A Red Ball Spins

Just a quick post to commemorate the record-breaking First Test of the Ashes series between England and Australia in Brisbane that finished yesterday. It was notable for a number of reasons, including Australian bowler Peter Siddle’s hat-trick in England’s first innings, and some fine batting by Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin in Australia’s first innings, but chiefly for an extraordinary fightback by England’s batsmen in their 2nd innings which took them to an amazing 517 for 1 declared from a situation in which they might well have folded. Well played Messrs Strauss, Cook and Trott for all getting centuries and saving the game.

The way the press have been going on about the result you’d think England had won, but it was only a draw. There’s a long way to go – another four Tests to be precise – before the fate of the Ashes is decided. Still, England have already done better than they did last time they played an Ashes series in Australia. They lost that one 5-0!

I thought I’d post this  little poem by Simon Rae to mark the occasion. There wasn’t that much evidence of high-quality spin bowling in the First Test, but A Red Ball Spins is more about the fact that although it might be winter here and the domestic season long over, somewhere in the world there’s always cricket, lovely cricket…

A red ball spins, a swallow’s flight,
That every generation follows
From rituals first performed in meadows
To epic Tests in packed arenas.

Shadows signal the close of play
Then slip through turnstiles into light:
Another match, another day.
Around the world the red balls spins.

Roll on Adelaide, for the 2nd Test!


8 Responses to “A Red Ball Spins”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    I believe that Swann and Broad are fast learners and will be a force on Aussie pitches before the end of this series. However Australia will have their best pair of opening bowlers fit again shortly. This should be a great series. In the absence of a genuine allrounder I’d play 5 bowlers and tell the batsmen to stand up.

    But no vintage Bollinger at Adelaide, I hope…


  2. Hi Peter

    You’ve reminded me of my favourite poem, by Harold Pinter

    “I saw Len Hutton in his prime

    Another time

    another time”

    I don’t know if you’ve included it in your blogs before.
    For me those three simple lines capture the nostalgia that cricket seems to evoke more than many sports. Pinter is remembering, and perhaps yearning for, some lost moment of youthful innocence and optimism when he watched his boyhood hero, and one of the greatest batsmen ever. I’ve sometimes thought the poem can almost work for any of us in any era: simply insert your own favourite player (for me, Ian Botham). Except of course, that the poem also flows beautifully because of the three syllables of Len Hutton’s name. Muttiah Muralitharan wouldn’t quite work as well. And I guess it also really does have to evoke a bygone, sepia-tinted era that most of us cannot remember. All I’ve ever seen of Len Hutton is some grainy black and white footage of his 364 at The Oval in 1938. We’re all much more familiar with Botham’s swashbuckling efforts.

    Anyway, I’m no expert on dissecting poetry but it tickles me that such a simple three line poem can stimulate so many feelings and thoughts. That’s why Pinter won the Nobel prize and I never will!

    You may be interested in some extraordinary film recently discovered by the grandson of Percy Fender buried in a box in his garage. It’s basically a home video made by Fender of the 1928-29 Ashes trip, mainly focusing on people and events outside the actual matches, including footage of a very young Don Bradman, the only known film of Archie Jackson (who died of TB during the Bodyline tour four years later), and other famous players relaxing on ship such as Jack Hobbs. There’s also footage of Harold Larwood bowling bouncers at some of the Aussies in one of the later matches, and it’s led some historians to wonder if this gave Fender the idea that led to Bodyline (Fender was a master tactician who influenced Douglas Jardine). The Guardian has the story and a link here:


    I’m off to Perth for the third Test in just over a week, and then I’ll be at Melbourne and Sydney. Barmy Army, Barmy Army, etc ad infinitum…


    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Hutton’s statistics are amazing. But for the injury he incurred to his left arm during war service, which left it nearly two inches shorter than the right, what might he have done?

    • telescoper Says:


      Anton gave me a big collection of cricket poems, and I’ll post a few of them as the series goes on. I’m sure I’ll find an occasion for the poem you mention.


  3. telescoper Says:

    I agree it should be a good series, as it seems to me the two teams are evenly matched. My worry is that both seem better at batting than at bowling, so we might be in for a run of high-scoring draws unless Anderson et al. can find some swing, and Swannie can make something happen.

    Incidentally, Australia are still bookie’s favourites to win the series. Probably fair.

  4. I think England have the edge with the bowling, but the flat wickets and Kookaburra ball will negate some of that advantage. Those are two things the various authorities around the world need to look at…. Anyway, perhaps this series will be like 2009 – decided by a couple of bowling performances / batting collapses. In the meantime it’s good to see Australia beating itself up over not-being-quite-as-good-as-they-used-to-be. The complete absence of Aussie supporters at the Gabba on Monday was telling. (Aussie sledge: “Our economy’s so good, we’ve all got jobs to go to mate”. English reply: “Looks like you’ve got a couple of vacancies marked Test Match Bowler”).

  5. Daniel Mortlock Says:

    The Pinter poem is lovely, but I think a good editor could have profitably cut down on the excess verbiage.

  6. […] A Red Ball Spins […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: