Anagram fun: Olympic Games

I’m a bit of a wordsmith, and enjoy the weird anagrams you can come up with. Jenny T of Cricinfo fame just texted me possibly the best I’ve heard in a while, from the latest Private Eye.


Superb. The Eye is a British institution and should be knighted, or something.

No more wickets, lads!

Despite the poor weather, our village team managed to get in a game of Twenty20 last night on a surprisingly true pitch. We were playing a team that we routinely thump. They are evidently enthusiastic scholars of the game, who take an age doing everything in a proper fashion, save for all those vital moments when they actually have to bowl a ball, hit a ball or field a ball, when natural ability lets them down.

But those facets of the game within their control are done to perfection. For example, the scorebook is a sacred text, where each wide, no ball and wicket is lovingly recorded. Every detail is scrutinised at length. The batsmen revel in the pomp and ceremony of taking a guard. The bowlers proclaim loudly that they are moving round the wicket after their third successive wide, re-marking their run-up as though everything is going to plan. There are long discussions in the middle with the new batsman, discussions between overs, even discussions between deliveries; and solemn sermons before, during and after fielding about the need to walk in, attack the ball and back up. In conclusion, they take it extremely seriously, but can’t play for toffee. Most village teams have a player or two like that – they happen to have a glut of them.

Needless to state, with this attitude (arrogance or complacency, take your pick), we were skittled out for 75. They did have a few better bowlers than usual, but given all but one of us was bowled, you can see what kind of shots we played. They then came into bat and their new boys quickly slapped us about to reach 55 for 2 with about eight overs left, at which point it was announced that we had previously miscalculated and the scorebook should have read 77. No great difference to the likely result, but a welcome gesture all the same.

The run rate slowed down, but they still reached 73 with 15 balls left and six wickets in hand. Five to win, four to tie. There was no way we could possibly win from here. Or so we thought. There then followed one of the most bizarre passages of cricket I think I’ve ever witnessed. As I mentioned, we’ve played them a few times, so we know their players fairly well. The two at the crease couldn’t hit a church door with a banjo. The next men in were pretty handy, or at least better, so as long as we kept the ball outside the off stump, where it was in no danger of bowling them out or rapping their pads (their umpires would have given them LBW in a flash!), we still had a chance. Of course, you should never purposefully drop any catches or muff a run out opportunity, although I guess that is down to each cricketer’s individual morality.

“No wickets, lads!” was the cry round the field, as we all crept in to save the single. Dot ball followed dot ball, interrupted by yet another mid-pitch pow-wow by the batsmen, although heaven only knows what they were conspiring. Neither could put bat on ball! In the end, they managed just three runs from the last two and a half overs and we won by a single run. Had the scorebook not been checked, we would have lost by a run.

It was heart-breaking. We didn’t deserve to win and I almost wish we hadn’t, because it surely would have meant more to those two batsmen to have taken their team home, than it did for us to win. You can add ‘patronising’ to my arrogance and complacency, if you like, but that’s how it felt. They hadn’t simply snatched defeat from the jaws of victory – they had stuck two hands down her throat and yanked it from her belly.

Live: England v India, 1st Test, Lord’s

So, England are batting first and they’ve chosen Chris Tremlett over Stuart Broad. I’d have opted for Broad and Tremlett, not James Anderson – but that’s just me. Here’s Ceefax, just for laughs, and offer your thoughts below.

2007 Cowdrey Lecture

Have you read this year’s Cowdrey Lecture, delivered by Christopher Martin-Jenkins’? Hmm, thought as much. Well you really ought to, not least because this year marks the first time in its brief seven years that it hasn’t been delivered by a professional cricketer. And it is fascinating.

I confess not to have read it all, yet, but am working my way through it and finding myself nodding all too frequently. Pleasingly for me and my employers, he mentions Cricinfo (and, revealingly, by name and not “the cricket website Cricinfo” as we are so often called. Clearly the brand hasn’t extended that far yet…) while raising a very good point about the access to, and interest in, county cricket.

