Archive for the Cricket Category

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).

 

 

Proper Cricket Update

Posted in Cricket with tags , , on July 7, 2019 by telescoper

Now that the seemingly interminable Round Robin of matches in the ICC World Cup is over, leaving just India, New Zealand, Australia and England to fight on through the Semi-Finals, I thought I’d give a quick update on the state of play in the Proper Cricket, specifically Division 2 of the County Championship.

After their draw last week against Worcestershire, Glamorgan remain unbeaten at the top of the table. Given last season’s performance that’s pretty amazing even if they have played a game more than second-place Lancashire.

Glamorgan aren’t playing in the latest round of matches so I expect Lancashire to go top this week unless they lose their current game (against Northamptonshire) and gain fewer than four bonus points in the process.

Sussex, in third place, got thrashed in their last game, also against Northants, bowled out twice in fewer than eighty overs in total.

Glamorgan’s next game is against Middlesex at Sophia Gardens and then there’s a break in the proper cricket for the Twenty20 slogging matches.

It’s been a good season for Glamorgan so far, and they have a real chance of getting promoted to Division One. Fingers crossed. The big difference has been far more resilient batting, especially in the 2nd innings, but a sensible rotation of the fast bowlers has also helped keep them fresh.

Glamorgan Top!

Posted in Cricket with tags , on June 5, 2019 by telescoper

As a bit of light relief over the last few days I’ve been following (via the internet) the progress of Glamorgan’s match against Northamptonshire in Division 2 of the County Championship. The match started on Sunday and Northants, batting first, were bowled out for 209, with Marchant de Lange taking six wickets. In reply Glamorgan were struggling at 120-5 on Day 2 but managed a superb recovery, ending up scoring 547 thanks to a double-century from Billy Root. Most of yesterday was lost to rain, but this afternoon Glamorgan managed to bowl out Northants for 195, winning the match by an innings and 143.

Glamorgan are so far unbeaten and stand at the top of the Table:

This is almost certainly temporary as most of the other games in the current round started on Monday and won’t finish until tomorrow but I couldn’t resist posting the current standings, as the situation is so different from last year!

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..

Lines composed upon Hearing News of the Retirement of Mr Alastair Cook from International Cricket

Posted in Cricket, Poetry on September 3, 2018 by telescoper

So.
Farewell then,
Alastair
Cook.

I hear that
You are going
To retire from
Test Match
Cricket.

Does that mean
You will go
Back
To doing
Letter from
America?

by Peter Coles (aged 55 ¼)

Glamorgan v Durham: Day 3

Posted in Biographical, Cricket with tags , , , , on August 21, 2018 by telescoper

I flew back this morning from Dublin to Cardiff and, since Sophia Gardens is on the way to my Pontcanna residence from the bus stop, I popped in to watch the last rites of the County Championship match between Glamorgan and Durham.

I got there just in time to see the start of play, with Glamorgan resuming on 79 for 7. Just over half an hour later they were all out for 111 and had list the match by an innings and 30 runs. That despite the fact that Durham only scored 295 in their first innings.

You can’t really blame the tailenders this morning. Glamorgan’s higher-order batsmen folded twice in the match. Their line-up looked weak on paper and so it proved.

Glamorgan have five remaining County Championship matches to play with no overseas batsmen (Marsh & Khawaja having returned to Australian duties). The loss of fast bowler Marchant De Lange for the whole season with a hamstring injury hasn’t helped either. To make matters worse, yesterday Aneurin Donald announced he was leaving the club for Hampshire with immediate effect.

Glamorgan are clearly going to finish bottom of Division 2 of the County Championship. The club having gambled all on success in the Twenty20 format, and lost, they’re now adrift, going nowhere, and with morale at a low ebb. I wouldn’t be surprised if other players joined Donald in seeking pastures new.

The only thing that can turn Glamorgan round is a complete overhaul of its strategy and coaching staff. I’m not sure however whether the club management will do the necessary though.

Anyway, I may get to see some more cricket at Sophia Gardens on my season ticket next month, but I won’t be renewing my membership. Living in Ireland would make it impossible to see enough to justify the expense, even if there were a decent team to watch.

D.G. Bradman b Hollies 0

Posted in Cricket, History with tags , , on August 14, 2018 by telescoper

It was on this day 70 years ago (i.e. on 14th August 1948) that the great Australian batsman Sir Donald Bradman played his last Test innings, against England at the Oval. He didn’t know it would be his last knock but Australia won the match by an innings so he never got to bat again in the match, which was the last in the five-match Ashes series that Australia won 4-0.

Bradman needed only to score four runs to finish with a Test batting average of 100, but he was out second ball to the legspinner Eric Hollies, for a duck, and his average was stuck on 99.94.

Here’s a short video of Bradman’s last Test innings, featuring commentary by John Arlott:

Two things struck me when I watched this just now. One is that Norman Yardley’s decision to give Bradman three cheers at the start of his innings may have seemed very sporting at the time, but I’m sure it put the batsman off and I wonder if that was Yardley’s calculated intent?

The second striking thing is the poor state of the pitch, with huge footmarks clearly visible. Although Hollies was bowling round the wicket presumably to exploit them, it’s not clear these played a role in Bradman’s dismissal. It looks to me that he played a loose shot at a full delivery, probably a googly that turned a little. Nevertheless it is worth remembering that batsmen of Bradman’s era had to play on uncovered wickets. I won’t dwell on this point for fear of starting to sound like Geoffrey Boycott, but it does reinforce just how remarkable Bradman’s average really was. Add to that the fact that England had been bowled out on that strip in their first innings for just 52!

Eric Hollies may have been a good bowler, but his record with the bat was at the opposite extreme to Bradman, scoring a total of 37 runs in 13 Test matches, at an average of 5.28. His total of 1,673 runs in first-class matches was 650 fewer than his haul of wickets, and only once (in 1954) did he reach 30 in an innings. In fact, he did not reach 20 in any innings between 1946 and 1953, and equalled an all-time first-class record, between July 1948 and August 1950, of seventy-one consecutive innings without reaching double figures.

Although Australia won the Ashes convincingly in 1948, the Australian camp was not entirely harmonious. The tension therein largely originated in the fact that Bradman was a Protestant and there was a Catholic faction in the touring party that didn’t like him for essentially tribal reasons. Indeed, I’m told that some former Australian players in the Press Box burst out laughing when `The Don’ was out for a duck that day.