Archive for the Sport Category

The Autumnal Equinox

Posted in Biographical, Cricket with tags , , , , , on September 22, 2017 by telescoper

So here we are then. The Autumnal Equinox (in the Northern hemisphere) takes place this evening, at 21.02 BST (20.02 GMT) at which point the plane of Earth’s equator passes through the centre of the Sun’s disk. This is traditionally taken to be the end of summer. It was a lovely morning in Cardiff, sunny and warm. Looking back over the posts I’ve written at this time of year since I started blogging in 2008, it’s notable how many times we’ve had a period of good weather around the autumnal equinox. The local traditional name for this is the `Little Summer of St Michael’. Anyway, here’s am excerpt from the post I wrote in 2008 on this:

The weather is unsettling. It’s warm, but somehow the warmth doesn’t quite fill the air; somewhere inside it there’s a chill that reminds you that autumn is not far away.

I find this kind of weather a bit spooky because it always takes me back to the time when I left home to go to University, as thousands of fledgling students are about to do this year in their turn.

This morning I had some business to attend to near my home. In fact it was in an office in Temple Court on Cathedral Road. I hadn’t been there before and it was only when I got there that I realised that the building used to be a synagogue. Opened in 1897 this was built at the same time as the grand houses on Cathedral Road. It hasn’t been used as a synagogue for some time, and the building has been substantially extended at the rear, but it is still a Grade II listed building.

My little errand completed I decided to make the most of the weather by watching the morning’s play on the last day of the County Championship match between Glamorgan and Gloucestershire at the SSE Swalec Stadium in Sophia Gardens. Some playing was lost yesterday because of rain; the forecast had suggested a complete washout, but the rain cleared much earlier than predicted. Glamorgan had been all out for 442 in their first innings. Gloucestershire found batting pretty comfortable but lost a flurry of wickets on Thursday afternoon and ended up declaring on 399 for 8 after 110 overs to have a go at Glamorgan for 15 overs late on. They had an early success with the ball, removing Brown for 13, with the score on 15, but opener Nick Selman and Andrew Salter, promoted to No. 3, took them to the close. I watched them bat together all the way to lunch, as Glamorgan proceeded serenely to 154 for 1.

Here are the players going off for lunch:

The game seems to be drifting to a draw, the likelihood of which is increased even further by the fact that rain is forecast this afternoon, so it wasn’t the most exciting cricket I’ve ever watched, but it’s good to end the season with Glamorgan doing well. A sudden declaration with 40-50 overs left might give Glamorgan the chance of a win, but the pitch is very flat and I can’t see a result being forced. I’m pretty sure the plan is to give Glamorgan’s batsmen a chance to build up a bit of confidence for next season. I just checked the score, in fact, to find that Nick Selman has scored a century, which will do him a power of good!

Our new students arrive for `induction’ next week – including the new PhD students involved with our Centre for Doctoral Training who will be attending a Launch Event that starts on Sunday afternoon. I have a few last-minute jobs to do connected with that this afternoon so I’d better get on with them if I want to get finished so I can enjoy the first Amser Jazz Time of the new season!

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September at Sophia Gardens

Posted in Cricket, Uncategorized on September 19, 2017 by telescoper

Since it was a fine evening I popped in at the SSE SWALEC Stadium in Sophia Gardens on the way home from work to catch the last few overs of Day 1 of the County Championship match between Glamorgan and Gloucestershire.

For a change, and despite  losing two quick wickets while I watched,  Glamorgan are in a reasonably strong position at 342 for 7 off 96 overs at the end of Day 1, with young Kiran Carlson unbeaten on 137. That’s not bad considering that, having been put in to bat, they had been 63 for 4 at one stage.

It’s been a disappointing season in the County Championship for Glamorgan, who have only won two games out of 12 so far, and there’s not much at stake in this game, but I hope they can get a good result in this, their last game of the season in Cardiff.

Football Round Up

Posted in Football with tags , , , on September 17, 2017 by telescoper

Since autumn is coming, and the football season is well under way,  bringing with it that terrifying existential void that opens up on Saturdays between the end of Final Score and the start of Match Of The Day,  I thought I would just mention that, after a good win on Saturday against Stoke City,  Newcastle United are now in  4th place in the Premiership:

I’ve posted that simply to enjoy it while it lasts. I don’t think they’ll be so high at the end of the season, but they’ve recovered well, winning three consecutive games after losing their first two.

