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Other sports no. 3: Don King and the 45 minute answer

It was the week before the Mike Tyson versus Evander Holyfield rematch at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.I'd been at the first fight when Holyfield had pulled off a major upset by stopping Tyson in the eleventh round, even though beforehand there was a concern that Evander might actually die in the ring. He had been diagnosed with a heart condition that he now claimed had been cured by a faith healer.As a piece of sporting theatre it was the most exciting thing I'd seen. Afterwards both fighters cam...
Tags: Florida, England, New York, London, Sex, US, NFL, America, Atlanta, New York Times, Fifa, Las Vegas, Mike Tyson, Lloyds, Oklahoma, Ioc


Other sports no. 2: Gazza and the train that never left

'May you live in interesting times,' goes the old Chinese curse, and as we seem to be... thought I'd break the Old Batsman Fourth Wall and for this (hopefully briefish) interregnum until the crimson rambler is once again singing across the cricket fields of England, put up a few yarns about other sports that have occurred along the way... This time, a brief meeting with Gazza...During Italia 90, the Juventus president Gianni Agnelli called Paul Gascoigne 'a dog of war with the face of a chil...
Tags: Hong Kong, England, Sex, France, Terry Venables, Argentina, Juventus, Harry Kane, Middlesbrough, Paul Gascoigne, Michael Owen, Waterloo, Gazza, Glenn Hoddle, Hoddle, Don King


Other Sports No. 1: Ronnie and the Normal Shoes

'May you live in interesting times,' goes the old Chinese curse, and as we seem to be... thought I'd break the Old Batsman Fourth Wall and for this (hopefully briefish) interregnum until the crimson rambler is once again singing across the cricket fields of England, put up a few yarns about other sports that have occurred along the way... The first involves the incomparable Ronnie O'Sullivan...We were working on a magazine for Sky. It had the glorious frequency of six issues per year, which allo...
Tags: England, Sex, Ethiopia, Essex, Waterloo, Don, Ryan, Ronnie, Ronnie O Sullivan, Haile, Barry Hearn, The Old Batsman, Haile Gebreslassie Gebreslassie, Haile Gebreslassie Ronnie, Haile Ryan, Gazza Glenn Hoddle


Faf du Plessis and the implacable cruelty of cricket

Faf du Plessis is so comically alpha that he can have AB de Villiers as a friend since schooldays and not be overshadowed. AB might be the greater player but he's one of life's handsome wingmen, Ice Man to Faf's Maverick. Faf du Plessis is so alpha, his box is called 'The Beast'. He wears pink gloves and has pink stickers on his bat in the same way that 1980s lover boys wore a pink shirt, to let the ladies know. His own playing shirts have the sleeves cut high to best display those magnificent t...
Tags: Sex, South Africa, Mark Wood, Stokes, Temba Bavuma, AB, De Kock, Atherton, Hardus Viljoen, Plessis, Faf du Plessis, Faf, Hardus, Vern, The Old Batsman, Rassie van der Dussen


Xmas leftovers Part II: Ben Foakes at Guildford

These few paras were taken out of a forthcoming piece as they didn't really fit. I thought Foakes, along with Smith and Labuschagne, was the best player I saw live last Summer. The gods of cricket have decreed that Dom Bess is with England in South Africa, and good luck to him.  In July I went to Guildford, to Woodbridge Road to watch Surrey play Yorkshire. It was supposed to rain all day, but when we arrived just after lunch Surrey had a hundred on the board for a couple down and under low sk...
Tags: England, Sex, South Africa, Surrey, Smith, Guildford, Patterson, Somerset, London Road, Steve Patterson, Ben Foakes, Foakes, Scott Borthwick, The Old Batsman, Labuschagne, Ben Coad


Xmas leftovers Part I: The Strange Hinterland of Vinceness

For one reason or another, a piece sometimes falls by the wayside - inbetween commissioning and arrival, things shift and the spike is inserted. I've had a couple this year, so thought I'd throw them up here. The first was written around the start of the World Cup. It's about James Vince and the predicament of being England's spare man. Ultimately, he hed the fort and played his part, so here's to the great JV...   Ah, James Vince. A breathy sigh across the face of the ga...
Tags: England, Sex, Manchester United, Pakistan, Alex Ferguson, Jonathan Liew, Champions League, Nottingham, Cardiff, United, Bayern, James Vince, Vince, Sheringham, Mark Ramprakash, Hick


