We have one too many openers in this match, so I offer to move down to number four to allow one of them to bat at three. He doesn’t have the range of shots to profit in the middle order, whereas I do.
The second wicket falls and the slight delay means that an expectant crowd has an even greater need to see Laurence Elderbrook grace this match.
I compose myself in front of the mirror. Resplendent in my cream flannels, I look immaculate. It is time.
I adopt a fast-paced march to the crease to show that I mean business. The opposition are immediately put on the back foot. This drama will unfold according to my script.
I take my guard and await my first ball. I look the bowler right in the eye as he approaches. There will be only one winner here.
It is a short ball. I play back, but straight. As the ball pitches, my eagle eyes immediately pick up every detail of the ball. It is misshapen. It is slightly flattened and as it pitches it doesn’t bounce as a proper spherical ball should. It instead keeps low; dangerously low; low enough to actually go underneath my bat.
There is a hollow clunk as the ball strikes the stumps. I look at the umpire. I implore him with my eyes. That ball should have been changed. It was not fit for cricket. But it is to no avail – I am out.
At this point I take the only option available to a man in this situation. I swing by bat as hard as I can and knock the remaining two stumps clean out of the ground. I chase after one and as it lies on the grass, I swing the bat again. I swing it like an axe and drive its edge into the middle of the stump.
The stump half-snaps while my bat is hugely dented. I toss the bat away and let fly a huge, bestial roar.
As the echoes fade and the awestruck crowd look on transfixed, I collect my bat, tuck it under my arm and make my way off the pitch with the serene dignity afforded to only the very few.
The players and the crowd admire my restraint. They admire me.15 Appeals
The Tests are over, the weather’s cooling down, we’re nearly out of bank holidays. It’s about this time of year that all our thoughts turn to suicide – but wait!
Before we wade through the pessimism of another laboured one-day series, there’s a redeeming feature.
There it is, midway down the most recent TMS blog post by producer Adam Mountford. Actually, we say ‘midway down’ but it’s pretty close to the end. In reality it should be in the very first paragraph. In fact it should be the frigging headline:
“… with contributions from South African broadcaster Neil Manthorpe.”
They may not know how to spell his surname, but they do know how to employ him – and that’s the main thing.
We’re going to make it all the way into September in the company of the author of The Beer Drinker’s Guide to Losing Weight. Rejoice people. Rejoice!4 Appeals
Our inbox is perilously close to empty. One of you better go to a cricket match or something.
D Charlton writes:
I have recently become an associate member of MCC. This means I can sit in the pavilion at Lord’s and watch all but the biggest match days. I can’t watch the first three days of the South African Test, for instance. So, on the Sunday I head to the Lord’s pavilion.
My dad is there early. He gets there early every day of every Test – he’s a full MCC member. He has many Test traditions – one is to get there early and bag seats for him and his mates.
There are no reserved seats in the pavilion, except at the front of the bottom level where, if you are over 80 and have been a member for over 40 years, you get your own seat. It is known as Death Row.
So my dad has bagged the seats and drunk the traditional half-bottle of rosé by the start. He’s sitting next to his traditional mates and there’s the same bloke sat in front of him. It’s tradition. My dad talks to this bloke all day – same age and shape (fat) – they discuss cricket, weather, politics and the Sunday Times. My dad has done this for the last five years and the entirety of this Test. He still doesn’t know the chap’s name. “It’s got too embarrassing, I can’t ask now,” he explains.
I squeeze in next to Dad. “Don’t sit there, you can’t, Derek always sits there. Don’t eat that, it’s not tradition. Don’t text your mates, you’ll get thrown out.” To annoy my dad, I take my tie off. Cue panic. “Good God, so embarrassing. Bloody yellow bookers.”
Yes. I am a yellow booker. My associate membership pass is a yellow book. The full member’s pass is red. Throughout the day I hear grumble after grumble about the ‘bloody yellow bookers’. Sunday is a yellow-booker day.
My younger brother joins us. He squeezes in next to Dad and is told off – not sure what for. He is also a yellow booker.
A woman sits down two rows in front. Collective tut.
My dad has a cunning plan. At the end of the game, he gives the bloke in front his business card and says: “Email me.” Following day, I get an email from dad – he’s forwarded a message from the bloke who sat in front. It’s signed: “All the best, HK Donnelly.”24 Appeals
Even by our knee-high standards Rikki Clarke’s selection as ‘one to watch’ has been ill-judged.
