Phoenix from the Ashes
It's all been happening in Cardiff, hasn't it? What with the Test Match and Torchwood. In the case of the latter, the kids chanting alien messages was great fun and when they all said as one 'WE ARE COMING - BACK!' I assumed the aliens must be Welsh.
Blowers was in particularly fruity form post-lunch. I swear at one point, when Colly and Swann were in, he said 'So it's 192-7 - is it? No. It's 182-7. Collingwood has 51. Has he? Oh. 61! 61 for Collingwood, I'll get it right in a minute... now let's see how Broad gets on with facing Katich. Is it Katich? Broad's out? It's Swann....'
He shouldn't really still be there but he's quite the best toff on the radio I reckon so long may he continue!
Cardiff's cricket-lovers were treated to a hell of a game but at about 12.20 yesterday the Blue Bell was chock-full of angry, ale-swilling realists.
'Sack the lot of them!'
'They couldn't get the hoover out of an under-stairs cupboard, let alone get an Aussie out!'
'Andrew Strauss? We'd be better off with Johann Sebastian Strauss!' (This was corrected by some bloke sitting on his own doing a Sudoku from The Observer - it's just Johann, apparently)
From the moment Pietersen was undone by that most mesmerising of deliveries - the straight one - everything went downhill. And it was the lack of plain old gumption that irritated us.
You knew Colly would dig in, grit his teeth and grind on. The rest of them could lose the plot of a Janet and John book. And yet, and yet, slowly and never ever surely, the wafters and clubbers that are Freddie, Broady and Swanny chipped away at the total and, most importantly of all, stayed at the crease.
There were a whole series of nicks and slices that dropped short or wide of the fielders. There must be a field in hell where sinful cricketers are eternally served up catches that are never quite catchable. Then Colly goes, hangs his head like a gunfighter whose Colt 45 has just jammed while the enemy closes in on him, and out comes Monty.
Then Jimmy A gets two fours off Siddle yorkers - with both shots looking like he's using the bat to flush out a rat from under a chest of drawers - and we're in credit.
Add to that the 'confusion' over the 12th man and the physio coming on to the pitch and time was ebbing away.
Ponting, a loser (or drawer) in the Ferguson mould, blathered on about time-wasting. But if England get away with anything against Punter there's usually some sort of underhand anti-cricket thing going on. Get over it, son.
And while it's true that Strauss's captaincy reminds only serves to bolster Michael Vaughan's reputation, Ponting's skippering is a peculiar thing too. Warne and McGrath would've wrapped things up yesterday without Ricky having to make a decision. Fact is he doesn't have the same firepower or know-how at his disposal now, and to bowl at Flintoff with one slip, or to persist with Johnson (and not the brilliant Hilfenhaus) when the bloke was using the largely disgraced Harmison Sat-Nav, or to put North on at the death with his twee little twirlers made no sense at all.
His batting though was epic. All them experts who were talking up 437 as a top total forgot that in when an Aussie's got his boot on a throat, he only ever lifts it up to change feet. Their batters were everything ours weren't: decisive, relentless, greedy, unforgiving. Not for them the potty paddle or the cross-bat flick across the front pad. Strauss said it was horrible to watch that last day but it can't have been more horrible than watching the baggy green boys amass 670-6! At least there were thrills and spills on Sunday. Friday and Saturday was like watching small furry animals being crushed by a 20-ton steam roller at the rate of one inch an hour.
Still, the whitewash has been avoided and the Blue Bell was awash with goodwill after the mighty Monty held them out. That will, I hope, be his final act of the series. As a bowler he's as threatening as a fluffy white cloud.
The missus wasn't too happy when I rolled into bed, smacked a hoppy kiss on her forehead and said 'Did you hear? We drew!' 'You're happy and we didn't win?' she muttered. And here's a tip fellas. Don't turn the bedside lamp on at 12.45 am in order to tell your lass why five-day cricket is the greatest game on earth.
In fact, cheering though it is to still be at 0-0, there's absolutely no grounds for optimism whatsoever, is there? The top three have looked shaky, but who else is there? Bell? Owais Shah, who gets cramp in his hands 'cos he holds a bat as tightly as a kid on a ghost train holds onto his mam? The neutered bowlers could do with re-jigging but Harmy's not the answer and the only obvious switch will be Onions for Monty. And I'm not sure about the Durham seamer, except he gives you the opportunity to say stuff like 'Onions peels off a few layers before bowling his first ball.' 'Oooh! Onions has brought water to Ponting's eyes with that delivery!' 'Onions has gone! That's shallot, Graham!' etc.
But you can't say it hasn't been a wonderful and exhilarating start. And the fact that steam is gushing out from beneath 11 baggy green caps this morning means that this smile won't be leaving my face for another 72 hours!