From Australia, Harty on the Ashes

HAVING been lucky enough to witness a number of top sporting events in various locations at home and abroad, I travelled to Australia with Harty Junior just over a week ago for the current Ashes series not knowing quite what to expect.

For a country that still shows the Benny Hill Show every day without a single muttering about political correctness, it was clearly going to be a bit left field and, regardless of the result and related goings on in Adelaide, it didn’t disappoint.

Take the atmosphere of a Wembley FA Cup final of yesteryear, coupled with the camaraderie of Ricky Hatton’s travelling army of fans that took over Las Vegas on a number of occasions, courtesy of the legendary Barmy Army, and throw in the biggest contest in world cricket, and that about sums it up.

A global sporting spectacle that still throws up those quirks of fate. On day one, I ended up sitting next to Dave from New South Wales who next August is coming over to scatter his mum’s ashes on Cissbury Ring.

Then on Saturday I walked into the ground and literally bumped into Geoff Crowshaw, who moved Down Under 20 years ago but lived 500 yards away fom me in Tarring when we were ten years old.

The toss was always going to be pivotal, along with those twists of fate, three dropped catches by England on the first day which could have changed the whole direction of the match. But at the end of it all, England fell well short.

On the downside, and not I hasten to add sour grapes, the only real negative aspect of the whole experience was how certain Aussie cricketers conducted themselves. I appreciate the ferocity of the contest but, in my opinion, a line has been crossed.

Right around the globe, every child that takes part in any sport, be it football, cricket, rugby, netball, tennis, athletics whatever, looks up to role models. Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson is one such role model. Having suffered a loss of form that saw him cast out into the cricketing wilderness, he has, with the help of the legendary Dennis Lillee, fought back and at 32 now finds himself at the top of his sport.

The only problem is he’s not a role model, he’s a nasty, arrogant bully and one of the worst kinds because he carefully picks his targets. His behaviour in the first two days of the Test was questionable, but his conduct on the third and fourth days was nothing short of disgusting. His treatment of young English cricketers, Joe Root and Ben Stokes, despite England’s woeful performance, left a bad taste in the mouth.

I can’t remember seeing him trying it on with the likes of Kevin Pieterson, Ian Bell or Michael Carberry? And this is all against the backdrop of the Australian Cricket Board promoting opening the game to youngsters at every available moment – to the point of the outfield being awash with young boys and girls playing quick cricket during the lunch and tea intervals.

All very commendable, but then, why let one of your top stars behave in such a despicable manner on live TV broadcast around the world? But maybe enough is enough, of the number of Aussies I’ve spoken to in the last few days privately there is a school of thought, including allegedly Aussie legend, Ian Chappell, one of the original pioneers of sledging, that Johnson has gone too far.

I’m also getting the feeling from the locals that there is an undercurrent that skipper Michael Clarke is also not winning many home-grown fans with some of his on-field antics.

The contest moves on to Perth on Friday, with England needing any kind of positive result to stand a chance of retaining the Ashes.

Everyone is apparently writing off England, but I actually think this might work in our favour. The experts point towards England’s woeful record at Perth, but records are there to be broken. When was the last time Man United lost at home to Everton and Newcastle in the same season?

Over the years, a number of my predictions have panned out, while others have well and truly blown up. Maybe I’m in holiday mode, possibly a bit of sunstroke, but I really think England can do it in Perth.