Australia had declared Gilchrist and Clarke (Michael, now Australian Test Captain) England were chasing 556 for an unlikely victory that simply wasn’t on the cards. They were to hold out through Day 4 but at 5 for 265 heading into Day 5 it was only a matter of time. In the end England were bowled out for 350 shortly after the lunch break, giving Australia the win and with the series at 3-0, the Ashes were headed back down under.

The revenge was to be sweeter still as the Aussies won the subsequent Melbourne and Sydney Tests to clean sweep the Ashes 5-0. They were only the 2nd side to have done so and the 1st since Warwick Armstrong’s Australians in 1921.

On a personal note, Longsworth72 and fiancée got married in September of 2007. Just over 10 months later they added a beautiful baby boy to their home. Longworth72, his amazing wife and The Noah still live in the house bought over the phone. Despite England regaining the Ashes in 2008 and then retaining them in Australia in 2010/11 the family is very happy here.

Oh, and the reason that this had to be Soup of This Day #57? Adam Gilchrist missed out on beating Viv Richards’ record for the fastest century in Test cricket (56 balls). He had to settle for the 2nd fastest, although for mine, a 57 ball century in a deciding Ashes Test in Perth is pretty damn impressive.

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