Monday, December 10, 2018

The fifth day of this first Test Match of the series, a session and a half to game's end, Australia require sixty-four runs to win, India desire two wickets. This, folks, is why we have a fifth day in Tests. And this folks is why we must keep a fifth day in Test Matches.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

It occurs to One that maybe Colin Croft, the former West Indies fast bowler of the late seventies and early eighties, was a man for the times. With twenty-seven Tests and one hundred and twenty-five wickets at an average of 23.30 to his name, not only was he a speed sphering great, here was a character beholden to the fine art of the shoulder charge. In Cricket of all sports. A game whereby the only contact is, supposedly, between willow and leather, the bruising of leather upon fragile skins, and unless some fiery speedster unintentionally let’s rip with a beamer aimed at a batsman’s noggin and swells that noggin larger than said batsman’s average – not hard in some cases, admittedly – a shoulder charge is generally not an anticipated outcome within a day’s play. Even with a five-pronged attack of Roberts, Marshall, Holding, Garner and Croft engendering fear upon the mean strips of Worldly pitches the globe over, no one really expected to see shoulder on shoulder action at Christchurch’s Lancaster Park in 1980. Fred Goodall, the umpiring recipient of Croft’s unwelcome attention, certainly wasn’t expecting the unexpected. At 6ft 5”, though, Croft would surely have made a fearsome forward within the Rugby League fraternity back in an era where the shoulder charge was nothing more than the equivalent of air kissing. Having more than one string to your bow and all that. These days, air kissing – let alone the shoulder charge - would be deemed too brutal. Alas, the shoulder charge is supercharged with connotations of long-term brain damage, and has been banned – And fairly, too. So, there probably wouldn’t be much of a future for Croft in modern sport. Even Cricket, these days, take a somewhat dim view of such deity’s as sledging let alone physical harassment. But with that average of twenty-three, a fine bowler the West Indian was when he was concentrating fully on the intricacies of his craft. Best we remember Croft for the good. Because pace bowling was clearly a craft for Croft.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Well, it’s better late than never, I guess. The penny has finally dropped for the England selectors, who have at last seen fit – and finally seen the bleedingly blatant, which everyone else has been able to ascertain for many months – to install Jonny Bairstow at number three. And here he is on 42 not out. Which is 39 more runs than Moeen Ali scored in two innings of the first Test. And probably as many as the spinner scored in his previous half dozen innings at number three. Sure, Bairstow may disapprove, seeing as he still pines for the protection of the gloves behind the stumps. This is a team game though. So it’s off to the gloves of number three he goes to protect this side from any form of catastrophic collapse. With Burns and Jennings already ensconced back in the pavilion for 14 and 13 respectively, a World class number three, one would surmise, is a vital backstop for these two highly fallible openers. Afterall, Bairstow claimed the other day that not all that long ago he was one of the World’s top ten ranked batsmen. So here’s his chance to prove how good he is with timber in hand. And there isn’t much better position to do that than at Number Three. Not to mention far more satisfaction garnered from contributing to this young side’s rise out on the ground than sitting as a reserve for five days. Because Bairstow has his work cut out wrestling those wicketkeeping gloves back from Ben Foakes.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

There have been over two thousand Test Matches played since the first official Test between England and Australia way back in 1877. Not just by those two, certo, but also the likes of South Africa, India, New Zealand and the West Indies. Not to mention various others. In that time there have been epics, there have been crushing defeats, tedious draws, some that have ended in only three days and some that have been decided on the last ball of day five. But in all those one hundred and forty-one years there has never been a Test held between England and Virat Kohli. Until now. The game has changed in all manner of ways, from leg side theory being banned, limits on bouncers per over to the size of bats. Yet, a Test between a Team and an individual? Who knew. Novel, certainly. First, the man with averages traversing the peaks of 48.88 to 58.21 over all three forms of the game scores 149 out of 274 in India’s opening efforts with the bat on day two at Edgbaston, then, in their second inning of 110 for five, he ensnares another forty-three. And not out, at that. India, at the close of play on day three require a further eighty-four runs to win. Or, more to the point, Virat Kohli requires a further eighty-four runs to win. The monster. So, it seems the Indian Captain is the real deal. He’s sealed that deal with a reel of footage to feel the peeling of others doubt heeling beyond the range of sound.

