Posts Tagged ‘andrew flintoff’
It was once my gross misfortune to sit through an after-dinner speech by Alec Bedser. The pretty predictable gist of which was how the modern cricketer has the constitution of Victorian matchstick girl and how everything was a lot better ‘in my day’. In fact I’d estimate that he was operating at a rate of about 14 ‘in my days’ per minute, spewing forth content that would have been deemed too ludicrous for Monty Python’s ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch. As the rant grew more vituperative, his complexion took on a bizarre russet hue and so in the end his gnarled head resembled a very angry Cox’s Pippin.
For the duration of the speech, I was largely preoccupied making my left hand prevent my right one from inserting the nearest butterknife into my earhole. It had reasonably assumed that effecting a major perforation of my eardrum would prove to be a more pleasant experience than listening to the inveterate old bugger spew forth dubious anecdotes like how he once bowled 483 overs in a day without a spinal column.
Christ knows what Bedser’s reaction was to Andrew Strauss’ decision to opt out of the Bangladesh tour. Probably vomiting up his brawn and piccalilli sandwiches all over his Daily Mail. For a man who saw service at Dunkirk, I’m assuming ‘being jaded’ doesn’t really cut the English mustard. But in all honesty the notion of an England captain voluntarily missing test matches does leave a strange taste in the mouth. Perhaps he just misunderstood the role of ‘skipper’.
Strauss’ main concern is this winter’s Ashes series in Australia. Perhaps this is understandable. Veterans of the last tour probably still suffer the same febrile nightmares that plagued anyone coming back from Vietnam without any legs. Maybe Strauss is terrified he’ll end up broken and blotto like Flintoff, turning up at the MCG on Boxing Day with sambuca stains on his once pristine tie telling anyone who’ll listen about the good ol’ days of 2009.
Maybe he promised his wife he’d take his sons to Chessington World of Adventures on the first day of the Chittagong test. Maybe he’s standing as a Conservative in the next election. Maybe he’s doing an evening class in marquetry for beginners. Maybe he’s signed up for the next series of Hole In The Wall. Maybe he just can’t be arsed.
Nothing in sport crushes the spirit so shatteringly as watching England bat their way through a one-day powerplay. I was wincing at my computer screen today following the action from Belfast. It was a situation exacerbated by Cricinfo’s skeletal updates: no commentary on the state of the pitch, the quality of the bowling, the overhead conditions, just ‘no run’ after ‘no run’ after ‘no run’. The imagination ran wild as to what was going on.
Perhaps England were running the cricketing equivalent of the slow bicycle race, some kind of smug post-Ashes challenge to score as sedately as possible. Aggressive shots are punished with a forfeit: Luke Wright was spotted performing naked press-ups on the steps leading up to Stormont Castle.
I know it’s only one game, but the mindless familiarity of it all means that it feels like England’s one-day cancer may never be cured before the entire format inevitably dies away in a few years. Ashes heroes like Matt Prior and Graeme Swann play their test cricket in a gear which seems designed for the shorter game, but have been sucked into the whirlpool of mediocrity. With Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen absented for the immediate future, it could be a long bleak autumn for the English.
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.
When Andrew Flintoff announced his retirement from test cricket this morning I felt the same wave of relief as I did when my cat was put down after a long and complicated battle against feline thyroid cancer.
She had been in a long steady decline since the early 90s, back when she was in her prime and was regularly taking a five-fer of mice. Towards the end she was deaf and blind and incontinent and eventually we were glad to spare her the ongoing indiginity of walking into stuff and then shitting next to it.
Flintoff is the cricketing equivalent of a tiny infirm cat. His knees have taken an awful pounding over the years and I am slightly concerned they may disintegrate completely. And a man needs his knees. Otherwise he can’t bend. His decision to call it quits seems entirely sensible. And we shouldn’t feel too bad for him: he’s had a good innings. Or two.
He should consider himself fortunate that the stars of his fitness and powers aligned during the most iconic series in the game’s history. I can’t help hark back to 2005 for a bit of regressional therapy. It’s like a big squidgy womb of England being awesome. Flintoff being awesome.
The only thing that the cat could look forward to was a shoebox in a small hole next to the vegetable patch. Flintoff will be dreaming of carefree pedalo rides with a Pina Colada or eight, the fun and frolics of Twenty20 cricket and of course the lucre of the IPL.
I hope that the Ashes proves a swansong which befits the Flintoff of 2005. That he toils away against the Australians with bat and ball until his legs drop off. Then I will miss him.
I don’t think that anyone was quite sure who was winning after the first day of the first Ashes test match. Particularly the Metro, which confirmed its reputation for superb consistent reportage by proclaiming that the Australians had edged it on the front page, and stating the complete opposite on the back to say that England were just in front. I don’t think there’ll be any confusion tomorrow.
It all started so promisingly this morning. My work internet was restored to full health and I was merrily exploiting the fact that the Cricinfo live scorecard sort of looks a bit like a spreadsheet of sales figures. Except with a large blue banner that says Cricinfo. I was so exhilirated by the free scoring at one point I was printing random pages to the printer just to give me an excuse to get up and have a little private jig over on the other side of the office. And to pick up a blank piece of paper.
