It’s Coming Home

It’s been a little over two months since I returned home from my travels. Yeah I went to Australia if you didn’t know. Just to make sure…

Coming home from travelling and a completely different lifestyle can be challenging – Post-Travel Depression is a genuine condition. Unbelievable levels of ‘first world problems’, I know. Adjusting back to home has been a breeze for me, though, which suggests it was the right decision.

Not everybody will find it as easy though. One minute you are in one of the most vibrant cities in the world – Sydney – and the next you are that same old market town – Sandbach. Perhaps I should feel depressed by this ‘come down’. It has, however, been anything but. And that is crazy when you think about it.

I have been fortunate to jump straight back into employment when I returned home. Working for a sports coaching company which has both got me back on my feet financially and kept me crazily busy. Big thanks to the guys at SCNW!

The key to adjusting back to ‘normal life’ from the insanely different lifestyle of hostels, socialising 24/7 and new experiences is to be busy. It’s generally said that returning home is relieving and amazing for the first week, and then travel blues kick in.

Once you’ve had your seemingly endless reunions with family and friends, you realise what you’re missing out on.

Luckily, I haven’t had that. Get busy with work, hobbies and socialising and you’ll settle right back in. Indeed, the time away might even make you appreciate the simple things of being home a bit more.

It certainly has with me.

*There he goes again. All this finding himself, the pr#@k…*

And to be honest, this is probably the first time I have properly sat down in two and a half months to reflect on coming back. Which is no bad thing. Whether it be playing cricket, running a half-marathon, helping out in primary school P.E. lessons, working on a bar or socialising with friends, it has been pretty hectic.

So the tonic for returning home is to be busy, to be positive and to do those things that you most enjoy.

The most challenging aspect of coming home, though, is that nobody really cares what you’ve been up to. Of course, people ask out of courtesy, but they are probably jealous and won’t ask again.

You feel like you have a thousand and one stories to tell but after a small catch-up, nobody wants to hear it. And it’s entirely understandable – it’s just like when your friends go on holiday. You ask how it was but really you are just jealous and don’t want to hear about it.

Cynical, I know, but the same applies to returning from travels. You get used to it though. At the end of the day, people lead normal lives and the most important thing for them has been merely getting through winter.

That is a double-edged sword though – a bizarrely positive one. On the one hand, you feel like you might have nothing to talk about because you don’t want to annoy people by talking about where you’ve been. On the other hand, if you don’t talk about it, you don’t think about it and thus you don’t miss it.

Inadvertently, your friends and family probably help you settle back in by not caring as much as you’d like!

Of course, the warmest UK summer I can remember has helped me settle back in. Diving straight back into winter would have been painful.

So, with a bit of luck, keeping busy and NOT talking about where you’ve been, settling back home has been easy for me. Beat those post-travel blues by doing the same!

Anyway, what do I have in common with football? Well, we’re both coming home, of course…

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A Cheesy Blog for the Last Time Because It’s Home-time

Sat here in a cafe on top of a snowy Mt John, overlooking Lake Tekapo deep in Canterbury on New Zealand’s south island, it is surreal to say this is my last day.

I left home 7 months ago, unsure of where I was going, or how long for. It was a complete shot in the dark. I’m unashamed to say there were tears when I left. My old man started it, I promise!

I left my comfort zone and embarked on a new adventure, taking in new cultures, countries and people.

Obviously I knew I was going to Australia. I had little idea of where in Australia though. Or how long for. Or who I’d meet. Or anything to be quite honest.

For anyone looking to travel for an extended period of time that is how it should be, by the way. Obviously do a bit of research but do not make concrete plans. You don’t know who you’ll meet. Travel at its best is flexible and spontaneous.

I went to Vanuatu for a week in February – why not? I didn’t even know where it was until a friend pointed it out to me.

7 months have flown by. Doing a working holiday or extended travelling is an experience I’d recommend to anyone.

