Monday, 2 March 2015

“You’re Worse than England!”

I wrote this for the Australian Footy Almanac site. You might enjoy it too.

For every Australian who wasn't at Eden Park on Saturday, there's this from a New Zealander who was.

David Warner started it. He had kindly invited us to bring out our inner bogan, and we did.

It took a few overs mind you, delayed in part by the frustratingly clean batting of Mr Warner himself, but by the time Southee clean bowled Finch the top was already starting to come off.

1 for 30, and as a crowd on a gorgeous in-swinging Eden Park day we suddenly sensed it. Blood. Victory. A rout. Revenge for a thousand real and imagined trans-Tasman slights.

And maybe, just maybe it would be something like the capitulation our fellow NZers enjoyed in Wellington one week previous. A day-night game finished before the floodlights in a victory talked about for years to come.

We dared to dream.  And the Black Caps dared with us.

First into the valley rode the unlikely figure of Daniel Vettori, summoned by his daring captain to stem the flow of runs disappearing worryingly over the short boundaries. We cheered every dot ball, as did his captain.

We cheered even louder when the man who even his mother wouldn’t have in the team1 had his clock cleaned by NZ’s favourite nerd2. It started properly next ball3, when the Man Who Would Be Ogre was out lbw to Southee. Oh how we cheered as Warner, D., trudged back to his dressing room, helped on his way by a crowd eager to inform him that masturbation must be one of his primary pastimes.

Well, he had rather brought it on himself.

And by the time Australia lay limp at 9 for 106, with only Cummins left to come in,  a modest taunt began to be heard in some quarters of the ground:

“You’re Worse than England!” Bam-bam-bibam-bam.

It was true! With even England’s modest total of 123 looking unlikely, we dared to believe.

So unfortunately, did Brad Haddin, but even his fighting 44 could only lift the total to 152 – barely enough, surely, on Eden Park’s boundaries with a bristling Brendan McCullum willing himself to clear them.

McCullum had started his morning with a few rounds of boxing just to get himself set pugilistically. And from the first ball he was charging the fast bowler to punch out another game while his opponent was still on the canvas.

We began to plan our early dinner dates as orange t-shirted teenagers and men clambered for catches as the boundary looked too short to defend. A six, a four, a six, another six. Martin Guptill came and went amidst the festival of hitting – first 50 runs in 4.6 overs; Mitchell Johnson throwing thunderbolts that were treated as pies -- but who worried about wickets-in-hand when the runs (and run-rate advantage) looked like they were there for the taking!

With Australia sagging and New Zealand flying, when Craig Cummins4 slipped on his approach the ignominy seemed complete and the baying truly started for real. It came full throated and unleashed from right around the ground:

“You’re Worse than England!”Bam-bam-bibam-bam.

“You’re Worse than England!”Bam-bam-bibam-bam.

You could see Australians in the field flinch. Could there be a worse taunt? Could we be happier? Could we be more cock-a-hoop?

Could we have been more stupid?

A lesser team (like the  England we were taunting them with) would have, should have folded. Scuttled away in disgrace.  Instead, with McCullum swinging the bat with danger to everyone near and far, Michael Clarke posted a man to stand on his elbow at short leg.

Short leg! What was he thinking! It was either certain suicide or Clarke had been watching Jardine place a field to Larwood.

It was the latter. The very next ball5 showed the short leg had burrowed into Brendan’s brain, and Mitchell Johnson thudded a fast one straight into an unpadded forearm fending off something worse.

Was this the brain explosion David Warner had promised? Was this the broken arm Clarke had earlier and famously sledged?

It was nothing of the sort, but it showed (if we hadn't been too drunk on success and sponsor’s product to realise it) that this team wasn't going to just meekly hand us a famous victory.

Mind you, we were still having our fun: at Warner’s expense – especially when he got anywhere near the fence; at Mitchell Johnson’s expense -- 0 for 68 off bugger all overs, as he was loudly reminded by the East Stand crowd when Clarke tried to post him on the boundary at deep square leg before relenting and allowing him to move in to stand on the circle; even at Shane Warne’s expense, bemused at being cheered off while every other Australian was being booed (as he left the ground with Alan Border after some on-field comments) – the situation loudly explained to him by one wag that “everyone loves a rooter”; and with an ill Martin Crowe’s encouragement when the great man was inducted at dinner time into the ICC Hall of Fame, and who spent most of his speech eulogising the Black Caps before shedding tears as he left to our loud applause.

So we sang and we crowed and at one stage, with NZ needing only a run every second over, and with umpteen6 wickets still in hand, the singing just got louder still.

“You’re Worse than England!” Bam-bam-bibam-bam.

It was almost our downfall.  I suspect it was Australia’s motivation. Who among them could stomach being worse than Eion Morgan’s mob?

So with the shadows starting to fall across the wicket and the bowlers coming in out of the still-strong sunlight, we suddenly started to see the wickets fall that we had thought we wouldn’t need. Imminent hat tricks suddenly abounded, and runs now looked as hard to find as a memorable Shane Watson innings.

And suddenly, at 9 for 146 with only Trent Boult’s bat standing between Mitchell Starc and the most unlikely victory that could possibly have been imagined, we suddenly heard in the crowd the first thing from Australians we’d heard from them all day.  We put our heads in our hands, while they stood up and cheered like men released.

Who knew they were even there up to that point?

Who could have cared before now?

And what other game could deliver this kind of finish: a team that had been absolutely dominant for all of the shortened day looking ominously likely to end up in defeat instead of with the victory we had given up our throats for.

That was the brutal calculation.  6 runs or one wicket.  Australians stood and cheered while the rest of covered our eyes, unable to look. Which is why most of us didn't see Glenn Maxwell take time to turn and taunt us with a choking gesture.

Fortunately for all things good on this side of the Tasman, Trent Boult blocked the last two balls of Starcs’s almost-winning over while we collectively held our breath, and Kane Williamson made the most of a long hop in the first of Cummins’s next to get the six we desperately needed, snatching a famous victory from the jaws of a famous choke.

And all around the country, grown men started Googling the techniques of CPR to be properly prepared should anything like that ever happen again.

Could a team worse than England have conspired to have produced the game of this and many other World Cup tournaments? No, probably not.

But Warner’s team-mates might be asking him not to unleash all the bogans next time.

And us? Over here, we’re still daring to believe.

1. Watson, S.
2. Vettori, D.
3. Not all of the statistics or descriptions of deliveries herein are totally, completely, 100% accurate. In my defence, my game notes from which this story is taken are liberally stained with winner’s piss. And when it comes to sporting commentary we should never, ever let truth get in the way of a good story. True?
4. A man whose name must surely be used for a banned brand of cider sometime in the near future.
5. See 3 above.
6. I did tell you not to take any data herein at all seriously.



  1. That was the best day I have had at Eden Park.


  2. I don't know. Helping boo Quade Cooper into submission at a Rugby World Cup semi-final is up there too.

    But it's close.


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.