Monthly Archives: November 2010

Jack Berry Hobbs – How Did You Do That?

All the talk of Hobbs (and Sutcliffe, Strauss and Cook) persuaded Third Man to nip back in his trusty time machine to have another look at The Master.  

If, like TM, you always wanted to know what the shot in the photo above and the ones below was all about …

… with its echo of Trumper, both feet off the ground, bat behind his ear and quite unlike the ‘stepping out to drive’ of today which is played with the back foot coming behind the front foot and executed with at least one foot always on terra firma

then do please have a look at the film here made by Charles Barnett in 1925 with the written permission of the great man. (and first seen by TM in the new Savoy in P’sfield in 1926.)

5 minutes and 28 seconds into the film Hobbs ‘hops’ off his back foot, both feet off the ground, bat raised high, before landing and swinging.  

It is a length-destroying-shot.  And you’ll see it in slow-mo too.

(Don’t miss the wonderful shots of Tom Hayward with a  mustache and a half, this Movember.)

Why has this shot been lost from the canon to be replaced by the  ‘step out to drive’?  Perhaps because it must have been more difficult to keep the head still or at least in a stable eye line moving towards the ball.

As the above shot and the film also demonstrate, backward attack and defence shots were played with their contact point well in front of the body often with the back foot pointing down the wicket.  Not to be recommended as this opens the hips, squares the shoulders and either results in the down swing coming across the line of the ball, or necessitates an in-to-out line.  But it didn’t stop the great man making 197 centuries.

Note also how, in the film, The Master plays the cut.  He initially adopts a forward press from which he propels himself onto the back foot – a technique that links him to Hussey cutting at the Gabba 84 years later.

But it is not all technique.  Social historians will relish the shots of Parker’s Piece looking like a park in Mumbai with numerous games going on, Jesus College and a packed Oval.

For those who missed the above link to the film, here it is again.  Apologies for the initial advertisement, but it is worth persevering … and there’s more … tomorrow.

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Despite Appearances, There’s No Such Thing as a Tame Great White

The Ashes circus moves to Adelaide where both sides will find a famous scoreboard wiped clean.

But beware hubris.  It brings its own reward …

Nemisis comes in all shapes and sizes.

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More Beach Ball Please.

A Mexican wave can mean that the batting is dull, but when the home crowd gets out the beach balls while their team is in the field you know that they have surrendered.  This photograph must be plastered across the England dressing room by tomorrow morning.   A few beach balls patted into the Aussie dressing room would not go amiss either.

England lost the chance to win this Test (which they should have won) in the first innings.  Tooting Trumpet, over at 99.94, tells us that Andy Flower was away from the dressing room on that fateful first day.  Flower really is that important to England’s ability to become Lords of Time, and to improve thinking, plan well and truly believe.

His influence is inestimable in the battle to dominate time just as he was when batting himself – thinking, planning and executing those wonderful run chases.

But England must now bat Australia out of the series.  Not the match, you understand.  No, but right out of the series. To repeat the comment written here at this time yesterday: “On the matter of the Test in hand: there is a lot to be positive about.  There is little to fear in the Australian bowling.  England’s bowling is just about superior and more Australian batsmen have questions to answer than English ones.”

Australia must be made to endure another fruitless day in the field.  They must be made to know the full extent of their impotence.  Their selectors must be placed in the dilemma of having to decide whether or not to continue with this toothless bowling and beleaguered batsmen.  In short they must be panicked into change or panicked into stasis. 

England’s bowlers should be given a day in the shade to learn what it feels like to be in a side where the batsmen dominate the opposition. The batsmen must feel what it is like to score big and to treat the opposition as their net bowlers.

Simpson, both Chappells, AB, Taylor, Ponting did this to England when at a similar advantage.  

Now it is England’s turn.  It doesn’t come often – the winter must be relished.

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Finn MacCool

James Macpherson was deceptively quick.  He played for the Squire at World’s End a number of times in the 1760s.  Third Man came to like this mild mannered poet for his fine imaginative play which helped him deceive many a batsmen.  TM can confirm that James was a time traveller. 

He is most famous for his efforts to champion the cause heroics of Finn MacCool, identified by Macpherson as the hewer of the Giant’s Causeway – an early calculating device developed for gamblers needing to determine who should win in the event of riot and pitched battle preventing the completion of a match.

Macpherson’s mistake was not to come clean about his ability to travel through time but instead to invent as a cover for his findings a Celtic poet, Ossian (seen above Awakening the Spirits on the Banks of the Lora with the Sound of his Harp).

It never pays to lie.

As an evening wore on in the Hutt and the punch bowls came and went, Macpherson would often regale the assembled players and members of the Club with tales of a giant named Finn, who travelled through the air to the other side of the world where he wreaked havoc among a tribe of fearsome convicts who for many years had held the swains and yeomen of their Old Mother beneath their yoke.

He even presented the Club with what he said was a fine likeness in watercolour of the Hero which Third Man has kept all these years.

They were good stories but no one ever believed them.  Most had been forgotten by morning.  Only Third Man had seen the twinkle in the poet’s eye and the wink directed at a fellow adventurer through time and space.

On the matter of the Test in hand: there is a lot to be positive about.  There is little to fear in the Australian bowling.  England’s bowling is just about superior and more Australian batsmen have questions to answer than English ones.   A Cardiff escape is essential.   England need to be 300 for 4 or better this time tomorrow.

