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Evolutions, Switches and Reverses

Almost a hundred years before a Middlesex batsman played a dodgy reverse sweep in a World Cup final to an Allan Border roll over another batsman from that county, Sir Timothy “Tim” Carew O’Brien, 3rd Baronet , pioneered the shot.

The trusty rusty Type III time machine can take us back to midsummer of the year 1893. Middlesex are playing their old enemy Surreyat Lord’s and the Squire’s good friend Cyril P. Foley is in the side and able to help the time travellers find their way through the north London traffic thanks to his seminal Autumn Foliage.

On the match’s first day, the 22nd June, an Empire’s capital is in shock at the news that HMS Victoria has just been rammed by HMS Camperdown as the Mediterranean Fleet, untested since the days of Nelson and now under the command of the appropriately named Sir George Tryon, has attempted the Gridiron evolution with the loss of 358 officers and men (including Sir George) out of a total ship’s company of 718.

But there is further bad news for Middlesex next day. Scoring 108 in reply to Surrey’s 287, they are following on 179 in arrears.

Then, the game turns on a Victorian silver sixpence. Openers A.E. Stoddart and Sir Tim, also the county’s captain, chase down the deficit in fine style, Foley at Number 4 sustaining a severe case of pad rash.

A now desperate Surreycaptain, John Shutter, calls up Walter Read as his seventh bowler. In league, they set a packed on side field for the infamous underarms (108 first class wickets for 32.25 apiece) temptingly lobed down a leg stump line from the Nursery End.

The 3rd Baronet in 1896

Sir Tim, noting the total absence of spin, turns completely round and drives the ball with terrific force up against the new pavilion rails, wicket keeper Wood taking refuge in the slips and the crowd roaring with laughter.

Having hit four fours in this manner, Sir Tim, attempting a fifth, misses the ball as his bat smites the ground with a terrifying blow, raising a cloud of dust as the ball balloons into his pad.

When the dust settles, the off-bail is observed to be lying on the ground.

 ‘A perfect pandemonium ensues,’ recounts Foley at countless dinners to come from Cape Town to Cairo.

Wood from somewhere behind first slip claims that the batsman has trodden on his wicket.  Sir Tim wonders how Wood can be so sure when, at the critical moment, he was running away from the scene of the action and submits a counter claim that Wood has knocked off the bail himself.

Now Read adds to the cacophony declaring above the racket that he has clean bowled the 3rd Baronet.

So, this is cricket in the Golden Age, symbolised not so much by good sportsmanship and the spirit of cricket as by the fact that it occurs to none of the principals to refer the matter to the umpires.

When at last Read does so, Coward (you couldn’t make it up) and Smith protest that their views were obscured, one by the bowler the other by the batsman.

“Anyway,” says Sir Timothy Carew O’Brien, 3rd Baronet and captain of Middlesex County Cricket Club, “I’m not going out.”

Foley will later tell how the game  ‘resumed in a somewhat strained atmosphere’;  Middlesex batting into Day Three to set a target of 199, and dismissing Surrey for 119 to win by 79 runs.

The temperature in the pavilion bar at the end of day two must have been on the cool side for a June evening.

As for Sir Tim it was just the beginning of his innovations … but the Type III must make its way to Clifton where W.G. and Gloucestershire await for the perfection of a shot that then as now divides opinions, perplexes umpires and raises voices on and off the field.


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Somnambulant Speculations en Plein Air

“Bedford is waiting to welcome you,”  proudly claims this historic village tucked up against the Kaggaberg mountain in the Winterberg range of the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

“A vibrant country district famous for its garden festival fun-loving farmers and fabulous hospitality.”

See how those farms stretch across the grasslands up into the dramatic Mankazana, Cowie and Baviaans River valleys.

“Bird watching, hiking, cycling, fishing, golf, tennis, bowls and bridge are among the local activities we invite you to join … Huge skies, fresh air, friendly people and overwhelming natural beauty …”

Surely Foley dropped by in his time.

Down in the village is the Recreation Ground.  Here’s a closer view to help fill in the details.


Can you spy the cricketers?

Perhaps this photograph of the Bedford side of the 1880s will help feed the imagination – not a one clean shaven, but all as dapper as a Crown Prince visiting his mother.

It is never easy to follow the internal journeying of old Third Man. No wonder the Squire suspects it may soon be time to put him down like a faithful Pointer dragging some cancerous growth to the final fireside.

But all is revealed below in the pigments pushed across the parchment by Camille Pissarro at Hampton Court, London in 1890. 

Those quickly sketched players with their toppers?   Surely they’re a touring party from Bedford, enjoying the occasion and challenging the Mother Country to a game of cricket.

