Monthly Archives: June 2010

Getting to the Point

Is this the best view in cricket?  Officials at Lancashire County Cricket Club hope so.  It is the view from the balcony of The Point or The Big Red One as Third Man more familiarly calls it.

Officially there were 1,000 special guests enjoying this view at its opening last Sunday during the England v Australia ODI, but if truth be known there were 1,001.

No matter how vigilant security is, there is always a ‘worm hole’ for Third Man’s trusty Time Machine to exploit.  As any fule kno Time and Space are One.

Inside the scene was pretty much standard hospitality fare with advice on prawn cocktails from Table 23 where Manchester United pitched camp for the day.

Who would think from the photograph above that one of the best 50 over matches England has ever played was taking place outside?

Finally, a view from the Walls of Troy:

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Flower Power and the Iliad.

Towards the end of yesterday’s third ODI between England and Australia at Old Trafford, the home side had two wickets in hand and thirteen balls in which to get 10 more runs to beat Australia’s total of 212.

Thirty seven balls before, England had been sauntering to victory at 185 for 3 with Strauss on 85 and Morgan on 27.  Then, Smith and Harris and, taking over from them, Tait and Bollinger had ripped the heart out of England’s batting line-up. 

Not for a minute was Third Man concerned.  The result never seemed in doubt.  The tussle was Homeric and as enjoyable as reading the Iliad, but we all know who won the Trojan War. 

Heroes had sought out one another on the field and battled toe to toe throughout the day.  Anderson and Watson, Paine and Broad, Swann and Ponting, Yardy and Paine, Swann and Clarke, White and Bresnan, Collingwood and Hussey, Anderson and Hopes.

Tait hacking out Kieswetter’s middle pole like Hector felling Patroclus.  Pietersen striking Harris for three fours in an over.  Collingwood and Strauss setting upon Clarke.  Morgan wandering down the wicket to dispatch Hopes to Hades.  Tait, bowling with carving sword swipes that had us questioning the accuracy of the speed camera.  Bollinger crashing through Swann’s feeble defences before slicing Broad’s legs from under him with 85 mph yorkers.

A mighty roar that would have moved the walls of Troy greeted Anderson as he walked to the wicket. Twelve balls remained, one wicket to fall and still ten to win.   But the Gods had decreed that Anderson’s would be a spectator’s role. The next duel fell to Bresnan who first met Harris in single combat. Two runs heaved to leg – parry – parry – parry and four high over extra cover – and then with a warrior’s cool  a single to keep the strike and bring on the final clash with Hopes, who he scythed with no mercy first ball for four.

This is England in full Flower, literally as the personification of all that is impressive about Andy Flower and metaphorically in this high season.  To their eagerness for responsibility – their keenness to accept the individual challenge – to their relaxed approach to pressure that says ‘bring it on’, they have now added the mythic third ‘R’ of resilience.

Part of the continuing allure of cricket is the knowledge that Achilles for all his seeming invincibility had a human’s vulnerability which truth we may have cause to recall somewhen in the remaining two matches.  This reminder of our common condition is an integral part of the game’s magnificence.

The other England who went to South Africa are as far away from this splendour as a rabble deserves to get.  Football encourages fantasy, cricket dowses player and spectator alike with its greater proximity to life.

The above photograph c/o Mr Getty’s legacy to our game could show Andy Flower as Tiersias recounting a tale of heroism.

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Clitheroe Go Top

 

On the hottest day of the year and on a ground sporting views for miles up the Ribble Valley beyond Pendle Hill to the three peaks of Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough and Wernside, Clitheroe beat the home side, Salesbury, while last year’s champions, Baxenden, where Ian Austin  now plays his cricket, lost to Whalley, home of the first Match of the Roses.  So last night Clitheroe topped the Ribblesdale League.

Victory had not been easy.  Clitheroe were two wickets down without scoring and then 50 for five before toughing it out on a track with steep bounce, rare in these rain-blest parts, and finding their way to 160 all out.

The homes side also lost early wickets but their professional, the son of the Australian wrist spinner Peter Sleep,  stitched the tail together and took the score onwards and upwards under a barrage of short bowling.

Eventually the spinner was called for and the final three wickets fell in a tumble with Sleep bowled with a ball that went through the gate and clipped the top of off stump.

Note well young captains: if the track is bouncing for pace it will also bounce for spin properly bowled with flight and dip.

