Archive for July 2009
I wish that when I was in the careers office I had chosen to be a songwriter instead of amateur blogger. Mainly because if you pen just one successful pop song then you are set for a life spent supping Tropicana in your pants and not much else. I’m guessing that writing a winning blog post gets you nothing apart from minor kudos and possibly a few spelling corrections from your dad.
The other advantage is that when a lyricist is struggling for an apt word or two they can just indiscriminately sprinkle in a bar or two of indistinct noises. An oohoohooh here, a lalalala there. Bloggers can’t do this. It wouldn’t make any sense.
This becomes particularly problematic when you have to describe a day like today at Edgbaston when not very much happens. You have to feed off the scraps of action.
Well firstly Phil Hughes made social cricket media history by becoming the first man to announce his dropping from the team on Twitter. The indiscriminate use of capitals in the middle of his news suggests that his technique is not the only thing that is deficient about Hughes.
He was replaced at the top of the order by Shane Watson, which was a shock that most of us kind of expected. If that makes any sense.
I certainly understood the theory: Australia desperately needed an extra bowler. So they had to drop the batsman who has the least experience and form. And then slot the replacement into his position to cause minimum disruption to the rest of the batting order.
I wasn’t so keen on the practice. It’s a bit like putting a cucumber in your fruit salad. It is technically a fruit but it still leaves a strange taste in yor mouth. Shane Watson averages about 4 opening in first class cricket. And opening in test cricket is way different to opening in one-day cricket. Ask Nick Knight.
But now Watson is 62 not out and flying.
Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh la la la la la la la la.
It feels like ages since we polished off the Aussies at Lords. A lot has happened since then. Mainly that Kevin Pietersen has gone and got himself fucked.
Now we have Ian Bell and he’s stepping in to Pietersen’s shoes at no.4. Which is a problem because Bell has pixie feet and those shoes clearly won’t fit him.
And he doesn’t go out with somebody from Liberty X. In fact I don’t think that there’s anyone from the current crop of popstrels that falls into his league. Joan Armatrading maybe. One of those twins from Bewitched possibly. Toyah Wilcox at a push.
And he’s shorter. And there isn’t an Ian Bell Zone on Cricinfo. And he won’t get up the Australians’ noses like Pietersen. He’ll do the exact opposite. He’ll come out of their noses.
Oh yes and he isn’t as good as KP.
To be fair there isn’t really anyone else. And he did bat at No.4 during 2005 series. Although he did average 17.10 over those five games. Bugger.
All this angst is probably moot. For Edgbaston at least. Because the outfield currently resembles a peat bog and that represents a danger to the players. Particularly Bell who is only tiny and might get sucked under the level of the grass.
So I am lending my full-hearted backing to the passionate indifference towards Ian Bell that has been led up in the higher strata of the blogosphere by King Cricket – truly a movement worth fighting for.
When ITV announced that they were pulling the plug on the Teletext computer next January, two years before scheduled, it felt a bit like they had set out plans to take it to Switzerland for an assisted suicide. Because Teletext, and its more salubrious BBC cousin Ceefax, has been terminally ill since the onset of the digital age.
I will cherish Teletext and Ceefax in their obselescence. Like a pair of threadbare old teddy bears, they have lived beyond their usefulness but they still retain their charm. The grand old men of televisual information services have also sown an unusual stitch in the sporting fabric.
I imagine that most sportsmen will revel in the demise of Teletext and Ceefax, for only bad tidings live on its pages. I have lost count of the indignant cricketers or footballers or ruggers outraged at discovering they’ve missed out on a Caribbean tour or been sold to Swindon Town or been banned for shoving chang up their schnozz. Finding out rubbish stuff on the BBC red button digital interactive service just isn’t the same.
One of the first lessons they teach prospective mothers at mum school is how to embarrass their children. There is all sorts of fiendish techniques available; ranging from classics such as the moistened handkerchief applied to unsuspecting chops or limbo-dancing at weddings to more insidious examples like asking your ladyfriend if she was pregnant because she was feeling a bit dicky (thanks Mum).
But Mitchell Johnson’s mum has thrown the textbook out of the window – she obviously passed this particular module of her education with flying colours, managing to humiliate her son in the national press with some disparaging comments about his girlfriend. And now she’s being blamed for his poor form so far in the Ashes series.
I am very suspicious about this. Largely because I cannot really relate to this sort of maternal jealousy. The first time I took my girlfriend to meet my mum she passed out onto the floor because not only was she shocked that I actually found one willing to go out with me but also that she wasn’t Filipino and didn’t show up on my Paypal account. When she came round she started foaming at the mouth at this new grandchild-making machine presented before her.
Plus there are certain stereotypes that we expect our rugged Australian fast bowlers to live up to. One of them is not being hypersensitive to the whims of an overprotective mother. Look at Peter Siddle. He’s a twat because he’s supposed to be. He probably keeps his mum locked up in the backyard with his pet dingo. You could learn a thing or two from him Mitch.