Can you spot a Graeme or a Peter?  There’s sure to be a Pollock, red hair peeking from under his hat?

“Wake up, Third Man.  You’ve gone to sleep in the sun.”


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He Seldom Failed or Forgive the Lack of Brevity

The Squire was up early on this fine day waking the hedgehogs. 

Ever since His Grace discovered that they spoke in Viking he has been at pains to see that these gentle grazers survive the winter in good fettle. He is learning their particular dialect of Old Norse by the traditional ‘point and say’ method.

This preoccupation has given Third Man the leisure to follow his own researches into The Lost Ark of the Covenant, the search for which has been the preoccupation of many a fine batsman.

You doubt it?

Above is another painting by A.C. Tayler, this one of a match between Eton and Harrow in 1886.

The encounter was won by Eton thanks in no small part to the ‘patient and sound defence’ of Cyril Pelham Foley who opened in both Eton innings and who ‘scored freely to the offside’, making 114 and 36.  Scorecard, scorecard!

Wisden is of the opinion that ‘he seldom failed’.

We shall see whether or not the old Sage was viewing things through primrose tinted spectacles.

Foley played for three seasons at Cambridge, turned out for Worcester in 1888 and for Middlesex between 1893 and 1906.  In all he played 123 first class matches, scoring a total of 3,175 runs at 16.62 with two centuries to his name.

But this careful compiler of runs was a magnet to controversy.

In his first season for Middlesex in their home match against Sussex he picked up a bail that had fallen and was given out on appeal by Umpire Henty.  Billy Murdoch, the Sussex captain, stepped in to request that he be allowed to continue his innings.

Next we find Foley imprisoned over the New Year of 1896 (see photograph below) as a participant in the Jameson Raid, after which he much deserved his sobriquet, ‘The Raider’.

As Kipling reminds his fellow cricketers, If you can make a heap of all your winnings / And risk it at one turn of pitch and toss / And lose, and start again from your beginnings / And never breathe a word about your loss … advice inspired by K’s friend Jameson and later often put to good effect by Foley at the tables of Monte Carlo.

The Raider served with distinction in the 2nd Boer War, coming home in temporary charge of the 3rd Royal Scots. He was a crack shot, enjoyed car racing, fly-fishing, tennis and golf, and, during the European War, went twenty months in the trenches of France and then Salonica without leave. 

And that’s not all … but you may wish a pull on a fill of Sullivan and Powell’s Gentleman’s Mixture before continuing – it is a lengthy tale.

In the spring of 1909 Foley and his friends Clarence Wilson and Captain R. G. Duff were visited by their mutual friend, Montague Brownslow Parker, another distinguished veteran from the Boer War.  Parker, the son of the Earl of Morley, had been approached by Valter H. Juvelius, who, tradition has it, working in a Constantinople library in 1908, accidentally discovered a coded passage in the Book of Ezekiel which described the precise location of the long lost treasure of Solomon’s Temple.

According to Neil Asher Silberman, this fabulous treasure, supposedly concealed at the time of Nebuchadnezer’s conquest of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., was said to be hidden deep within the bowels of the Temple Mount in a cave connected to the city by a secret underground passage.

Equipping themselves with the very finest in expeditionary equipment and fitting outWilson’s yacht, the friends set sail forPalestine, adventure and fortune.

In his later reflections, Autumn Foliage, (adventurous pun), Foley describes how, having jury-rigged a series of short ladders, they explored the key shaft beneath Jerusalem in their quest, candles in hand.

‘Over my head was a huge dome or vaulted roof, and running up to the right a steep passage, half filled, as far as I could see, with great boulders. Nothing would have induced me to leave that ladder, for the slope appeared to be as slippery as ice. By the dim light of the candle it looked a grim and ghastly spot, and I could not help remembering that I was probably the fourth human being who had looked on it for 1,800 years…I was just about to descend when I heard a movement away up the passage and, in my horror, something came rushing down it with the speed of thought. Before I could move, a dreadful shape hit me full on the shoulder, knocking the candle out of my hand and leaving me in opaque darkness. Being deprived of all volition by sheer terror, I mechanically beat all records down the ladder, struck the ledge at the bottom, and turning a complete somersault, fell, with what the shilling shockers of years gone by would have described as ‘a sickening splash’ into two feet of dirty water.’