I’ve learned more about myself and gained more life skills in 7 months of travelling than I did in 17 years of education. And definitely more than in 3 years of university. Ahhh that sweet £42,000 (AUD 70,000) debt.

Anyway, travelling teaches people skills, thinking on your feet and having to work logistics out continuously without being able to ring anyone for advice.

Actually that’s inaccurate. Travelling doesn’t ‘teach’ you. This year, for the first time since I was only 4 years old, nobody ‘taught’ me anything in the traditional sense.

I taught and learned myself. That’s why travelling is worthwhile (amongst the obvious other perks).

You become independent and resourceful – skills you cannot learn in a classroom.

I am probably more proud of travelling alone for 7 months than of my degree. I never thought I had it in me.

Big shout out for the creator of Google Maps, nevertheless. That is undoubtedly the most useful tool for any traveller.

My advice to anyone who is hesitant about going travelling is to do it. You’ll regret not trying more than you ever will for trying. I don’t claim to be a travel expert at all but that seems reasonable to me.

I’ve met people who came out on a 1 year working holiday to Australia like me, tried it and went home after 4 weeks. No shame in that; home comforts are nice! And at least they tried.

I’ve met others, from countries all around the world by the way, who came out, intending to stay for a few months and are still in Australia 12 years later.

Everyone is different but we all have regret. If logistically you can do it, then don’t hesitate. Don’t let not travelling be your regret.

A huge thanks to the people I’ve met and helped me by the way, I really hope to catch up at some point in the future! If you’ve been a good friend, given me a bed to stay in or given advice then I can’t thank you enough. See you some time soon.

If anyone is proficient at maths they will work out that I came out for up to 1 year and am returning after 7 months. So it’s ‘early’ in a way. But I’ve done what I wanted to in Australia; I’ve travelled different cities, climates and seen that thing called The Ashes.

I’ve worked in Sydney for a good while. I’ve tried to embrace Australia and Australians. I remember thinking that I had not met an English person for about a month – given I was the only English person in my house and worked with Australians.

It was quite refreshing, actually!

Halfway through February, however, I began to feel that my time was up. I’d done what I wanted and don’t intend on staying for a second year in Australia.

Homesickness comes and goes, too. That’s part of travelling and you get used to it. It’s not the main reason I’m going home but it’s a factor, for sure.

It’s amazing that you can be in a beautiful country such as Australia but have those feelings. But it happens and there is no shame in it.

Once your race is run, it’s run. And onto the next event; New Zealand was mine. Following that, maybe a graduate job or more travel.

So with that decision made, and it wasn’t a rash one, I realised I better see New Zealand whilst I’m here in case I don’t come back.

That was the best decision I’ve ever made; the South Island is undoubtedly the most incredible place I’ve been to. I won’t ever forget climbing Roy’s Peak in Wanaka, or the time I spent in Queenstown.

Every place is picture-perfect and a traveller’s dream. Everybody bangs on about the south island being amazing. They’re right. Images don’t do it justice.

So it’s home-time, I guess. Time for reality, so everybody says. I guess they’re right and I will be looking for a job that is relevant to my degree.

But it doesn’t stress me out that I might not get one. This trip has taught me that things usually work out when I want them to.

“Cliched traveller tw*t”, I hear you say. I couldn’t agree more. Travelling probably changes your outlook; how can it not?

The main reason I don’t worry about returning to reality is that it doesn’t have to be the end of travelling. There seems to be a big idea that once you return from Australia then that’s it.

“Responsibilities, mate”, a friend from home told me. (Cheers Ben for that x)

It doesn’t have to go that way. It might, and I might be happy with that. Lot’s of people are and kudos to them because I’m jealous of that in a way. Home comforts and stability.

But until it does, why should anyone have to worry if they haven’t found that reality yet?

“Gap year w*nker”, more of you are muttering. I’m still the same guy who prefers a 2 quid pint of Carling in Spoons over a fancy meal, by the way.

And I thoroughly look forward to that 2 quid pint too. Carling is far better than anything Australia has to offer, furthermore, and that is saying something.