First Test notes: England on the Edge (again); rethinking the last day

One evening during the Test, I saw The Edge, Barney Douglas' film about England's champion side of 2009-14. I've reviewed it for the next issue of WCM so I won't cover the same ground here, but soon after I'd sent the piece, I sat and watched England fold, and it was striking how the film's themes were being played out again in real time.The Edge is structured around England's ambition to become the number one team in world cricket. It takes them two years to get there and another couple, give o...
Tags: Chuck, England, Australia, Sex, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Melbourne, Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Lyon, Sri Lanka, Icc, Andrew Strauss, Jos Buttler, Jason Roy


Third Test Notes: No-one born slow gets fast

Pace bowling remains one of the game's great unknowables. There is mystery inherent within it, and very few men on earth can do what Mark Wood did in St Lucia last week. As the old sprinters' proverb goes: 'no-one born slow ever got fast'.It was interesting to hear Wood describe it as "feeling like a superhero." When I worked with Simon Jones on his book The Test, he made the same analogy: "It's like having a superpower, it's a surge, an urge. It's a feeling like no other, to know that the oppos...
Tags: England, Sex, India, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Johnson, Richard, Wood, St Lucia, Patterson, West Indies, Jones, Matthew, Mark Wood, Glamorgan, Simon Jones


Second Test notes: Root Maths - The Head of the Snake; Holder's Ban

The parsing of a player's stats in order to sustain a particular argument about their game has a name of quite longstanding: Root Maths. It generally fails because it assumes that stats are somehow infallible as well as immutable, when the truth is that they are as open to interpretation as a Jonny Bairstow straight drive.But after the Antigua Test, when Joe Root's batting average as captain - 1,954 runs at 42.47 - fell more than ten runs behind his average when he's not - 4,594 at 52.80 - the u...
Tags: England, Sex, India, Root, Pakistan, New Zealand, Smith, Joe Root, St Lucia, West Indies, Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Glenn Mcgrath, Tom Westley, Antigua, Kohli


First Test notes: Moeen's Immaculate Disaster

Moeen Ali is a poetic cricketer, a cricketer to watch, and almost everything he does is worth watching. When he has a bad Test, or a bad tour, he accommodates failure in his own way.The first innings in Barbados was a lovely example of this. Advance publicity on Moeen is that the short ball can unsettle him. His instinct is to hook, but he knows that he probably shouldn't, and in going against instinct he has created a problem for himself. When his first delivery from Kemar Roach came flying dow...
Tags: England, Sex, Ian Bell, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler, Stokes, Steve Harmison, Bairstow, Barbados, Philip, Omar, Pietersen, Jimmy, Moeen, Higgins


Third Test Notes: Ishant Sharma Keeps Running In; The Conversion Of Jonny Bairstow

Ishant Sharma was born in 1988. The Indian cricket team began that year by playing West Indies in Chennai, the final game of a four Test series. Opening the bowling for West Indies were Patrick Patterson and Courtney Walsh. Opening the bowling for India were Kapil Dev and Mohinder Amarnath. India won by 255 runs. Kapil sent down eleven overs in the match, Amarnath, in what was his 69th and last Test, just five.Mohinder Amarnath took 32 wickets in his Test career and was really a batsman, but tha...
Tags: England, Australia, Sex, India, Johnson, Alastair Cook, Michael Vaughan, Perth, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Brendon Mccullum, Jos Buttler, Graham Gooch, Ryan Harris, Trent Bridge, Jonny Bairstow


Second Test Notes: In the Flesh

It was the first day of the second Test... Well it was the second day if you're being like that, but it was the first day on which there was any play, so that makes it the first day in most people's minds... In my mind, anyway.So, it was the first day of the second Test, my first day at a Test since last year, first time seeing India for four years, and well... you forget don't you. The TV coverage is brilliant now (I saw a clip of Botham's Ashes the other day - the picture was almost square, th...
Tags: England, Sex, India, Roger Federer, Jimmy Anderson, Lowry, Edgbaston, Anderson, Bairstow, Buttler, Kohli, Jimmy, Rahul, Botham, DRS, Woakes