Permit Silberman to take the story forward:

On the night of April 17, 1911, Parker and his men entered the sanctuary of the Dome of the Rock itself. Their attention had been drawn to a natural cavern beneath the surface of the sacred rock. The rock is supposed to be the spot from which Mohammed ascended to heaven on his horse Borek. The horse’s footprints are still in the rock to prove it. In Jewish tradition this was Mount Moriah where Abraham had offered to sacrifice his son Isaac. Other traditions associated the sacred rock with a passage to the bowels of the earth-filled with spirits and demons, and containing a fantastic treasure.

Lowering themselves by ropes into the cavern, Parker and his men began to excavate, breaking apart a stone that covered the ancient shaft below. Their pace quickened as they felt that at last their treasure was near.

But as fate would have it, a simple attendant of the Mosque decided that he would sleep that night on the Temple Mount. Arriving after midnight, he heard strange noises in the Mosque, and investigating the source, came upon the strangely attired Englishmen backing away inside the holy shrine.  Shrieking in horror, he bolted from the Mosque, scurrying into the city to expose the sacrilege. Parker and his panick-stricken men gathered up their tools and quickly escaped, for they knew that they had played out their final hand.

Parker and his men promptly fled, but by the time they reached Jaffa, the first news reports had already arrived from Jerusalem. The Holy City was in an uproar. Azmey Bey had reportedly ordered the immediate closing of the Temple Mount, but before his soldiers had a chance to take up positions there, a furious mob seized Sheikh Khalil. And Azmey Bey himself was mobbed by an angry crowd, spat upon, and called “a pig” for his suspected complicity in the sacrilege.

The disturbances grew more violent as wild rumours spread, reporting that the Englishmen had discovered and stolen the Crown and Ring of Solomon, the Ark of the Covenant and the Sword of Mohammed.  Customs authorities in Jaffa, alerted to these reports, immediately impounded the personal baggage of Parker and his men for a thorough search.

Finding nothing in any of the bags, the Turkish officials threatened to detain Parker and his men until further instructions arrived from Constantinople. But Parker knew that he must escape at once. Graciously denying the wild accusations that had been made about his excavations, he invited the officials to discuss the matter in the more comfortable surroundings of Clarence Wilson’s yacht. Things would be quickly sorted out, he assured them, and besides that, he had nothing to hide. The customs’ authorities grudgingly accepted this arrangement, and Parker and his men were permitted to row out into the harbour to illuminate the yacht and prepare to receive their official guests.

But long before their guests arrived, Parker ordered the yacht’s crew to weigh anchor and steam out into the open sea.

Tradition has it that Parker and his men left empty handed, and thankful to have escaped with their lives.

But scorebooks discovered by Third Man in the Squire’s collection reveal that in the opening match of the 1911 season, Foley was opening the batting for the Squire’s XI.  Also on the card for that match were Parker, Carter, Wilson, Duff and, bringing up the tail, a certain Valter H. Juvelius, not out 0.

Returning from his discussions with the hedgehogs, the Squire glances at Third Man’s account.

“The Raider?  He seldom failed, Third Man. He seldom failed.”


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To Question and Decide

The chalk drawing of W.G. Grace by Albert Chevallier Tayler in the previous post will have reminded many of the artist’s much treasured* painting of Colin Blythe bowling in the Kent v Lancashire match of 1906 reproduced above.**

The artist reveals his cricketer’s mind by selecting the precise moment before Blythe’s right foot touches the ground.  

Tayler has stopped time to convey movement, and, over a hundred years after he laid down his brush, you still wait with eager anticipation for the action to restart, the bowler’s canvas boot to make its twisting contact with the Canterbury soil, the arm to scribe its perfect arc, the ball to leave the hand with buzzing seam, to travel tantalizingly through the air before dipping steeply, striking the turf and rearing with turn and bounce, to ask its question of batsman Tyldesley.

It is more poignant still.  Sergeant Blyth, who as an epileptic need not have served in the First World War, amid a later stride, was killed by random shell-fire on the railway between Pimmern and Forest Hall near Passchendale on 8 November 1917

The painting has a cousin: another instant of time, captured by Henri Cartier Bresson, ‘Behind Saint Lazarre Station, Paris’,  in 1932.

“For me,” wrote Bresson, “the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously.”

“Questions and decides simultaneously” sounds exactly like the DRS.

* Kent sold the painting in 2006 for £860,000 to Andrew Brownsword – see other less celebrated work owned by Brownsword in a DATM post here.

**The figures depicted are from the left to the right: Humphreys at silly mid-on; Dillon in the distance in front of the sightscreen; non-striking batsman Findlay; umpire Atfield; bowler Blythe; batsman on strike Tyldesley; Blaker at mid-off; wicketkeeper Huish; Hutchings on the boundary at deep extra cover; Marsham at cover; Fielder at silly point; Mason at first slip; Burnup at point; Seymour at gully.