In a strange quirk of something or other, Newcastle United now find themselves immediately above the two teams to which they have lost.

Incidentally, when I was a student at Cambridge, in 1984, Chelsea finished in first place in the old Second Division, securing promotion to the First Division. Newcastle finished third that season and also got promoted. Manchester City finished fourth. How times change.

It’s a funny old game.

Summer’s Ending

Posted in Bad Statistics, Biographical, Cricket with tags , , , , , on September 11, 2017 by telescoper

There’s no escaping the signs that summer is drawing to a close. The weather took a decidedly autumnal turn  at the end of last week, and though I resisted the temptation to turn the central heating on at Chateau Coles I fear it won’t be long before I have to face reality and take that step. I hope I can hold out at least until the conventional end of summer, the autumnal equinox, which this year happens at 21.02 BST on Friday, 22 September.

Saturday saw the Last Night of the BBC Proms season. I’ve enjoyed a great many of the concerts but I only listened to a bit of the first half of the Last Night as I find the jingoism of the second half rather hard to stomach. I did catch Nina Stemme on the wireless giving it some welly in the Liebestod from Tristan und Insolde, though.  Pretty good, but difficult to compare with my favourite version by Kirsten Flagstad.

One of the highlights of the season, just a few days ago, was Sir András Schiff’s late-night performance of Book I of The Well Tempered Clavier which had me captivated for two hours, until well past my usual bedtime…

However, as the Proms season ends in London the music-making continues in Cardiff with a new series of international concerts at St David’s Hall and Welsh National Opera’s new season at the Wales Millennium Centre (which starts on 23rd September). I notice also that, having finished his complete Beethoven cycle,  Llŷr Williams is embarking on a series of recitals of music by Schubert, starting on November 9th at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Another sign that summer is over is that the last Test Match of the summer has ended. Excellent bowling by Jimmy Anderson (and, in the first innings, by Ben Stokes) meant that England had only a small total to chase, which they managed comfortably. Victory at Lord’s gives England a 2-1 win for the series over West Indies. That outcome is welcome for England fans, but it doesn’t do much to build confidence for the forthcoming Ashes series in Australia. England’s pace bowlers have shown they can prosper in English conditions, when the Duke ball can be made to swing, but in Australia with the Kookaburra they may find success much harder to come by. More importantly, however, only two of England’s five top-order batsmen are of proven international class, making their batting lineup extremely fragile. So much depends on Cook and Root, as I don’t think it is at all obvious who should take the other three positions, despite a whole summer of experimentation.

There are a few one-day internationals and Twenty20 matches coming up as well as three full weeks of County Championship fixtures. In particular, there are two home games for Glamorgan in the next two weeks (one against Northants, starting tomorrow, and one next week against Gloucestershire). Their last match (away against Derbyshire) was drawn because three of the four days were lost to rain, but weather permitting there should still be a few opportunities to see cricket at Sophia Gardens this year.

And of course it will soon be time to for the start of the new academic year, welcoming new students (including the first intake on our MSc courses in Data-Intensive Physics and Astrophysics and new PhD students in Data-Intensive Science who form the first intake of our new Centre for Doctoral Training). All that happens just a couple of weeks from today, and we’re having a big launch event on 25th-26th September to welcome the new intake and introduce them to our industrial and academic partners.

Anyway, that reminds me that I have quite a lot to do before term starts so I’d better get on with it, especially if I’m going to make time to watch a few days of cricket between now and the end of the month!

Blowers.

Posted in Cricket on September 10, 2017 by telescoper

A warm tribute to Henry Blofeld who today did his last commentary for Test Match Special, as England beat the West Indies by 9 wickets at Lord’s.

Jimmy Anderson took 7 for 42 in the West Indies 2nd innings and passed 500 Test wickets in the process.

cricketmanwales

Pre- the final curtain there was the inevitable falling over backwards; too many forced ‘dear old things, too much cranking up of the emotional. Vaughan and Tufnell maybe slightly nervously fawning.