In the photograph of the Salesbury ground above, Pendle Hill can be glimsped through the haze to the right of the nets.  The bowler coming back for his second spell and warming up with a ball to mid-on is the 42 year old Tasmanian and now Clitheroe stalwart Josh Marquet.

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Relaxed England: Stressed Security Guards

ECB has stepped up the security at Old Trafford ahead of the third ODI between England and Australia, but no one in the England camp seemed to have got the message.

They enjoyed a relaxed and upbeat net this morning before making way for the Australians in the afternoon.

The England camp now has possession of the two Rs in success; Responsibility and Relaxation. 

Perhaps having the ever cheerful Mushtaq Ahmed about helps and, naturally, the fact that England are two nil up in the series and bossing the ‘Roos about.

Security has been sharpened since the Bangladesh match. Either someone at ECB was determined Third Man wasn’t going to have a scoop today OR someone special is due to get to the Point tomorrow.  Could it be the Duke of Lancashire?

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Grips and Gripes

Bill Ponsford had a baseball batter’s strength of forearm and wrist that enabled him to wield a very heavy bat.  

When Victoria scored 1059 against Tasmania in 1923, Ponsford had gone in at 200 for 3, scored 429 of them in 477 minutes and made sure that he hit the 1000th run.  Oh and it was only his fourth first class innings.  Can that be right?

According to his obituary in Wisden “Over Christmas in 1926, Ponsford was in especially devastating form. On the second day of Victoria’s match against New South Wales at Melbourne, he dominated an opening partnership of 375 with Woodfull, and his 352, of which 334 were made in a day, contained 36 fours. It was the foundation of Victoria’s 1107, still the first-class total.”

In 1934 at the Oval he and Bradman added 451 for the second wicket in a mere 316 minutes.  In fact he shared in five partnerships of 375 or more so he must have been a good ‘type’ to have as a partner and a safe caller of a run … or was that because he dealt in so many boundaries.  Both his ‘quads’ contained 42 fours.

Diogenes recently wondered whether there were photographs of Bill Ponsford’s grip.  Above is a set-up shot of his stance, featuring that grip.

The top hand looks as if the back of the hand faced down the wicket to the bowler, where Bradman’s (below) looks locked around the back of the handle.  

And here is  one of Peter May’s grip taken for the Third Edition (1962) of the MCC Coaching Manual with the top hand somewhere in between those of Ponsford and Bradman.

Elsewhere at A Different Shade of Green, Brian Carpenter, ponders ‘Market Forces’ and K. Pollard’s decision to play t20 for Somerset rather than joining the West Indian ‘A’ Tour.

The future of the longer game may well be in the hands of the young generation entering their twenties now.  It will be their preferences that dictate the situation in four or five years time as each make their own decisions on where and what to play.

How easy are the counties making their choice? At present someone receiving a ‘scholarship’ at Lancashire is reported to receive £500 a month.  (A soccer signing-on fee for the youngest player is around £50,000.)  An initial county contract is probably worth £18,500 a year and at the moment an £80,000 package paid to Powell is keeping one of these young men out of the 2nd XI.

Tomorrow Third Man is taking a clipboard and a Health and Safety Officer’s I.D. to Old Trafford where England will be practicing, the Point will be receiving a last lick of paint and the Australians will still be smarting.

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An Academic Roses Match, a Grinning Cheshire Cat and a Pot of Basil

Arriving back in the C21st yesterday , Third Man made his way back a few hundreds years more to Grappenhall, a village in Cheshire, and the venue for the Lancashire and Yorkshire’s Academies to meet for a ‘friendly’ two day match with a minimum of 110 overs in the day and no side to bat longer than 120 overs.

It was hot and dry, but a quick scan and ‘feel’ of a worn track close to the wicket foretold a good time for spinners on what should turn out to be an unstable track.

Lancashire won the toss and the captain was eager to bat.

S. Oldfield (Esso), the Yorkshire Academy chaperonne, set up camp in his usual place by the sight screen and scowled throughout the day.

A couple of scores of seventy from numbers 3 and 4 helped Lancashire to make their way towards 300 in 90 overs by tea time, three left arm spinners gaining big turn across the face of the bat and getting the odd ball to rise steeply.  Yorkshire took the new ball after tea and Lancashire pushed on to 320 all out.  Yorkshire had scored 39 without damage when play ended at 6.30 with over 120 overs bowled in the day.