Cricinfo recorded 29 million page views from 7.5 million visits to county cricket alone in 2006 – and has already had 19 million this season so, despite the rain, they expect the figure to be exceeded. Obviously because a great many people want to find out the latest scores. Sadly, if they are on the move in their cars they can listen for them in vain; and when they are given it often seems to be as a breathless afterthought following the big story that Scunthorpe’s millionaire chairman has denied rumours that their controversial manager Bruno Boscovic is going to be sacked. Or, more to the point, some utterly mundane comment by Jose Murinho such as he thinks that Chelsea have the players to win the Premiership. What a surprise. The media has been conned to a dangerous extent – if you value the variety of life – into becoming a sort of spin machine for the all-pervading, all-powerful Premiership. Also into the belief that it can’t be of interest if it’s not on television.

Regular or past readers will know of my near-hatred of football, and it is primarily for this reason: that it consumes so much media attention, undeservingly so. But hey ho (Flint), that’s the way of the world.

The lack of fast bowlers also come under Christopher’s scrutinous gaze – and he reveals that changes are afoot to decrease the boundaries. My boss and I went to The Oval earlier in the season and I was absolutely shocked at the shortness of the boundaries. Cynics argue that they are brought “in” from their original position in order to maximise the chances of sixes, increase the number of runs scored in a day and generally get the game finished as quick as possible. The evidence is damning too.

But there is a tremendous amount to be thankful for in the contemporary game – in many respects the standards are higher than ever. There are some magnificent batsmen in world cricket and some magical spinners too. The fielding is sensationally good. It is the fast bowlers who are in short supply in the current phase of a game that has always evolved. In the eternal struggle to find that essential balance between bat and ball what we need is a determined effort to lengthen boundaries – happily both the MCC World Cricket Committee and the new ICC Cricket committee are agreed on that but there is no evidence yet of boundaries being stretched to the furthest practical limits on all grounds as they should be.

Do give it a read, and offer your thoughts of the points he raises.

Got a minute or ten?

I had the good fortune of (finally) meeting Patrick Kidd for lunch today and, among other things, he told us about his interview with Rahul Dravid yesterday (certainly worth reading). He managed 800 words – a fine feat considering he was afforded just two minutes with the India captain. Two. He and another journalist were given five “precious” minutes with him which never ceases to annoy me. With such a short time frame, you often end up firing questions at them, nodding furiously but not listening sufficiently, and it becomes a barrage for the interviewee. Of course, neither party – least of all those being interviewed – have hours and hours spare. But all we’re asking for is 10 minutes. That’s a fair amount of time in which to conduct a decent interview and get to know the human behind the sound-bites.

In Ireland, I was lucky to speak to a number of the players and the restrictions were far less. Rare and priceless. I wonder if and when that’ll ever happen? Anyway – go and read Patrick’s piece and of course his blog, Line and Length, immediately.

Tribute to Patrick Eagar

Tomorrow marks Patrick Eagar’s 300th[1] Test match. It is a phenomonal achievement to have stayed at the top of his profession, in what has become a frenzied market, for so long. There will be a presentation made to him at some point during the Test, and it is richly deserved. He is an outstanding artist and photographer who has captured the vast majority of iconic imagery in cricket in the past 30 or 40 years. I’ve only met him a couple of times, but he’s a true gent – accomodating, interesting and without a trace of pomposity or ceremony about him which, given the success he has had, you might expect to be the case.

Congratulations Patrick. And so what if he missed the last two West Indies Tests in order to stage his 300th at the home of cricket! Check out his website; you’ll probably spot half a dozen photos which you’ve already seen (not least the catch Andrew Strauss took during the 2005 Ashes).

[1] At least, I think it’s the 300th – could be more…

Packed crowds at Bisham

Ali Khurshid has taken a few cricket shots in the past – this was shot in Bisham, in Pakistan. Terrific shot, but not quite as good as his offering earlier this year (same location, see below).

Spectators at a Cricket Match in Bisham

ali khurshid.

