The ghosts of poets appear to the author at the England v Australia ODI:
23 June 2010
Thus the tourists end their innings,
Par for Hampshire of the Rose;
Old men fed on eggs and bacon
Waken from their sun-drunk doze,
Clutch their eggs-and-bacon neckties,
And for England pray it goes,
Defended wickets, banging bound’ries,
Aussie fielding overthrows,
Brilliant batting, rapid run-rates,
And no lbw woes.
Committee minutes, at the year’s drear end,
Make two fat volumes. But they are not poems –
Or even verse. In fact they’re rather worse,
A prosy sort of prose: the old toad, work,
Has in its head no facet of a jewel.
But Wisden, now, that hoard of wisdom set
In columns of statistics, does conceal
A special poetry. Hop off, old toad,
Today is for the cricket, and today
I am for cricket, skiving, glad to skive.
Hop off, old toad, whilst England’s innings last.
Much better, then, a wicket to defend,
A boundary to smash; the tide that stems
The tide of toadly labour, vapid verse,
Let us embrace, and harrowed labours shirk:
On such a day, to slave for pay is cruel.
O let there be no hindrance, toads, no let,
To stay us from the ‘howzat’, the appeal;
The yorker bowled, the six beyond the rope,
Outsoaring the pavilion. Stop not play,
Good rain, and let the surging batsman drive
The ball as Grace did in the days now past.
How horrid to be made to stay away
By supervisors threatening one’s pay:
Thank God I am not middle-class like they.
I am not given out; o, hear me.
Let not the Aussie bowling come too near me.
I am not given out; do let me
Bang sixes that Wisden shall not soon forget me.
I am not leg before; uphold me,
And let me not be caught behind lest Straussy scold me.
And it’s no go the Strine appeal, no go lbw,
We’ll keep the wicket safe and Oz shall not trouble you,
We’re all o’er your fifty-overs and primed for the Ashes,
And all we want’re the gongs that come with winning summer matches.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats o’er Hampshire creases,
Until I heard the cheering crowd
Whose fond hope never ceases:
Who think that England’s strife-ful side
Can win off no-balls and a wide.
But – what is this? A marvel, sure,
That makes the hope of wins endure:
An Irishman with mighty bat
Knocks Aussie bowling, just like that.
Good Lord, we’ve won, and Ponting’s face
Looks like he’s seen the ghost of Grace.