I had so much fun ambling around Phil Hughes’ website the other day, it occurred to me that similar pleasures were on offer on the sites of other members of the Australia squad. I reckon that I wiled away 10 minutes clicking about on the Hughes site, so by my calculations with a eleven blokes in a team there could be around another 100 minutes of entertainment available. Which is about half a Hollyoaks omnibus. So well worth it.
This is what I found, let’s start at the top:
Simon Katich: Katich doesn’t have website that I can find. He probably doesn’t know what the internet is, or if he does, he still calls it cyberspace.
Ricky Ponting: Richard seems to have bypassed the traditional website route and got himself one of those Facebook pages complete with a lovely picture of him and his new hair. His suspiciously regular updates are fulsomely commented on by people who obviously don’t know a lot about cricket. Like this obnoxious and agrammatical effort: “Im english but i can’t help but like you. Hope you guys come back in the next test and make it a really close contest, there is nothing like an Ashes test series! :)”. I couldn’t spot a single comment that said: ‘Ponting, you’re a cunt” which there clearly would be if an actual cricket fan had ventured their opinion, including Australian ones.
Mike Hussey: there’s a lot of interesting stuff on here about his career as Professor of Financial Economics at the University of Maine. In retrospect I think this might be a different Mike Hussey but if you’re at all interested in financial economics definitely worth a look.
Michael Clarke: I could only find a fansite that looks like it’s been written by someone who speaks in tongues. I also had never noticed that Clarke look strikingly similar to former Blue Peter presenter Stuart Miles so that is nice.
Marcus North: No. Clearly no. Although I did find a site for the Marcus North Shore cinema in Wisconsin. They’re currently running a season of flims about quite dull middle-order batsmen.
Brad Haddin: No. Nothing that even sounds lamely like Brad Haddin.
Mitchell Johnson: Nope. There is a Mitchell Johnson Financial Services though. And the first four results on the Google image search inadvertently creates the easiest odd one out round ever:
One of these men is an actual serial killer.
Nathan Hauritz, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus: not so much as a Twitter account between them. Poor show.
So Phil Hughes is the only Australian cricketer in the Lords starting XI to have his own website which means that this post is a bit of a waste of time. Arguably they all are. I should have stuck to watching Hollyoaks.
Like many I am ambivalent about Twitter. It works mainly as a global guff-stream where commonfolk and celebrity swim side by side amid currents of fatuous flotsam about their banal existences.
Of course I use it a lot. After all most of my family and pals would say a pretty banal sort of a guy. And a massive hypocrite. For a blogger Twitter becomes more of a seamy canal-side street in Amsterdam. I prostitute myself on there on a daily basis: pestering fellow twunts with posts they almost certainly have no interest in.
I have spotted three participants from this summer’s Ashes series. It comes as no shock to see Graeme Swann on there, a man whose metaphorical head is almost as big as his actual one. It’s the perfect platform for his brand of self-regarding wiffle. I shouldn’t grumble, it’s just this kind of bluster that gets under the collective Australian skin.
My eyebrow raised a millimetre or so more when I saw that Swann was following Jimmy Anderson. I think I just assumed that because he was from Burnley he’d sooner be off racing pigeons in his spare time than get himself involved in this Twitter shambles.
An even bigger surprise was to see that there’s an Aussie on there: although we can forgive Phil Hughes because he’s only little. I do have a difficulty with the egregious amount of exclamation marks polluting his tweets. Five !s in a row should only be used by overexcited prom queens or people who have no idea what punctuation is.
I would commend you to click onto the link to his website though. I’m not sure if Hughes intended his site to reflect his batting technique but it does: unconventional, unprofessional-looking but quite entertaining. Most of the content reads like the slightly more tedious pages of a Conference football programme but the photo album is certainly worthy of a look, in particular snaps of a trip back to his hometown of Macksville.
Here’s one of my favourites: Hughes parading in his homeland from the sun roof of some souped-up motor. He looks like the Pope’s rebellious son (unlikely as that concept is) clutching an obligatory can of VB as if it’s his rosary beads. I’m starting to really like him. I’d estimate that the site gave me about ten minutes of amusement.
Twitter is brilliant.
Even at the very end there were visions of hell. What if Ben Hilfenhaus was magically imbued with the talents of Don Bradman or Steve Waugh or Monty Panesar and he and Mitchell Johnson could guide their team to green-gold heaven? It could happen.
But it didn’t. For the first time since 1934 they beat the Australians at Lords. Just to put that into some sort of chronological perspective Tom Watson wasn’t even born then. And he’s well old.
I couldn’t contain my excitement and abandoned the covert operation that I had mounted to follow the final morning in the office. It was probably the squeaking after the Haddin wicket that alerted my colleagues that my mind was wafting up the Jubilee Line towards St. Johns Wood. The odd punch up to the ceiling raised suspicion. And nothing says you’re not concentrating on your work than flouncing towards the middle of the room, spreading your arms wide like Flintoff and announcing that you are very, very happy.
To be fair I was very happy. Not really because we have broken the curse. But because we were so awful at Cardiff, I genuinely couldn’t see England winning anywhere in this series, let alone Lords. I know that a similar pattern emerged in 2005, but that was a different team.
