Tag Archives: Richard Nyren

Close Encounters of the Third Kind*

The Squire has been acting most oddly of late.  Yes, even more oddly.  He is spending less time with the village blacksmith on time machines; which, as his lordship’s preferred ‘test pilot’ Third Man is relieved at; but instead retreating to his game room where, on a very large table, he has taken to modelling and remodelling a strange white bowl-like construction on top of a pile of earth that he has had brought in by the gardeners. The whole is topped by miniature tented structures.  He has been labouring on this night and day for a number of weeks.

Elsewhere in the village, farm labourers have been behaving oddly too.  There have been reports of bright lights in the hours of darkness.   Some have taken to staying up all night watching the sky for ‘signs’.  The vicar has erected a pile of hymnals in the chancel that looks vaguely similar to the Squire’s metal, mud and canvas creation.  Miss Prim, who has never been quite the same since the visit to the Great House by Lord Byron, is painting again.  She calls the series ‘Dreams of Far Pavilions’.  She has kindly allowed Third Man to publish No 23 of the Series above.

Matters intensified last Thursday when Third Man ‘drove’ the Squire in the brougham to Botleigh Grange where, after diner, fellow guests Rodney Bransgrove Esquire, his great architect and civil engineer EPR and some coves from the successors to the White Conduit Club used the billiard table to lay out the latest master plans for Mr Bransgrove’s cricket ground which is set to be the first to achieve England and Wales Cricket Board’s TSF(2) ‘model ground’ status qualifying it to stage a Test match in June this year. 

No wonder the Powers That Be are nervously monitoring every milestone and hurdle along the way.

After a relaxing overnight sojourn at the Grange, the Squire insisted Third Man drive him to the site of the venture.  So great were the numbers attracted there, each person no doubt driven by a similar vision, and so disruptive the work going on, that the brougham had to be parked in a common meadow.

They joined the stream of humanity who were keen to witness the first day of the season, carrying their provisions for the day in a variety of much used bags and napsacks, and climbed the steep rise to where Bransgrove has encouraged Hampshire CCC to relocate.

It was at this point that Third Man both realised that in reality they were mounting the Squire’s erection (that could have been better expressed but Third Man is short of time) and glimpsing Miss Prim’s Far Pavilions, for, on top of the hill there came into view a perfect white creation largely of metal and glass shining in the April morning sunshine.   

Rather like Nyren’s commercial venture on Broadhalfpenny Down two hundred and fifty years ago, the ground is situated far from the traditional commercial market place on a piece of cheap ground to which those in search of cricket must make their way as best they can.  Like Nyren’s enterprise The Rose Bowl as it is called is shrewdly situated close to the junction of two great highways, the M27 and the M3 and, attended as it is by hotels, leisure centres, supermarkets and shopping malls, there are close structural parallels to the Cradle of Cricket.  Plus ca change.

The tide of common humanity was shepherded rather briskly by uniformed guardians intent on keeping it from the hospitality areas (as Nyren’s staff had kept the riff-raff from the Quality entertained in the seclusion of The Lodge).  However, the Squire seemed to be recognized and he and TM were taken by the elbows and shown to the Shane Warne Suite. 

How Richard Nyren, that tenant of the Bat and Ball, would have admired the entrepreneurial flare on show.  Although it would not have been lost on him that the capacity crowd that might in June gather here to watch the Sri Lankans play All England would not be much more than he commonly entertained a few leagues away on the Down above Hambledon.

Our ‘suite’ was laid out for a fine banquet.  To the left through a long wall of windows and opening doors a seating area afforded a dizzy view of the majestic stadium amid its fine landscape of Hampshire farmland. 

It was as if a huge white and gleaming docking station had been constructed for the arrival of some space ship from the other side of the Milky Way surrounded by all the necessary facilities to entertain, amuse and educate our visiting aliens in the ways of C21st mankind.

Then, as the players of the modern era took the field below (Durham had won the toss and would bat) from the end of the Shane Warne Suite long forgotten cricketers last glimpsed in the ‘60s re-emerged into the present, perfectly preserved.

Persevered, you understand culturally though not physically, for space travel near the speed of light may frustrate time but it cannot prevent a toll being taken on waist and hairlines. 

