Archive for the Sport Category

Spring Things

Posted in Biographical, Cricket, Football, Politics, Rugby on March 13, 2017 by telescoper

I’m aware that my posts have been a bit thin recently. This is partly because I’ve had so much to do recently. I know I’m supposed to be working part-time, but that isn’t the way it’s working out. I’m being paid part-time, but without any obvious reduction in workload. Not at the moment anyway, although that’s probably mainly because of a load of deadlines coming together.

The other reason is that I’ve not been very well. On top of other things I caught a bug of some sort in January that laid me pretty low and caused continuous coughing and spluttering but seemed not to be too nasty. The problem is that I just couldn’t shake it off. When I finally started to feel better I immediately got worse again. I think I might have had two different forms of the lurgy in quick succession. Now I seem to be clear of the obvious symptoms, but just generally knackered. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting on a bit, the usual winter flu things are harder to shake off. Or maybe I should have taken some time off, but that would have meant missing even more deadlines…

Anyway, while I’ve been moping around feeling sorry for myself, Spring seems to have arrived.

On the sporting front, the 2017 Six Nations is heading towards its conclusion. With England sure to win the Championship after thrashing Scotland 61-21 on Saturday, all that remains is the question of whether they can round it off with a second successive Grand Slam by beating Ireland in the last match. To show how little I know about rugby, I thought Scotland would beat England on Saturday. I even bet on Scotland to win,  but they never really got out of the blocks and were thoroughly trounced.

There are signs of life at the SWALEC stadium now too. I’ve seen the Glamorgan players practising outside a few times now that the weather has improved a bit. I have joined as a full member this year so hope to be able to get to quite a few of the County Championship games. The fixture list arrived last week, another sign that Spring is here.

On the football side, Newcastle United had three tough away games against rivals for the Championship (Brighton, Huddersfield and Reading). They managed to beat the first two and draw 0-0 in the third, which was a good performance. But then they lost an apparently more straightforward home game against Fulham on Saturday. They’re still top of the table (on goal difference), but could still blow it. There are still nine games left of a season which seems to have gone on for ages already!

And then of course there’s the likely triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by Prime Minister Theresa May, assuming Parliament agrees to give her permission to do so. Then we begin the process of separating ourselves from the European Union. There’s a strong chance this will lead to Scottish independence and, perhaps a few years further down the line, a united Ireland. Holland goes to the polls on Wednesday 15th – the Ides of March – and we’ll see whether the Dutch are as willing to fall for divisive far-right rhetoric as the British and Americans have proved to be. I doubt it, actually, but there have been too many shocks recently to be sure.

A night Out with Nigel Owens

Posted in LGBT, Rugby with tags , , , on February 21, 2017 by telescoper

I’ve had a busy morning teaching and a busy afternoon meeting some interesting people from IBM and elsewhere in connection with Data Innovation Institute business, so just time to mention that I’m looking forward tonight to an event at Cardiff Metropolitan University (whose campus is not far from my house) featuring renowned rugby referee Nigel Owens who, in case you hadn’t realized, is gay. The event is part of the celebrations in Cardiff of LGBT History Month.

I’ll update later with reflections on the evening, but in the meantime here’s some examples of him in action on the rugby field!

Update: it was a thoroughly absorbing evening. Nigel Owens spoke extremely engagingly (and without notes) about his upbringing in a small village  in rural Wales, his mental health struggles as he tried to come to terms with his sexuality, a (nearly successful) suicide attempt when he was in his twenties, and how his decision to come out publicly revitalised his career as an international referee. 

When he takes to the field on Saturday to officiate at the Six Nations match between Ireland and France, it will be his 75th international match as a referee, which is the most for any referee ever.

 

Not the Six Nations

Posted in Biographical, Rugby with tags , , , , on February 18, 2017 by telescoper

After a misty morning it has turned into a lovely Spring-like afternoon here in Cardiff. I’ve been in the School of Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University this morning, helping out with a UCAS visit day by interviewing some prospective students and then having lunch and chatting with parents and others.

As well as the weather and the admissions season, another indication of the passage of the seasons is the Six Nations rugby. Our Saturday UCAS visit days have to be arranged with the RBS Six Nations fixture list in mind because Cardiff gets incredibly busy when Wales are playing at home. The capacity of the Millennium Principality Stadium is well over 80,000 which, for a City with a population of just over 300,000 represents a huge perturbation. 

Not only is there a lot of traffic and a very crowded city centre, but it’s also very difficult to find hotel accommodation at a reasonable price on match weekends.  Given that we start in the morning, quite a few prospective students and their families do stay overnight beforehand so this is quite an important consideration. There are no fixtures in the RBS Six Nations this weekend. Today two of my interviewees had travelled quite a long way to get to Cardiff – one from Richmond in North Yorkshire and another from Falmouth in Cornwall – and both families stayed over last night.