Except Flintoff. Only the sixth man to find his name on both honours boards at Lords, he deserves his own special honours board for being awesome at the Ashes. Or an OBE for services to fucking on the Aussies. And for the most tear-jerking display of earnest hugging I’ve ever witnessed.
I can only hope that he can put himself back together again for Edgbaston and the rest of the series. Because with the ongoing fitness concerns over Kevin Pietersen, this could be something of a Pyrrhic victory. I’d be very satisfied if summer finished tomorrow and a freak monsoon season set in for a couple of months. Sorry, my pessimism is chronic. Even as the open-top bus crawled along Whitehall last time round I could only think that we were riling up the Australians.
To be fair, I was right.
I said that Tom Watson was too old to win the Open in my last post. I was right. Just.
After 71 holes I was drafting something, possibly hyperbolic, about the greatest achievement in the history of sport. I was also indulging in a vivid daydream about Watson reading my post and using it as the inspiration for an unlikely triumph by printing it off and blue-tacking it to his locker. Yes, I know that is absurd, but maybe he is a fan of the Ashes and hates Peter Siddle too.
But unfortunately halfway through the 72nd hole he began to look his age. He is the same age is my dad, and started to play like him too. My old man is quite good at golf, but you need to be more than quite good at golf to par the last at Turnberry to win the Open.
Stewart Cink will now always be the man who Tom Watson lost to at the Open, but he probably doesn’t care. He’ll also go down as the only golfer to win a major whose head looks like the plastic inner bit of a Kinder Egg. Put some fake tan on your bonce mate.
It’s somehow more difficult to write a post when England cricketers are actually doing well. There just isn’t much to be said. And being sour is way more funny. I could relate how I was disgusted by the Australian performance. But I would be lying. I was elated. And besides, potty-mouthed apoplexy is realised so much more succinctly here.
So let me dwell upon another “do a double take at Ceefax” sporting occurrence yesterday. Tom Watson leads the Open going into the weekend. Let me put that into context for you: Watson is nearly 60. He’s older than my dad. You don’t my know dad (except you Mum if you’re reading this), but he’s pretty old. I think we may need some other sense of geriatric scale here. Tom Watson was born in the same year as all these people:
- Floella Benjamin, children’s television auteur of the 80s.
- Alan fucking Titchmarsh, old gardening bastard.
- Simon Callow, who is still alive apparently although I’m sure he died a few years back. Oh no, that was Four Weddings and A Funeral.
- Alex Higgins, who I’m guessing isn’t as good as snooker now as Tom Watson is at golf. Although having said that I did reach my highest ever break when I was a bit drunk. It was 9.
- Mike Batt, composer of one of the most famous songs about rabbits, Bright Eyes. And Remember You’re A Womble, which is the most famous song about Wombles. Apart from the theme tune to The Wombles.
- Bill Nighy and he’s ancient.
- John Belushi, who is so old he’s dead, although to be fair he definitely didn’t die of old age unless that means lashings upon lashings of Class A narcotics. Might check with my grandma just to make sure.
The list goes on. Essentially Tom Watson is as old as a lot of quite old people, none of whom are as good at golf than him. In fact, over the last two days there is noone in the world who is as good at golf than him. Nice work, Tom. And he’s had a hip replacement. I want one of those hips please.
I hope he wins tomorrow. But he won’t. He’s too old.
I knew that Ashes fever had reached London this morning when I minced out of Oxford Circus to be immediately offered a SkySports promotional miniature bat, one of those that cricket fans collect autographs on. Slightly optimistic given that my work is a good 30-minute walk from Lords and the chances of any of the cricketing glitterati wandering aimlessly down Baker St towards the West End were slim. Although I did see Lords Taverners legend John Kettley outside my office once.
Of course I was excited today. Not only was it the morning of the Lords Test against Australia, but also the first round of the Open golf championship up on the Ayrshire coast at Turnberry. I am normally more enthusiastic about this tournament but it has been relegated by the Ashes to the status of a diverting sideshow. I reckon that is because if Geoff Ogilvy or Adam Scott or some other plucky Australian finds their name etched onto the side of the Claret Jug I will stand and applaud and say ‘jolly well played cobber’.
If the name of Ricky Ponting is inscribed onto the little brown urn I will think that is wrong on several levels, but mostly because England have been vanquished again in the series. That particular fear subsided briefly this morning as the England openers set about the Australian bowling with eye-popping ferocity. Mitchell Johnson looked as if he was going to walk away there and then with the Jason Gillespie award for being surprisingly shit.
But as I suspected at lunch the English batsmen found new and novel ways to invite Australia back in the game. I wondered whether Paul Collingwood was worried about being typecast as a nuggetty cricketer after his performance in Cardiff as he pranced negligently down the wicket and back to the pavilion against Michael Clarke, a bowling temp.
Andrew Strauss will be proud of himself but frustrated by his colleagues as they missed an opportunity to put Australia out of the game. He might also be hounded by the terrifying thought that 500 might not be enough on this pitch against these baggy green batters.
The course of this game will be massively influenced by the weather and probably dictated the pace at which the match moved forward today. Perhaps Strauss and Ponting should consult John Kettley for some advice. I know where he is. He’s outside my office.