First Test Notes: Virat Breaks Bad; Root-mathing Rooty's Fifties; Worst Shot Award

In Breaking Bad Season Three, Walter White, the high school chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine kingpin of New Mexico, is almost exactly halfway through his transformation "from Mr Chips to Scarface". Walt has already, with varying degrees of willingness, killed several people, but now he is dealing with the genuine article, his dead-eyed boss in the crystal business, Gustavo Fring. Fring has manipulated the near fatal shooting of Walt's brother in law, the swaggering DEA agent Hank Schrade...
Tags: England, Cook, Australia, Sex, India, Pakistan, Jonathan Liew, New Zealand, DEA, New Mexico, Melbourne, Smith, Perth, Leeds, Joe Root, Christchurch


Watching You Watching James Vince

For hardened James Vince watchers, for the jittery acolytes of batting’s fragile beauty, his latest recall to the England team, this time for the final one-dayer against India at Headingley, was very James Vince indeed. He hit his first ball for four (check); went scoreless from the next seven (check); got to a lovely twenty (check); was dismissed in frustrating fashion (check); opinions on both sides were retrenched (check)…It joined the long list of very James Vince moments: the run-out at Bri...
Tags: England, Sex, India, David Beckham, Brisbane, Paul Scholes, Richard Gere, Mitchell Starc, Headingley, Graham Gooch, Mike Brearley, David Gower, Dexter, James Vince, Gere, Vince


So you've been publically shamed... By, er, me...

One Saturday afternoon in the long-off winter of 1979, an object of some interest arrived at the Gover Cricket School in Wandsworth. It was the aluminium ComBat, as recently used by Dennis Lillee in the Test match between Australia and England at the SCG: used and then hurled "fully forty yards" across the outfield when the umpires made him swap to a conventional blade after Mike Brearley, the England captain, complained that the ComBat had damaged the ball.I'd seen the report on the news, Lille...
Tags: Twitter, England, Australia, Sex, Nasa, Sydney, Brisbane, Cape Town, Ecb, Warner, Smith, Darren Lehmann, David Warner, Ben Stokes, Stokes, Shane Watson


Ramprakash and Hick: onwards down the years...

Thursday 6 June 1991, Headingley. First Test, England v West Indies. The Windies team-sheet is a study in greatness, or at least in grandeur beginning imperceptibly to fade: Simmons, Haynes, Richardson, Hooper, Richards, Logie, Dujon, Marshall, Ambrose, Walsh, Patterson. England's side has some old stagers with no illusions - Gooch, Lamb, Smith, Russell, Pringle - two established fast bowlers in Defreitas and Malcolm, an opening batsman, Mike Atherton, who has made three centuries in his first t...
Tags: England, Australia, Sex, Root, Pakistan, Yorkshire, Martin Amis, Natwest, Leeds, Joe Root, West Indies, Somerset, Middlesex, Headingley, Graham Gooch, Worcestershire


Australia player-by-player; Going at it home and away - final Ashes notes

Steve Smith said that he felt the series turned on Nathan Lyon's run out of James Vince on the first afternoon at Brisbane. The city was unseasonably cool, the Gabba pitch one England would have knelt down in prayer for, low and sluggish and about as typical of Queensland as Julian Assange. Vince was on 83 and cruising like a rich granny, England 143-2, ahead for the first and, as it turned out, last time. Smith was right, Brisbane was England's chance. How fleeting it was, and how suddenly it w...
Tags: England, Australia, Sex, Queensland, Bt Sport, Sydney, Brisbane, Ecb, Melbourne, Warner, Smith, Ian Bell, Perth, David Warner, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc


