Tag Archives: James Anderson

Hurting – Or About that Second Test


Some of you will know that Third Man keeps a lightweight aluminium extendable ladder under a bush in the garden of the dilapidated house at the bottom of Cavendish Avenue, by which he generally gains access to Dark’s Cricket Ground*.

Even at 6 am on Day One of the Second Test, England v Australia, there were a fair few members lining the Avenue and forming an orderly queue. No-one notices an old cricketer with a window-cleaner-look-about-him carrying a ladder and so, in a trice, the ladder was unearthed, hoisted against the wall and drawn up behind Third Man as he dropped into the ground and headed for Mick’s warm kitchen for a well deserved cuppa.

“What’s this about an email Mick?” Third Man asked.

“Not true Third Man. But one of those dodgy young ECB types did sidle up the other day. You can imagine the earful I gave him.”

“Some ripe old Hambledonian stuff, I take it, Mick.”

“It’s a good track TM – not quite as good as last year’s for India. But a cricketers’ track.”

“What’s that noise Mick. Is it the hover covers coming off?”

“No, it’s Mark Nicholas using the Misses’ hair dryer.”

True to his word, there was a fair green tinge on Mick’s masterpiece. TM regretted failing to bring so much as a brolly or a MacIntosh, but it was no Massey day. The wind stiffened the flags and whirled about a bit down at pitch level.

He made his way into the Pavilion and up the flights of stairs to Dressing Room 7**. A few of the old hands were already there, dozing mostly. There was full agreement; bat, bat, bat. “Difficult, but do-able,” said Timmy O’Brien, and no-one, not even the Doctor, argues with Timmy.

*     *     *   *

The advantage of being at a match is that there is no mediation. It is the watcher and the game. No bad thing. You move around during the day, but basically, your only equipment is the vantage point. No hype. No cod-piece narrative. Anyone who voluntarily dons a small radio ear-piece is taking a drug that they do not need.

Dark’s is perhaps the only venue that can afford for there not to be a ‘day five’ with its income of booze and grub. If there are slow plodding tracks in this series it is because of the tendering system and the number of grounds now competing ruinously for the chance to host internationals. The rule of thumb is bid what you can make in four days and hope for a fifth.

But this Test can be different. Wealth is independence. Third Man for his visit to the village of St John’s Wood had not packed a fifth shirt.

Where do all these memes come from? Hear this, Clarke called it “a very good pitch”. More than likely Chris Rogers had had a word with Mick over the practice days and that assessment by the captain was correct. It is difficult to exaggerate the degree of respect and affection everyone has around here for young Rogers.

Anderson’s second over, the third of the day, seems key.

Ball 1 fullish length, a hint of shape, no more than that. Ball 2 down leg. Doesn’t count in any self-assessment. Ball 3. Middle and off and played to mid-off. Ball 4 Rogers across and clips to square leg. Ball 5. Length outside off, Warner tries to leave but is late. Ball 5. Pitched up, Warner drives straight for 3.

Anderson makes his assessment. His decision shapes the match. From fifty yards, TM senses the lever pivot and Planet Cricket shifts its orbit. Gradually but relentlessly the length is brought back. The Bowlers’ Club follow his lead. The decision consigns England to ten hours in the field.

In sport, in cricket, you either hurt or are hurt. Time is either slow or quick.

Anderson surrenders the initiative seized in Cardiff where England inflicted the pain. In the afternoon he will bowl with a 8-1 field.

How does Rogers see it?

In his first over he has shown intent. Driving and edging over third slip but then following it up with 4 through the covers. “In front of square”. “Through the covers.” “Hitting the Duke where it is going”. “Late and with the swing”. Boof’s license, Rogers’ extensive English experience. This is the key: wait and play with the swing and not against the swing. It is exactly what the Australians (barring Rogers) didn’t do in the First Test.

The effect of this one shot in the dressing room is game changing, perhaps series changing.

