Australia take a 4-0 lead in the Ashes
Chris Rogers scores his maiden ton in Australia as the Aussies smash England by eight wickets in the fourth Test on Sunday.PT1M33S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-301qj 620 349 December 29, 2013
En route to the cricket on Sunday, I saw a bagpipe player in thongs, and a patron win an argument with a security guard and not a single malfunctioning myki card reader. Stranger still, at the cricket I saw an Australian team that was humiliated this year in India, and could not win a match in England, and on day one of this series in Brisbane was cowering at 6/132 against England, romp to its fourth successive win over that selfsame England, and with the rest of the country I rubbed my eyes.
I saw Australia's batsmen rattle along at approximately twice the rate of what had previously been a difficult match for scoring. I saw a left-handed Australian opening batsman play twinkle-toed square drives and educated cuts and a lusty pull and make a scintillating century from just 135 balls, and it wasn't David Warner, nor was it Matthew Hayden reincarnate.
It was a 36-year-old, short-sighted, colour-blind red-head, with as much backlift as Alastair Cook has initiative, who has made a long first-class career out of blunting other team's new balls while scoring at around half the pace he did this day, who must have thought that his Test dream had come and gone in an instant in another state and another life six years ago. But maybe not, for he comes from such a family of cricketing dreamcatchers that his father recently bought his own cricket ground. I saw Chris Rogers, upon reaching that century, thump his bat into his thigh pad, the cricketer's equivalent of pinching himself.
Shane Watson celebrates hitting the winning runs with captain Michael Clarke. Photo: Pat Scala
I saw Shane Watson, Australia's most tortured cricketer, tuck in solidly behind Rogers to make into a formality a victory that 24 hours earlier had seemed impossibly out of reach. I saw the demonic visage of Mitch Johnson, a laughing stock in the corresponding series three years ago, win his third man-of-the-match award of this series, and run out of explanations, and commentators run out of superlatives, and I thought that he should think of Samson and never shave off his moustache.
I saw what momentum can do, and talk can't. I saw an England team that was so methodical and clinical in everything it did here three years ago cross wires and purposes so badly in the slips that three chances went a-begging in the first half-hour, when they might yet have played on Australia's historical nerves about modest-sized run chases. I saw Cook drop a soda. I saw him as captain spurn England spinner Monty Panesar until it was too late, and explain that he was hoping to win the game with a rag doll of a ball and reverse swing, as if this was the plan all along.
But I also saw him and his lieutenants dither so long over bowler selection and field placements that the crowd booed and stronger umpires might have determined that their arms-crossed non-action was tantamount to a walk-off and declared that they had forfeited the game. One will, one day. I saw Kevin Pietersen let a ground ball pass through his legs for runs, and close his eyes and think of England.
Australia: Ashes Victory
Chris Rogers celebrates his century. Photo: Pat Scala
I saw a team that heroically beat India in India not 12 months ago and was measurably too good for Australia in the northern Ashes complete its falling apart in Australia. I saw England almost give up. And I rubbed my eyes.
I was one of nearly 40,000 who saw all this, and more than 270,000 over four days, who mostly thrilled to the thrilling play and mostly lost themselves in their own thoughts in the lulls, and enjoyed the frisson about what might come next, thrill or lull, because these are bits that make Test cricket such an incomparable whole. I was one of 270,000 who affirmed the Boxing Day Test as the jewel in Australia's sporting crown.
Afterwards, I saw a born-again 36-year-old wicketkeeper refer to Rogers as "the old bloke" - there are 53 days between them - and a 34-year-old pace bowler dare the selectors to rest him from the next Test in Sydney - "try to stop me playing" - and heard in this the wonderment of the players themselves about what this remade and rickety-looking team has achieved this summer and knew that the burnishing of the legend of this match and series already had begun.
I tried to see the future, but couldn't, any more than anyone could have seen this all-conquering present 40 days ago. So I settled for an appreciation of that present and the blooming roses that too few modern players or fans stop to smell. They don't get any rosier for Australians than an Ashes series walkover.
Through rose-coloured glasses, I saw hope for the Socceroos at next year's World Cup, and St Kilda in the AFL, and even me on a surfboard, and I heard Rogers speak for all when he said: "This is what dreams are made of."
And I thought I saw Santa.