Category Archives: General

It Ain’t Over…

William and Kate at Wimbledon

“One does not move during overs…”

I know what you’re thinking. It must have taken something deeply significant for this blog to spring back into life after nearly a year with seemingly nothing to say for myself, right? Well, no – not quite. For six of you who read this, it might seem like a pretty small issue. For the remaining three of you, it may strike a chord – a C# Minor in fact – and we may be in agreement. Who knows! I certainly don’t… that’s quite evident!

This is something I’ve thought about for more than a week. Since I got back from the Ageas Bowl and a ODI between England and NZ since you asked. Against the backdrop of dazzling sunshine and record breaking, a storm was brewing – if you can bring yourself to see past the angsty teenager-esque hyperbole.

It’s not often I find myself in among a crowd that warrants a “Sold Out” notice at a cricket match (or one in among one that is merely very busy). I’m more used to the sparsely populated Warner Stand and a more genteel spectator experience as Middlesex go about their business at Lord’s. It has, probably and admittedly, led me to have false expectations of watching cricket; expectations all too steeped in romanticism. That kinda thing has happened before.

As Martin Guptill unleashed a captivating knock of 189 against a lethargic home attack, I could just about accept an apparent reluctance to recognise his various, personal milestones from a largely England-supporting crowd. The 50, the 100, the 150… and the forlorn trudge off 11 short of his double ton. I am pretty sure I was one of just a few in my section of the crowd to get to my feet as he departed for the dressing room. It was surely worthy?

But what bugged me senseless all afternoon were those spectators who decided the first ball of an over was the right time to shift half a row of people and head to the bar. And then return four balls into the following over. At times, we were up and down like yo-yos as the match went on without us. If it was an elaborate game of Musical Chairs, it was not the best time and there wasn’t a winner…

In terms of “fings wot annoy me”, it’s up there with those kindly souls who will run for a Tube, making sure they take out a commuter or two in their sprint to avoid what must be an dire fate and squeezing themselves through the last two centimetres of space before the door closes. If only another Tube was a minute away from the station. Oh wait, there’s one now…

Am I moaning about nothing? Am I being too nostalgic for an era that I wasn’t even part of? Or am I talking a little bit of common sense? The over lasts just a few minutes – the bar will still be there, so will the toilets. And I’ll promise that your seat will not be missing on your return. So sit a little bit longer, don’t run for public transport and enjoy the cricket. Until it rains again.

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Ireland v England – The Alternative View

Leprechaun hat and poncho

Nothing like playing up to a stereotype

“I’m supporting my two home teams” chirped one South African-come-Irishman as Craig Kieswetter and Jonathan Trott strolled out to bat at Clontarf. Very good, I thought. You can’t fault him for accuracy, although some questions remain over his relationship with his Irish chum next to him with a Leprechaun on his head.

Next to me is another local who appears to know his stuff; at least as far as being able to identify the counties to which some of England’s debutants are from. But there is little shrift for the notion that the visitors’ two South African openers are being skippered by a Dublin lad… “farce” I believe is a term I heard being used.

A braver soul than I might’ve raised Boyd Rankin’s exploits with England Lions, but let’s roll this back to the beginning. To Stansted Airport. And to a lovely pint of Magners enjoyed in the Wetherspoons. It is quite a shock how quiet Ryanair’s holding pen is during normal hours. Everyone else left at 5am for Malaga I guess.

By using the toilet on the flight over, I appeared to have sold my soul to Satan. Or Merv Hughes. My punishment was to think nothing ill of visiting the Temple Bar and being a tourist. If Ireland says it has paid back the UK’s loans in full, the pint and a half of Guinness in Temple Bar will tell you where those funds came from.

I had looked to @tomdotcom1 for some restraint, but I think he considers a man who, by 11pm, had been wearing flip-flops and a straw hat for approx 20 hours to be beyond such help. Fortunately, sleepytime called. I wouldn’t have let a lack of sleep ruin the following day’s play; we had the rain for that…

For the past fortnight, the forecast had been a changeable-yet-complete arse. The only constant was rain. This is Ireland, after all. But we had sunshine to start and threatening clouds were skirting the ground as we arrived. My aims were clear – get a free t-shirt, a free poncho and something with 4/6 on it to wave maniacally.