Another one’s doing the hurting. This time the other one’s being hurt.

*Those who played on this ground 180 years ago, know that it was Mr Ward and dear ol’ Dark who saved the ground for all of you to enjoy today. It is a travesty that it is called Lord’s when Lord wanted to sell it for development. Ward stepped in and bought. Dark ran it. It was his baby. He dedicated his life to this ‘theatre’ for the game.

** They converted the lovely Dressing Room 6 sometime ago, but the old ghosts that haunt this building have managed to hide the existence of Dressing Room 7. It is filled by them most of the time – smoking and scraping the marks of the ball off their old bats with razor blades. There’s a welcoming smell of linseed oil and horse liniment. If you tell the Club’s Chief Executive cum Secretary about its existence, you’ll be cursed for life.

*** Image thanks to Aakash Chopra whose piece on Rogers is well worth a read. TM wishes he could enlarge the image but WordPress system changes seem to prevent it.


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In An Enchanted Garden, Melbourne


“Jimmy, what yer doing?”

“I’m building a pyramid, Joe.”

Two England cricketers were in the grounds of the Melbourne Rudolf Steiner School. Joe had been on his way back from the pool ( a real woodland pool, not a Hockney blue hotel pool, an idyl of a pool.  His flip flops had been making a pleasant, comforting sound on the woodland path.  But the relaxing clip-clop sound had been suddenly interrupted by discordant crashes of a hammer beating metal, coming from a maintenance workshop.


Inside he had found Jimmy who, despite the heat, wore thick overalls, gauntlets and a welding mask pushed back on his head.

“I find it therapeutic, Joe, building simple shapes.  You should try it. Here you are; go for a cube,” he said, handing Joe a bucket of plasticine. “It’s an idea I got from a wise man when I started playing cricket in Burnley.  It’s my way of replenishing inner and spiritual resolve – it’s all taken a bit of a battering of late.  I need a top-up.”

“I’ll get Johnny,” said Joe, taking his phone and thumbing out an @jbairstow21

–         @joeroot05 can’t mate. Not don no Xmas shopping yet.

“It all helps with the clarity of thinking, Joe.”

Joe gouged some plasticine from the bucket and began rubbing it vigorously into a warm ball, transmitting heat from the living to the inert.

“Good start. Just picture the shape.  See it clearly.”

Joe used his palms at first to shape the six sides, but then searched the workshop and found a couple of pieces of wood to give sharper edges to the form.

“Thinking is no more and no less an organ of perception than the eye or ear, Joe. Just as the eye perceives colours and the ear sounds, so thinking perceives ideas.”

It was Bressy who joined them first.

“I’ll go for a cone: a big one.”

He disappeared outside returning with earth and a bucket of water from the pool which he mixed into a dark satisfying paste.

“Who needs those mindunfcukers.”

“Bress, you won’t get the best out of this if you accept that level of aggression to remain within you. Close your eyes and really see that cone.”

“Gotcha Anders.”

“The need for imagination, a sense of truth and a feeling of responsibility – these are the three forces which are the very nerve of cricket,” said Jimmy.

By this time, Joe had made five perfect cubes, all in a row.

Bresser’s cone was really impressive.

“One for the Yorkshire sculpture park,” quipped Joe.

Jimmy’s pyramid, which was on a semi-monumental scale, was taking form, the welding arc colouring the workshop blue.

“It’s an idea I got from seeing one at Selly Oak railway station: ‘Birmingham toys, all men praise, And riches spring daily from Birmingham toys.’

“This tour has homogenized us.  There’s been no room for the different needs of our individual psychology. You see, choleric risk takers, like KP, phlegmatic laid-back types, you know who I mean, sensitive, introverted melancholics, the Skipper to name the obvious one, and sanguine types who need to take things lightly and flippantly, like Swanny, are all going through the same flour mill. Real professionals do it for themselves.”