Here, to celebrate the one hundreth anniversary of the birth of their Coach and lodestar, Arthur Holt, were some of those who played cricket in that unique period as the austere years of the ‘50s and early ‘60s awakened into the Swinging Sixties and headed unwittingly towards the Packer Earthquake, the aftershocks of which could still be felt below us on the field of play where Durham, no longer a new and custom breaking Test Match county made 413 in 96 overs.

By the close of play at 6.30 in the mid-Sixties our veterans would have bowled 120 overs and Hampshire’s first innings would have been under way.  The only ice in sight, would have cooled the Committee men’s gin and tonic.

To be continued.

In Stephen Spielberg’s 1977 classic film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (CE3K) an up-surge in UFO activity and the communication from space of a specific set of co-ordinates prompts experts under the auspices of the UN to prepare a secret landing zone for the UFOs and their occupants at Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, to which are drawn civilians who have been affected by the recent alien contact.  The military endeavour to turn these folk back.  An enormous mother ship lands at the site and people who had been abducted over the years return home out of the bowels of the craft.

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Glastonbury, Hambledon and a New Bowling Phenomenon

The trusty time machine has taken Third Man back to 1782.  It is late May and he is sitting at a table in the George at Hambledon, now kept by the redoubtable Richard Nyren, the best captain of the best cricket team in the world.  Or, as his son would later describe him, Hambledon’s ‘head and right arm’.

Nyren is a cricketing entrepreneur.  He is somewhere between a Michael Eves and a Richard Branson. If we are to imagine a fixture played at Broadhalfpenny Down at around this time, there is no better place for the imagination to start than with an image of a Glastonbury Festival; a temporary and tented city built for the enjoyment and entertainment of people from far and wide with all the impermanent infrastructure that is needed to feed and drink and relieve that huge transient community.

For a typical match 20,000 people descended on little Hambledon and camped on Broadhalfpenny Down, two miles outside the village.  They and their horses arrived hungry and thirsty from as far away as Reading, TonbridgeWells and, of course, London Town.  Such numbers needed the services of a city. Tents and pennants and banners advertised food and drink.  The Hutt (later renamed by the entrepreneur The Bat and Ball) was the centre of the hive of activity with fresh made bread and every type of provender.   Bookmakers and bat makers, punch sellers and pie makers set up their stalls.  Smiths and cartwrights set up temporary forges.  Dukes and Earls and Baronets with their VIP ‘all areas’ passes enjoyed exclusive access to the members’ Lodge with its covered seating and expensively covered chairs.

Nyren’s backers have made millions from their wagers won on the backs of the successful teams Nyren has formed and led for a quarter of a century while he himself has prospered from the faire he provides from The Bat and Ball, the commissions he skims from the stall holders and bookmakers, the share of the prize money and the wagers he has won, always backing Hambledon, no matter how dire the situation.  

“Never bet against men such as these,” he once told two members of the Quality with a fearlessness of rank and authority which were at the root of his success.

Nyren is in the process of creating a new venue, close and more convenient to the village, at Windmill Down, and although the wicket will take time to bed in he is already beginning to think highly of it.

Richard is there in person in the George this evening.  He is not serving, but is sitting with some ‘Quality’.  One is obviously a parson.  The others simply exude wealth, position and privilege.  Their talk is loud and indiscrete.

Third Man can make out that they have been playing in or watching a match at Odiham and are taking their ease after a three hour journey home.  The wine and punch is flowing.  Elsewhere the rest of the team are singing. 

But Third Man can see from the intensity of Nyren’s expression that he is in serious discussion. That day he thinks he has has witnessed something special, a new but as yet undeveloped talent, a bowler who with Nyren’s coaching in the new style of bowling could he believes achieve a steepness of bounce, an intimidation and an accuracy that no one in cricket will ever have encountered before.  To Nyren his potential is obvious.

“We must have ‘im for ‘Ambledon, for ‘Ampshire”

The pioneering stalwarts, his great team, are beginning to lose their edge.  If the success of the team and its ability to win big money is to continue, fresh blood must be brought in.  Like a Fergusson operating in the transfer market of today, Nyren and his backers are ruthless in the changes they must make.  

