January 10, 2007

In Time of Warne

In Time Of Warne

And now the battle’s over, let us praise
The awesome victors, never down for long,
But when they’re down, immeasurably strong:
At Edgbaston just two runs short, outplayed;
At Manchester, Lee’s Last Stand saved their day;
At Trent Bridge, following on, they still piled on
A total only just too few for Warne
To spin the English difference and erase.

And when they’re up, not even England’s best
- 500 plus in Adelaide, Perth, Day One –
Can stop the outback ranger, wild McGrath
From storming back to win – to pass – each Test,
His face a grinning sun, nor subtler Warne
From lifting cricket with his Last Hurrah.

© Gareth Calway, official poet laureate Bristol City FC,
on temporary loan to Sportsworld.

As broadcast on the BBC World Service, Jan 2007.

Sportsworld's producer rang me up last Friday evening and asked for an accolade for Warne and McGrath. I drank a few glasses of (strictly non-Australian) red wine, gritted my teeth and wrote this sonnet. The next day I broadcast said sonnet personally by phone while 149 million listeners worldwide hung on every word, including one woman as far away as Dersingham, Norfolk - a "first time World Service listener"- who contacted me later to declare herself a "first time World Service listener", and also, I assume, to be enthralled, not just by the glorious poetry but by the towering sporting achievements of two Australian cricketers over the last decade. Extraordinary that two men who have made me miserable on so many occasions should be the inspiration for this world-flung sonnet and also for this unexpected connection with a new WS listener living over four miles away. Sportsworld has twice called my contributions 'prose' - I think (and hope) they mean 'verse' - but for those who wonder what my prose tribute to the two great antipodean sportsmen would be, it's this - thank God they've gone, the smirking Aussie b******s.

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