A Cricket Match In Bisham

Irish hospitality

Back from my trip to Ireland covering the Quadrangular series and, before I write any more, I must pen this joke – told to me by a Dublin taxi driver this morning.

“A Belfast man is in prison, so his mate goes to see him. ‘What do you do for sex?’ he asks him. ‘Well, we usually have our tea.’”

Those who haven’t heard the differences between the two accents of Northern Ireland and the south won’t get the joke. In fact, it only works if you say it out loud…but it had me guffawing my way to the airport, at any rate.

A view of Clontarf, Dublin

An interesting trip to Ireland though. Some of the cricket was really quite poor by the Associates – and by West Indies, it has to be said – but overall it was a very useful fact-finding mission. I’m less convinced by exactly what the Associates have gained from the experience – it was blighted by the bloody rain, sadly – but I suppose the more they play, the better they get. The complete lack of exposure to the newspapers, TV, radio – anywhere – was a huge concern though. Just two weeks earlier, with India and South Africa playing “off-shore” internationals, that too failed to attract sizeable crowds – due in part to a cock-up by the ICU in over-pricing the matches (something they rectified for the Quadrangular).

One comment struck me, though: do they (the Associates) really want to play with the big guys, or are they happy as they are?

They can’t be. But until the boards receive massive financial injection, they simply won’t develop to a sufficient standard and players will continue to flee to England for a full-time salary and genuine prospects of playing Test cricket. That’s the truth as I see it.

The enthusiasm for Irish cricket among those involved, however, was really great to see. But can a family – and that’s essentially what Irish cricket still is – become a professional, business-oriented body?

700 down, 300 to go

It required a spectacular effort, a mere 12 wickets in the match, but yesterday Muttiah Muralitharan became only the second bowler to reach 700 Test wickets. Yet, at his home ground in Kandy, to the man himself this appeared to be insufficient:

“It is a big achievement, but I anyway knew I was going to get 700 wickets. The challenge now is whether I can get 1000 test wickets before I retire.”

First, of course, lies Warne’s record tally of 708 – I’d like to know the odds on that taking more than one match to overcome.

Positive spin

Only yesterday, at Sky’s only televised County Championship match of the season, David Lloyd was to be found grumbling at the lack of positivity in modern English first-class cricket. Although the Roses match is normally a lure, I’m afraid, Bumble, you were just at the wrong game.

For most teams in the County Championship, it would be fair to say that the days of the sporting declaration have, for the most part, disappeared. This is especially so when the first 5 teams in the top division are within elbows distance of each other. The bonus system, which rewards first innings performances with bat and ball, boosts the meagre four points handed to teams who draw without an over bowled. As such, when Yorkshire were all out this morning for 320, Lancashire merely began their first innings as if there were still days to play.

Shane Warne has brough many things to the County Championship. Yet high on this list must be his forthright version of captaincy. Hampshire are not a team to draw many games, and today was no exception. In a deal that must be applauded, Warne, and Warwickshire counterpart Darren Maddy, arranged a declaration and forfeiture to set up a run chase, which was so closely contested that it took a career best 192* from Michael Carberry to secure the game in the final over for Hampshire.

Does it seem right the Warwickshire are in a worse position for playing a competitive match than either of the Roses teams are after a draw in which the only tension rested in whether Lancashire could make it to their second bowling point before they ran out of overs? Yorkshire’s former captain, Darren Lehmann, was rather vehement on the subject and but two years ago, Warne himself accused David Fulton, then captain of Kent, of handing Nottinghamshire the Championship by refusing to accept such a deal on the last day of the season.

Certainly, the Australian system is far more rewarding of results over ‘score draws’, and the whole point of the extention to four day cricket was to avoid games without victors. However impressive the scorecard of Essex’s game against Nottingham these last four days, neither team showed any hunger for the win over inflated career averages and record breaking. Unfortunately for Chris Read, the two overs he bowled in a final session dedicated to over-rate improvement did not yield him his first wicket in all competitions. That, at least, might have been vaguely entertaining.