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“Yes Chef!” or All Hales and the Humidor

The Hooters Chef

The Squire wished to go to Lord’s on Saturday to watch Nottinghamshire play Surrey in the old B & H mid-summer Final, now thankfully re–insured by Royal London – Life Insurance + Pensions + Investments neatly inscribed on the boundary markers. Players used to find a twenty pack carton under their peg awaiting them on B & H match days. Now there’s a financial adviser sitting there ready to offer independent advice.  The game has changed.

Third Man left the Squire with the McCartney’s swapping tales of Desert Island Disk selections. Went down to Macca’s shed and took the trusty old aluminium ladder to the bottom of the road and shimmied over the wall into the ground before a Steward could shout ‘What?!’

He made his way to Dressing Room 6 to see whether any of the old Pros were there. Many of the dressing rooms that once adorned the Pavilion’s higher echelons have been turned into video analysis rooms and places that offer comfort to fourth umpires and referees.  But Dressing Room 6 remains well disguised as a Lift marked ‘Out of Order’.  Three or four of the old boys were there and cards were spread on an old coffin (from the relatively modern age of the game).

Lord’s is famed for its catering. Less well known is its reputation for fine cigars, a supply of which are kept in a jury rigged humidor – an adaption of the climatic control machine purchased for the Indoor Nets and transported to Dressing Room 6 by Pip Edmonds in what are called the Botham Days.

At 10.50 in walked young Hales. “Hail Hales”, we all said.  “Any of those Cohiba Behikes left, TM?” asked the six-foot-five Hillingdonian. “The Squire instructed me to issue you with two, Titch. One for your innings and one for afters.”

Surrey’s innings took off at a rate of knots. Notts seemed generally languid and unperturbed, dropping a catch or two to demonstrate their confidence – a lot of psychology in the game now. The Lord’s outfield was like glass – emerald green glass. The fielders sauntered. The batsmen drove. But the truth was that Surrey batsmen kept losing their wickets at the most inopportune moments.

The last time TM had seen Surrey play in a Lord’s Cup Final was in 1965 when Brian Close dropped Boycott a couple of Dextros in his morning Horlicks.  Surrey wilted that day. “Seeing you here again does not bode well, TM,” said dear old Horse (13.3.51.1) from a corner of Dressing Room 6.

Notts and Pattinson in particular (34 dots in his 10 overs) got a little reverse going as Surrey entered the last 10 overs and ground to a halt. Their final score of 297 was disappointing. “If only it had been 347,” the Notts supporters on top of the Compton were later to moan. Fletcher did his impression of a lad up from pit for day, but rumour has it he was rescued from a life as a chef at Hooters of Nottingham.  He’ll be OK in Dressing Room 6 in the years to come will that Fletch.

As Hales skipped down the stairs to the Long Room on his way to the wicket, TM stretched out a hand containing a lighter. “There you are Titch.”

The stewards have strangely become a friendly lot in recent years and not a word was said as the scent of fine Habana filled the Long Room, members’ noses turning towards the sweet smell. Such a forgiving scent.

At the wicket, Hales handed the smouldering cigar to the square leg umpire and took guard.

Few who were there will ever forget the following 200 minutes. Lord’s bathed in divine light. The scent of cigar drifting across the ground, reaching all parts of the field like the ball off Hales’ Grey Nick’s bat. Sublime drives. Powerful pulls to balls shortened by the anxiety of bowlers fearing to give him any length. Width punished, not with an admonishment, but with a neatly  inscribed note of thanks, that the time which this master of the drive has at his disposal allowed him to pen. The ash flicked nonchalantly towards the Media Centre at 50, 100 and 150.

At one point, a bewitched opponent, yet England team mate, Jason Roy, ran fully twenty yards to offer the palm of his hand, rather than to allow that foul ash to sully the batsman’s gloved hand; the burning glow at each leisured inhalation never once threatening to outshine the batsman’s brilliance.