Australia has an amazing way of life but by heaven her alcohol content and laws are poor.

I guess the perfect situation would be a job relevant to my degree so I can save for another trip in a year’s time. Not 7 months but enough for a holiday to see Asia or somewhere else.

And if I don’t find a graduate job, or a job that I find fulfilling, then there are other working holidays. I’ve had an amazing time and made amazing memories. But there will be more to come – memories don’t end here despite what people are telling me!

I felt my race was run in Australia so why not try living and working in New Zealand, Canada or South East Asia? A year ago, I would never have had the confidence to try those out. I would certainly consider them now though, and I will.

Travelling solo gives you confidence. Again, if you are considering doing it, then go for it.

Whatever is next I will commit to 100%, for any potential graduate employers reading this by the way. I always do. I quite fancy getting a job in a British city.

My excitement to go home is tinged with sadness, then. But not regret. That’s the point of this blog I suppose, and as I’ve become a walking and talking traveller cliche, I better end on one. Don’t live in regret. Life’s too short not to travel.

When I met Smith

And breathe. Finally, with all press conferences, tears and bans issued, the dust has begun to settle on ‘sandpaper-gate’. The three (un)wise men have returned to their homeland whilst their former coach presides over his last test as Australia’s team coach.

Similar to the Republicans’ attempt to hijack the Democrat campaign in 1972, Captain Smith’s ‘leadership group’ sought to unfairly gain an advantage in their own contest.

Where President Nixon attempted to cover up illegal recordings of Democrat campaign tactics, see Steve Smith’s misleading press conference in which he spoke of a ‘leadership group’ and tape, instead of sandpaper.

Of course, that is where the similarities between a crucial political campaign and a game of cricket – which even the loyalist of fans accept is miniscule in its comparative importance – end.

In truth, the debacle that erupted in Cape Town has been bubbling for years. Messrs Lehmann, Smith and Warner have between them overseen, allowed and cultivated an abusive, arrogant and entitled culture since 2013.

Without that build-up, it is difficult to imagine they would believe they could get away with such blatant cheating.

I had the good fortune of a brief meeting with then-captain Steve Smith in Adelaide before the 2nd Ashes Test in December. I politely waited before approaching him, asking him to get a picture with me.

It’s not often you get that chance with the best player of your favourite sport. Imagine getting the chance to speak to and get a picture with Lionel Messi. It doesn’t happen.

Despite this amazing chance, it was clear to me that Smith was not keen to stop – although he did.

Maybe it was because of my English accent? “Pommie wanker”, he probably thought. The types of remarks endlessly delivered to England’s players through the Ashes. I got the picture but was left with a sour taste. A taste of arrogance.

I attended a New South Wales game prior to the Ashes, too. Again I was in close quarters to Captain Smith and his right-hand man Warner. From a small distance away, I saw an entitled, arrogant bravado. Warner seemed to be the mouthpiece of aggression. Smith was something of a lapdog.

It is easy to imagine how Smith showed weakness in failing to prevent Warner and Bancroft’s tampering act.

Indeed, 10 minutes after our brief meeting and photo in Adelaide, Smith delivered a typically arrogant press conference in which he defended the memorable yet disrespectful laughing fit in the post-Gabba Bairstow furore.

It just shows how they had it coming. A lack of respect was given out by the Aussies, and that in turn was increasingly reciprocated by cricketers and the Australian public alike.

Even Prime Minister Turnbull has been involved. Australian cricket has an identity complex. They try to make their mark in two ways – by being better, firstly, and by self-righteously believing they are better, secondly.

Even on a bad day, as long as they perpetrate that view and that they are the fore-bearers of sportsmanship then they have done their job.

Steve Smith shed tears in his presser. Ashamed and sorry for the Australian children who idolise him and now cannot watch him bat. Was he so ashamed when he oversaw abuse of the England team in the Ashes? Those pictured on TV and shown to those same children. I think not.

Well they were caught out this time. Their identity has become encapsulated by Warner and with his removal they have the chance to change.

