Archive for the Sport Category

R.I.P. Bob Willis (1949-2019)

Posted in Cricket with tags , on December 4, 2019 by telescoper

Just back from a lecture to find news of the death at the age of 70 of former England fast bowler and captain Bob Willis. I’m sure I’m not the only person who is now reminiscing about that day at Headingley in 1981 when Australia needed only 130 to win and, as Wisden later described it, “Willis ran in to bowl as if the Devil were at his heels”. As Christopher Martin-Jenkins wrote:

With his Test career in doubt for the umpteenth time, Willis, of the big heart and vicious bounce, gave it everything he knew. Brushing aside the cost of regular no-balls, he bowled at fierce pace to a shorter length and a straighter line than in the first innings. And suddenly Australia’s foundation crumbled…

R.I.P. Bob Willis (1949-2019)

A Strange Day

Posted in Politics, Rugby with tags , , , , on October 19, 2019 by telescoper

Being in Maynooth getting some work done this afternoon, I wasn’t in London for today’s People’s Vote March, which seems to have been a big one. So big, in fact, that even the BBC felt compelled to mention it. Well done to everyone who took part!

Inside the House of Commons, Members of Parliament voted for an Amendment, the upshot of which is that the Government is now required to seek an extension of the October 31st deadline for leaving the European Union to allow Boris Johnson’s so-called `deal’ with the European Union and the associated legislation to be properly scrutinized.

The `deal’ finalized with the EU last week is a remarkable achievement, in that it is even stupider than the already extremely stupid deal negotiated by Theresa May. The one good thing about it is that it is a big step on the road to a United Ireland, which I personally hope I live long enough to enjoy. Loyalists – especially the Democratic Unionist Party – don’t see things the same way of course. The latter party’s public humiliation by Johnson in was a huge gamble that backfired spectacularly on him ,as their ten votes in favour of the Letwin Amendment led to the Government’s defeat, which lost by 322 to 308.

And then there’s Scotland which, like Northern Ireland, voted to remain in the European Union in the referendum that seemed to take place decades ago. While special customs arrangements to facilitate frictionless trade have been proposed for NI, there’s nothing at all in the Withdrawal Agreement for Scotland. In fact Scotland isn’t mentioned once in the text. Faced with such contemptuous treatment from Westminster, the likelihood of Scottish independence must now be greater than at any point in recent memory.

Anyway, Johnson is presumably now back at home in Downing Street with his crayons,writing a letter to the European Union asking for an extension as the law requires him. Or will he? Will he instead do what he usually does and try to bluster his way out of trouble? Will he end up going to prison for contempt of court? Or perhaps he’ll just go and die quietly in a ditch somewhere?

UPDATE: In an astonishing act of petulance, the UK Prime Minister sent not just one but three letters. The first – an unsigned photocopy of the letter contained in the Benn Act. It’s a wonder he didn’t wipe his bottom on it for further effect. The second letter was a covering note from the UK Ambassador to the EU explaining what the first letter was for, and the third was a rambling and incoherent missive from Bozo himself trying to explain in poor grammar why he didn’t think it was a good idea to grant an extension. If Johnson had been planning to make himself like a complete imbecile he could hardly have done a better job. Meanwhile Donald Tusk did exactly the right thing and took the first letter as a request for an extension. Johnson’s pathetic bluster had no effect on the EU, but in any case that was all for Tory party consumption anyway. Stupidity goes down very well with the Conservative Party these days.

P.S. For diary purposes I’ll note that today in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, England beat Australia 40-16 while New Zealand beat Ireland 46-14. That means my accumulator bet is still on…

P.P.S.  Wales beat France by the narrowest of margins (an elbow) and South Africa beat hosts Japan in the other two quarter-finals, bringing my quad bet home in style.  Who will win the competition overall? I’ll go for New Zealand, but I’m not going to bet on it. Always quit while you’re ahead.