By now the remaining Big Quicks had joined them.  Used to working in ‘the fast bowlers pack’ down field from the rest, they went for a joint undertaking: a spire.

Ten eyes with one mouth declared, “It’s going to have a five sided base and be twenty bloody foot tall.  Where’s the wood?”

“Common purpose must leave room for many differences to thrive.”

“Yea, pass me some more plasticine, someone.”

Third Man and the Squire would like to thank the staff, pupils and parents of the Melbourne Rudolf Steiner School for the making of this documentary, a re-enactment is planned for the weekend. Members of the Barmy Army are welcome to join the event.  Meet at the school, 213 Wonga Street, 12 noon, Saturday. BOM: bring own materials.

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First and Last Test


When all has been said and done, cricketers do not play against each other, they play against their demons.

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In and Out of the Pool – An England Selection Test

Out: the England selectors have sent James Anderson poolside for some R and R.  Appropriate given his resemblance to Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool.  

In: Jonny Bairstow, the low handed slapper, who the West Indies caught wearing one at Lord’s and several at Trent Bridge.

His is a technique suited to reversing and quick scoring on low and slow surfaces, but looks shockingly suspect in Test cricket. 

Note the perfect example of the low handed slap with tell-tale horizontal elbows, below, and the direction in which the ball has been hit.

And from a different angle, same shot but another match:

There was much moaning that in county cricket Bairstow would not have been exposed to the pace and hostility of a Roach.   But the following image might have been of his first ball at Trent Bridge … but it isn’t. 

It is difficult to get hands above the ball with his technical approach and modifying something so ingrained could take more than the ten days between the Second and Third Tests.


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On Top of the World

It’s been climbed before, but not by this route. 

England are World Champions having reached the summit via a double assault of the Green|Yellow Band, an airy and exposed crossing of the Protean Ridge, an enforced bivouac on the gale-swept Pakistan Col, a careful, though comparatively straightforward crossing of the Sri Lankan Ice Field and finally the discovery of a route that ‘would go’ up the rock face known as the Indian Steps.

The summit was obtained at 3.15 BST Saturday 12th August 2011, the technical climbing of the final crux having fallen to the intrepid James Anderson brought up on the smooth holds and deep recesses of his native Pennine gritstone.

However, Expedition Leader, Andrew Strauss, was quick to acknowledged by a hastily erected satellite phone that it had been a team effort, citing especially the logistical support masterminded by Andy Flower and his team at Base Camp.

“We were never short of what we needed at any stage of the climb,” he maintained.

Technique, power, stamina, teamwork, courage and a GSOH have all been in abundance to make their ascent of this peak possible.

Now the summit team are in the ‘Death Zone’.  Their ambition is to remain there for the foreseeable future, but the objectives ahead are not to be underestimated. 

Winter climbing turns the Pakistan Col, the Sri Lankan Ice Field and the Indian Steps into a nightmare of crevasses, ice towers and unexpected avalanches all demanding very different techniques to those used this summer.

“We go on from here,” said the modest Strauss. 

Asked why he did it, he replied, “Because it is there.”


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Send For Mary Ann: England v India Test 101 Day 1

At 124 for 8, India who had won the toss in the second Test of the series and put England into bat had their sponsor’s boots firmly pressed down on the home side’s wind pipe.

It was then, after tea, that Broad and Swann impishly launched a counterattack.  India’s bowlers, who had previously been perfecting the tantric art of bowling balls round corners, reduced their length and invited the big shot, while the field scattered generously to allow the single.

When Swann departed, caught off his glove in the gully to a 75 mph ball from Praveen that leapt from a good length in a way that the 90mph Malcolm Marshall would have been pleased with, India allowed Broad to farm the bowling and shield the eleventh man, James Anderson.

Broad ended with 64, easily twice the score recorded by any of the other batsmen.  The last three in the England line-up put on nearly a hundred to almost double the score to 221, but it appeared not to matter in any way to the cool and composed MS Dhoni, he of the sang froid.