As for Smith, I do have sympathy with him, despite his outwardly arrogant persona.

I feel that Captain Steve Smith is an act and is not a true reflection of Steven Smith, who is a decent, cricket-obsessed bloke. I believe his greatest weakness was allowing this culture and incident to develop, rather than instigating it.

In my opinion, the blame therefore lies with Warner. My first reaction to Cricket Australia’s 1-year long bans was that it was harsh. I react to it now and believe it is too harsh.

Cheating needs to be punished but it happens in every game. Batsmen don’t walk when they know they have hit the ball. Fielders pick the seam of the ball.

It’s sad for the game that it will be deprived of its best player for a year. But he saw it coming, and became part of the culture. The real Steven Smith can come again. But leave Captain Steve behind, Steven.

Back to Reality

**WARNING. THIS PROBABLY CONTAINS CRINGEWORTHY AND CLICHÈD CONTENT.**

(Sic, it definitely does. But it doesn’t involve cricket and may or may not involve vaguely interesting thoughts on the ups and downs of travelling solo…)

On a few occasions in these last five months I have had strange episodes of realisation. Realisation of where I am. Realisation of where I used to be. Realisation of how things have sort-of changed but haven’t really.

It sounds a little far-fetched and clichèd but I had one such episode last night.

Following a Sunday adventure to Bumdeena, I had time to reflect in the most beautiful setting.

I remember Sundays in the UK spent curled up on a sofa, whinging about my hangovers or petty British things.

It occurred to me yesterday that a year ago I had little idea about where I would be the following year. How things change.

From sitting in Sheffield watching Premier League football on ‘Super Sundays’ with players diving on TV to sitting on a cliff-face in Jurassic Park-esque scenery in Sydney’s southern region diving into a river from 10 metres. Things have definitely changed.

“Back to reality” is entirely ironic. Yes I’m back to working in a warehouse again but, Christ, weekends spent cruising through creeks in Cronulla make it worth it.

I had a vague plan of my Australia trip until early January – when the Ashes finished. But from a couple of weeks ago I’m now sort-of making it up.

It’s panned out pretty well this far, nevertheless, because I’m working for the same events company as before. I’ve even had the pleasure of serving food for tennis stars such as Venus Williams at the ATP Sydney International.

Perspective, I feel, is important though. Without sounding ungrateful, travelling alone is not easy. Such episodes described above are sometimes contrasted by episodes of loneliness, too.

Imagine being 10,000 miles away from your most loved ones.

Imagine not having had your own room or personal space for five months.

I’m now living in a house on a bunk bed (and the bloody top bunk too), sharing a room with three others. But it’s undoubtedly just a small sacrifice.

Realisation and perspective are important for me. I realise I’m incredibly fortunate to have come across amazing places, people and experiences.

At risk of sounding like one of ‘those’ gap-year w****rs, travelling broadens horizons but brings people closer, too.

I long for the next time I see close friends back home; small things offer reminders of certain people every day.

Some days I have thoughts about going home. But then things probably don’t change much at home.

Sometimes this experience feels surreal because I always doubted if I could do it alone. And still, there are times when I think – is this really where my degree should take me?

In reality though, it doesn’t matter. Most of us won’t be young and free for long. So, why not?

At present, it’s back to working for a few months. And then what? Maybe some farming so I can get a second year out here. Or maybe New Zealand and Japan.

So, it is back to ‘the grind’ but what better place to do it. Back to earning money for more travelling and more perspective.

Now, time to be ripped for this clichèd blog…

4th Ashes Test – Melbourne

Sat here at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport, it is hard to believe that I’m finally making my way back to Sydney after 7 weeks following the Ashes, where my journey started.

This hasn’t been a vintage Ashes series – encapsulated by the Melbourne wicket. When England finally started to compete, the pitch killed the game. The ‘poor’ rating awarded by the ICC was an understatement.

Melbourne itself, nevertheless, is far from poor. I spent my first 7 days in St Kilda – Christmas Day on the beach was a must. Obviously we went out on Christmas Eve. Obviously the pub shut down once we, the Barmy Army, got into voice.