Philby in exile; England player-by-player: More Ashes notes

I read a book review the other day describing the final years of Kim Philby in Moscow: "drinking himself insensible and reading accounts of cricket matches long since finished in old copies of The Times." He was yearning for a version of England that existed only in his mind, and in the names of players that he would never see. It evokes a very English kind of melancholy, too, a mix of nostalgia and longing that cricket, with all of its transience and meaning, represents perfectly.In a weird way...
Tags: England, Cook, Australia, Sex, Sydney, New Zealand, Moscow, Brisbane, Roger Federer, Melbourne, Alan, Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad, Lyon, Steve Smith, Joe Root


The Bull and the Chef, in Shadow and Sun; Weapon of Choice... More Ashes Notes

Each Summer, the EKKA comes to the Brisbane showgrounds. There, Australia's prime beef goes on parade. It's a strange and awesome display of meat and muscle, and it's easy to see why they regard David Warner in the same way, why they call him 'The Bull'. Even as he stomps to the crease, or re-fastenes his gloves for the many-thousandth time, he gives the impression of bunched and barely restrained power. The Bull is emblematic of a certain national characteristic, a successor to Slater and Hayde...
Tags: Cook, Australia, Sex, Palmer, Brisbane, Ipl, Ecb, Melbourne, Hobart, Warner, Alastair Cook, Smith, Duke, David Warner, Steve Smith, Andrew Strauss


More Ashes Notes: Boycott versus Engel; Bluffborough; Cleaned Out

There is an outtake from Death of a Gentleman, just a minute or so of footage knocked off by whoever had the camera outside the Oval after a Test match, a fraction of the many hours that ended up in the pixellated digital scrapyard once known as the cutting room floor.It shows Geoffrey Boycott crossing the road, wheeling his suitcase behind him. His back is to camera, but the figure is unmistakable: immaculately dressed; panama hat tilted just so. People surround him, shout his name, follow him....
Tags: England, Australia, Sex, Old Trafford, Sheffield, New Zealand, Ecb, Gillespie, Michael Vaughan, Kevin Pietersen, Jimmy Anderson, Jason Gillespie, Oval, Geoffrey Boycott, Anderson, Andy Flower


The seduction of James Vince, and fear of the dark: more Ashes notes

James Vince is one for the dreamers. He's like a batting version of a Rorschach Test: look at him and tell us what you see... Shimmering possibilities... an indistinct waster... There was a moment during the Adelaide Test, Vince's first delivery of the first innings, facing Mitchell Starc. England were 29-1. Starc had detonated Mark Stoneman with the final delivery of his fourth over, and then Cook played out a maiden from Hazlewood, leaving Vince on strike. Pumped, Starc went full and very fast...
Tags: England, Cook, Australia, Sex, Amsterdam, Brisbane, Adelaide, Michael Carberry, David Gower, Gary Ballance, James Vince, Vince, Stoneman, Hazlewood, Starc, Haseeb Hameed


Ben Stokes' 'crime' as art... Straussy's Dad's Army moment: More Ashes notes

As the weeks stretch on, it's becoming easier to think of the Ben Stokes nightclub incident as something mediated and unreal, an art installation, an arch comment on the role that the ginger avenger has in the England cricket team. In it, Stokes plays himself, of course, while Alex Hales becomes an avatar for the rest of the side. His lairy opponents, unpleasantly tooled up with beer bottles and plenty of mouth, represent... well you can guess who they're supposed to be. Hales prances around on ...
Tags: England, London, Australia, Sex, New Zealand, Brisbane, Ecb, Andrew Strauss, Ben Stokes, Stokes, Alex Hales, Hales, Alan Shearer, Chance To Shine, Bairstow, Chris Woakes


Steve Smith: more evidence that we've been playing cricket all wrong, and other Ashes notes...