The Old Pro, though, ploughed on, admirably briskly – because that’s what his generation do, right? – because he had a game to commentate on; because ‘tremendous fun’ loometh.

TMS, of course. Blowers. Dressed to kill; impossibly vital and irretrievably amiable, as always. No doubt aware of the doe-eyes around him but impressively focused on that uniquely distracted world-view, drawn in to Lords and to his cricket.

Throughout he remained seemingly unaffected by the smiley furore around him. Doing his thing – scene-setting, describing. All of it via that, yaknow… voice.

There have been contenders, overs the decades, for the Voice of Cricket moniker. Few if any (Arlott, Benaud, perhaps?) have breached that bubble of national/international consciousness in quite…

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On the West Indies Winning

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , , , on August 30, 2017 by telescoper

Back in the office after a rather chaotic Bank Holiday Weekend during which, among other things, I managed to mislay my phone, I couldn’t resist a short post about yesterday’s victory by the West Indies over England at Headingley. I don’t often write about sporting events that I haven’t attended in person, but I thought I’d make an exception in this case for the reasons I’ll outline below.

The first is that, although England will be hurting after losing a game many expected them to win comfortably, I think this result is great for cricket.  Before this game I was gearing up to write a post wondering why there seem to be so few close Test matches these days, the previous series and the first one in this series having been quite one-sided. Although the West Indies won this one fairly comfortably in the end – by five wickets with several overs to spare, it still counts as `close’ in my book because the final day started with any result possible. That doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it makes for a marvellous experience. I wish I had been there. Long may five-day Test matches endure!

Shai Hope, whose beardpower led the West Indies to victory  (Photo credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Secondly, I am not as critical as some of Joe Root’s decision to declare on 490-8 on Monday evening, leaving the visitors 322 to win. He obviously hoped to knock over a  couple of West Indian wickets in the six overs left to play that evening, but that didn’t happen. However, as long as no significant time was lost to the weather (which it wasn’t), that decision meant took the draw out of the equation. If the Windies batted all day on the last day – a big `’if’ – they would comfortably score the runs as only a shade over three an over was required. It’s one of the fascinating curiosities of cricket that maximising the chance of winning by declaring  can also maximise the chance of losing.

In the end, England’s bowlers didn’t perform to their best on the last day and, while many expected the batsmen to feel the pressure, it was England that seemed to crack, losing their cool in the field and dropping a couple of important catches. Crucially, Jimmy Anderson just didn’t get the ball to swing enough to be the threat that he can be. The other likely match-winner, Moeen Ali, did not bowl well either. But let that take nothing away from the excellent performance by the West Indies batsmen, especially Shai Hope (above), who looks a super player. Well played to him, and the rest of his team!

Incidentally, England’s 2nd innings score of 490 for 8 (declared) is the largest Test innings ever in which no batsmen has scored a century. Not a lot of people know that.

I have to admit that I was a bit saddened by the manner of the West Indies defeat in the First Test at Edgbaston because they looked so outclassed. So many of my boyhood sporting heroes were from the West Indies (including such illustrious names as Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, and Malcom Marshall to name but a few) that it was painful to think of the team fading so badly as a force in Test cricket. They seem to have been in decline for some years, but perhaps the comeback starts now. I certainly hope so. The game is richer for having the West Indies as a force.

Finally, on the result. As regularly readers of this blog will know, I’m not averse to placing the odd bet now and then. When Joe Root declared I had a look at the website of Mr William Hill and noticed that the West Indies were 12/1 against to win the match. Largely based on England’s lacklustre bowling in  the first innings (with the exception of James Anderson), the strong batting performance by the West Indies in their first innings,  and the draw having been eliminated from consideration, I decided to put a pony (£25) on a West Indies win.  I had a look at the betting markets along with the score now and then throughout the day yesterday. The available odds changed throughout the day: at 84 for 2 the price was 8-1, at 101 for 2 it was 5-1, at 169 for 2 it was 13/10 and by the time they passed 200 the West Indies were favourites at 11/10 on (England 4/1 against).

