Please be aware any opinions are my own and are not representative of any North Wales League official, player or club (especially Llandudno CC).
Ashes to Ashes
I know this is supposed to be a grassroots column but this week I do not care. It is the start of the biggest sporting event on the planet.
Forget the Superbowl, Champions League final, The Ryder Cup or any world cup final because no competition comes close to The Ashes.
It all kicks off tomorrow (Thursday, August 1) and will be 6 weeks of cricketing, no holds barred, chaos.
It starts at Edgbaston, where England have an exceptional record. The ground at Birmingham is not a cricket stadium, it is an amphitheatre.
Like a scene from Gladiator, it is a venue where people in fancy dress togas cry for the bodies of the Wallabies to be torn apart by the Lions they see before them.
As the beers effects take over and the sun beams down, the crowds grow more raucous by the hour. The only down side is the death of the beer snakes, but I am sure the Hollies stand will find a way!
I expect that every cricket fan has been doing the same thing in preparation for this series. Having watched the World Cup Final winning moment on loop for the last 2 weeks, whether with Titanic music over it, or the simply exceptional Ian Smith on commentary, it is now time for the big dogs to be taken off the leash.
I dug out to two box sets and informed my 2-year-old son that I was about to teach him one of life’s most important lessons. Ashes cricket is not just Test cricket. It is the pinnacle of our sport.
We sat down and watched the 2009 Ashes series box set and he was gripped by the drama that series brought. From the heroics of Anderson and Panesar at Cardiff to Flintoff ripping through the Aussies at Lords to claim his only 5-fer at The Home of Cricket, he loved every second.
He hadn’t seen anything yet though.
Next up was the biggie. 2005. When cricket ruled a nation’s tabloid press and put football into the doldrums of the inner pages. When tens of thousands of spectators queued for hours on end, only to be told the ground had now sold out.
From the moment Harmison smashed the ball into Ponting’s grill my lad was gripped. He has now watched every Test match of the 2005 box set 3 times in 2 weeks and it has overtaken ‘Paw Patrol’ as his most watched programme.
What is even better is that I can tell my boy that ‘I was there’. Day 2 at Old Trafford watching Simon Jones tear through the Aussies before Warne fought back with the bat. He now watches the cricket on the TV, whilst insisting he plays at the same time. Cue carnage in the living room.
Little side story. Myself and Luke Regan were in the line for the ice cream van during that day’s play. A big lad was in front of us and was taking ages to get his order. “Any chance big lad?” Luke said. The guy turned around and glared at us. It was only Andrew Symonds getting a round of 99’s in. He was a unit by the way, but I digress.
When my lad was born it was the usual clamour for names. “What about Freddie?” I suggested. “After Mr Flintoff?” she replied. I told her it wasn’t but rather it was a name that can be used at any age and he looked like a Freddie. She agreed. Result. Let’s get it right though, he is absolutely named after the legend.
Any man who bowls an over like that to Ricky Ponting, or biffs Brett Lee out of the ground as he did in 2005 is having my children named after him. Secretly, I think she knows that Freds is named after the great man and accepts that is her life now!
What is the point to all this waffle I hear you ask? Good question. It is all to do with inspiring the next generation. At 16 years old I watched some of the greatest players of all time, play in the greatest series to ever take place.
At an age where I could have lost interest, that Ashes series had me hooked on the great game for life. Whilst the World Cup win was incredible, I would trade it in tomorrow if it meant we got hold of the 6 inch high little urn and the next generation of children were inspired by cricket like I was 14 years ago.
This series has all the makings to be as good as ’05. Two bowling attacks that are as good as any on the planet. Shaky batting line ups mean that barring any dodgy weather, there will be no ‘boring’ draws. It has the back stories that every sporting occasion needs.
James Pattinson was told he may never play again after countless surgeries – he now looks set to bowl in an Ashes series.
Jofra Archer has been fast tracked into the squad to add frightening pace to the English attack. Warner, Smith and Bancroft could be re-united for the first time since that fateful day in South Africa, which may get referenced by the crowds during the series.
For me, it will be 3-2 either way with England’s middle order ensuring they regain the urn but I just hope it is an epic series.
So, the highlights have been series-linked, the SkyGo accounts set up. All that’s left is for the action to start.
Who knows, as a result of this series, I may even see a little Benjamin, Joseph or Moeen running around playing cricket with Freddie in the next few years…