The rain did come before the start of play, but I was prepared. With the flip-flops on, I would avoid the annoyance of having wet shoes and socks. Meanwhile, with the poncho deployed to cover my seat, I wouldn’t get a wet that way. The hat can do the rest… it’s a hat, it has magic powers like that.

Boyd Rankin bowls

Rankin? Number One Test Team apparently

After the rain, play starts more or less on time. And Ireland – with something of a point to prove after the World Cup – begin well on a greeeeeeeeen surface. Yep, that’s how green it is. Rankin seems to me to have a tendency to stray onto leg a little too often, but Trott and Kieswetter aren’t setting the world alight with false shots and tickles.

By the time of the next rain interruption, England are two down and going along at a less-than-brisk 3-point-something an over. Eoin Morgan is, however, at the crease and you already sense there’s a key wicket here. But we’ll have to wait and see, because my feet are getting wet and the bar’s now open for Beamish. Nice.

The break gives one a chance to reflect; mainly at how many spectators were up in arms for catches taken off one bounce. This is serious cricket, not one bounce one hand rules. But with the unpredictability of the ICC, perhaps such a format is but months away from being introduced to keep the Associates off their case.

And it also at this point you get to admire the torrent of purple that has washed in over each of the stands at Clontarf CC. It’s very much Poncho o’Clock and the speed at which some have gone from ‘bagged poncho’ to ‘bagged in a poncho’ is amazing. The €5 cost of Beamish, meanwhile, is almost welcome after last night.

Moody sky at Clontarf

See. Blue sky. Just over there...

The restart is preceded by a crackly PA announcement about England going to a 4-4-f**king-2 formation, or something. I knew Andy Flower was absent, but did he have to send Mike Bassett? Turns out I was wrong anyway…. the game had been reduced to 42 overs. And Morgan was off, swinging momentum to the Englishsouthafricanirishmen.

Ireland’s policy of containment throughout the innings and into the sunshine at the latter stages almost kept England to under 200. Tail end bat throwing helped the visitors cause, but it had left Ireland with a challenging enough chase on that surface. But you would probably argue that the hosts had done their job.

Interval at Clontarf

Textbook

The interval brought with it kids onto the pitch with a Kwik Cricket set and a desire to bump off a few people in the stands. Some of the batting on display would put my best efforts to shame; two shots cleared the stand and a third spent the rest of the day bouncing along the top of the Portaloos in the corner where fancy dress lived.

Did I mention the kid bowling off a full run up? One for England to nick perhaps.

After the fun in the sun came the pain in the rain. Ireland’s start mirrored that of their guests – slow scoring and two early wickets. In fact, the Irish became rather bogged down (no pun intended) before the rain break. But they were on an equal footing going into the rain delay. If clouds could talk, these ones were swearing.

Rainbow at Clontarf

The rainbow. It's holding up the sky!

It was a much-longer rain delay and the wind whipped up to create an autumnal feel to the afternoon. The flip flops suddenly seemed a bit foolish. There were at least some moments of sunshine, but ICC rules categorically state that you have to wait for more rain to come after a rain break before you can attempt to get the action re-started.

A revised target of quite a lot from not very many left Ireland with a tough task to pull off the victory. I retain the opinion that Jack Duckworth has done nothing to help the game of cricket with the method he devised with Morse’s sidekick. Yes, I know Eoin Morgan transformed England’s innings, but duh, Kevin O’Brien?!

Wickets started falling, Ireland started getting behind the required rate. Kev got two meaty sixes away but eventually yorked himself against Dernbach… and the earlier rain had pretty much washed away any lingering hopes. There was some defiant resistance down the order, but six-an-over ain’t enough when needing 12.

The final margin of victory was 11 runs and Eoin Morgan was named Man Of The Match… it was cricket’s way of telling Ireland “let’s see what you could have won” and gave England newbies a nice champagne spraying session to enjoy. It didn’t rain again that day, y’know…

That night, the flip-flops were dispensed with. Sleeping aside, they’d seen around 30 hours of action in two days – that’s 1,797 minutes more than Ravi Bopara had batted and 1,800 more than Tom Cleverley has managed for the England football team. I don’t think any winners have come out of that particular perspective.

