There is drizzle outside and 85% humidity. Its 7:30 on any other Sydney Sunday night and in Bondi Junction my wife is doing a quick shop for food for our first three days - a quick shop which started a bit after six. She waved encouragement from behind the checkouts about ten minutes ago and then disappeared and I'm wondering if aliens perform abductions in Coles and if so, where will I find find a pizza joint. Not my real hunger anyway.
Its not just any Sydney Sunday night because five minutes down Oxford St into Moore Park Road my digs at the Paddington Barracks are waiting to try and console me into sleep because tomorrow isn't just any Sydney Monday morning. Tomorrow, Australia has its last chance to recover pride and respect lost completely to a rampant mob from England. Even their spectators have outperformed us.
Where I'll sleep tonight, British soldiers once marched and polished and paraded and "yes sirred" and earned only two rewards - a small quoter of rum each day and some time off to wander down to the cricket which was being played at their recreation ground only 300m away. They would sit around the Paddington end of the ground and would yell loud encouragement to the cricketers there and often offered disparaging comments to the "colonials" who were attempting to play their game. They became known as the barrackers and so a term was born which has found its way to sporting events world wide.
Its raining slowly and might do so through offs and ons for the next twelve hours but I'll not provide the weather with the satisfaction of altering my anticipation.
For the Australian captain, Michael Clarke, the pup becomes the Big Dog from the toss, with a head full of allegiance to old man Ponting and little desire expressed to make the job his own. Given the rise and rise of the powere of the coach, any chance of Clarke expressing his thoughts or personality in the decision making processes on or off the field seem less than the role of dice, an activity which his selectors have fared poorly at. Then, if you play with marked cards and loaded dice, outcomes are devoid of chance.
Australia enter their fifth encounter with England this summer, with their hands not just behind their backs by tired firmly there like convicts rounded up Red Caps. There is still no Hauritz and the chosen interloper, will be a Beer opened on the ground for the first time. Australia's leading spinner before the series and the second most successful spinner in terms of first class wickets in Australia this season (Swann has only 3 more) was not invited because the selectors are never wrong. Bollinger is back. Do you think they are picking players solely to amuse sub-editors ... "Australia starts with Bollinger before a Beer chaser" ...
Still, a new face is good thing when the old ones have lost their smile, lost the sparkle from their eyes and issue only tired old men's oaths in the heat of the battle. Another is Khawaja, the brightest star to graduate to the Baggy Green heavens in many an evening wondering if the Southern Cross would sparkle like nights of old. He is as Bill O'Reilly would have described, a good 'un and the confidence being invested in him is clear in his immediateelevation to the most important point in a batting order which has moved like it was fresh from a soaking in liquid nitrogen.
England need no introduction with no changes to the side which blew Australia away in Melbourne. Bresnan and Tremlett were superb and along will Anderson will swing the ball far too dangerously for the Australian and talk of a like fear to be felt from Mitchell Johnson has been without foundation, baring on spell in Perth. Such things are not likely to cause tremors to an English batting line up which has pounded everyone who has stared them down from 20 metres. Hilfenhaus has been unlucky and deserves more English wickets than 4 at plenty+ but the truth is, his swing starts from the hand is easily managed by men well used to such red ball tricks.
England's only weakness is Collingwood, who will swap with Bell in Sydney. It says a lot about their domination that his constant craving for runs has gone on unsated and yet it hasn't hurt England. His brilliant catching has played its part in match turning moments and his loyal service through darker years gains its reward this summer as loyalty returned from a grateful Captain Strauss, when Morgan, a better player, could have taken his place after Perth.
Despite new blood, a new captain and new expectations from a result starved Australian public, nothing but an English victory seems likely.
Now, if I can only get to sleep. After all, I have that long 300m trek to make in the morning among the ghosts of the barackers and then the Barmy Army to great me on the concourse.
No, not just another Sydney Monday.