Archive for the Sport Category

R.I.P. Gordon Banks (1937-2019)

Posted in Football with tags , , , , on February 13, 2019 by telescoper

It’s been a hectic couple of days during which I somehow missed the very sad news of the passing of legendary goalkeeper Gordon Banks, who died yesterday (12th February 2019) at the age of 81.

Gordon Banks made 628 appearances during a 15-year career in the Football League, and won 73 caps for England, highlighted by starting every game of the 1966 World Cup campaign. He will however be best remembered for one amazing save in the 1970 World Cup, so by way of a short tribute here is a rehash of a post I wrote some years ago about that.

–0–

I’ve posted a few times about science and sport, but this bit of action seems to defy the laws of physics. I remember watching this match, a group game at Guadalajara (Mexico) between England and Brazil from the 1970 World Cup, live on TV when I was seven years old. The Brazil team of 1970 was arguably the finest collection of players ever to grace a football field and the names of Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto, Rivelino and, of course, Pelé, were famous even in our school playground. The England team of 1970 was also very good, but they were made to look very ordinary that day – with one notable exception.

The only thing I remember well about the game itself  was this save – the best of many excellent stops – by the great goalkeeper Gordon Banks. I’ve seen it hundreds of times since, and still can’t understand how he managed to block this header from Pelé. You can tell from Bobby Moore’s reaction (No. 6, on the line) that he also thought Brazil had scored…

Here’s the description of this action from wikipedia:

Playing at pace, Brazil were putting England under enormous pressure and an attack was begun by captain Carlos Alberto who sent a fizzing low ball down the right flank for the speedy Jairzinho to latch on to. The Brazilian winger sped past left back Terry Cooper and reached the byline. Stretching slightly, he managed to get his toes underneath the fast ball and deliver a high but dipping cross towards the far post. Banks, like all goalkeepers reliant on positional sensibility, had been at the near post and suddenly had to turn on his heels and follow the ball to its back post destination.

Waiting for the ball was Pelé, who had arrived at speed and with perfect timing. He leapt hard at the ball above England right back Tommy Wright and thundered a harsh, pacy downward header towards Banks’ near post corner. The striker shouted “Goal!” as he connected with the ball. Banks was still making his way across the line from Jairzinho’s cross and in the split-second of assessment the incident allowed, it seemed impossible for him to get to the ball. He also had to dive slightly backwards and down at the same time which is almost physically impossible. Yet he hurled himself downwards and backwards and got the base of his thumb to the ball, with the momentum sending him cascading to the ground. It was only when he heard the applause and praise of captain Bobby Moore and then looked up and saw the ball trundling towards the advertising hoardings at the far corner, that he realised he’d managed to divert the ball over the bar – he’d known he got a touch but still assumed the ball had gone in. England were not being well received by the locals after cutting comments made about Mexico prior to the tournament by Ramsey, but spontaneous applause rang around the Guadalajara, Jalisco stadium as Banks got back into position to defend the resulting corner. Pelé, who’d begun to celebrate a goal when he headed the ball, would later describe the save as the greatest he’d ever seen.

Here is Gordon Banks describing it in his own words.

Brazil deservedly went on to win the game, but only by a single goal. Without Gordon Banks, England would have been well and truly hammered.

Rest in peace, Gordon Banks (1937-2019).

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Sosban Fach

Posted in Music, Rugby with tags , , , , on February 2, 2019 by telescoper

Well, this year’s Six Nations competition certainly got off to a great start for Wales last night with a memorable victory against France in Paris. That reminded me to post this, a song often heard at rugby matches in Wales. It’s particularly associated with Llanelli RFC and, more recently, the  Scarlets regional side.

The title Sosban Fach means (`Little Saucepan’) and I decided to post this version by Cerys Matthews in particular because of the beautiful clarity of her Welsh diction that makes it very easy to follow the lyrics (even for a foreigner like me).

Here are the words in Welsh:

Mae bys Meri-Ann wedi brifo,
A Dafydd y gwas ddim yn iach.
Mae’r baban yn y crud yn crio,
A’r gath wedi sgramo Joni bach.

Sosban fach yn berwi ar y tân
Sosban fawr yn berwi ar y llawr,
A’r gath wedi sgramo Joni bach.

Dai bach y sowldiwr,
Dai bach y sowldiwr,
Dai bach y sowldiwr,
A chwt ei grys e mas.

Mae bys Meri-Ann wedi gwella,
A Dafydd y gwas yn ei fedd;
Mae’r baban yn y crud wedi tyfu,
A’r gath wedi huno yn ei hedd.

Sosban fach yn berwi ar y tân
Sosban fawr yn berwi ar y llawr
A’r gath wedi sgramo Joni bach.