Pete at Guinness

Lost in Dublin...

As an addendum, you can rest assured that the flip-flops were given the Friday to recuperate as the Guinness Storehouse became the “place to be”. It slightly irks a former barman of little repute like me that any old fecker can get a certificate for pulling a pint there, but I suppose we’re all equals in the eyes of dear old Arthur.

Then again, maybe it was my shamrock that set me apart from the rest. Certainly apart from Tommy, who was too busy making a mess by leaving the tap running. But he’s from Barnet and has flippers for hands. I know my triumphs. And now I have a certificate to prove one of ’em… some things transcend cricket, y’know.

The Legacy of Paul Russell

In so far as Sunday announcements go, this admittedly wasn’t one that was going to have BBC News reaching for flashing red graphics or 24-point type declaring a piece of “Newyddion Breaking”. But the departure of Paul Russell as chairman of Glamorgan County Cricket Club comes as a bit of a bolt from the blue.

It had been the initial intent that Russell’s tenure would end with a handing over to Nigel Roberts at some point in the future. The fact that Roberts will remain as deputy chair suggests that it wasn’t something immediately on the horizon. Barry O’Brien steps into the interim role, and at a pretty crucial time for the club.

According to the Western Mail, a Glamorgan delegation will be heading to Lord’s in an effort to secure an Ashes Test match in 2013. That trip – in itself – is already an example of the legacy that Paul Russell leaves the club. After all, it was he who spearheaded the determination to bring international cricket to Cardiff.

And despite some negative offerings, Cardiff excelled in delivering the 2009 epic between England and Australia. To be sat in the grandstand on day five is still an unequivocal personal favourite of mine – in terms of sporting events attended. If you need further context, I was also at the Oval on the day we nabbed the Urn.

Fingers might start pointing at a pretty dismal Test match featuring Sri Lanka in the early part of this summer, but somewhat unfairly in my opinion. It was a Test that didn’t had the allure of Australia, nor India. And the rain just made it worse. But that’s South Wales in early summer for you. It’s been lush since…

And hopefully that will extend until the Indians come to town for a one day game later this summer. You’ll see the SWALEC at its best – a raucous atmosphere and another fantastic tie, we hope. By then, we’ll also know – or at least be a lot closer to knowing – who will host an Ashes Test in 2013 (and other games to 2015).

I’ve not always agreed with some of the decisions that have been taken under the leadership of Paul Russell. The fall-out of last winter’s resignations, sackings and general confusion still rankles. And it appears as if the ends will not be justifying the means, in terms of the on-field performances this year.

But it would be harsh – amid the bitter taste left by those various departures – not to accept that there is a certain debt of gratitude owed to Paul Russell. The future of domestic cricket is far from being rosy, but if Glamorgan secure an Ashes Test in 2013, it’ll be as much down to Russell as it is to the delegation tomorrow.

“I’ll Believe It When ICC It…”

International Cricket Council (ICC) president Sharad Pawar has asked the suits on the organisation’s executive committee to re-examine the rather self-serving decision to lock out the Associate teams from the 2015 World Cup by limiting it to just the 10 Full Member nations, which includes the world’s top nine and #11.

“Great” may be the initial opinion, but after the “thank Jim Allenby for that” has subsided, I am left with an unnerving sensation of “yet-to-be-convinced-itis”. I’ll probably throw myself into a low mood by admitting, but I think I am old beyond my years, for my cynicism is lurking at the back of the mind and it won’t go away.

I sincerely hope that the executive committee will rethink, do a U-turn and come back towards what appeared to be a general consensus in favour of at least giving the likes of Ireland, the Netherlands et al a chance. But is Pawar’s announcement merely creating an illusion that ICC wants to be seen to be doing something?

When the committee meet in the global cricketing hotbed of Hong Kong in June, what’s to say that the same decision won’t be reached again… but drawn-out over two or three weeks. That way, it’d look like members had been so wrought with a very real sense of consternation. I warned you I was cynical.