Anyway, while I’m not talking about the Six Nations I can’t resist mentioning last week’s match here in Cardiff between Wales and England. I didn’t have a ticket. I’ve ever really figured out how to get tickets for these matches. They always seem to be completely sold out as soon as they go on sale.

Before the match, I thought it was going to be a close game but Wales always have tremendous home advantage at Cardiff and I thought they might just sneak it. It was a rather dour struggle to be honest, but with less than ten minutes to go Wales were leading 16-14 and my suspicions seemed about to be confirmed. However, as is often the case with close matches, it was an error that produced the decisive moment.

About five metres out, Wales turned possession over and then rucked successfully, the ball eventually going to Jonathan Davies behind his own try line. With half of his team trying to disentangle themselves from the completed ruck, it was essential for him to clear his lines by kicking into touch. Unfortunately, he kicked straight down the field where his kick was collected by George Ford. England’s counter-attack was swift and lethal: Ford to Farrell and then to Elliott Daly on the wing, who went over for the try to the sound of groans all round Cardiff. After the conversion it was Wales 16 England 21, which is how the game ended a few minutes later.

The results of the other games so far mean that the only team capable of winning a grand slam is England, as each of the other teams has lost at least one game. There’s still a long way to go, however, and England still face challenging matches against Ireland and a much-improved Scotland.

Anyway, all this UCAS malarkey means that I’m way behind on Saturday crossword duties, so I’m going home. Toodle-pip.

Farewell, Captain Cook

Posted in Cricket with tags , , on February 6, 2017 by telescoper

So Alastair Cook has resigned from his post as Captain of the England (and Wales) Cricket team, having been skipper for 59 test matches since 2012. After their drubbing in India this is hardly surprising, but I hope he finds his form and continues as an opening batsman. He’s only 32 so should have a few more years in him.

When he started as captain I felt that he was far too cautious, something perhaps he inherited from his predecessor Andrew Strauss. I think he got marginally better as time went by, but I always felt he didn’t have sufficient presence on the field to be a great team leader and too often let things drift when England were fielding. Anyway, I don’t want to be too harsh – he did lead England to two Ashes victories!

Farewell, then, Alastair Cook. But who should take his place? Is it the youngster, Joe Root? Or should Geoffrey Boycott come out of retirement to wield his stick of rhubarb in the corridor of uncertainty once more?

End of Summer, Start of Autumn

Posted in Biographical, Cricket with tags , , , on September 22, 2016 by telescoper

It’s a lovely warm sunny day in Cardiff today, but it is nevertheless the end of summer. The autumnal equinox came and went today (22nd September) at 14.21 Universal Time (that’s 15.21 British Summer Time), so from now on it’s all downhill (in that the Subsolar point has just crossed the equator on the southward journey it began at the Summer Solstice).

Many people adopt the autumnal equinox as the official start of autumn, but I go for an alternative criterion: summer is over when the County Championship is over. It turns out that, at least for Glamorgan, that coincided very closely to the equinox. Having bowled out Leicestershire for a paltry 96 at Grace Road in the first innings of their final Division 2 match, they went on to establish a handy first-innings lead of 103. They were then set a modest second-innings target of 181 to win. Unfortunately, their batting frailties were once again cruelly exposed and they collapsed from 144 for 4 to 154 all out and lost by 26 runs. That abject batting display sums up their season really.

Meanwhile, in Division 1 of the Championship, Middlesex are playing Yorkshire at Lord’s, a match whose outcome will determine who wins the Championship. Middlesex only need to draw to be champions, but as I write they’ve just lost an early wicket in their second innings, with Yorkshire having a first-innings lead of 120, so it’s by no means out of the question that Yorkshire might win and be champions again.

Another sign that summer is over is that the new cohort of students has arrived. This being “Freshers’ Week” there have been numerous events arranged to introduce them to various aspects of university life. Lectures proper being in Monday, when the Autumn Semester begins in earnest. I don’t have any teaching until the Spring.

This time of year always reminds me when I left home to go to University, as thousands of fledgling students have just done. I went through this rite of passage 34 years ago, getting on a train at Newcastle Central station with my bags of books and clothes. I said goodbye to my parents there. There was never any question of them taking me in the car all the way to Cambridge. It wasn’t practical and I wouldn’t have wanted them to do it anyway. After changing from the Inter City at Peterborough onto a local train, me and my luggage trundled through the flatness of East Anglia until it reached Cambridge.

I don’t remember much about the actual journey, but I must have felt a mixture of fear and excitement. Nobody in my family had ever been to University before, let alone to Cambridge. Come to think of it, nobody from my family has done so since either. I was a bit worried about whether the course I would take in Natural Sciences would turn out to be very difficult, but I think my main concern was how I would fit in generally.

I had been working between leaving school and starting my undergraduate course, so I had some money in the bank and I was also to receive a full grant. I wasn’t really worried about cash. But I hadn’t come from a posh family and didn’t really know the form. I didn’t have much experience of life outside the North East either. I’d been to London only once before going to Cambridge, and had never been abroad.