He has been worth watching in a faintly soap opera kind of way, we suppose. It’s one thing to play badly (in the second division), it’s another to resign the captaincy, but it’s really going some to drop yourself – which is what Rikki did at one point this season.
We’ll discard him for next season and he’ll turn into Don Bradman and Waqar Younis’s bastard offspring, just you watch.2 Appeals
This is perhaps a more interesting development than you might think.
You might not have heard of Simon Marshall. He’s a leg-spinning all-rounder whose particular brand of non-spinning spin gave him great success in this year’s Twenty20 Cup: 14 wickets at 13.57 at 7.26 an over. He’s a snappy fielder too, so that’s a full set of strings to his bow (bows have three strings it would seem).
We’re told that all the money’s in Twenty20 and that counties will build their squads according to ability in this format from now on, but that clearly isn’t the case here in the North-West.
Of course we don’t necessarily run organisations according to ‘reason’ in these parts.5 Appeals
A slightly callous post title that we’re not that proud of, but what are we going to do? Rewrite it? As if.
Lancashire have finally decided that they have too many ageing fast-medium all-rounders in their side and Dominic Cork, as the elder of the two, is the man to go.
It’s a bit sad for Cork who was a great cricketer and is still a very good one. But his presence was always a bit infuriating at a county with a youth academy that seems to churn out fast-medium all-rounders almost exclusively. Tom Smith, Kyle Hogg and Steven Croft have all waited unreasonably patiently for the last few seasons.
So now we’ve got the answer to the question we asked back in March: How will the ageing all-rounders of tomorrow get enough experience to keep the ageing all-rounders of the day-after-tomorrow out of the side?3 Appeals
We’re always suspicious of ‘natural talent’. Kevin Pietersen always seems to attract this commendation – usually from Mark Nicholas. Nicholas closes his eyes and purrs every time KP hoicks one to leg and it’s surely only a matter of time before he affixes himself to the captain’s leg like a dog during the end of day interview.
Anyway, we’re getting off track with all this cat/dog confusion. The point is ‘natural talent’ (which we’re going to persist in putting in inverted commas). There’s a nice quote in a Guardian article about KP by Jon Henderson. It’s the sports coach at Maritzburg College where Pietersen played in his teens:
“No, he wasn’t a special player at all at that stage, but he was a hell of a determined guy with a good work ethic.”
Apparently he didn’t even get in the first team until another spinner emigrated. So Pietersen’s ‘natural talent’ only really manifested itself in adulthood after he’d put in loads and loads of effort.
We don’t know the ins and outs of how children develop hand-eye coordination, but we’d hazard that any cricketer who is deemed to have ‘natural talent’ has in fact overwhelmingly acquired his hand-eye coordination through some form of practice.
Don Bradman famously spent hours and hours hitting a golf ball against a water tank with a stump. It’s a fiendishly difficult thing to pull off and we’d like to know just how shit he was at it when he started.
So what’s our point? Er, it’s probably just that we’d prefer it if commentators would stop talking about ‘natural talent’ like it was a plain fact. Sometimes they use it to explain things and that’s a questionable line of thinking.18 Appeals
We can’t believe none of you have got anything to say about Andrew Strauss’s slow transformation into a slightly defective Blockatron 9000. We were sure you’d have strong feelings about that.
How about Sri Lanka beating India? Have you got thoughts about that?
We’re rather hoping that you do, because we’re a bit Mendissed-out and aren’t going to bother. Unless we do something about India deserving it because they don’t much care about Tests…
No. It would end up too dull. We can see it already.15 Appeals
When Andrew Strauss hit his career-saving hundred against New Zealand we were a bit worried. It’d be best if you read that article, but if you really can’t be bothered we’ll try and bluntly summarise.
New Zealand aren’t one of the better Test sides and Andrew Strauss’s performances might have been misleading. Same for Tim Ambrose (with the bat).
Before the New Zealand tour Strauss had been averaging in the 20s for about a year. Unless he has a great innings today, he’ll have averaged in the 20s again in this series. Did anything change in the meantime? We’re not damning him, but we are wondering.
Same with Tim Ambrose. It seems like England wicketkeepers’ Test lifespans just depend on who they play against.
We’d like to think that England’s selectors have some great insight and identify players accordingly, but it all seems a bit ‘suck it and see’. That approach wastes Test experience. Test experience is a valuable commodity.1 Appeal
Neil has been earnestly telling Test Match Special listeners how sandwiches are 99p after 7pm in the shop near where he’s staying.
TMS make a grave, grave error every time they don’t use this man for a match.4 Appeals