Shwd grys oedd ganddo?
Shwd grys oedd ganddo?
Shwd grys oedd ganddo?
Un wen â streipen las.

A’r gath wedi sgramo Joni bach.

O hwp e mewn, Dai,
O hwp e mewn, Dai,
O hwp e mewn, Dai,
Mae’n gas ei weld o mas.

Now feel free to sing along!

 

 

On Barry John

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Rugby with tags , , on January 30, 2019 by telescoper

I was browsing a few rugby sites yesterday evening, ahead of this year’s Six Nations competition (which starts on Saturday) when I stumbled across this little clip featuring legendary Welsh standoff Barry John.

The opening part of this clip really caught my attention because it was filmed near the bus stop just outside The Halfway, a pub on Cathedral Road just a few yards from my house in Cardiff; in the background you can see Llandaff Fields.

I’ve often wondered what became of Barry John. He’s 74 now and no longer the slim young prodigy who was quite simply the best rugby player I ever saw. Since he played in a great Welsh side that included Gareth Edwards, J.P.R. Williams, Gerald Davies et al, that really says something. As a sort of rugby equivalent of George Best, he was incredibly famous during his career. Budding rugby players – even those not born in Wales – all wanted to play like Barry John. But suddenly, at the age of just 27, after playing just 25 internationals, he turned his back on all the publicity and adulation and retired from rugby. He found the pressure of being such a star in the amateur era too difficult to cope with.

Anyway, was Barry John really that good? Absolutely yes, he was. Slight of build but with superb balance, he had an extraordinary, almost magical, ability to find his way through a crowd of potential tacklers as if they weren’t there at all. In the memorable words of that great commentator Bill McLaren “he flits like a little phantom”. But you don’t need to take my word for it. Just look at him – and some other giants of the time – in these highlights of the classic Scotland-Wales tie in the Five Nations of 1971. Watch about 30 seconds in, where he wrong-foots half the Scottish three-quarter line before ghosting through three more before releasing the ball to his forwards. Will there ever be another Barry John? I doubt it..

I doubt if Barry John will ever get to read this, but I’m sure there are many of us who remember the excitement of watching him play and feel enriched by what he gave us.

Close of Play

Posted in Cricket with tags , on September 27, 2018 by telescoper

Today has seen the last day’s play of the 2018 County Championship season, yet another sign that summer is over. This has happened very late this year. Indeed I wonder if this is the latest end to a County Championship season ever? Had the last round of matches started before the start of teaching term, I might have gone back to Cardiff for at least some of Glamorgan’s last match but the timing made that impossible.

Glamorgan actually won their last game of the season, yesterday, beating Leicestershire by 132 runs. That was a fairly comfortable victory, but Glamorgan made hard work of it given that Leicestershire were 102 for 8 in their second and managed to reach 270 all out. That was Glamorgan’s second win of the season, the first being their first match of the season, against Gloucestershire. In between these two they’ve endured a wretched season of 10 defeats – including several absolute thrashings – and two draws. It’s true that Glamorgan been unlucky, with injuries to key players, and others being called up for international duty, but it’s worrying that the others just haven’t been good enough to compete. Some young players haven’t come on at all, others seem to have gone backwards, and one (Aneurin Donald) left the club in mid-season. It’s hard not to point the finger and the coaches for this.

I hope Glamorgan have a better season next year. I won’t be renewing my membership, though, as I’ll be spending nearly all my time here in Ireland.

Their final result notwithstanding, Glamorgan are rooted firmly to the bottom of Division Two. The top two teams, promoted to Division One next year are Warwickshire and Kent. Relegated from Division One are Worcestershire and Lancashire. The latter finished level on points with Nottinghamshire, but were relegated because they had won fewer games. Lancashire won their last game, but failed to get enough bonus points in their first innings, collapsing from 273 for 7 to 273 all out. Had they made 300 they would have stayed up. C’est la vie.

The last game of the season to finish was a topsy-turvy affair featuring Surrey versus Essex, the end of which I followed this afternoon on a cricinfo tab while doing other stuff. Surrey had already been confirmed as champions before this last round of matches, and perhaps they were still hung over when they were dismissed for 67 in their first innings on Monday. Essex then declared on 477 for 8, looking set for a comprehensive victory. But Surrey showed their mettle and reached 541 in their second innings, but Essex still needed only 132 to win. In an exciting finish, they slumped to 124 for 9, but managed to win by one wicket.

It seems apt to mark the end of the County Championship with one of the classic cricket poems, Close of Play by Thomas Moult.

How shall we live, now that the summer’s ended,
And bat and ball (too soon!) are put aside,
And all our cricket deeds and dreams have blended —
The hit for six, the champion bowled for none,
The match we planned to win and never won? …
Only in Green-winged memory they abide.

