This piece (and the installments to follow) are an admixture of fact and fiction. Do I need to even say that? Other standard disclaimers apply as well.
Ashes, The. A cricketing rivalry as old as time itself. If time in your understanding predates cricinfo (and the worldwide web) but not the first official Test match played at Melbourne in 1877.
Australia. One half of the rivalry.
Adelaide Oval. Home of the greatest batsman of all time (see (B)), and one of the prettiest cricket grounds in the world until recently. Has seen some wonderful batting. And a double-hundred from England stodge-meister Paul Collingwood. To restore balance to the world, England still lost.
(Also: The likely state of an Australian cricket fan’s dreams as of next February if their cricket team’s top order does not reign in its affection with balls pitched in the ‘corridor of uncertainty’ (see (G)).
Sir Donald Bradman. Born to bat. His final innings duck is as famous as his immortal per-innings count of 99.94.
Bodyline: A controversial 1930’s on-field action flick directed by an England captain (see (J)) who asked his bowlers to aim at batsman’s ribs and above to: (a) restrict Batsman’s run scoring; and (b) urge the powers that be to invent a batsman’s helmet urgently. Which came swiftly enough, fifty years later. In the meanwhile further 'bodyline' flicks were banned by the censor board.
‘Beefy’: Sir Ian Botham himself. Once beat Australia single-handedly in a Test many years ago (see (H)). Retired into the commentary box to see Australia regularly return the compliments in the next two decades. Evades bouncers from Indians these days on twitter, and not very well.
Boof: Nickname of the current Australian coach, Darren Lehmann who once made a triple hundred for Yorkshire. Perhaps, the third coolest bald man after Ralph Fiennes' Dumbledore in the Harry Potter franchise and Chris Martin's phantom.
Beer: "Those days such problems were settled over a __." "Ah, we used to play hard on the field but had a __ later, mate." "He is an old-fashioned coach who will invite the boys to have a __ with him." Fill in the blanks. And if the word is anything other than beer, it means (a) you have not been following the Australian cricket scene closely enough, which is pardonable; (or) (b) you have not been following Australia closely enough, which is excusable; (or) (c) you don't know what beer means, which, unless you are (also) a (verbal) teetotaler, is simply not acceptable.
Clarke, Michael. Has the most innocuous nickname in the world – ‘Pup’. Current captain of the Australian cricket team. Comes out to bat these days at 20-2, 25-3 or 35-4. Has batted like a dream in the last two years, and sometimes is forced to bat in one because of his back. Australia's only realistic batting hope at this year's Ashes. Unless Steve Waugh and Allan Border return from retirement.
Cardiff. England’s great escape in Wales 2009 which inspired them to a second straight Ashes triumph at home. Was also the second of three Ashes losses that the Australians suffered under the G.W. Bush look-alike (see (J) and (P)).
Cook, Alastair. Current captain of the England cricket team. Made 700 runs when England beat Australia Downunder 3-1 in 2011. Rumour has it that the Australian bowlers and fielders were so traumatised by ‘watching’ Cook’s batting style that they could not care less about regaining a bloody urn!
Crikey. A very typical British exclamation. David Lloyd specialises in them.
Draw. A match or a series result where no team wins or loses. England and Australia have not played out too many of them in recent memory.
Dull. The complexion of the last half a dozen Ashes series. So hopelessly one-sided that even Damien Martyn’s batting cannot uplift you, unless you are an Australian supporter.
Dizzy: Jason Gillespie’s nickname. Dizzy was a large-hearted Australian fast bowler who once made a Test double-hundred, albeit against Bangladesh. Dizzy is now contemplating a return to the Australian team as a no. 3 batsman.
England. The second half of the Ashes rivalry. A country where people love to hate the IPL and praise the county cricket season, half of which gets washed out anyway. Also home of the current cult hero of cricket comedy, the icon of alliteration and the Schopenhauer of statsguru-aided stats, Andy Zaltzman.
Edgbaston. Name of the cricket ground in Birmingham. ‘Nas’ Hussain of the retort-to-Ravi Shastri fame once made a double hundred – complete with square drives on one-knee and all – of such rare class and supremacy there against the Aussies, portending the arrival of an England batsman who might average in the early fifties. And promptly proceeded to scold portents-schmortents to end on an Atherton-esque 37.1 as Test average.
Eleven. The number of players in a side. Even in an Ashes Test, yes.
‘Fair dinkum’ An Australianism that means fair, honest, good and so on. English writers like to over-use it in their pre-Ashes build up in the hope that it will annoy the Australians into batting and bowling rashly. The ruse has begun to work in recent years.
Fire. What Mickey Arthur got from the Australian Cricket Board recently.
Filth. It is what many think Mitchell Johnson, the Australian quick bowler, offers when he is one of his moods, which often last for entire matches.
Geoffrey Boycott. Credited with coining the term Corridor of Uncertainty. Often defended until the Thames froze over, and defended his batting saying ‘you cannot score ruuns in the pavilion’. Was once dropped from the England Team after scoring 246*. Once returned to score his 100th first-class hundred at his home ground in an Ashes Test. Legend, with demons as incomprehensible as his pronounced Yorkshire accent.
Gareth Mallory: Oops, forgot that this post is strictly about the Ashes.
Gabba: Name of the cricket stadium at Woolloongabba, Brisbane. Hosted the inaugural Test of the Ashes in 2006. Steve Harmsion, the England quick who could be deadly on his day, sent the first ball of the match to second slip. By the time he and the England team had fully warmed to the task at hand, Australia had taken the series 5-0.
Headingley. The cricket ground at Leeds. Scene of Boycott’s 100th hundred, it was also here that Sir Ian Botham out-batted and out-bowled twenty other men to confiscate a Test match from Australia’s grasp. The ground also has a special microphone which makes the ball talk.
Hoggard, Matthew: An Ashes-winning fast bowler. Also from Yorkshire.
Harmison, Steve: See under Gabba.
Ian Bell: England’s current third-drop and response to Mark Waugh, Mahela Jayawardena and V.V.S Laxman. Can elegantly thread a ball between two short cover fielders to the fence. Can just as elegantly pick out the only fielder at deep cover. Is considered to be one of England’s better players of spin. And Dale Steyn is a slow-medium bowler.
IJL: The initials of England’s current no. 3, Trott. Trotted to a debut hundred at the Oval (see (K)) in London and helped England to the Ashes series win in 2009. According to some Englishmen, Trott is the best batsman in the world at the moment. Provided Hashim Amla, Kumar Sangakkara and Michael Clarke decide to retire at this instant.
Indian cricket team (short for Board of Control for Cricket in India’s cricket team). Lost to England in England 4-0. Lost to Australia in Australia 4-0. Lost to England in India 2-1. Defeated Australia in India 4-0. The upshot: England will win the Ashes. Unless, they don’t.
(J-Q on the next installment).
(J-Q on the next installment).