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What a piece of work is Kevin

How long could YOU spend in an armchair watching the IPL when switching to Channel 401 brings you into contact with an innings by Kevin Pietersen.

Had Hamlet seen KP bat might it not have changed the Prince’s world view?

What a piece of work is a man, How noble in
Reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving
how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel!
in apprehension how like a god, the beauty of the
world, the paragon of animals. and to me, what is
this quintessence of dust? Man delights me; and Woman too…

We require some awareness of failure to appreciate skill and form. 

In this mini-series between Sri Lanka and England the skill and form has been provided by Jayawardene; at home on the Silk Route, as it passes Galle and Columbo.

But Kevin Pietersen provides something other than failure and susccess – neither man, angel nor god, nearer superman in the Shavian sense.

Can we find precedence? Do we need precedence?  Does exception require contrast or relationship?

His physique sets him apart and into (for now) a small minority (but as sons continue to out grow fathers other will join those ranks). He has the eye of the very good batsman.  Strength may substitute for fine balance.  Because of his other talents it is difficult to isolate and judge these qualities which are so necessary to others.  He may have them, but he does not need them.

His reason is acute.  He has somewhere along the line torn up the coaching manuals and rethought batting from first principles.  Regarding his career is like looking at a scientist test hypotheses, abandoning some leads and pursuing others to their logical conclusion.  His mind is restless, inquisitive, arch, and commercial.

Then, there is his conviction – his extraordinarily developed sense of self-belief – however frail, it has an almost inexhaustible facility to renew itself.

Each of these qualities has allowed him to transform the way cricket can be played – or batting carried out.

Few, so far, have followed him, but they will.  He has done the hard and courageous work, exploring the territory that his physicality has made accessible and which he alone has reached.


What is being described is an impact on the game similar to that of William Gilbert Grace.  That impact is not yet fully apparent.  It is as if we are watching cricket in 1878.  A path has been trodden by one man, but a Golden Age is yet to come.

Above, the alignment of shoulders is captured by the camera and, right, that perceptive cricketer and artist Albert Chevallier Tayler confirms how revolutionary  was Grace’s side-on technique.

Here is Grace in the colours of his own London County Cricket Club.  Watch out for Pietersen starting his T20 franchise.  It won’t be long.)

Until then …

If this goodly frame the Earth, seemes to you a sterrill
Promontory; this most excellent Canopy the Ayre,
look you, this braue ore-hanging firmament, this Maiesticall Roofe,
fretted with golden fire: why, it appeares no other thing
to you, then a foule and pestilent congregation of vapours …

… try a little Pietersen.

Context of the innings:

KP arrived at the wicket with the score 213 for 2 and departed 212 minutes later for 151 off 165 balls ( 16 fours, 6 sixes) at 411 for 6.  His strike rate was double that of the next quickest scorer in the match. He scored 50 off 59 balls, 100 off 109 and 150 off 162 deliveries.


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It’s That Time of Year – IPL 2012 Match 1 – The Fall of Champions

With a pot of tea, a slice of cake, sit back in a deep arm chair around 14.30 GMT and set the co-ordinates (in theUK) to Channel 120.  It’s that time of year again – all blue and gold and silver, yellow and red.

It’s IPL 2012 from Chennai and look, there’s our old friends, Malinga, Sachin, Bhaji, Raina, Vijay and the rest of the troupe. The circus is in town.

And the experience is instantly as comfortable and as reassuring as a favourite pair of shoes:  a Strategic Time Out, a DLF Maximum, back-lifts as high as the Himalayas and Mumbai fielders fresh from their boot camp serving notice to the rest, “This time!”

Their opponents, Chennai, on the other hand were jet-lagged from partying in SA for the benefit of Jacque Kallis, sluggish and as slow as an England Football side in the opening match of a World Cup tournament.

Their ground staff had ‘helpfully’ prepared something special for the opening match.

The resulting wicket looked like a green Bengal striped shirt with variable pace and bounce to unsettle and humble the great gladiators who, in their BAE Air Buses, bestride the cricketing world.

Dear Bhaji has found new confidence and purpose as captain of the Indians and he brought obvious relish and leadership to the role, with positive, involving, encouraging body language and support for his bowlers and fielders, who responded with élan and éclat. The Indian’s throwing had the zip of a Wild Bill Hickok knife-throwing act.

Three run outs soiled the shirts of the diving, despairing  Super Kings and knocked the stuffing out of them.  

The debased champions, hobbled from the field for a miserable 112, the spoils of the engagement shared equitably by Pollard 2-15, Malinga 2-16 and Ojha 2-17.

