The Barmy Army Explain the Rules of Cricket

6 Dec

Today in Adelaide saw the fifth and final day of the second English-Australian Test cricket match, to the outsider one of the most bewildering sporting events on the planet, after cheese-rolling, bog-snorkelling, synchronised skating and that thing that Afghans do with dead goats on horseback.

I went down to the English end of the ground to chat to members of the touring supporters’ group, proudly branded the Barmy Army, to see if anyone could spare the time from chanting songs about convicts* to explain the rules in a bit more detail…

In fact, if you’re in Perth between 16-20 December, Melbourne 26-30 December, or Sydney 3-7 January 2011, you will be hard put to escape the cricket, with matches running for between three and five days and dominating the news schedules.

Firmly colonial in its leisurely pace, each day punctuated by breaks for lunch, tea and (pretty much) elevenses, cricket consists of long periods of standing around interspersed by moments of action and blink-and-you-miss-it high drama. (Clue: if the players on the field start shouting, they think they’ve got a batsman out.)

Australians, like people in many other former British colonies, tend to actually play the game a lot. The British, in general, with a tradition of wackiness to uphold, prefer to support as vocally as possible. The Australians? Well, they’re a little more buttoned up…

So while many a green space in Australian towns and cities will be occupied by small boys batting a ball around in deadly seriousness, the green spaces at the actual competitive matches will be dominated (in volume, if not in numbers) by the British.

Pink swan? Illegal vuvuzuela? Smuggled liquor? Vigorous chanting? Roaming trumpeter? Obscene T-shirt referencing colonial history? Yep. That’ll be the Brits. Usually accompanied by a police presence which calls to mind that other English sporting tradition, football hooliganism.

The series? Well, it’s the Ashes. A sporting occasion so inexplicable that Douglas Adams, in his Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, posited it as a recreation of an ancient war in outer space.

Every two years, England and Australia play for the best of five, five-day matches to win a trophy known as the Ashes, which supposedly contains the ashes of English cricket, alternating between nations for each event.

England has not won the Ashes in Australia for 24 years, and currently holds its strongest position in an Ashes series since that time, so there’s considerable pride at stake for both sides. If you’re in town, do go and watch a day’s play.

If sport is a window on a nation’s soul, the Ashes provide an interesting insight into two very distinct national psyches.

*: The first Europeans to live in Australia were prisoners and their guards sent over from England. So English supporters like to sing “You all live in a convict colony, a convict colony, a convict colony” to the tune of Yellow Submarine.

Why? “Well, it really annoys the South Australians in particular,” says one supporter. “Because this part never was a penal colony.”

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8 Responses to “The Barmy Army Explain the Rules of Cricket”

  1. Helen December 7, 2010 at 12:13 am #

    You mean you didn’t spend the whole day as part of the Barmy Army?

  2. MummyT December 7, 2010 at 12:22 am #

    It would have cost me a fortune in beer…

  3. wandering educators December 7, 2010 at 8:17 am #

    but probably well worth the fortune spent, to get a clue…

    love your video!

  4. mukuba2002 December 7, 2010 at 10:30 am #

    cricket is a really fun sport. I hope England wins

    • MummyT December 7, 2010 at 2:39 pm #

      Now, this is not like me to be so patriotic, but I reckon we will…

  5. mikarla December 9, 2010 at 3:24 pm #

    My husband was at the Brisbane match and was happy to report that the Aussies reply to the Barmy Army was (to the same tune), “you all live in a shit economy, shit economy…”. Welcome to Australia Mummy T!

    • MummyT December 9, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

      LOL! That explains why the Barmy Army were singing at Adelaide: “The pound against the dollar has taken a big hit, But look at our budget do you think we give a shit?” to the tune of *scratches head* Onward Christian Soldiers, I think. Think Brisbane would have had more atmosphere than Adelaide…

  6. Spencer December 18, 2010 at 9:18 pm #

    I’ll bet it was an experience joining the Barmy Army all day. I would love to travel around with them during an Ashes Test Series.

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