Stuart Broad & Imran Khan

Two biographies have sat on the bedside cabinet for the last few months. Two very different generations for cricketers. ‘Broadly Speaking’ came out last December for the Christmas Market, hot after the Summer’s 2-2 Ashes in England. It’s whizz bang, and in a 17 year International career it’s a bit weighted towards one summer but a giddy gallop through the last 20 odd years around the England Camp.

Imran’s biography was a real trip down memory lane. I’d forgotten about Gooch’s dropped catch in the 1992 World Cup. There are some world class anecdotes about the man, from Cricketer to Politician, very insightful.

Making Decisions by Ed Smith

Thinker Ed has penned another insightful book. On the inside sleeve it reads, “During his three-year-tenure, England averaged 7 wins in every 10 completed matches, better than they have performed before or since”, and that is something to be proud of.

Charlie Redmayne had a chance to chat with Ed about leadership and decision making. Good name check at the end there Charlie.

On the back of a thoroughly disastrous February for the English Cricket team in India, it was good to have the distraction of this book.

The Rubik’s cube Otl Aicher cover image says it all really. How do we make the best moves for the puzzle to fit, especially in these days of powerful Artificial Intelligence?

Comeback Sunday

West Indies beat Australia in Brisbane by 8 runs.

England beat India in Hyderabad by 28 runs.

Sinner came back from 2-0 down to beat Medvedev in Melbourne 3-2.

I have watched many hours of sport on TV today. My eyes are square but it was worth it. Wow.

2023 Boxing Day Tests

Looking out to a nearly full moon standing solitarily in a struggling pale blue early morning cool Wintry Winter’s sky, bold in the aftermath of relentless days of Atlantic Winds, I’m reminded of why we British like to tune in on radio or TV to the cricket going on in sunnier climes.

Two good Test Matches. One distinctly closer than the other. At the Centurion ground, India struggled against South Africa. Performances with the bat from Elgar and Jansen, and Burger bowling well, gave the hosts SA an innings victory.

The MCG test could have gone either way. When Pakistan had Australia pinned down at 16-4 yesterday, it was looking peachy for Pakistan. But catches win matches. Mistakes were made. I woke up to follow the last session Down Under this morning. 79 adrift in the end. Respectable, but the series is dead now. Cometh the hour, cometh the Cummins. It was close. Rizwan by a wristband.

45 Matches.

It was a treat every evening for the past month and a half to come home from work and watch some world cup cricket. Although precious few of the matches were close, it was wonderful to see the sun sets in India (on the laptop), not forgetting the spiritual Himalayan ground of Dharamshala.

The England team crumbled, but it was fantastic to see the heavyweights like de Kock knock off centuries. I watched Maxwell’s 201* in disbelief. Of course he had to hit the winning runs of the tournament. Of course he did. Well played Australia.

Holiday Reading

Herding Cats 

On passing by the beautiful Duke of Norfolk’s ground at Arundel this past Summer to watch a few overs of the annual Actors v Authors match, I took a stroll around the boundary and was recommended Herding Cats by Charlie Campbell. Thanks for the tip Rob (with the camera). 

Herding Cats is a good expression. Jazz Cats at that.

The front cover says it all : fielders with beer if not mobile phone in hand (irl both?), dejected and bored or fruitlessly appealing a wicket. Bails scattered. 

The Authors get a few good cricketers playing for them, although I don’t think the likes of Ed Smith turn up too often.

To have a quote from Nasser on the front is a result, although I suspect the foreword by Mike Brearley might attract a few more readers’ eyes. 

I read the little yellow book ‘..from Hackney to Hambledon’ a decade ago and loved it. This too delights. Interspersed with enticing Chapter Headings such as ‘The Tour’ and ‘The Morning of the Match’, and then further divided with sub headings such as ‘Does his age matter?’; ‘You have a Private Income don’t you?’; ‘Are we still going for the target’; and ‘Excellent advice but was this the moment for it?’, the pacing is perfect. As on the spot as McGrath.

When I turned up to watch the match a man sporting an ‘Eggs and Bacon’ tie bent my ear as I bought a cuppa about how Lords had been a ‘Roman Circus’ and a ‘Cauldron’ the previous week during the Test. I didn’t tell him that I had been there too, I was enjoying his recounting. There must have been something in the air. Actors and Writers.   

Back to the book – very enjoyable. 

There are some amusing anecdotes, such as the fielders that decide the game will be livened up by taking an ecstasy tablet, to the bowler who when asked what he’ll be bowling winks at his captain and says “Just you wait and see”, before hurling down an over of balls splayed everywhere and carted to all corners. 

Long live Sunday Cricket. 

Ten to win… and the Last Man In.

I enjoy reading Henry Blofeld’s works. 

When I read Ben Elton’s works I can hear his 100 mph voice coming through, and it is the same with Blofeld. Albeit the two – chalk and cheese.

The cover is great. You can sense the drama. With a middle stump on the ground and a batsman walking off unvelcroing his gloves, with Green capped Cricketers high fiving each other, there is a burning sunset after a day of blue skies which gives the backdrop to the weather vane of Father Time atop a pavilion which houses a non-digital scoreboard indicating any result is possible. Number 11 has a spring in his step and is running on. A full house.

These 30 matches span nearly 140 years. 

Naturally Blowers finds room for the Eton v Harrow match of 1910. There is an amusing account of a Taxi being handsomely paid to get to Lords on the double from a Barbers in Mayfair. 

Each account has the scorecard and they make pretty interesting reading. None more so than O’Brien’s 113 against England for Ireland in 2011 in Bangalore. I quote, ‘O’Brien moved from 60 to 70 in two balls and then from 80 to 90 in two more’ : fireworks.

A book like this couldn’t not contain an account of Headingley ’81.

I particularly liked the account of England v Zimbabwe in 1996. Glass of Bolly? Doing a ‘Bulawayo’ – very good. 

Naturally it ends with those two rather special matches in 2019 and Stokes doing his thing.  

Broad bows out.

2-2.

A magical Ashes series.

To take a wicket with your last ball, and hit a six with the last ball faced must be unique.

What a special cricketing family.

I have fond memories of sitting on a train South from Scotland and seeing a little red light appear on my phone every time Stuart Broad took one of those 8 wickets in Trent Bridge in 2015.

He has been the player with the ability to wow us.

Yesterday was no different. I had written it off. But you know what the Phoenix did.