Thus they made way for Tendulka and Levi and annihilation.

Richard Levi, who makes Dave Warner look like the skinny kid on the beach, plants his left foot across to the off stump line and from this vantage point pulls every ball to leg like a meteor. 

Chennai could have set a 9 – 0 field had they not realised they might need one somewhere on the off to take a catch if the Protean ever assayed one of these pulls from too wide of the off-stump.

But when this did come to pass, Levi had already made 50 off 35 balls having crashed 6 fours and 3 sixes.  He also enjoyed a Master Class from TLM (The Little Master) 20 yards away at the other end. Sachin interspersed tips and advice for Levi with SUBLIME shots off front and back feet. 

Who knows, with the monkey of the 100th hundred off his back, fans may about to witness a golden sunset or even an ‘Indian Summer’ from this extraordinary batsman.

That said, when a ball flew off one of the green Bengal stripes on the wicket, crashed into and brought blood gushing from TLM’s bottom hand forcing him to leave the field, we were reminded that, however exceptional and heroic, Tendulka like Hercules, is made from clay.

Meanwhile in Columbo, Kevin Pietersen appears to have caught the IPL bug.  It is that time of year!

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Hair Styles and Shot Selection in Cricket

Mark Zuckerberg has written to congratulate Third Man on his birthday today.  It came as a surprise only in that TM had quite forgotten he was meant to be born on this day in the 1740s. The parish register was destroyed in a great conflagration.  All Fools Day seemed as good as any, his mother said.

It is not surprising that the young bucks of the Silicon Valley should reach out to members of the Squire’s Team. But they will learn nothing from this faithful factotum.

Those who consider that they are making Geography History, but who are tied to Time, are prone to a modern fallacy that is also afflicting England’s batting. 

Before this pernicious fallacy gained hold of the popular imagination it was widely accepted that there was a single appropriate shot to any given ball and, as man is located in a particular geography, so a batsman is confined by the nature of the ball to a uniquely appropriate shot.

In those times, a batsman armed himself with a couple of all purpose ‘stop’ shots, narrowed his ‘game’ to just two or three scoring shots, and left the rest to pass harmlessly through to the ‘keeper. “Good leave!”

A batsman of the Brylcreem and later the Side Burn eras might work up a couple more scoring shots, but made a mental selection well before crossing the boundary rope and walking to the wicket.

It was the Mullet that first introduced the current fixation with Expressionism and so widened the choice of possible shots to any given ball.  Today, the young are required to be able to play a ball to any part of the field regardless of its length or line. 

There is still an element of predetermination in this approach with calculations and selections being narrowed in anticipation of the ‘hunch’ that all good batsman have in the nanosecond before the ball leaves the bowler’s hand.

In the Emirates, England encountered spin unusually ‘fired’ in at around 95kph. They interpreted this tactic as an exploitation of the way DRS confirms how such bowling is lightly to strike the stumps.  They anticipated it in Sri Lanka.

This, then, was the mind set that England brought to Galle where they found Herath bowling at around 80kph and using dip, made more possible at that speed, to deceive them.  

The first innings was over in a trice: 40 overs and a 120 run deficit.

 The second innings tested England’s mental agility and their immunity to stress. 

Cook played across his front leg and against the spin with a far from perpendicular bat.   Strauss, who had had to captain his side against an annoyingly resistant tail and could not prepare himself properly for opening the batting, exploded mentally in the twenties.  

Pietersen forgot that it is wise to play yourself in after an interval.  Trott played each ball on its merits with composure and balance (mental and physical). But he was truly exceptional. 

Most of the rest became fixated with the ‘paddle’ or ‘deflecting’ sweep which as a ‘flick’ from a relatively stationary position bears as much resemblance to a sweep as a hand brush does to a yard broom.  

The true sweep destroys length and is therefore the only attacking shot played to a good length ball.  That said, it is wise to reserve it for balls missing leg stump or wide enough that a batsman who misses is struck outside the line of the off-stump.

The ‘paddle’ or ‘deflecting sweep’ is played with a bat that has to be  deliberately placed before the ball arrives and is best reserved for games when batting resources are plentiful (T20) or when bowling resources are scarce (a run chase).

For the fourth Test in a row, England has failed to manage the situation properly.  It is therefore a failure of management.  There is rigid, inflexible thinking and mental confusion when preparations go awry. 

Cricket’s wonderful complexity makes a mockery of game-plans, exposes bad thinking and punishes collectivity.

As the Squire was quick to assert, “It would not have happened when players were responsible for their own hairstyles.”


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