Third Man recommends some stirring Harp music for their M3 players overnight.

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Mister Cricket no Mystery Man

Yesterday England too often drove across the line at full deliveries and paid the price.  Today Mike Hussey showed the wiser alternative, playing straight and ‘shutting the door’ on the full delivery.  To anything short he attacked. 

Where he could,  he endeavoured to dictate the bowler’s length – pushing it back to a point where he could, pressing off the front foot, rock back to pull and cut. 

 Hussey played 11 pulls which brought him 40 runs.  What a ratio!

England batsmen and bowlers could learn from that simple game plan: batsmen defend on the front foot, attack on the back; bowlers, use line and field settings to tempt batsmen into attack off the front foot – as Siddle did yesterday.

It is always a pleasure to see an experienced professional rise to the challenge, apply that experience and demonstrate his temperament.

It must have been like that to watch ‘Patsy’ Hendren (top of the page), long ago – another Mister Cricket.


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Hail Siddle ‘Lord of Time’

Cricket, more than anything else, is a battle for control of the perception of time. Yet again on day one of a Brisbane Test Australia proved themselves the Masters of Time.

Third Man’s Theory of Time is not complex but, as droppers-by might expect, it uses imaginary numbers to explain reality.

The standard minute has 60 seconds which are experienced as a variable quantity of perceived instances.  Time can be slowed by increasing the number of perceived instances in a standard minute.  Time speeds up when the number is reduced.

When time is slowed you can get more and better thinking done.  When time is speeded up you get less and poorer thinking.

As regular callers to this site might anticipate, Third Man believes that will power can slow time.  It is their exceptional Wills that help successful sportspeople dominate both the opposition (for example in cricket and tennis) and the conditions (in golf and skiing).

Mastery of Time is generally a more immediate problem for batsmen than for bowlers but that immediacy is experienced along a continuum and is a function of an individual’s ability to control or will his or her perception of time.  Bowlers and Captains battle for it too, but in marginally less pressurized situations.

In general circumstances, from the perspective of batsmen, scoring runs slows time, allowing for a greater quantity of instances to be perceived in a ‘standard minute’ which is experienced like having more seconds in a minute.

Wickets (and all that adds pressure such as good balls, close escapes, nicks that don’t quite carry) increase the speed of time, which is experienced or perceived as having fewer seconds in a minute.  It’s the ‘hurry up’.

Fielding captains and good teams in the field can ‘hustle’ and reduce the number of perceivable instances or ‘seconds’ experienced in a minute.  Bowlers can walk back and turn quicker. Fielding sides can increase the over rate.  (Sometimes, as Australia were soon to do, you can slow things down paradoxically to speed things up – like going one step back to advance two paces.)

Sportspeople need self mastery to will a  reduction in the speed of time to counter these tactics to win more time to think well.  But the domination of time is a zero sum game.  There can be only one winner.

Here’s a rough and ready graph of perceived speed of time against standard time for the first day’s play.  UP is fewer ‘seconds’ in a minute and the origin is the infinite minute, which can be perplexing.  So think UP is time passing in a flash and less and less time to think effectively and adapt :


The early wicket of Strauss kicked on time.  A short second wicket partnership resisted further increases but the fall of Trott saw it mount again. 

Peter Siddle is a hustler (a proficient manipulator of time).  But in the morning on a slowish wicket, where Trott’s long scrapped guard revealed the moisture beneath the surface and the bowlers kept resorting to the sawdust, Siddle bowled a ‘good’  length but did not have a discernable effect on the battle.

Between lunch and tea the England batsman steadily won back control of the perception of time and gradually brought down its speed.  But Siddle had managed to control his personal internal clock to slow things down too and therefore to increase the quality of thinking.   

Perhaps it is how you can feel on your birthday, a ‘my day’ effect. His  plan was to bowl an even fuller length along a straight line to tempt the frustrated batsmen.  It did for Pietersen and then Collingwood.

The Australians used the pressure shelter of the tea interval to work out a plan based on reducing scoring opportunities.  They had to.  One destiny from that time was a close of play score of 270 for 4.  They needed to wrest back the domination of time.

This was the tactic: When they came out for the final session they’d use Watson and others to bowl a negative line to frustrate the England batsmen.  Frustration also affects the perception of time.  Impatience is experienced as an increase in the Speed of Time.

Then Ponting carefully chose the moment to switch tactics.  He brought back his best hustler, Siddle.   England did not respond quickly to this change.  At the crease they continued to play late and square, falling to slip catches or, playing across the line and missing straight deliveries, to be bowled or given out LBW.

This was the time to play in the “V”, but the fall of wickets increased England’s perception of the speed of time and paralyzed their ability to think ‘now’.  They continued to play ‘then’ shots, appropriate to the length and direction Australia had been bowling and not those that Siddle was ‘now’ using to great effect. 

Cook, Prior, Broad, Swann stuck in the sticky thinking mire of ‘ago’ played across the line and perished in quick succession.

197 for 4 became 260 all out and, during the minutes of that collapse, Australia established themselves as The Masters of Time.

England could have done with Doctor Who in their dressing room, if not at the wicket.  As it was, the  hatrick-taking, sixfer-Siddle was today’s Time Lord.


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Ashes in Arles

The gentleman whose familiar bedroom this is has just popped out to fill the kettle or pour another absinthe or both   He’ll be back before you can say, “knife”. 

Not long now.

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