The Brit, a member of an Island race, has never valued languages other than his own and a half dozen or so that no-one living now uses such as Latin, Greek and Old Persian.  

So when a couple of million of them were transported a hundred years ago across to France to fight in the First World War their reaction to the incomprehensible sounds uttered by the locals was to paraphrase them into something that sounded … well … English.

The Gallic shrug articulated in the expression ça ne fait rien, “it does not matter”, became a catchphrase of the lowest ranks of the army whose duty it was to accept whatever fate and his bungling officers decreed in a fashion both resigned and cynical. 

In English mouths the phrase evolved via ‘san fairy Ann’ into the plaintive, ‘Send for Mary Ann’.

Could the influence of Shri Madhvacharya be detected at Trent Bridge on India's tactics during the first day's play of the second Test?

India’s captain at Trent Bridge yesterday appeared to be as fatalistic as the old British Tommy facing a hail of bullets.  “Dear Fellows,” he was heard to say, “We are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do.  Who are we to seek to influence the future?”

To which VVS Relaxman standing at first slip with knees as inflexible as iron girders intoned, “Even God cannot alter the flow of Vidhi.”

As the players left the field at the end of the England innings Anderson turned to Broad, “Stuart, I just don’t get it.  Man may not be able to will what he wills, but he is free to do what he wills.”

Ten minutes later the boy from Burnley, where the favourite tipple is still a ‘hot Benny’ or Benedictine  first sampled on the freezing Western Front*, translated these words into action, having Mukund caught by Pietersen in the gully with the very first ball of the Indian innings.

These fine philosophical distinctions surrounding predetermination will be further articulated when play resumes with India on 24 for 1 in pursuit of the 221 runs that England have on the board.

Send for Mary Ann or, “Deo Optimo Maximo,” as they say in Burnley. 

* 93 years after the Old Pals returned from the trenches, this East Lancashire town is still responsible for the consumption of more of this herbal liqueur than everywhere else in the world … put together!

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Of Seizing Stumps and Submissive Smiles

First, those stumps.  Six trophies were on offer at Adelaide as England, literally with the field to themselves, celebrated their victory and divided the spoils amongst themselves.  

One for Pietersen.  One for Cook.  One for Swann.  One for Anderson, whose two wickets in the first quarter of an hour secured the match, if not yet the Ashes, if not quite yet the series.  Which leaves two to be assigned.

Third Man thinks that England in their present frame of mind and Australia in theirs will take for granted that they are England’s to bequeath – that is, to give by their will and their will alone. 

One for their Field Marshall, Andy Flower, remembering that the only day that England may be judged to have lost so far in this series happened when he was absent.

And one for their fallen comrade, Stuart Broad, who Team England will do all they can to cuddle through the next twelve weeks of lonely rehabilitation for his muscle tear.

Secondly, the smiles.  

There is more than one kind of smile.  There are the smiles of happiness, of love, and of pride.  The smiles of genuine pleasure, the insolent smile and the shivering smile of determined vengeance.

But there is also the submissive smile of the Beta Male to the Alpha Male.  The smile of genuflection, with knee bent to the ground, eyes lowered and forehead foremost.  This has been the Australian smile, time after time.

From before Brisbane, Australia have communicated only DOUBT in themselves.  From early Shield and tour matches, from the 17 squad selection, from pre-match, mid-match and post-match interviews in Brisbane and in Adelaide, from the kicking of turf, the hunching of shoulders, the burying of necks in shoulders, the cursing, the being rattled – with every muscle they have screamed their disbelief.

Most matches are won before a ball is bowled.  They are won in the minds of those who compete.  They are won before the aptly named ‘boundary’ is crossed.

Australia once taught England the great lesson: start with the mind, for power comes from the will.  Over the last month or more they have bequeathed supremacy to England.

“Thanks mate.”

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