Grappenhall is on the Bridgewater Canal.  You have to cross it by bridge to reach the village cricket ground.  At lunch time TM and a companion from near Middleton made their way along a shaded path into the village with its two fine pubs, The Ram’s Head and the Parr Arms.  Next to the latter is St Wilfred’s church, the stone of which looks as if it must have been towed up the Mersey from the quarries at Woolton, Liverpool which also lines the deep cutting outside of Lime Street Station and matches the Anglican Cathedral.

Wikipedia says that this carving of a cat on the west face of the tower may have been the inspiration for the grinning Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

TM’s companion recounted how severe was the culture shock for Basil D’Oliviera when he arrived in the Central Lancashire League in the early Sixties. 

He found it very difficult to accept Arlott’s directions to the lavatories, “But those are for the Whites”.  It took him some time to accept that he could and would change in the same dressing rooms as the rest of the team, that white men were offering to buy him drinks in their bar after the match,  (D’Oliviera did not drink alcohol when he arrived) and that the white  elderly couple who he lodged with treated him as if he were their own son.

As a result he apparently failed to score or take a wicket in his first few games, but nevertheless soon made up for this and ended up top scorer and top wicket taker by the end of the season.

“I faced him and I bowled against him,” said TM’s companion, “But he was too good for me.”

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800 runs Not Enough with Bradman Against You

England start the final day of the Lord’s Test of 1930 with eight wickets standing in their second innings, 211 runs behind Australia’s first innings score of 729 for 6 declared.

Third Man this morning decides to stand in the concourse in front of the Tavern.  Ahead of him those of the crowd who have chosen to sit on the grass are just five deep.  But it is still a very good crowd for the last day.  They are looking forward to what hope will be a famous rearguard action.

These slender hopes are soon dashed when Grimmett quickly removes both Hammond and Hendren. 

This brings the captain, Percy Chapman, to the wicket who, deciding attack is the best form of defence, even without a run to his name, hoists up a skier.  The crowd hold their breath … but he is dropped to the vocal appreciation of those enjoying an early beer in front of the Tavern.

The pressure on England continues and hope of another spectacular innings from “Smith” is wrecked when Hornibrook has him caught behind for 48 with the score on 147 for 5, still 157 away from making Australia bat again.

Hobbs and Chapman walk out to bat at Trent Bridge in the previous Test. Above, Ponsford chips a ball over Chapman whose catch to dismiss Bradman in the first innings was a stunner.

Now Allen joins his captain and driving strongly actually reaches his fifty before Chapman.  Their all-out attack brings England to 262 for 5 at lunch and briefly restores that fragile belief that the home side can save the match..

But almost immediately play resumes, Allen falls to none other than Grimmett; LBW for 57.  Chapman, to the pleasure of the crowd, continues to attack, but can he find willing partners to support his his sterling efforts?  He reaches his hundred and continues to plunder runs.  Tate provides Grimmett with his 6th wicket.  He has taken 6 for over 150 runs in more than 50 overs.

The Australian score is finally reached and every run now counts double.  How many do we need?  How many minutes of play are left?  Can Tate and Robins put them under enough pressure? 

Finally, even this captain must fall, caught behind to Fairfax for 121, made in just two and a half hours.  Robins keeps up his end but there is a disastrous run out of White and, then, Duckworth, England’s No 11 goes for a … duck.

England are all out 375, setting Australia 72 to win with plenty of time.

Between innings the beer flows on the Tavern concourse from where a spectator, compensating for the Lord’s slope, has to crane his neck up to see the wicket and further up to see the bottom of the new Grandstand and even further up to see the new score board and further still to see Old Father Time looking down with scythe sharpened and flashing in the afternoon sun.

Taking the field for the final time, England mounts a strong counter attack with Robins taking Ponsford cheaply and Tate removing Bradman for 1.  Ah! Cricket wins this match as it always does:  Bradman, 254 for in the first innings; a single in the second. Old Father Time twists comfortably as the wind changes direction.

Robins has Kippax caught behind and for a moment the crowd sense an upset with that new score board showing 22 for 3.

But this wonderful Test match is already legendry enough and McCabe and Woodfull stand firm under the pressure to see the matter through.

As he walks out by the nursery and through the North Gate to search out his trusty Time Machine, Third Man, picks up the tenor of the cognoscenti. England has made exactly 800 runs in their two innings, but in a four day Test against a side containing a Bradman, this is not enough.

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