 

End of Summer Rains

Posted in Cricket, Maynooth with tags , , , on September 26, 2019 by telescoper

The rain is pouring down here in Maynooth, but this isn’t the only place to have had inclement weather today:

The picture above shows the scene this morning at Chester-le-Street in County Durham where the County Championship Division 2 match between Durham and Glamorgan was taking place. Or rather, wasn’t taking place. The game was abandoned this morning owing to a the cumulative effect of heavy rain over the last few days that allowed only 86 overs to be bowled in total over the four days.

This match being declared a draw, Glamorgan finish the season in 4th place on 167 points, missing out on promotion to Division 1 but having performed much better than last season. They were top of the table early on, but the loss of the excellent Marnus Labuschagne to Ashes duty for Australia proved a big blow and they fell back in the second half of the season. Anyway, at least they’ll probably win a few games next season, while they would undoubtedly struggle in Division 1. Lancashire finish top of the Division 2 table by a country mile, while Northants and Gloucester also go up.

I always thing of the last day of the County Championship as the end of summer. This year most of the final round of games has been hit by the weather so it’s a rather damp ending. This is also the first year in a while in which I haven’t seen any live cricket. Still, there’s always next year.

That’s basically all I have time to write about today as I’ve been running around all day – including popping into the library to give the webinar I mentioned yesterday. Moreover, at 6pm local time all the power in the building is going off and we’re to be turfed out while some repair work is done. I’ll shortly have to go round checking all the computers are switched off.

The England Cricket Team – Another Apology

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , on September 8, 2019 by telescoper

I’m sure that I wasn’t the only person who reacted to England being bowled out for a paltry 67 in the first innings of the Third Ashes Test at Headingley by concluding that the England batsmen were hopelessly inept, that they would certainly lose the match, that the team had absolutely no chance of regaining the Ashes, and that Joe Root should be sacked as England captain.

But after their subsequent one-wicket victory in that match inspired by Ben Stokes, I thought I was wrong, and apologised unreservedly to Joe Root and the England team for having doubted their ability.

Now, after being comprehensively outplayed at Old Trafford, losing by 185 runs, and allowing Australia to retain the Ashes I realise that my previous apology was incorrect, that England’s cricketers are actually inept, and that Joe Root should indeed be sacked as England captain.

I hope this clarifies the situation.

Boris Johnson is 55.

The England Cricket Team – An Apology

Posted in Cricket with tags , , on August 25, 2019 by telescoper

I’m sure that I’m not the only person who reacted to England being bowled out for a paltry 67 in the first innings of the Third Ashes Test at Headingley by concluding that the England batsmen were hopelessly inept, that they would certainly lose the match, that the team had absolutely no chance of regaining the Ashes, and that Joe Root should be sacked as England captain.

However, after today’s exciting one-wicket victory inspired by Ben Stokes, I now realise that I was wrong, and that the England first innings was a cunning ploy to lure the Australians into a false sense of security before seizing control in the second innings.

I apologise unreservedly to Joe Root and the England team for having so obviously misunderstood their tactics.

I hope this clarifies the situation.

Geoffrey Boycott is 78 (not out).

The Rise of Jofra Archer

Posted in Biographical, Cricket with tags , , , on August 23, 2019 by telescoper

With all the news yesterday I got a bit nostalgic and yesterday’s play in the 3rd Ashes Test at Headingley added another element to that. Three years ago this summer I left my post at Sussex University and moved back to Cardiff. I took a break from work of a month before taking up a part-time position at the Data Innovation Research Institute. During the break I took in some cricket, including (part of) the County Championship match between Glamorgan and Sussex at Sophia Gardens, which I watched with a friend who lives in Cardiff. In the Sussex team for that match was a young fast bowler called Jofra Archer.

It struck me then that although he was young and a bit inexperienced he was a natural fast bowler, tall and with a good high action that allowed him to take full advantage of his height and generate a lot of pace and bounce. He was a little wayward at times and a bit expensive but took four wickets in the Glamorgan first innings.