Coming away from that dark land of mistrust, maybe ICC has been ‘encouraged’ to introduce the notion of hope back to the ‘minnows’. I’m no logistical expert – but is it so hard to have a four-way qualification tournament in the week before a World Cup? An eight-way qualification tournament might just be a bit too much.

It’s in ICC’s interest to re-consider this issue. Many cricket fans would come back onside after the initial disquiet, and a generation of Associate cricketers will have something to aspire to beyond a quick Twenty20 slash-and-burn. Then there is a rather uncomfortable suggestion of legal action if the shop remains closed.

Will the Associates get that renewed hope of competing in the 2015 World Cup? Well, as I’ve suggested, I’ll believe it when ICC it…

End Of A Career

Cricketers and umpires lying on the floor

Sometimes, when bowling, I tried the slower ball...

Cricket, like pretty much all professional sports, offers nothing but a transient career. It exploits the period of your life when you’re at the peak (allegedly) of your physical condition. And then comes a point where the body cannot stand the exertions any more, leading to a career in TV punditry or pub hospitality.

There are some who have sufficient talent to make a few bob out of cricket, on the County scene if nothing else. And given the relative calm of the game when compared with, say, football or rugby, you can maybe squeeze a 20-year career out of it after leaving school. But some aren’t so lucky.

I, for all intents and purposes, am one of the latter. Any cricketing career I may have hoped to pursue was brutally halted at the age of 13 in a sobering moment of self-awareness. Any adolescent hopes of being the next all-round hero batting to win the Ashes in Sydney were smashed in just one, brief event.

Did I suffer an injury? No. Was I banned from participating in cricket in order to focus on my education? As if… my degree in media studies at Swansea Uni would testify to that. The moment my cricketing career came to its premature end came as a fledgling middle-order batsman in yet another Year 7 defeat.

We weren’t bothered about ensuring the game against another local school lasted as long as possible. We wouldn’t have batted first if that was the case. But batting we found ourselves on that balmy June evening. And in trouble we soon followed when one of our three decent players was obliged to retire on 25 not out.

The kid who ate chalk (this is embellished for comedic effect) came in before me. It comes as no surprise that he lasted a few balls. I had only been taught one shot – the Geoffrey Boycott All-Yorkshire Super Forward Defensive. Moving the score beyond 50 would require something a little more creative.

After grinding out an imperious 7 not out off eight overs – it is at this point I feel I should reveal that it was a 20 overs game, was the moment – Now, it would be docile medium pace. Back then, it was blistering reverse swinging tomahawks. I lifted my bat without so much as a forward press…

… and with the most attacking stroke I have ever dared (apart from the reverse sweeps that are always attempted in the nets every summer), I drove hard at the cherry in the most Matthew Maynard-esque manner I could. Launching the ball back, straight, over the bowlers head. Straight out of the textbook, Shastri says…

It deserved a full-blown six into the trees for its sheer elegance, with a majestic pose held for cameras and spectators alike (of which there were none). I would have settled for a four, truth be told. But then came the moment that crushed a career… the ball dropping out of the sky half way short with graceless haste.

A brief pause, and then panic. “RUN!” was the desperate cry to my partner who occupied the non-strikers end. I later found the correct call to be “YES”, but not one jot of difference it would have made. For my partner was still attempting to put his pads on. Six turned to four turned to two turned to one. Heartbroken…

I retreated to the only cricketing sanctuary I had – the forward defensive. I later fell, having spent around 13 overs in the middle for a score tantalisingly short of double figures. It would be six years until I recorded my first tenth-of-a-century; against the Teachers. I bowled 2-0-4-1 that day; the first three balls were wides.

But for the time being, the game was up. I didn’t return to the field in Year 8 – it had as much to do with the fact we were yet to win a game and I’m a bad loser. A call to come out of retirement in Year 10 was resisted. Again, it was only the lure of the Sixth Form games against the Teachers XI that brought me back.

When I look back, I search for the achievements. Did I help to take cricket to the Irish on my regular summer holidays to see mother’s family with bat under arm? No, I suspect it was there already. And I failed to taste victory at school level. The game probably was well off without me.