At one game apiece with the West Indies on a high,  it’s all set up nicely for the deciding match of the series at Lord’s next week!

 

Natwest T20 Blast Quarter Final: Glamorgan v Leicestershire 

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , , on August 24, 2017 by telescoper

Last night I went to the Natwest T20 Blast Quarter Final match between Glamorgan and Leicestershire at the SSE Swalec Stadium in Cardiff. By beating Middlesex last week, Glamorgan finished top of the `South’ Group hence the home tie against Leicestershire who finished fourth in the North Midlands Group. In contrast to most of the rest of the competition, we had good weather: there was a bit of cloud, but it was warm and as we settled into our seats we were confident of a full match.

The game was preceded by a moving tribute to the late Don Shepherd, who died last week shortly after celebrating his 90th birthday. It’s a shame he wasn’t around to experience what turned out to be a fine evening for Glamorgan cricket.

Leicestershire won the toss and decided to bat first. They got off to a flying start and although Cameron Delport and Luke Ronchi were both clean bowled by excellent deliveries (the former a superb yorker from Marchant De Lange), Leicestershire emerged from the six overs of Powerplay on 57 for 2. A big score looked likely.

The trajectory of the match thereafter was defined by a really excellent bowling and fielding display from Glamorgan, to such an extent that the next ten overs for Leicestershire produced just 43 runs for the loss of seven wickets. Their last wicket fell in the last over, by which time they had accumulated only 123 runs.

The pick of the Glamorgan bowlers was Craig Meschede who bowled at a sharpish fast-medium, but with the wicket-keeper standing up to the stumps to frustrate the batsmen who clearly wanted to come down the wicket to make use of the short straight boundaries. He also bowled a considerable number of slower balls and cutters, but despite these variations he kept to a very accurate line. He finished with figures of 3 for 17 off his four overs, which is really excellent for this format. At the other end for much of the time, Colin Ingram bowled his leg breaks with similar accuracy and got quite a few to turn; he took the wicket of Wells with one that turned enough to take the leading edge, resulting in a simple caught-and-bowled. Ingram finished with 1-19; both he and Meschede bowled 12 dot balls in their four-over spells. All this was backed up by sharp fielding and good catching.

The target of 124 never looked like being enough, although there was nervousness around the ground when Aneurin Donald holed out to mid off early on after which Glamorgan’s batsmen took some time to get the scoreboard moving. But that was just Rudolph and Ingram being sensible. They had no need to rush with such a modest score to chase. Suddenly Ingram sprang into life and took the bull by the horns. The scoring accelerated with a flurry of boundaries, the tension melted away and the Glamorgan supporters starting singing. In all, Ingram clubbed five huge sixes including one that went so high I lost it in the floodlights and feared it might land on my head. It actually landed in the crowd a few yards away but didn’t cause any injury. Ingram is an impressive player when he gets doing – he hits the ball very hard but it looks so effortless, and he’s as skilled with the rapier as with the bludgeon: many deft flicks and cuts were included in his innings.

Ingram was in no mood to hang about once he’d got his eye in. At the end of the 13th over, Glamorgan were 104 for 1. The next five balls went for 6-6-4-2-4 and that was that. Glamorgan finished 126 for 1, winning by nine wickets. Ingram finished on 70 not out having overtaken Jacques Rudolph and left him stranded four short of a fifty. Together with his excellent bowling, his batting amply justified the Man of the Match award. It had been a one-sided contest, but in a way that I found entirely satisfactory. Well played Glamorgan, and commiserations to the Leicestershire fans who played their part in creating a great atmosphere at Sophia Gardens.

So there we are. For the first time since 2004, Glamorgan have qualified for the semi-finals of the Twenty20 competition, where they join Hampshire (who thrashed Derbyshire on Tuesday night); the two remaining quarter-finals are played tonight and tomorrow. Both semi-finals and the final are played on Saturday September 2nd at Edgbaston. David Miller, who had flown back for this match having played in South Africa the day before, was scheduled to bat at No. 4 last night but wasn’t needed. He may well get a game on Finals Day!

UPDATE: Here’s a short video of the highlights of the match! De Lange’s brilliant yorker is about 19s in…