Daily Archives: March 23, 2010

Bradman played along the ground. Right?

Wrong.  Bradman was a modern.  Enjoy this footage from YouTube.  Be shocked by the use of a white ball.  Marvel and the bat-speed.  Thrill at the weight transfer.  Above all , note the two examples of the aerial slog to cow corner.

 You may want to turn the sound down before watching the second lot of footage, but the footwork is so balletic that Third Man can understand why the person posting this thought it needed some music.

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O My Hornby and my Barlow long ago

Francis Thompson (1859-1907) was born in Preston, half a dozen miles from where Third Man now lives.  You’ll probably know he wrote a famous cricket poem, ‘At Lord’s’.  You may not know that he studied medicine in Manchester, but never practised, instead moving to London to try to become a writer, became an opium addict and a vagrant before being saved by a prostitute.  His poem begins:

It is little I repair to the matches of the Southron folk,

Though my own red roses there may blow;

It is little I repair to the matches of the Southron folk,

Though the red roses crest the caps, I know.

For the field is full of shades as I near a shadowy coast,

And a ghostly batsman plays to the bowling of a ghost,

And I look through my tears on a soundless-clapping host

As the run stealers flicker to and fro,

To and fro:

O my Hornby and my Barlow long ago !

Partnerships are not just important for today’s score they are the way cricket is perceived and enjoyed through time.   Everyone has a pair of Hornby and Barlows.  They come when you begin watching County Cricket and, as Thompson warns us, they haunt us forever.

Third Man’s run stealers, flickering to and fro, were Roy Marshall and Jimmy Gray of the Hampshire team that won the County Championship for the first time in 1961.   

Who were yours?

Is this process of the etching of the imagination by watching cricket one of the most important part of our enjoyment?  Cricket is not something that inhabits only the ‘now’.  Memory turns the players of our earlier times into the ghosts of our present.  Memory permeates our appreciation of the game and enriches our lives.

When we watch one match do we watch again every match we have ever seen?  We immediately liken the new cap Flynn to old warhourse Fraser and are transported to the 1980s.  How we wonder would Richards have played this bowling?

Unless it is your very first match, there are more than 15 people on the field when we watch a game of cricket.  There are the ghosts.

O my Marshall and my Jimmy Gray long ago !


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