I don’t dare try to resurrect that once-promising career with a village club side. It would be foolish. That ill-fated drive of 1998 would only come back to haunt me.

My Year In List(s)

Tamim Iqbal

"I listened to Geoffrey. I ignored Geoffrey" - Tamim Iqbal smashes his way to a Lord's ton

While gazes have been a-fixed on Australia’s somewhat Audley Harrison-esque attempt to dethrone England as holders of the Ashes, it might come as surprise to learn that 2010 – a ragtag collection of 365 days – is coming to an end.

If I were an ITV commissioning editor, I would have already lined up a series of D-List “celebrities” for a whimsical End of Pier Year shindig in which the frankly laughable Corrie tram crash would be fawned over as if it were current affairs.

But thankfully (for you), I have no affiliation with ITV. And so all I can offer with the following splurge of words is the men and/or performances that I think to be worthy of honourable mention in this cowboy autopsy of the year gone by:

Tamim Iqbal – Bangladesh arrived in England during the summer to provide a some pre-Ashes frivolity a la 2005. You know the old adage “prepare for the best by playing the worst”. It fell apart with the Australians’ slide into mediocrity, but further compounded by the determination of one man in particular to prove that the Tigers were here to be counted. And so it came to pass that Tamim Iqbal was to join luminaries such as Punter and Sachin on the Lord’s Honours Board with a breathtaking hundred. All thanks to Boycott apparently…

Mark Cosgrove and Gareth Rees – I am determined to continue milking this one for all its worth, because it doesn’t happen often. Having conceded a 125-run deficit against Leicestershire, the Glamorgan bowlers dismissed the hosts for just 77 runs to leave a chase of nearly 200 to win. Being Glamorgan, this target would normally induce a nervous panic that precludes a collapse. Not this time. Messrs Cosgrove and Rees were assured, unwavering and unflappable in the pursuit and wrapped up a 10-wicket win that was better than winning the league. Looking at you there, Sussex…

Paul Collingwood’s England – World Twenty20 champions. What the fuck?

Cheggers

Paine for captain, Cheggers for the UN

Ricky Ponting – Give Ricky his dues, he’s now surrendered the Ashes on three separate occasions. You could suggest that 2005 was the more spectacular, with the resources at his disposal (Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist etc) but there was some fortunate luck involved there for England. Winter 2010/11 marked the time that the Poms thrashed Punter’s men. Regardless if those ‘men’ include Steve Smith, Mitchell Johnson and Philip Hughes. Cricket Australia can’t dismiss him though – the alternatives would be like appointing Keith Chegwin to lead the United Nations.

Paul Russell – The changes implemented at Glamorgan during the close season would make Stalin proud. The BBC has since commissioned a new game show – 101 Ways to Leave The Swalec.

Nottinghamshire – For being the winners of what proved to be an epic County Championship season. Somerset fans can look away – it was about to be them ’til the Trent Bridge boys got their freak on. And what do they get for their troubles? The reward for their efforts? Four days in Worcester next year. Life isn’t fair.

Salman Butt – “D’ya want a 99 with that wad of cash?”

[tweetmeme source=”petehayman” only_single=false]Robert Croft – Murali bags his 800th Test scalp and Sachin racks up his 50th Test century – mere footnotes to the greatest achievement of the year recorded on a lukewarm Swansea afternoon. Crafty Crofty – the Leek of Tweak – picked up his 1,000th wicket, a mere 59 years after making his Dragons debut. Doesn’t look a day over a 40 y’know.

Party Po-cricket-al Broadcast

Five minutes of your time, if I may – I’ll keep this short and sweet.

It has been brought to my attention that a rather enticing new cricket book is on its way to the marketplace – The Alternative Cricket Almanack. And I believe that its worth a bit of a quick plug.

If you want your cricketing opinions ‘brutally honest’; if you like your humour on the dark side; and if you want to enjoy those two elements safe in the knowledge that you’ve also helped to discover and develop talent in Afghanistan, it stands to reason that this is the book for you.

I’m not going to take words out of anyone’s mouth here – if you want to find out more, then toddle along to their internet residence HERE.