The Cricketer
Huw Turbervill Huw Turbervill


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We live in football-obsessed times, alas, so when an advert featuring cricket arrives on the telly, it is reason to rejoice.

Foster’s new offering shows a cricket match taking place in 1888 between some Aussies and Poms… amid the sweltering conditions, the tourists turn to the ‘amber nectar’ to inspire them.

We have come a long way from such behaviour, of course… on the 1946/47 Ashes tour, the England team drank beer from an ice bucket after the day’s play. Now it is ice baths and isotonic drinks…

There will be some tired cricketers down under towards the end of the year, however, with the England players poised to be away on an extended trip.

In the years directly after the second world war, England would go on to New Zealand. Made sense, didn’t it? They had journeyed all that way, by boat, for three weeks, so they might as well kill two birds with one stone.

So England drew a Test in New Zealand after the 3-0 defeat in 1946/47… and the pattern continued: 4-1 and 1-0 in 1950/51; 3-1 and 2-0 in 1954/55; 0-4 and 1-0 in 1958/59; 1-1 and 3-0 in 1962/63; 1-1 and 0-0 in 1965/66; 2-0 and 1-0 in 1970/71; and 1-4 and 1-0 in 1974/75. The strain on marriages and family life was immense.

Then it stopped, however; jet aircraft meant such a slog of a campaign was no longer so logistically sensible. England could return to the other side of the world easily enough in another year.

This winter, though, it is back to Australia and New Zealand… England’s first tour match in the former starts on November 4 (a two-dayer at the WACA), and that is followed by two four-dayers at Adelaide and in Townsville. The Test series then runs from November 23–January 8, with the five-match ODI series against the hosts concluding on January 28. Then there is the new 2017/18 Trans-Tasman Tri-Series; hosts Australia and New Zealand take on England at T20. Six matches, with each team playing each other twice, then the final at Eden Park, Auckland.

Then there will be two Tests in New Zealand (including perhaps the first day/night Test in the land of the long white cloud, at Eden Park) and five one-dayers. The expedition will go on until March, although there are no exact dates for the Kiwi leg yet. So all in all that will be about four to four and a half months.

That is still some way short of the trip 70 years ago, though – Alec Bedser and co left Southampton on the RMS Stirling (a Ministry of War transport carrier) on the last day in August and they did not return for eight months.

While many of the England playing personnel will be different, with Joe Root in charge of the Test team and Eoin Morgan – presumably – the white-ball stuff, a lot of behind-the-scenes staff will be away a seriously long time without locum relief.

They may have had enough of Foster’s, and be craving a warm, frothy pint of bitter…

'Fosters | Thirstiest Men on Earth 1888'

Back to that advert, a reader – Tezz on Twitter – contacts me. “The Foster’s ad has England v Australia at Melbourne 1888 – it never happened. What can we do about this?”

My honest answer is, not much, alas – sorry Tezz.

Tezz is right. There was only one Test that winter: England won by 126 runs at Sydney, George Lohmann and Bobby Peel roasting the hosts, taking nine wickets each in the match. 

Maybe Foster’s did not want to mention Sydney, for Melbourne is their home – the company was created by two Irish American brothers, William and Ralph Foster, who arrived from New York in 1886.

Alas any information I tried to obtain for this piece never arrived. I sent a list of questions to Foster’s PR team at the end of April but they have reacted slower than Chris Tavaré’s batting at Perth in 1982/83.

I did get the basic press release, however. The ad is called ‘The Thirstiest Men on Earth’, and is a ‘dramatised version of the brand’s founders rescuing English cricketers with the ultimate in refreshment as they succumb to the searing heat during a match with the Australian squad. As the thirsty Brits miss a crucial catch and the crowd jeers, William and Ralph Foster’s wagon arrives on the field, offering the Poms a refreshing pint of Australia’s first beer, served straight from a block of ice. The creative celebrates the pioneering heritage of the brand and the unparalleled refreshment of its ingenious amber nectar.”

It’s a bit of fun, anyhow, with good production values. The best Foster’s ads since Paul Hogan was asked by a Japanese tourist: “Can you tell me the way to Cockfosters?” To which he replied: “Yeah, drink it warm, mate.”