I didn’t have any posh clothes, a deficiency I thought would mark me as an outsider. I had always been grateful for having to wear a school uniform (which was bought with vouchers from the Council) because it meant that I dressed the same as the other kids at School, most of whom came from much wealthier families. But this turned out not to matter at all. Regardless of their family background, students were generally a mixture of shabby and fashionable, like they are today. Physics students in particular didn’t even bother with the fashionable bit. Although I didn’t have a proper dinner jacket for the Matriculation Dinner, held for all the new undergraduates, nobody said anything about my dark suit which I was told would be acceptable as long as it was a “lounge suit”. Whatever that is.

Taking a taxi from Cambridge station, I finally arrived at Magdalene College. I waited outside, a bundle of nerves, before entering the Porter’s Lodge and starting my life as a student. My name was found and ticked off and a key issued for my room in the Lutyens building. It turned out to be a large room, with a kind of screen that could be pulled across to divide the room into two, although I never actually used this contraption. There was a single bed and a kind of cupboard containing a sink and a mirror in the bit that could be hidden by the screen. The rest of the room contained a sofa, a table, a desk, and various chairs, all of them quite old but solidly made. Outside my  room, on the landing, was the gyp room, a kind of small kitchen, where I was to make countless cups of tea over the following months, although I never actually cooked anything there.

I struggled in with my bags and sat on the bed. It wasn’t at all like I had imagined. I realised that no amount of imagining would ever really have prepared me for what was going to happen at University.

I  stared at my luggage. I suddenly felt like I had landed on a strange island, and couldn’t remember why I had gone there or what I was supposed to be doing.

After 34 years you get used to that feeling…

 

Glamorgan versus Gloucestershire

Posted in Cricket with tags , , on September 7, 2016 by telescoper

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As this eventful summer draws to a close I thought I’d make the most of my part-time status and take a day off to sample the last game of County Cricket at the Swalec Stadium in Sophia Gardens.

This was the second day of Glamorgan’s match against Gloucestershire. Day 1 had seen Glamorgan bowled out for 220 and Gloucestershire reach 62-3 in reply at stumps.

Glamorgan’s bowlers strained for the early wickets they needed but they didn’t create enough pressure to precipitate a collapse, and Gloucestershire ended on 347 for 8. Young legspinner Carlson bowled particularly well, but didn’t have much luck.

County Cricket is very relaxing. Neither a tense as Test cricket nor as hectic as  limited-overs, it has its own kind of atmosphere and goes at its own tempo, absorbing in its own modest way.

Glamorgan look like losing this game, and run a risk of finishing at the bottom of the County Championship. Still, there’s always next year…

UPDATE: Gloucestershire were all out for 363 on the morning of Day 3. Glamorgan then predictably struggled with the bat yet again, and were bowled out for 232 leaving Gloucestershire 90 to win. Their openers rattled off the runs in fewer than 20 overs by 5pm. Gloucestershire won by 10 wickets.

Glamorgan versus Sussex

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , on August 23, 2016 by telescoper

Another of life’s little coincidences came my way today in the form of a County Championship match between Glamorgan and Sussex in Cardiff. Naturally, being on holiday, and the SWALEC Stadium being very close to my house, I took the opportunity to see the first day’s play.

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Sussex used the uncontested toss to put Glamorgan in to bat. It was a warm sunny day with light cloud and no wind. One would have imagined conditions would have been good for batting, but the Sussex skipper may have seen something in the pitch or, perhaps more likely, knew about Glamorgan’s batting frailties…

As it turned out, there didn’t seem to be much pace in the pitch, but there was definitely some swing and movement for the Sussex bowlers from the start. Glamorgan’s batsman struggled early on, losing a wicket in the very first over, and slumped to 54 for 5 at one stage, recovering only slightly to 87 for 5 at lunch.

After the interval the recovery continued, largely because of Wagg (who eventually fell for an excellent 57) and Morgan who was unbeaten at the close. Glamorgan finished on 252 all out on the stroke of the tea interval. Not a great score, but a lot better than looked likely at 54 for 5.

During the tea interval I wandered onto the field and looked at the pitch, which had quite a bit of green in it:

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Perhaps that’s why Sussex put Glamorgan in?

Anyway, when Sussex came out to bat it was a different story. Openers Joyce and Nash put on 111 for the first wicket, but Nelson did the trick for Glamorgan and Joyce was out just before stumps bringing in a nightwatchman (Briggs) to face the last couple of overs.

A full day’s cricket of 95 overs in the sunshine yielded 363 runs for the loss of 12 wickets. Not bad at all! It’s just a pity there were only a few hundred people in the crowd!

Sussex are obviously in a strong position but the weather forecast for the later part of this week is not good so they should push on tomorrow and try to force a result!