They are in the process of putting together their second great team.  The cream of cricket from Sevenoaks to Dartford awaits the invitation from Nyren. But there that evening the big decision is made.  They are agreed.  This new team will be built around an unknown and a raw and as yet undeveloped talent with the potential pace and bounce to be the scourge of batsman for twenty years.  This new team will be built around David Harris and his extraordinary action.

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Cats, Elephants and Flex Testing in Cricket

The cat is finally out of the bag.  At 12.30 yesterday on the third day of the third Test, Sky broadcast contrasting clips of the actions of Graeme Swann and Saeed Ajmal.  Under the direction of commentator and former umpire David Lloyd, the editor froze the action when their right arms were showing a quarter to three in their deliveries.

Lloyd said, “You see the bent arm of Saeed Amjal – it’s within the 15 degrees allowed by the law, it’s legal – this is the reason why Amjal can bowl the doosra and Swann can’t.”

And with this admission by a senior member of the commentariat (and without contradiction from any of his colleagues) the elephant had finally been acknowledged to have been in the room all the time.

The game of cricket has evolved a further step.  The Laws of Cricket had ‘jerked’ on to accommodate 15 degrees of flex in 2005 like a straightening arm catching up with practice and now, when sufficient time has passed to allow us to forget the strange anatomical and skeletal fictions that had previously been peddled before the amendment, everyone can be open and above board; The Special Ball Cannot Be Bowled, it Can Only Be Thrown, But That’s Legal.  

Anatomically the only way sufficient momentum can be given to a ball released with counter-clockwise rotations with the back of the hand facing the batsman is to jerk the arm straight from a bent position.  Provided that straightening is no more than from 15% of bend the ball is a legal delivery.  This flexing also allows more rotations to be placed on the ball for the clockwise ‘off-spinner’ (counter clockwise for ‘slow left armers’) as countless practitioners of erroneously called finger spin has known for many years; increasing dramatically the potential for drift, dip, turn and bounce.

When in May 2009 an ICC sponsored biomechanical report cleared Amjal’s action the ICC spokesperson was emphatic in stressing that the report “simply confirms that Ajmal is capable of bowling with an action which complies with ICC Regulations” and therefore  “whenever Ajmal bowls in a match in the future, his action will be under the scrutiny of the match officials”.

The spokesperson continued, “according to the ICC regulations, the match officials will use the naked eye to determine whether his action complies with the Laws of Cricket. The permitted degree of elbow extension is 15 degrees and the level of tolerance was set at the point at which such elbow extension will begin to become noticeable to the naked eye. Accordingly, any degree of extension which is visible to the naked eye must and will be reported.”

This of course provides the match officials with an enormously difficult challenge and the game will soon have to accept that a method of adjudicating each delivery will have to be implemented. 

At present the ICC maintains that beyond 15 degrees of flex the ‘the throw’ is visible to the naked eye, but most cricketers will continue to believe that a ‘throw’ can be spotted at degrees of flex lower than 15 degrees.  

Lloyd’s assertion that Amjal’s bent arm for that particular delivery is within the 15 degrees tolerance is exactly that; an assertion.  Big Cricket must now bring in technology to adjudicate on the degree of arm straightening by bowlers.  

Lovers of the game, many of whom still find it difficult to accept the 15 degree tolerance should nevertheless be supporting Shane Warne and Terry Jenner in their campaign for on field testing recently reported in the Daily Telegraph.

This is not the first time that forms of release have been experimented, perfected, performed, protested against, ignored, tolerated, accepted, and finally accommodated in the Laws of Cricket. 

In or around the 1750s Richard Nyren either before coming to Hambledon or soon after his arrival, (probably responding to the demands of ‘bowling’ against John Small (Snr) on practice nights), decided to raise his arm from the grubber ‘bowling position’ at the moment of release to somewhere around waist height – how awkward it must have felt and looked!  How vexing to the ‘legitimate’ bowlers from Slindon, Dartford and Sevenoaks!

It was twenty years later that Nyren’s apprentice, David Harris, took the action to its extreme, to terrorize the poorly protected batsmen of his day by jerking the ball out from a position under his armpit with a mixture of push and flick worthy of a juiced up East European shot-putter from the 1960s.

Again in the 1790s Tom Walker – Old Everlasting – practicing during winter in a barn worked out that he could generate even more pace and bounce than Harris by letting the arm swing out sideways in a ‘round arm’ fashion with the release at or around shoulder height.  

