Posts Tagged ‘the ashes’
Here’s an artily murky photo of James Anderson. It was sent to me by Trion: Z, the manufacturers of the natty necklace he is sporting. They also generously donated one of their bracelets to sample. I’m not normally one for gratuitous product placement, but I am in favour of jewellery that makes you better at cricket.
Apparently it uses magnetic and ionic technology to help the wearer focus, energise, and generally feel more cheerful about life. I tried mine on for the duration of my flight to Sydney. Hardly the best conditions for a controlled experiment, but it has to be said that I skipped through the arrivals hall feel well and truly ionised.
To complete the review I dispensed with the bracelet for the return flight. I touched down a week ago and I’m still whack. It’s like my body doesn’t consider GMT good enough for it any more. My bladder is the most resistant of my organs to the time difference, it still thinks it’s party-time down under, waking me regularly through the night demanding that I urgently empty it. The days are spent finding corners to curl up in like a pissed cat.
I miss the bracelet.
One of the many favourable aspects of being in Australia over the festive period is that you don’t have strain too many jugular muscles to rubber-neck at the wreckage of their cricket. This is the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald the morning after the first day calamity at the MCG.
The article which is just visible on the left-hand side is about the floods in Queensland, where some people have died.
Harris Sportsthoughts is back from Australia, replica urn safely in hand baggage, and with a huge scoop. I sent my Mum and Dad down to the SCG on the day before the test match, where they were able to secure an interview with injured Australian captain Ricky Ponting.
So here’s the line that will have sports editors along Fleet Street re-arranging their back pages. Mum reports that Ponting is surprisingly handsome, personable, with a nice face. Dad took some photos too. Mainly of his feet, he hasn’t quite got to grips with the digital camera yet.
It is obviously no coincidence that the surprise elevation of Michael Beer to international status follows the promotion of his cause by Shane Warne last week. Since his retirement Warne has operated like an eminence baggy grise in Australian cricket, acting as spinmaker behind the thrones of the administration. Perhaps the management will use Warne’s endorsement as a disclaimer should the Beer gamble fail to pay off. It remains to be seen whether the selection panel should have heeded that word of motherly caution “if Shane Warne told you to jump off a cliff, would you?”
The bulbous shadow of Warne has loomed over Australian slow-bowling since his final game four years ago. Those who have tried to operate in it have flailed in the darkness. His legend could hardly have been bolstered further but as each pretender wilts away into oblivion, the myth of Warne is fluffed a little more. For that reason you could mischievously speculate that the bewildering selection policy has been orchestrated by Warne himself.
In addition to the tapping of Beer from obscurity, it would explain the bafflingly positive commentary on Xavier Doherty‘s bowling in the face of all cricket science. And the kibosh imposed on a return for Nathan Hauritz by arguing that it simply wasn’t possible.
Australian cricket fans, you have been Warned.
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.
So the ECB have got their jockstraps in a twist about the reinstatement of Ashes cricket to the terrestrial roster. I just can imagine Giles Clarke blustering about his office. He has the sort of face that would be good for blustering.
And to a certain extent I agree that the government’s revision is misguided. If only because when it comes into force the year will be the positively space age 2017 and not only will everybody have satellite television, they’ll own a personal satellite to beam the action from. Which will probably be transmitted straight into the viewer’s optic nerve using a microchip or something.
And if they don’t have any of that particular technology then they’ll probably be able to transpond themselves at some point hovering above the ground to watch the match live.
So let’s stop going on about it.
I really enjoyed the Sky coverage of the abandoned Twenty20 international at Old Trafford on Tuesday, particularly David Lloyd, whose trademark look-to-camera was at its most intense. I was disappointed however the producers did not feel the necessity to send out Paul Allott and his microphone to collect some samples of the outrage among the crowd. I felt sure we’d be treated to some ancient gurning Lancastrian muttering darkly about the muddy patch and how it compared unfavourably to the fields of Passchendaele.
I also felt the lack of one Peter Siddle. He’d been given the last week off since the Oval (as days in lieu maybe) and taken his ladyfriend off to Disneyworld in Paris. When you fly with Peter Siddle you fly first-class.
I’d like to think that in taking this trip Siddle was making some oblique statement about the ‘Mickey Mouse’ status of Twenty20 cricket but I would hazard that it is probably more likely that he’s just a massive fan of people dressed in large furry Goofy costumes.
I remember the last time England played Australia in a Twenty20 game in this country. I was in Spain and had just come back from the pool to settle down with frankfurters and Mini-milks in front of the cricket. And we thumped them. It was one of the great days of my life.
The game had a relevance that today’s fixture does not share. Four years ago it was an early jab landed on the Australian jaw before the real fighting began in the test series. But this time the Ashes is over.
It sort of feels like we’ve eaten our king prawn dupiaza and pilau rice and now the waiter has brought over the poppadums. I’m a great fan of poppadums, particularly with a dollop of mango chutney. But it’s the last thing you want when you are slumped back in your chair with sag aloo repeating on you.
Having said all this, I’ve watched four overs of the game so far and I’ve already been entertained. Mainly by an instrumental version of Live And Let Die coming out over the PA system. So we’ll come to some sort of compromise: these two Twenty20 matches are the hot towel and After Eight of the Ashes summer.
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.
So the dust begins to settle on the Ashes. Which not only creates an awful powdery mess but also gives the opportunity to reflect elsewhere in sporting globe. This summer I have treated cricket like the favoured child of the family, ruffling its hair and generally showering it with attention. But other stuff has happened too.
The World Athletics Championship in Berlin seemed like a jolly lark. I only caught about 30 seconds of it but that was time enough to watch Usain Bolt sprint off with a couple of world titles and crack both his records in the process. He may have gone even faster had he not been watching Andrew Flintoff at mid-on while he was on his starting blocks. The massive talking point of the meet was Caster Semenya. It won the ladies’ 800m final at a Jonathon Trott but then found itself at the centre of an as yet unresolved gender controversy. I feel sympathy for it. Maria Mutola competed at the top level for over a decade without so much as a suspicious glance at the upper lip, despite the fact she could quite easily have been Devon Malcolm’s more rugged younger brother.
Something tells me I haven’t got over the cricket yet. Pesky kid.