Similar to the Melbourne test, Christmas Day began calmly, almost tamely for us backpackers. Having watched the MCG test on Christmas Day back home for years I’d always said to my parents that I’d do the Boxing Day Test one year, with Christmas Day on the beach playing cricket. That wish finally came true.

It was just the beginning, though.

By 3pm on Christmas Day the same grass foreshore at St Kilda beach that hosted a mellow cricket game in the morning was turned into a festival. Christ. 5,000 of us partied away as Christmas Day exploded into life just like England on Day 2 during this test.

Day 2 in Melbourne was England’s best and most surprising day of the tour; 7 Australian wickets fell and Cook began his mammoth innings. Aside from Cook hitting a daddy-hundred over the next few days, the pitch killed the game. It’s a good job Melbourne is a fantastic, vibrant and colourful city, then.

Prior to the game I took on another road trip – this time doing the Great Ocean Road. Victoria has some brilliant coastline – the road swings around the coast considerably more than the boring, unresponsive Kookaburra cricket ball. We visited the 12 Apostles; a fascinating rock formation my A-Level geography teachers would have loved.

Indeed, such is Steve Smith’s batting it has felt like Australia have had 12 players on this tour.

After St Kilda I moved into Fitzroy; an artsy, indie and cult neighbourhood offering variety in music, food and people. Four dollar pizza, 50 cent tapas and 7 dollar happy hours made it the best street I’ve been to in Australia.

Waiting for a flight before the final test begins tomorrow, this feels like a time to reflect.

7 weeks of hostelling, hitching and hopping around Australia is almost over. That England lost The Ashes is entirely unimportant. The tour is obviously enhanced if England win but backpacking isn’t merely about a cricket team winning. It’s about watching entertaining sport; the most glorious, historical battle between two hard-fought teams.

It’s about experiencing things, meeting people and making memories. Hostel life forces you out of your shell. I’ve met people from countries as disparate as Argentina and Chile to Gambia and Israel. I’ve come across more than 25 nationalities, learning about different cultures, languages and customs.

To be honest, I feel as drained as Joe Root looks at the moment; it’s a long but incredible tour. And the only thing missing is an England win.

3rd Ashes Test // Perth-Melbourne Road Trip

Well, that was a bit inevitable wasn’t it? 3-0, The Ashes gone before Melbourne as the Perth curse struck England yet again. I took the plunge to fly to Perth, motivated by travel rather than any cricketing expectation. England were always going to lose, let’s be honest.

The last test at the WACA. Well worth the visit, by the way, but England were out-batted and out-bowled, again. It was a rash decision by me to go to Perth, almost as rash as a Vince drive to slip.

Two days before the test a few hostel pals and I went to HIP-E nightclub in Perth. A certain Ben Duckett was there, who was less than happy when I recognised him. Probably unwise to be drinking and smoking in public in his circumstance! He flew home 2 days after.

I don’t enjoy hanging dirty linen out to dry but really, Ben? Really?

Anyway, back to cricket and England were strongly poised after Day 1 but by the end of Day 2 Australia took authority over the game following a terrible England collapse and a bloke called Steve Smith. He’s quite good.

It’s a good job I took up the offer of a road trip back to Melbourne. I left the test as England lost control of the Ashes with Smith taking dominant.

Having flown to Perth I was planning a huge road trip back to Melbourne with any like-minded travellers but I struck lucky with two Victorians so hitched with them.

The journey from Perth to Melbourne is over 3,400 kilometres. For perspective, that is the same distance as London to Cairo. And we drove it in 3 days. Having travelled the East Coast and spent a lot of time in urban Australia, I wanted to see the real Australia; barren, orange and baking hot. Unlike England’s Ashes campaign, it didn’t disappoint.

It got up to 45 degrees Celsius as our air conditioning broke. This was the real Australia then. Get out of the car and you can feel the relentless, dry heat. It comes down from the Sun and reflects off the orange turf, brought along without a break by the wind.