Cricketing authorities first banned the practice with a Law prohibiting ‘round arm’ bowling in 1816: The ball must be bowled (not thrown or jerked), and be delivered underhand, with the hand below the elbow. But if the ball be jerked, or the arm extended from the body horizontally, and any part of the hand be uppermost, or the hand horizontally extended when the ball is delivered, the Umpires shall call “No Ball”.

Gradually this form of bowling burrowed its way into the game and by 1826 Wm Lillywhite and Broadbridge were winning the County Championship for Sussex with round arm bowling.  Batsmen among the legislators were losing their rear-guard action against the practice and in 1835 the relevant part of the Law was amended to read: if the hand be above the shoulder in the delivery, the umpire must call “No Ball”

A voluntary code was soon made mandatory when in 1845 the umpire’s view of the incident was made final.  Ho! Ho!

Our story now moves on to the 26th August 26, 1862 and The Oval where the England bowler Edgar Willsher deliberately bowled overarm to the Surrey batsmen.  In a foretastee of the 1995 Boxing Day Test, Willsher was no-balled six times in succession.  He and his eight fellow professionals in the England team then walked-off the ground in a suspiciously orchestrated protest.

This time the authorities rushed to catch up with practice and in 1864 amended the Laws to allow the bowler to bring his arm through at any height providing he kept it straight and did not throw the ball.

Strictly, cricketers stopped ‘bowling’ the ball the moment two hundred and sixty years ago when Richard Nyren ‘stood up’ to release the delivery, stopped bowling the ball (along the ground) and ‘pitched’ the ball at a length between himself and the batsman adding an extra dimension to the problems of striking a ball with a bat.

Innovation is driven by the tussle of ball and bat.  There are many social and political forces behind the acceptance or the prohibition of innovation but once acceptance has been codified a further difficulty arises over enforcement.   It is a truth universally acknowledged that an unenforced law is irrelevant to the actions and consciousnesses of those to whom the law is meant to apply.

In David Lloyd’s low key admission, yesterday, cricket admitted that it cannot stuff the cat back in the bag, but it has yet to shoot the elephant.

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The Waggoner’s Tale

Dick Carter was nearing the end of a long day.  It was his last load into Andover.  Ahead was a pint or two at the Collage Inn and a mattress in the stable, a few jobs on the morrow and after that a load to take back to Farnham.  He’d sleep at home tomorrow night.

Making his way by Batchelor’s Barn he spied men playing at cricket and halted his team to take a look.  Like many before and since it was not possible for Dick to pass a game of cricket without checking the score.

“How be on Lumpy?” he shouted to a sweating player fielding at Third Man.

“Ney s’ bad, Dick.  We notched 166.”

“Who be we?”

“His Grace the Duke of Dorset.  I’m England today.  And they be the ‘Dons.

“Hambledon? You hav’em by the throat?”

“Not yet.  Sueter, Nyren and Taylor have swiped a few.  And Francis and Small.”

“Who’s that in now?”

“Tis Great Aylward, tenth man today.”

“You’ll not be in the field much longer.”

Dick watched a while as Lumpy took his turn to bowl.

“Bullen, cover the middle wicket and point”

“What – out, to save two runs?

“Why, you would not play to save one on this ground.”

“I would when you bowls, Lumpy.”

The evening passed well for Dick, kept company by old waggoning friends from Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire, and a few from Wessex on their way to Town.   Talk of the Revolutionary War was heated and one Foxite up from the West Country had to be dunked in the Anton before the night was over.

The morning loads took longer than he’d hoped and its was late in the day when the team passed Bachelor’s Barn on their way back to Farnham.

Here he again pulled up his team to check the score.

“Why, Lumpy, you still in the field!”

“That b***er Aylward batted all nite and all this fore noon.  He’s on 167 and the ‘Dons are 403.”

“That’s one more than you lot got together.”

“Aye, no one never seen the like.”

“Tis a year to fear.  Too many sevens.”

“1777’s lucky for Jim Aylward though.”

***********

Some say that Aylward’s record score, which stood unsurpassed for over forty years, was made in Sevenoaks Vine.  But Third Man believes the Farnham Waggoner’s Tale.

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