How shall we live, who love our loveliest game
With such bright ardour that when stumps are drawn
We talk into the twilight, always the same
Old talk with laughter round off each tale —
Laughter of friends across a pint of ale
In the blue shade of the pavilion.

For the last time a batsman is out, the day
Like the drained glass and the dear sundown field
is empty; what instead of Summer’s play
Can occupy these darkling months ere spring
Hails willows once again the crowned king?
How shall we live so life may not be chilled?

Well, what’s a crimson hearth for, and the lamp
Of winter nights, and these plump yellow books
That cherish Wisden’s soul and bear his stamp —
And bat and ball (too soon!) are put aside,
Time’s ever changing, unalterable score-board,
Thick-clustered with a thousand names adored:
Half the game’s magic in their very looks!

And when we’ve learnt those almanacs by heart,
And shared with Nyren … Cardus ….the distant thrill
That cannot fade since they have had their part,
We’ll trudge wet streets through fog and mire
And praise our heroes by the club-room fire:
O do not doubt the game will hold us still!

End of Summer in Wales

Posted in Biographical, Cricket on September 11, 2018 by telescoper

Well, with the Last Night of the Proms over and done with on Saturday, and the last day of the Fifth Test between England and India just finished at the Oval, that’s the end of the summer as far as I’m concerned.

I thought for a while earlier today that India might just pull off a remarkable victory. Needing 464 to win they were going well as Rahul and Pant put on a 200 partnership. I saw that BetFair were offering 16/1 on an India victory so put a tenner on. That had the desired effect and India were all out for 345. Good effort though by India. Especially well, played by Pant, on his maiden century!

Oh, and Jimmy Anderson took the last wicket, his 564th in Test cricket, and thereby beat Glenn McGrath’s record as leading pace bowling wicket-taker of all time in Test matches.

The 4-1 margin of victory in this series rather flatters England and is correspondingly harsh on India. The big worry for England is that with Cook now in retirement they now have to find two reliable opening batsmen when so far they’ve failed to find one.

Anyway, tomorrow morning I’m back to Maynooth. I have a paper and a book manuscript to submit before getting my lectures ready for the new term.

After receiving some very good news today, there is also a big event to prepare for on October 9th of which more anon..

Glamorgan v Gloucestershire: Day 1

Posted in Cricket on September 10, 2018 by telescoper

Back in Cardiff for a short visit, I thought I’d make the most of what remains of my season ticket to watch the morning’s play at Sophia Gardens between Glamorgan and Gloucestershire.

It being September, play commenced at 10.30 after an uncontested toss. Gloucestershire invited Glamorgan to bat first. In humid conditions, under overcast skies, and against a team lacking confidence, it was a predictable decision.

Connor Brown was the first Glamorgan batsman to go, lbw playing back to one that might have kept low. A few overs later Tom Cullen inexplicably shouldered arms to a straight delivery that hit the top of middle stump. Kieran Carlson went first ball to a very good delivery from Payne, and then Stephen Cook was caught behind down the leg side off one that bounced sharply and took the glove. That made it 17 for 4, which became 21 for 5 when David Lloyd was lbw to Payne.

To be fair to the batsmen the ball was darting around a bit, and batting didn’t look at all easy. All the same it looked like another sorry capitulation.

Wicketkeeper Chris Cooke had other ideas, however, and he and Graham Wagg out together a good counterattack. Cooke reached 50 having hit 11 fours, and their partnership was worth 83 valuable runs. Cooke was out before lunch for 60, caught behind off the bowling of Payne.

Glamorgan went into lunch at 109 for 6, having recovered somewhat from 21 for 5. I left at lunchtime to take care of some personal things. When I checked just now, Glamorgan were all out for 137, heading for their 9th consecutive defeat.

Meanwhile, at the Oval, Alastair Cook has scored a century in his final Test Match. Well played sir!

UPDATE: I went back to the ground after the tea interval, and saw Gloucestershire progress to 133 for 5. It never looked easy batting, and there were quite a few edges that fell safe and quite a lot of playing and missing, but no great collapse by the visitors. The weather forecast for tomorrow is a bit grim so that is probably the last cricket I’ll see at Sophia Gardens as a Glamorgan member. Best wishes to the players and all the staff at the ground.

Cricket Comments

Posted in Biographical, Cricket on September 9, 2018 by telescoper

As the Test cricket season in England draws to a close I thought I might do a post summarising my extensive contributions to the comments section of the BBC Test Match Special website.

Here they both are:

The first was posted just before the start of play on the first day of the 4th Test between England and India. It turned out to be rather prescient. The second appeared earlier today, during the third day of the Fifth Test.

I think it was Andy Warhol who said that one day everyone will have a comment on the TMS web page. At any rate, that’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to 15 minutes of fame..