This wasn’t a cold breeze but a harsh hurricane of heat. Relentless like Australia’s 90mph trio. The journey was long and never-ending – a bit like Steve Smith’s innings. We toiled away like England’s bowlers with little luck – but finally broke into South Australia from WA, as Anderson finally snuck one past Smith’s defences and reviewed successfully.

Progress seemed slow despite the amount of distance we covered every day – one day we covered 3 time zones and 1450 kms. The A1 road is the longest straight road in the world. About as straight and long as Mitch Marsh’s on-drives.

As Day 5 came, we found ourselves weaving between the New South Wales and Victorian border. Whilst I was doing the rain dance in the back of our car the 2 Aussies I hitched with got anxious as the WACA groundsmen tried their best to keep England alive by allowing rain onto the pitch.
I reminded the Aussies that they needed only one session to skittle England and regain the Ashes. As we finally approached Melbourne, I proved right. The urn won by the home country, again.

We reached the end of our trip successfully in Melbourne. If only England could do the same. Nevertheless, there is still plenty to play for and the MCG on Boxing Day will be a great spectacle. Make the Army proud boys.

2nd Ashes Test: Adelaide Antics

Adelaide brought back normality, eventually. As I settled back into hostel life, England settled back into their familiar woes down under. But it could have been so different, couldn’t it?

England elected to bowl, encouraged by overhead conditions, on a flat wicket. This was the best chance for England to take 20 wickets wasn’t it? But no. This was Root’s ‘Nasser Hussain moment’. England’s lengths were too short and Australia racked them up. With each ball bowled short by the England bowlers in the first innings, Australia’s odds of a series victory also got shorter. The England attack, all right arm fast-medium bowlers, was as mundane as Adelaide. Sorry, Adelaide, but those Aussies who told me you were less exciting than other cities are right. Although Hindley Street does offer some decent nightlife ($5 pints were a big tick).

Whilst I’m winging backpacker life, using the theory that if you make few plans, then the plans can’t fail, I can’t help but feel England are almost doing the same. Don Bradman spent the majority of his life in Adelaide – England possess few, if any batsman who can dominate to even a quarter of his ability. See James Vince’s test batting average.

It is difficult to assess England’s batting performance in this test. In both innings they were totally inadequate, but it’s barely their fault. Simply put, Australia are better than England, more often. Australia bowl faster, more accurately and hit more threatening lengths – either very full of genuinely short, rather than the pointless back-of-a-length stuff Woakes and Jimmy often send down.

As someone once said, Australia only edge England in three ways – batting, bowling and fielding.

The Germans and Scandavanavians in my hostel I had tought the game of cricket too probably had more idea than England at one stage. They were entirely bemused, by the way, about how a game could take five days. Lord knows what they would have thought about the timeless tests that used to happen.

Nevertheless, the way England and Jimmy roared back into the contest on the Day 3 evening was brilliant. The cricket was enthralling and the Barmy Army finally got involved properly. This was my first proper Barmy Army experience and one of the best experiences and sporting atmosphere I’ve been involved in.

Smith conceding Australia’s two reviews late on Day 4 followed by The Barmy Army’s mocking of the review signal was spectating theatre at its best. On Days 3 and 4 especially, with England back in the contest, the party continued late in to the night – the Barmy Army took over Adelaide’s casino and various venues.

The area beneath the scoreboard was rocking from Day 3 onwards thanks to England showing some resolve and giving themselves a sniff of a chance on Day 5.

Day 5 brought us all back down to Earth, however, and England must make changes to win in Perth – or else the series is gone (if it isn’t already). We might have enjoyed the night like England but Adelaide brought us back down to Earth.

Perhaps alcohol-induced, the backpackers and the Barmy Army alike began to like Adelaide and England’s performance.

That all changed in the City of Churches when England committed the same sins as the first innings. Indeed, the Gods toyed with England because, inevitably, the heavens opened on Thursday, the day after the test – not even rain could save England when needed.