Look at the book, if you want the details, oh foolish prizer of data. For all your counting and calculating you will have missed the essence of a cigar appropriately humidified, of batting as leisure, in a match that mattered.

 

(Special thanks to Michael Vaughan who smelt it first.)

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Watching Kohli Drive

koh1

Here’s Kohli from yesterday. The hands will do what Buttler’s hands do. There’s the ‘L’ shape that produces the ‘lag’.  The hands travel across his body // to the ground as the sequence continues.

koh2

and then …

koh3

the ball has reached the point below the hands, but there’s still plenty of room for the lag to unwind, creating tremendous bat speed. Hands still at the same height as the first image – ‘low’ relative to the ball – a shallow angle of attack.

And here’s almost the moment of contact …

koh4

Hands in front of the ball. Still some lag to be unwound. And the shallow angle of attack.

There are many similarities here with a Jordan Spieth drive.

 

 

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‘Ell of a shot

imag2204

Those able to watch the first ODI match between India and England played at Pune yesterday were able to feast on a diet of 750 runs, without the slightest fear of indigestion. It was a great spectacle.

It was also a funny old wicket.

Few batsman managed a decent pull shot, which suggested variable pace, there were a few dabs and flicks but surely most of the runs came from drives or was it just the stunning nature of these shots – especially from Kholi and Buttler – that gave a false impression?

And this revealed a delightful irony of the modern game: with all the new shots that have come into cricket in the last decade; reverses, ramps and switches; it is actually the good old drive that seems to have undergone the greatest transformation.

People point to the bats, and yes, they are softly pressed and the willow more evenly dispersed across the blade, but they are not unduly ‘heavy’ or heavier than those used in the 1970s.

Where then comes the increased range of the lofted drive, especially, and the increased pace at which the ball comes off the blade?

Above is an image of Buttler that reveals all. Ask any American weekend golfer what’s going on and they’ll tell you.  But how many cricketers?

It’s the ‘L’.

It’s an ‘L’ of a shot.

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In Praise of Bunsen Burners

“Westward Ho! Third Man” yelled the Squire last Saturday. “We are off to see our friends from the North (West), Messers Parry and Keedy. They’re playing at home for Formby today. One o’clock kick-off. I don’t want to be late.”

It’s August and the Squire is on his Bowland estate. It had been raining incessantly on the moors.

“We must seek sun and good spin bowling, TM. We are enthusiasts starved of drift, dip and turn. I’ve been told by our old companion Cockbain, now the captain of Formby in the Lancashire Premier League, that we’ll find what we are looking for at the end of the rainbow yonder on the coast.”

They arrived at Formby five minutes late and found that the visitors, New Brighton, had already lost a wicket. “I told you were driving too slowly, TM. You were listening to that damn Boycott and not concentrating on the task in hand.”

Here was Boycs on the benign Edgbaston wicket.  “Will this wicket turn eventually on the fifth day?  Of course it will. So, why don’t we ask the groundsman to leave the wicket open to the elements during preparation to produce his ‘fifth day wicket’ on the third day?”

Abrasion and grip can produce enthralling, skillful cricket, with batsman challenged by and responding early in the match to conventional swing and seam, and later to reverse swing and spin.

Cricket at Formby began on a day five wicket, as dry and textured as Third Man’s bowl of Flahavan’s  porridge oats.

Cockbain turned to Parry and Keedy in the 9th and 10th overs.  Parry, initially stiff and wayward to leg after a fortnight out of the Lancashire side, and Keedy, feeling his way towards the optimum pace at which to bowl. Early doors, both experienced the indignity for left-armers of being lapped by right-handers. But old pros like Pazza and Gazza are not put off by that, even when New Brighton’s 50 had arrived with no further loss of wicket.

Then Parry, who bowls straighter and quicker than Keedy, hit the stumps. And Keedy, tossing the ball high and ripping it across the face of the bat, found the edge.