It was said of Brian Lara that he had three shots that he could play to any one delivery. The genius of the great man was that he almost always chose the right one. Steve Smith often looks like he is playing three shots to each ball he faces, while taking his dog for a walk as well, but the results in the scorebook place him at batting's highest table.His 141 at Brisbane took his Test average back over 60. In Australia it's 72. Since 2014, his year-end returns have been 1,146 runs at 81.85, 1,47...
Tags: England, Australia, Sex, Andy Murray, Brisbane, Alastair Cook, Smith, Stuart Broad, Lyon, Steve Smith, Joe Root, Kane Williamson, Geoffrey Boycott, Nathan Lyon, Ricky Ponting, Don


Cricket and psychogeography number 3: Tilford - Billy at rest

This pub sign, unearthed in Barnham, West Sussex but originating from an establishment a couple of hundred yards from where it now stands, bears the image of 'Silver' Billy Beldham in his dotage [read part one of Billy's story here]. It comes from the Cricketers in Wrecclesham, which itself is now a restaurant called The Bengal Lounge, but which Billy frequented with his brother in law and batting mentor John Wells, and where, on one wall, was scrawled the commemorative legend: 'Good beer as ...
Tags: Sex, Bbc, Mick Jagger, Graham, Alan, ANN, Stephen Frears, Hampshire, British Airways, Oval, Billy, Ian, Farnham, John Wells, Thorpe, Wey


Cricket & psychogeography number 2: the fast bowlers of Hartley Wintney

This lightning tree stands in the fields between Elvetham and Hartley Wintney, at the North-East tip of Hampshire. Across the same fields, long before the tree was seeded, strode a cricketing thunderbolt, a man who would change the fabric of the game. His name was David Harris, and he bowled fast. Here's what it was like to face him:'He left fingers ground to dust against bat, bones pulverised, and blood scattered over the field.'He was born in Elvetham in 1755, and he emerged into a chang...
Tags: England, London, Sex, Nottingham, John Major, Shane Warne, Hampshire, St Albans, Mcc, Billy, Henry Viii, Elizabeth, North East, Howard, HARRIS, Lambert


Cricket & psychogeography number 1: Holt Pound

It's the morning of 23 August 1791. In the field behind this gate, George Finch, the ninth Earl of Winchilsea, has been dismissed hit wicket for four while batting for Surrey against Hampshire. His opening partner Charles Anguish is out for nought. Harbord, the number three, goes for a duck too, and Louch at number four manages nine. Two of the three Walker brothers, Tommy and Harry, fall quickly, for nought and two. By the side of the pitch, among the crowds, William Beldham, 25 years old and ...
Tags: England, Sex, Royal Navy, Harry, Surrey, John, William, Richard, Hampshire, Mcc, Billy, Walker, Tommy, Farnham, Hambledon, The Old Batsman


Mourinho and fear

Given a different life, Jose Mourinho would make a fascinating cricket coach. Last night Manchester United drew 0-0 with Liverpool and had just 35 per cent of possession in the game, the lowest figure since Opta started recording the stat in 2003/4.The usual modifier to use would be 'despite having just 35 per cent of possession,' but Mourinho considers possession of the ball differently to most football coaches. When I was working on The Meaning Of Cricket, I wanted to write about fear and anxi...
Tags: Sex, Jonathan Wilson, Manchester United, Liverpool, Jose Mourinho, Mourinho, Opta, The Old Batsman


Baxit

In the mid-1700s, the men who would emerge as the premier batsmen of their age were coming to a realisation. Tom Sueter, the great left-hander of Hambledon, broke free of the "heresy" that a player should stay back in his crease to ward off the many dangers of fast underarm bowling on pitches pitted with mud and stones, and began stepping forwards towards the ball. As John Nyren would write in Cricketers Of My Time, 'Egad, it went as if it had been fired'.And in the fields around Farnham, 'Silve...
Tags: Sex, Harry, Bobby Charlton, Grace, Mcc, Billy, Tom, Imperial College, Farnham, Hambledon, The Old Batsman


From the lake of dreams (Sussex) rises Merlin...

Bryson DeChambeau is the latest golden hope of American golf, low amateur at the Masters followed by a T-4 finish in his first tournament as a pro at Hilton Head, and just the fifth player to win the NCAA and US Amateur titles in the same year - the other four were Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore.It's not just the golf, either. The Americans are well stocked on Boy Wonders, what with Spieth and Fowler and so on. DeChambeau, once a physics major at Southern Methodist Uni...
Tags: England, Sex, Ncaa, Merlin, Sussex, Ryan Moore, Chris, Willow, Woodstock, Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, Fowler, Hove, Kelley, Grady, Salix



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