England must gamble at Perth. I have already – having somewhat stupidly or brilliantly just bought tickets for days 1 and 2, and a flight as well. As a backpacker I thought I might be able to drive one way and fly the other. The drive from Perth back to Melbourne will be over 2,300 miles, much of which is barren land that you do not want to be left stranded in.

Cue my Inbetweeners style cockup…

Regardless, like me, England must make a snap decision and bring in pace or some other change. A shakeup to make things interesting. Please, England selectors.

As for me, I fly to Perth tomorrow and am looking forward to seeing Western Australia and a return of summer. It’s only been 20 degrees in Adelaide…

1st Ashes Test, Brisbane

#Australia #travel #sport

The time was 11.50am on Saturday 25th, Day 3, (1.50am in the UK). Whilst most England fans were sleeping, those who were watching must have also felt they were dreaming. Australia were seven down reply to England’s 302, putting England in a strong position that few thought was possible prior to the match.

Ah, yes. It was also at 11.50am on Day 3 that a university friend and I took the fateful decision to beat the lunch rush at the Brisbane German Beer Club. What a fantastic place by the way. My path followed a similar trajectory to the England side – as Woakes and Ball leaked runs after lunch – we found a group of Aussies to share some drinks with (one of whom was Mitchell Johnson’s second cousin, with an marvellous tache and proved it) and things probably went downhill.

Britons in Australia drinking German beer; you might be able to vote Britain out of Europe but you can’t take the European out of Britons. Indeed, I got back into the ground to see Australia’s innings finally close and, more importantly, merrily lead some Barmy Army chants. The life of the travelling England supporter! I’d even made it onto TV the day before.

Fast forward to Sunday at about 3.30pm Queensland time and England fans waking up must have thought they had had a nightmare, the one that recurs over a 6 week period every 4 or so years. Well they were. False hopes raised through brave batting led by Vince and excellent bowling by the old-timers were dashed amid another batting collapse.
England competed valiantly for three days but have nothing to show for it.

They mustn’t be disheartened though; many questions were asked of England before this match and many have been answered. Issues with England’s batting order, specifically at 2, 3 and 5 have been answered for now – Stoneman looks the best opening bat at 2 since Strauss, Vince played excellently in the first innings and Malan looked good in the first innings, although he needs to figure out a method of playing Lyon.
All in all, there are four reasons why England lost this test match – rather than Australia winning it. Firstly, England wasted key positions such as 240-4 in their first innings and having Australia 200-7. They must be more clinical.

Secondly, Steve Smith batted better than Joe Root. This is harsh on England’s skipper but ultimately Smith played the matchwinning innings – one of outstanding proportions that highlights why he is currently better than Root. Simply because he turns 50s into 100s and daddy-hundreds.

Thirdly, England’s bowling following the excellent Anderson and Broad was suspect, allowing Smith off the hook and putting little pressure on Warner and Bancroft in the run-chase. Contrast that with the consistent threat posed by Australia’s quicks and Nathan Lyon. Finally, England’s tail was twice blown away rapidly – meaning well-earned positions could not be capitalised on and swung momentum quickly back towards Australia.

Having just visited Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo, it’s fair to say that if England could show similar bravery to the short ball as Irwin did in the face of dangerous animals then this Ashes series will be closer than the last.

Brisbane itself has been a more luxurious experience than I’ve become used to on this trip. A friend of my Dad has put me up for the last week, meaning I’ve had my own room and shower for the first time in 10 weeks! Luxury, indeed, and a big thank you to Matt and Judy.

The Barmy Army Headquarters in Brisbane, The Pig ‘N’ Whistle, offered a hub to digest each days play. On the eve of the test I managed to catch Alan Brazil (it is unlike me to catch anything as any Sandbach Cricket Club player would attest), presenting his Talksport morning show from the pub to the UK, for a quick chat.

He offered some thoughts on the England team, suggesting that Alastair Cook is a “top bloke” (this seems more likely when he doesn’t hook straight to fine leg) and also how Australian crowds are that much more raucous than English crowds.