While I was watching the game I noticed a guy sitting in the same stand who seemed a bit nervous. Sometimes changing his seat at the end of each over, at one point sitting near us. During a break in the play we had a chat and it turned out that the nervous spectator was Jofra’s father. He said that he went to watch his son play whenever he could. Then we were lucky enough to chat to the man himself in between deliveries when he was fielding on the third man boundary.

Fast forward three years and the young man has come on tremendously is now a star Test bowler. He’s worked hard to add control to his natural pace and, bowling at speeds of up to 96 mph, he’s able to trouble the world’s best batsmen (including Steve Smith). Yesterday he took 6-45 against Australia and now looks set to be a regular in the England Test team for the foreseeable future (as long as he stays fit). I hope Mr Archer Senior was in the crowd. I bet he’s very proud!

Australia were all out yesterday for 179, which has raised England’s hopes of levelling the series. I think I’ll reserve judgement until I see how England bat on the Headingley pitch against Australia’s quicks. I have a feeling they’re going to struggle…

UPDATE: I don’t like to say I told you so but at lunch on Day 2 England are 54 for 6…
..and soon after lunch all out for 67 off 27 overs and 5 balls. Grim.

A Reminiscence of Cricket

Posted in Cricket, Literature, Poetry with tags , , , , on August 19, 2019 by telescoper

W.G. Grace, photographed in 1902

Not a lot of people know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was a keen amateur cricketer who played ten first-class matches (for the MCC). He was an occasional bowler who only took one wicket in a first-class game, that of W.G. Grace, which was such a momentous event for him that he wrote this poem about it:

Once in my heyday of cricket,
One day I shall ever recall!
I captured that glorious wicket,
The greatest, the grandest of all.

Before me he stands like a vision,
Bearded and burly and brown,
A smile of good humoured derision
As he waits for the first to come down.

A statue from Thebes or from Knossos,
A Hercules shrouded in white,
Assyrian bull-like colossus,
He stands in his might.

With the beard of a Goth or a Vandal,
His bat hanging ready and free,
His great hairy hands on the handle,
And his menacing eyes upon me.

And I – I had tricks for the rabbits,
The feeble of mind or eye,
I could see all the duffer’s bad habits
And where his ruin might lie.

The capture of such might elate one,
But it seemed like one horrible jest
That I should serve tosh to the great one,
Who had broken the hearts of the best.

Well, here goes! Good Lord, what a rotter!
Such a sitter as never was dreamt;
It was clay in the hands of the potter,
But he tapped it with quiet contempt.

The second was better – a leetle;
It was low, but was nearly long-hop;
As the housemaid comes down on the beetle
So down came the bat with a chop.

He was sizing me up with some wonder,
My broken-kneed action and ways;
I could see the grim menace from under
The striped peak that shaded his gaze.

The third was a gift or it looked it-
A foot off the wicket or so;
His huge figure swooped as he hooked it,
His great body swung to the blow.

Still when my dreams are night-marish,
I picture that terrible smite,
It was meant for a neighboring parish,
Or any place out of sight.

But – yes, there’s a but to the story –
The blade swished a trifle too low;
Oh wonder, and vision of glory!
It was up like a shaft from a bow.

Up, up like a towering game bird,
Up, up to a speck in the blue,
And then coming down like the same bird,
Dead straight on the line that it flew.

Good Lord, it was mine! Such a soarer
Would call for a safe pair of hands;
None safer than Derbyshire Storer,
And there, face uplifted, he stands

Wicket keep Storer, the knowing,
Wary and steady of nerve,
Watching it falling and growing
Marking the pace and curve.

I stood with my two eyes fixed on it,
Paralysed, helpless, inert;
There was ‘plunk’ as the gloves shut upon it,
And he cuddled it up to his shirt.

Out – beyond question or wrangle!
Homeward he lurched to his lunch!
His bat was tucked up at an angle,
His great shoulders curved to a hunch.

Walking he rumbled and grumbled,
Scolding himself and not me;
One glove was off, and he fumbled,
Twisting the other hand free

Did I give Storer the credit
The thanks he so splendidly earned?
It was mere empty talk if I said it,
For Grace had already returned.

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930).