A SPECTATOR approached me in the press tent while I was covering Yorkshire’s match against Derbyshire at Chesterfield.
“Ay up, Chris, I bet you’d rather be at Lord’s, wouldn’t you?” he said, referring to the second Ashes Test that was taking place at the same time as the County Championship game.
“Bet you’d like to be watching England giving the Aussies a good stuffing, eh,” he added, waving his fist with patriotic fervour.
“Seven down now, the Aussies, seven down. At this rate, it’ll all be over inside three days.”
As I watched the old man walk away, without waiting for me to reply to him, I pondered his words.
I glanced up at the flawless summer’s sky, looked around the beautiful Queen’s Park venue, with its banks of mature trees, and finally down at the delicious vanilla ice cream that I was holding in my hand (or new biro, as it will say on my expenses claim...)
“Hmm,” I thought to myself, “now that’s where you’re wrong, me old mucker.
“Why, I’d rather be here, at Queen’s Park, Chesterfield, watching Yorkshire while downing a delicious vanilla ice cream.”
For as every fresh bulletin from Lord’s brought news of the latest Australian wicket, so my interest in events 150 miles away steadily decreased, with the Ashes contest that everyone had been looking forward to turning out to be not much of a contest after all.
At the risk of being left with egg on my face rather than ice cream, there is surely no way back for Australia and hasn’t been, in my view, since they lost the first Test by the agonising margin of 14 runs. Australia surely needed to win that match if they were to seriously challenge for the Ashes and stop the series turning out to be the sort of mismatch that now seems likely.
With all the problems that have beset the tourists lately (not least the retirements of several top batsmen who could have better challenged James Anderson et al), they really needed to start well and, by that, I mean they probably needed to win that first Test.
After the game in Nottingham went against them, you just sensed that a stuffing was likely at Lord’s, where Joe Root and the boys duly administered a 347-run thrashing to go 2-0 up in the series.
Of course, people say that one should rejoice because the Australians are being thumped; after all, they spent the best part of 20 years giving us a kicking (aye, thanks a lot, Mr Gillespie...).
But, as a cricket lover rather than an England supporter, my interest is in cricket first and foremost and the quality of the competition.
The reason the 2005 Ashes was so memorable was because it was played between two evenly-matched sides and because you never knew from one day to the next who would hold the upper hand.
Sadly, despite the thrilling denouement in Nottingham, the reality is that we now know for certain what most of us suspected before the series: namely, that the Australians have got some good bowlers but they can’t bat.
Indeed, the best batsman among the Australian tour group spends most of his time watching the action on the dressing room balcony – and his name is Darren Lehmann.
The Australia coach could hardly force his way into the Test side in the 1990s/early 2000s but could probably still walk into it now with a fag on.
How the mighty Aussies have fallen and, quite frankly, I hope they make a fight of it from here otherwise it’s all going to get pretty dull.
I want to see a proper contest, a proper battle, not a meeting between a decent team in England and a dismal one in Australia.
So, no, me old mucker, I’ll gladly take Queen’s Park, any time over the Ashes.
Besides, you can get some delicious vanilla ice cream at Chesterfield.