All around Brisbane, on lamposts and pillars, #BeatEngland was everywhere. I now understand the hostility of an away Ashes series and the infamous Gabbatoir atmosphere. For a couple of hours on Day 2 I witnessed poor Jake Ball fielding at fine leg on the boundary, being the victim of a barrage of expletives delivered by a group of drunk Aussies. To be expected in Australia, I suppose.

I also caught Billy the Barmy Army Trumpeter for a quick chat. He talked through a couple of new songs that “Reverend Cheat” Steve Smith was going to “help” the Barmies with through his poor performances. Unfortunately that wasn’t much use in this match.

I bumped into a certain Andy Flower on Day 1 too. Having read KP’s autobiography/ fiction, I was not surprised to find Flower a nice, shy bloke who would stop by for a picture. A repeat of the 5-0 drubbing suffered by Flower’s 2013/14 Ashes side, however, unfortunately already possible.

Nevertheless, Brazil and Billy both predicted England would win 3-2 and that remains possible. Failure to win in Adelaide and England will lose the series. Conditions will favour England though and, as I write, Ben Stokes has just been seen at Heathrow en route to New Zealand. Hope is not lost yet. As for me, Adelaide means it’s back to hostels, bunk beds and little sleep.

The Ashes Backpacker

G’day, I’m Laurence (or Loz), a 21-year old pom with a love for cricket and travelling. So why not combine both? In this blogging series I’ll be giving a flavour of an alternative Ashes tour through the eyes of a backpacker through hostels, people and copious amounts of goon (a rather disgusting yet cheap bag of wine).

I have tickets for four of the tests, I’m not going to Perth unfortunately, and will be writing blogs after each test, giving a different perspective to the Ashes tour through backpacker life. I’ll be joining the Barmy Army in its chanting, drinking and sunburn, whatever the result.

It’s fair to say my experience of Oz has been better than England’s preparations so far. Having travelled the east coast from Cairns to Sydney, Australia has been incredible but it’s time to give it back (though not too literally, not mentioning the obvious misdemeanours that have rocked England’s preparations).

Scuba-diving, sailing and surfing my way down the east coast left me with little money so I had to endure the working part of my working holiday visa with an events company, working in bars and a warehouse containing the most Australian of Australians; Australians certainly know how to give a bit of stick!

Having worked with Aussies for the last month in Sydney, the pommie-bashing is hotting up with 8 days to go. The first thing to learn from Aussies is that insults are never really insults – but their cockiness in cricket should see Root’s men and the Barmy Army give it back! I’ve been assisting with events from the Australian Golf Open to the Women’s Ashes Test at the North Sydney Oval.

It’s fair to say their teas were a slight improvement on those in the North Staffordshire and South Cheshire Cricket League I get back home – I am missing cheese oatcakes though it must be said. Though they’re never good when bowling after tea, even if I bowl military medium at best. Indeed, on a good day I reckon I swing it like Jimmy but only in; the outswinger continues to evade me.

I managed to get to the Hurstville Oval on a day off to watch New South Wales play against WA in Starc’s double-hattrick match. Free entry to see most of Australia’s test team was a bargain by the way – county cricket could learn something. The Aussie quicks are looking sharp but their batting candidates including Shaun and Mitch Marsh looked frail – the cloud England are under following the Stokes saga might serve to help them – England will be much stronger as underdogs because that will massage Australia’s over-confidence in their weak batting line-up.

Finally, as I write, the poll for the referendum on gay marriage has just come in – good on Australia for belatedly joining the equality party. A vote for progression and against discrimination. Sydney and Oxford Street celebrations promise to be fun tonight but the partying from this pom won’t end there – in Root’s men I trust.

Armed with an array of new chants and a sea of fans travelling out here, I’m looking forward to joining England’s 12th man as a backpacker down under. As with the gay marriage vote, here’s to England overcoming past inequalities in Australia.

With Root our captain, we’ll take the urn home…