Wednesday, 26 January 2011

From michty to strewth

Fantasy Bob has just got over the excitement of Burns Night to discover that more celebrations are in order.  Get that haggis on the BBQ.

Australia Day is celebrated on 26 of January. It was on that day in 1788 that Captain Arthur Phillip took formal possession of the colony of New South Wales and became its first Governor. FB is unsure from whom he took possession, but since he had a string of convict vessels in tow he guesses there wasn't much of an argument and rolling the wicket and cutting the outfield could proceed immediately. The first official celebrations were held in 1818 marking the 30th anniversary. The previous year Governor Macquarie had accepted the recommendation of Captain Matthew Flinders, first circumnavigator of the continent, that it be called Australia. FB is not sure what it had been called before that - presumably neither was anyone else.

Australia Day has grown and developed in the intervening years - in particular to reflect and recognise the importance of the aboriginal population and the impacts of settlement on them. Community celebrations are a cornerstone of the day but Australia Day also sees the award of a series of national honours - including Australian of the Year. This year there are no cricketers in the nominations, although previous winners have included Steve Waugh, Mark Taylor and Allan Border who all received the award at the end of their captaincy. Will Ponting bag one when he finally retires?  FB suspects the jury is out.

All this nation building stuff reminds Fantasy Bob how young as a country in many respects Australia is. It was only in 1984 that Australians ceased to be British subjects and 'Advance Australia Fair' replaced 'God Save the Queen' as the national anthem. Up until 1954 when the Australian blue ensign was designated the Australian national flag, precedence was given to the Union Jack. Had the Barmy Army been a feature of the landscape in those days they would have been greatly confused.

Australia Day is not without its cricketing significance. Australia could take an unassailable 4-0 lead in the present ODI series on Australia Day 2011.  FB supposes this has some importance in restoring national pride following the Ashes. But there are other events in the history books.

Hughes at his elegant best
Kim Hughes was born on 26 January 1954. Hughes was of course Australian captain during Botham's Ashes in 1981.  Although he may be remembered for resigning the Australian captaincy in tears following a dismal run of form, kinder memories will reflect on how he lit up the Centenary Test at Lord's in 1980 with two high quality innings, not just batting on all five days but hitting a six on all five as well - the second leg of that must be a record likely to stand for some time. In Scotland he is also remembered for a spell as a master at George Watson's College and for turning our for Watsonians.

On 26 January 1993 in Adelaide, the West Indies held on to win the closest Test in history by one run. With the Aussies chasing 186, it looked all over at 144 for 9, but Tim May and Craig McDermott inched towards the total until McDermott was was given out caught behind off Courtney Walsh, although doubt remains as to whether McDermott actually gloved it. This is eerily similar to the ending of the second closest Test - England's 2 run victory at Edgbaston in 2005.

FB wishes all Aussies everywhere the most happy and enjoyable Australia Day.  He will be indulging in Lamingtons (coconut and chocolate covered cakes) at the generous insistence of an office colleague.

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