And I could hardly contain myself when I read that Graeme Swann had winked at an increasingly irate Mitchell Johnson. I found myself winking at my screen like a mentalist as if my computer itself had sledged me. Which is a mildly nightmarish thought: that you can happily be tapping away only for a pop-up message to appear saying that you’re shit at typing. You wanker.
My enthusiasm led me to The Cock & Lion on Wigmore St to get a quick schnifter of live action. Which is not ideal because a) it feels slightly wrong to go into a pub on your own and b) there’s nearly always some bellend in there loudly explaining that the way he’d deal with Andrew Flintoff would be to walk down the wicket and smack the ball over his head.
And having fallen slightly back in love with Flintoff, I bounced back to the office to pick up the thread of the internet coverage. Which is where it all started to go wrong. By the time tea was taken, I’d clicked the close button on my little blue oblong of cricket and was doing actual work.
And it all fell to pieces when I found out that my house purchase had fallen through a week before completion. Suddenly, not only was cricket rubbish, but it also didn’t matter.
But there is always tomorrow. There are homes to buy and Aussie wickets to take.
England vs Holland was always going to be a classic. If we were playing football. We weren’t expecting similar entertainment in the opening match of the ICC World Twenty20 Championship.
But they’ll be dancing in the streets of Amsterdam tonight after a splendid performance by the Dutch cricketers squeezed out England, hurtling through for the two runs they needed off the last ball of the game.
England started well having been inserted, but for the last nine overs of their innings looked as if they were batting with those little plastic bats you can buy in petrol stations. Not a single six was smote during the entire 20 overs as the middle order carelessly nurdled away the advantage that Luke Wright and Ravi Bopara had accrued in the earlier overs. England thought they had more than enough with a smug total of 162.
And if England had fielded properly then the Dutch may have fallen short. But they contrived to assemble an embarrassing gallery of missed opportunities, which culminated spectacularly in the final over when Stuart Broad must have broken some kind of record by flunking three run-out chances and dropping a catch.
England do employ a fielding coach. His name is Richard Halsall. I am not sure what the ECB are paying him, but on the evidence of this display, it’s too much. He must have been tempted to throw himself off the dressing room balcony. Maybe one of the members could have caught him to show him how it’s done.
Not too many complaints can be made about England’s frontline seamers, but Adil Rashid looked out of his depth among the puddles – he is only fourteen years old, bless him – and in hindsight seems like an optimistic replacement for Andrew Flintoff. The selection debate for this tournament and this game will continue. Even ‘Too Nice’ Nick Knight was bashing his fists against the glass facade of the Lords Media Centre. The dissections will abound in the newspapers tomorrow – with more eloquence than this blog could ever muster.
So I will end with the heartiest of congratulations to the Dutch. They bowled well, fielded well and ultimately batted well. I think that is what is called total cricket.
Well the story has been remade at Sabina Park, Kingston this week. And to give it a modern twist the wishes have been susbstituted for referrals and the simple woodsfolk for Andrew Strauss. And there’s no sausage.
I feel bad for Strauss in his debut as permanent skipper. Having the won the toss and opting to bat, Strauss was presented with not only a turning track but also a West Indian spinner with the control and nous to exploit it. The poor chap will have been ripping up his copy of Caribbean Captaincy for Dummies.
And so out the field. And quickly into the knotty conundrum of referrals. The discomfiture was written large across Strauss’ face. He wasn’t helped out by a greenhorn test umpire clearly spooked by the humiliating prospect of having his expert judgement regularly called into question.
The original Devon Smith verdict was a bad one. A ball pitching in line and hitting middle and leg about halfway up, Strauss was confident in going for the referral. And the third umpire duly upheld the English claim for leg before. If this wasn’t enough, further ignominy was heaped upon Tony Hill when having to signal a reversed decision: drawing his arms campily across his chest as if just about to launch into a robust performance of the Macarena.
Strauss then grew twitchy: stroking his forearms after every delivery ready to pull the trigger to create the necessary ‘T’ shape. His impulse bested him a few overs after the Smith dismissal as Andrew Flintoff went up for another lbw appeal, this time against Ramnaresh Sarwan. Hill’s initial ‘not out’ decision approved by the TV umpire without too much ado: a ball that was heading a few yards down the legside. Oops.
I suppose you can’t reproach Strauss for being caught up in the exhiliration of the appeal. It was typical Flintoff: loud, wide-eyed and very persuasive. So one referral had disappeared.
And then later that afternoon, Sarwan’s pads were struck again in front of the stumps. This time by Stuart Broad. The baby-faced beanpole’s question was rebutted by umpire Rudi Koertzen, and a plaintive glance to his skipper was met with a curt shake of the head. It seems that Broad is unable is to put together the kind of cogent case that his colleague Flintoff is capable of. Shame. It was out.
The last referral fell by the wayside yesterday after a hilariously overoptimistic appeal and referral by Monty Panesar and his captain. A desperate gambit by a nervous bowler possibly. The fact it was against Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the Windies’ most obdurate batsman, would suggest that the final referral was tossed away in hope rather than expectation.
Strauss needn’t have worried. Chanderpaul was out shortly after. Leg before. To Stuart Broad.