Friday, June 29, 2018

One of sports golden tenets has forever been this: Always, and one means always, do the exact opposite to what your foe wishes. And why not? For one thing, it makes sense. And if you can’t see the sense in it, just do it to spite them anyway. Discover your inner mongrel. If the little lucifer's prefer the game to be played at speed, be lucifer and play it slow. If they concur with a slower pace, speed it up. Desire a grind, throw it wide and offload until the cows come home. Dream of becoming the globetrotters of League, serenade them with a grind. Surely you get the message by now. At least you should. The New Zealand Warriors, well . . . They don’t seem to get it. Put them up against Cronulla, as they were tonight, and one surmises they would surely avoid the grinding of bones on muscle that those from the shire have delighted in boring the Rugby League World with since 1968. Never have the beggars altered their ways and one would be fried with shock if variety invaded their heightened sense of dullness. So, surely, you attempt to open play up somewhat. Get that offloading game of yours flowing. And what did the Warriors do? Yeah, you guessed it, they grinded against the grinders and got ground down. Smart. . . Not. For the first eight to ten weeks of the season, when the Auckland based franchise impersonated a top-class side and Stephen Kearney appeared to have claimed more than a modicum of coaching ability from god knows where (Though one can have a decent guess on that count) his side were offloading with impunity. And it was often. Now, they appear a side that has gone back to the ways of 2017 under Kearney whereupon completion rates were considered to be of more importance than disabling Kim Jong Un’s nuclear arsenal. Each and all wish to witness a high percentage of sets of six completed. It helps, after all, if your side has the pill and preferably in your foe’s half. Yet, tonight, the home side appeared afraid of losing the ball more than were of playing some football. The days of the offload have gone, and Kearney is reverting to type, it seems. No wonder they lost 18-15. And no wonder they lost the ball in the tackle on numerous occasions. They appear a team, that while they will make the top eight, are on the slide, scared to play football, and are heading for a horrendous spanking come finals time. And Kearney is quite possibly entering the beginning of the end of his career as a head coach. For many, one suspects, it can’t come soon enough.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

New South Wales have scored first, in the form of a penalty, in this the first game of the 2018 State of Origin. Nothing spectacular there. And they began slowly, with Queensland having slightly the better of the opening ten minutes. Yet, the Sydneysiders slowly eased their way into the encounter with Addo-Carr and Cleary numerating several halfbreaks. A young side, a fresh beginning, the guns of young looked increasingly assured as the minutes wiled away. No sooner had these pressure handling immunities gone up by two than Tedesco was put into the clear up the middle of the park to extend the lead by a further six. Eight to them, none to those, could it be that the relaxed personality of Brad Fitler, their new Coach, is the ideal foil to those inexperienced minds. Utopia for a three-match series. Keep them calm, Freddie may just be their balm.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Fitness. It’s a word that inspires contempt for some, reverence for others. Some spy it benefits, others vanish the concept to concentrate on skills. Who needs it, they surmise. We’ll simply operate our superior skill level to conjure tries galore. The match will be over by the sixtieth minute. Life’s a breeze. It was for the Canberra Raiders. Ahead 19-6 after forty-eight minutes, their breeze was a gale. They’re big and fast, what a blast. Unfortunately for the home side, that gale petered out as the visitors, the New Zealand Warriors, not so big, more small and nimble, yet just as fast, came rampaging home. Once Tohu Harris crashed over in the fifty-seventh minute, the air of irrevocability sprung its wrath. The Aucklander’s kept their tempo tuned above temporary, surveyed a weakening foe, and forged forth into the realms of victory. It may have taken until the seventy-sixth minute for Isaac Luke to dive over beside the right upright, yet it had been coming for the previous nineteen minutes. And once Shaun Johnson had converted, the Warriors, twice, traipsed the length of the field to procure themselves two field goals, and, ergo, a 20-19 victory. Very simply, this was a win for fitness – And a bloody nose for various talking heads who can’t comprehend oxygen’s myriad of advantages. In previous seasons, down 19-6, against Canberra in Canberra, this would have been a 38-6 drubbing. But, as many have pointed out, this is a side that has now garnered themselves the necessary levels of aerobic capacity. It matters. Because, despite what some would have you believe, there are units in this competition that do not possess the required aerobic levels. For fitness is not strength, fitness is not speed, fitness is, though, aerobic and the capacity to compete for long periods of time. It is what allows one to sprint faster in the seventy-fifth minute. Set a base and reach home base first. If a team is tired, all the speed in the World won’t matter one jot. As one person commented after their first-round encounter with South's, the Warriors looked capable of continuing and extending their lead at the end of eighty minutes. The same applied here. The visitors were becoming stronger as the match neared its end. And who knew Johnson could think so calmly under pressure, slotting field goals in the 78th and 79th minutes. Once again, that’s what fitness does for a player – anyone for that matter – the more oxygen going to the brain the better your thought processes. This all brings to mind the adage of the tortoise and the hare. The Tortoise won.