Here on view were two very different approaches to the art of left arm bowling: Keedy intimidating the amateur batsmen with prodigious turn and bounce before striking with an arm ball or a delivery of less excessive flight and turn; whilst Parry bowled bullet straight. Four LBWs, two for each on a ‘Bunsen’.

A good partnership for the ninth wicket, with some fearless hitting, transferred the pressure from batsman to bowler and took the New Brighton score to a very respectable 165 all out – Parry 5 for 44, Keedy 4 for 68 – “More than we planned for,” said Cockburn.

There is no such thing as a ‘natural’ wicket – not even a terroir – when there is marl or loam, or even dust to be added; watering and covering or uncovering to be varied, length and extent or absence of grass to be gauged, and, on first class grounds, heaters and varying rollers to be chosen.

Every strip is a contrivance: In the first Test between England and Pakistan this summer, the public were provided with conditions that entertained them with the excitement of late movement from reverse swing and the ingenuity of classic wrist spin.  Old Trafford contrived to avoid the conditions of the previous Test, and Edgbaston provided the drama of attrition and brought forward the narrative of perseverance overcoming the odds.

Formby had contrived conditions that Boycott would have enjoyed; conditions in which batsman, in the highest level below county cricket, had to battle with flight and turn and fierce bounce not from pace but from the spinner’s science –  the keeper often taking the ball above shoulder height standing up.

And New Brighton had three spinners in their armoury who could and would monopolise their bowling.

The Formby openers refused to allow these three to settle and took the score to 100 without loss. But once those spinners had tasted success, the scales moved against Formby with three wickets falling without the score moving on. In a blink it was 125 for 5 and 144 for 6 before Cockbain, with years of experience, sent out two lefties to neutralise the two left-armers.

This is as good as cricket gets – spinners bowling 87% of the overs in helpful conditions. Metaphorically and literally gripping stuff.

These conditions can be contrived anywhere in the country at almost any time of the season.  Don’t be fooled into believing that seaming tracks are God given, they are not.  More ‘Bunsen burners’ will see counties and England Test sides bringing on and using the spin talents that dominate Under 11 and under 12 county cricket.

Your score card

Above – Thanks to the Grosvenor Estate in Bowland where the Giants have pitched their wickets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yasir Shah, His Magic Mirror and The Rubby Dubby Bag

Escher's Magic Mirror

Tomorrow England face Pakistan at Old Trafford. Expect a feast of bowling. At Lord’s, the Pakistan seamers were getting it to reverse almost by the twenty over mark.  At that rate, if the OT wicket is typically abrasive, they’ll be getting it to reverse after five!

But the highlight will surely be the chance to watch Yasir Shah again, following his 10 – 141 in NW8.

Viewing Shah from side-on you’ll appreciate the speed of the arm and the powerful force he generates through the crease, like a catapult assisted jet taking-off from an aircraft carrier.

In the first innings he exploited the minimal turn offered by the wicket.  Throughout both innings he was content selflessly to bowl from which ever end his seamers didn’t want to bowl from and made the best of it whenever that required him to bowl his leg-breaks up the slope: a good team player for an obvious super star.

Also he took a number of wickets when England batsmen played vicious top spin deliveries square to leg instead of bunting them straight back.

Was this faulty technique?  Well of course.  But it wasn’t as simple as that.

Every now and then … perhaps once every four overs … Shah, as if in error, would drag down a delivery which a grateful England batsmen would gleefully pull to the mid-wicket boundary.  But it was like watching a fisherman dangling some rubby dubby over the side.

“Enough of these metaphors TM!”

So, when in the 71st over of England’s second innings, with a valiant Bairstow on 48 and doing his very best to refrain from all temptation and shepherd England slowly but surely towards the required total … well here is how Cric-Info described it, “A straight ball, that (Bairstow) should have whacked. Yasir has pitched it a little short, which is why Bairstow went back. He tries to play it with perhaps too closed a face …”

Except that to understand why Bairstow played the ball as if it was a drag down ball and not the top spinner that was going to screech through anything but a straight bat, you have to have seen that Shah had deliberately given him just such a dragged down delivery to ‘whack’ to the boundary four of his overs before.

