Woe To The Vanquished

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My word, the tension is palpable. The luminous spring sun drags the pollen straight to my sinus and down my gob. I cough up the remnants of stale cigarettes, Melbourne Bitter and Plane Tree pollen into a posh Toorak avenue to begin another arduous hungover grind.

 

But this is no ordinary day, nor time of year. Amidst the odorous pong of fertiliser and fermented grass clippings, the perfect storm of sporting hatred is simmering. The Ashes are upon us. As I drift into an historical haze, my wandering mind drifts to almost a century prior.

 

There he is, at the top of the crease. Donald Bradman, soothing the hopes of an adolescent nation. Harold Larwood stands like a menacing reaper, primed to charge in and do what no cricketer in history had dared to attempt before now. Marauding English captain Douglas Jardine had cooked up a wicked plan to curtail the influence of the games greatest ever player. Jardine wasn't there to take Bradman's wicket, he was there to take his corpse. Larwood strode in, pushing off the back fence to begin the long charge into battle. To the ire of the crowd, Larwood shortened his length and ripped in the game's first ever deliberate bouncer. It set off a chain reaction of events that entrenched a century of hatred between the two old foes. Establish by colonisation, forged in war, manifested in cricket.

 

Bradman held firm, but the slew of shattered bone and shredded cartilage saw the English violently regain the urn. From that day forward, relations between the two nations has teetered on a knife edge. The empire had made an enemy from within. It's own protege.

 

The clanking and gurgling start of a lawn mower interrupts my animated reverie. But that feeling that the most pathologically spiteful series in cricket is due in under a week is my sustenance for the day. In our era, there's been some testy moments. "Get ready for a broken fucking arm!" Shouted the biggest pansy in world sport. "You just dropped the ashes!" Cries the man who undoubtedly yanks himself off to his own selfies. "You got an MBE? For scoring 7 at the oval? You're an embarrassment" remarks the living silicone experiment and messiah.

 

All roads lead to Rome, and I'm hoping this series the blood boils and tempers flare. Get Ben Stokes on a plane out here immediately so I can offer him up with a scrap at gate 2 of the G. Let Warner have an over at that labradoodle Joe Root to beam him mercilessly, before physically assaulting him for a second time. And let Starc spear one at the wealthy chin of that silver spooned peacock Stuart Broad.

 

Do it for Don, who copped an entire series of chin music wearing nothing but a cap. And in the spirit of Douglas Jardine, who cares if you leave some carnage along the way. Woe to the vanquished.

 

It's time.

Tom Redman