And here’s how Cric-Info had described that ball in the 63rd over, “Yasir Shah to Bairstow, FOUR, a rare – very rare – poor ball as he drags one down and Bairstow latches on with a powerful pull through square leg.”

Subtle stuff to savour.

HT the ever suspicious Chris @ Declaration Game and Brian Carpenter @ Different Shades of Green.

 

 

 

 

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The Decisive Moment*

Image

The Squire and his factotum, the ever-obliging Third Man, made their way to Bath this weekend.  The Squire was keen to lend his name and good lordship, to a campaign against Bath and North East Somerset Council’s intention to charge admission to the Victoria Art Gallery.

“We must do what we can, TM.”

Their signatures added to the petition, the travellers took advantage of free entrance into the first museum show for 22 years of one of the UK’s major photographers, Roger Mayne.

The image above, was taken in Addison Place, North Kensington, London, W11, 1956.

“Do you think Mayne appreciated the serendipity of capturing a sweep shot against the background of the sweep shop?” mused the Squire.

The photographer introduces his web site with a quote he gave to Peace News in 1960, ‘Photography involves two main distortions – the simplification into black and white and the seizing of an instant in time. It is this particular mixture of reality and unreality, and the photographer’s power to select, that makes it possible for photography to be an art. Whether it is good art depends on the power and truth of the artist’s statement.’

A post card of a very particular young man; neat of sock, precise of grip, full of concentration, brought to mind ‘Hope of His Side’.

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The reverse of the card identifies it as ‘Boy with a Bat, Wapping. 1959’, but the website suggests it was taken in Addison Place, again, in 1957.

And here is a very modern shot in both senses. It is taken in Clarendon Crescent W2, just before its demolition in a slum clearance scheme. A year or two earlier it had featured as a setting for a car chase in The Blue Lamp.

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And finally, an image that begins to do justice to the mastery of the exposure of the prints on show; fielders awaiting a sky-er.

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“Bet they had to retrieve that one from a roof top, TM”

Look down you Jilted Generation on these baby-boomers.

* H.T. Cartier-Bresson who in his book Images à la sauvette quoted the agitator Cardinal Retz, “There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment”.

A catalogue with an essay by Ann Jellicoe is available with the exhibition (£6.50 plus p&p) and there are ‘vintage’ prints for sale.

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Compare the Drives No. 11 – Jonny Be Best

Deep down Louisiana close to New Orleans
Way back up in the woods among the evergreens
There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood
Where lived a country boy named Jonny B. Best

Who never ever learned to read or write so well
But he could play the guitar just like a ringing a bell

Go go
Go Jonny go
Go
Go Jonny go
Go
Go Jonny go
Go
Go Jonny go
Go
Jonny B. Best

It is nearly a year and a half since the last Compare the Drives looked at A.A. (Archie) Jackson and  Usman Khawaja.

Yesteday the West Indies’ Number 11 scored a record breaking 95 and Jonny Bairstow sadly unable to break free from the fate identified here and associated with a certain kind of modern batting was bowled for 18.

Recalling to mind the ol’ Chuck Berry classic.

He used to carry his guitar in a gunny sack
Go sit beneath the tree by the railroad track
Oh, the engineerswould see him sitting in the shade
Strumming with the rhythm that the drivers made
People passing by they would stop and say
Oh my that little country boy could play

Go go
Go Jonny go
Go
Go Jonny go
Go
Go Jonny go
Go
Go Jonny go
Go
Jonny B. Best
His mother told him “Someday you will be a man,
And you will be the leader of a big old band.
Many people coming from miles around
To hear you play your music when the sun go down
Maybe someday your name will be in lights
Saying Jonny B. Best tonight.”

Go go
Go Jonny go
Go go go Jonny go
Go go go Jonny go
Go go go Jonny go
Go
Jonny B. Best

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