A little bit about me and my little blog

This is by far not the first cricket blog to be written and it certainly won't be the last (or necessarily the best). But it's mine.

This is mainly an excuse for me to carry on about a sport that has been something of an obsession since I was knee high to a middle stump. An obsession which has never left throughout the many highs (behave, there have been some) and lows (and boy have there been many of those…..) of being and England cricket fan in the years since.

The views and opinions in this blog are entirely my own. Sometimes light-hearted, occasionally irreverent, hopefully never offensive.

What gives this fool the right to have an opinion on this great sport? Where are his credentials I hear you ask? Well I think my catch at mid-on in the inter-house final at Heath Grammar school in 1981 speaks for itself…..

Saturday, 27 April 2013

My Ashes memories - Edgbaston 1997….Caddick, Hussein & Thorpe

A Pre-amble of self-pity, optimism and delusion…..

The 1990's - apart from the odd glimmer of heaven, was a cricketing journey of humiliation after humiliation, whether it was at the hands of the West Indies, Australia or who bloody ever. Occasionally the odd light of optimism would shine at the end of the tunnel, only for it actually to turn out to be a bloody great impending train crash. Great hopes came and went (Yes Mr. Hick, I'm talking about you), terrific county players flattered to deceive and ultimately disappointed at Test match level (Yes Mr. Ramprakash, I'm also talking about you) and England captains & coaches came and went. 

The Ashes series in particular were a particularly painful humiliation for England cricket fans after winning the series down-under in 1986/87 and then, well, bugger all, until a certain 'greatest ever series' in 2005. If you are of a nervous or stressed disposition then I suggest you skip the little Table of horror below….

1989 - lost the series 4-0 at home
1990-91 - lost the series 3-0 in Australia
1993 - lost the series 4-1 at home
1994-95 - lost the series 3-1 in Australia
1997 - lost the series 3-2 at home
1998-99 - lost the series 3-1 in Australia
2001 - lost the series 4-1 at home
2002-03  - lost the series 4-1 in Australia at home

The only consolation I have of that time is that there wasn't the social networking interweb thingmajig that we have now. My life would have been a constant day by day reminder by my Australian friends of the pain (both literal and figuratively) that we poms had/were going to endure at the hands of Messrs Magrath, Warne, Waugh et al. Think of the nauseating clutter that the IPL is currently creating online and you'll get a picture of what I'm talking about.

On the face of it, the 1997 home series 3-2 loss looks a close run affair, but statistics can be a misleading little madam. I remember experiencing the build up to this series very well for both cricketing and personal reasons. For some reason I remember feeling very optimistic about our chances, considering that we hadn't come close to winning an Ashes series for going on ten years. For a start England had for once experienced a short period of success. Not only had we had success with a resounding 3-0 victory whitewash in the one day internationals ( see previous blog entries for this inferior form form of Cricket) but we had also recently enjoyed success in the Winter tour of New Zealand. Alec Stewart was currently in the Test form of his life, Michael Atherton was a strong Captain and we had a number of players of genuine class in both the bowling and batting departments.

On top of that, the Aussies were in a bit of a state before the series had even began. 
Captain Mark Taylor was embroiled in a pay dispute with the Australian cricket authorities, their collective and individual run of form had been poor and there were a number of injuries to key players .

So we were going to win the series then?…..I was completely confident that we were going to. As was Qamar Ahmed, of the Daily Telegraph, who wrote at the time just after we had trashed them in the ODI's,  "I have rarely seen Australia bowl so badly and field so poorly. They were guilty of exactly that in the last three matches and their batting with their out-of-form captain Mark Taylor makes them even a lot fractious than they should be with the abundance of talent that they have on tour."…….. so all was going to be well in the real series then. As long as their abundance of talent didn't click at some point. Bugger.

The Test Match

Now kids, or at least anyone reading this under a certain age, there was a time when the Internet didn't exist, the world wide web was a figment of Tim Berners-Lee's fevered imagination and social networking amounted to having a few beer with mates at the pub. Oh and we had about 4 television channels in this country…...I know! - just how did humanity survive?!

Andy Caddick - 5 wickets & all that.

Well maybe 1997 wasn't quite the dark ages, but both the the Internet & WWW were in their infancy. So because I was working during the day, there wasn't the opportunity there is now, with the help of my trusty iPhone, to keep constant checks on the state of the day's play. Back in those dim and dark distant days it was a case of grabbing my trusty radio at lunchtime and finding a nice quiet area of the canteen to listen to the play. However, on the this first day of play I had made the monumental mistake of leaving my radio at home - bummer. So I had only one other option open to me back in that time, and that was to wander down to the shops area and stand outside one of the electrical stores that would have the game playing on one of their display televisions……. Yes it all sounds a little crazy now in this multimedia media world at ones fingertips. But standing outside a shop watching the cricket with a few like-minded individuals was actually a very enjoyable experience ….. no, it really was!

Anyway, back to the match. Considering that I missed most of the day's play, it still ranks as one of the cricketing highlights of my life. I had left my place of work after what would have been an hour or so of play to begin the 10 minute walk down to where I could watch e few precious minutes of play. Usually it would be a simple enough task, my electrical store of choice was slightly out of the way so it was usually a case of myself and a few other sad souls in front of the screens. But that wasn't the case on this occasion. I had just turned the corner and could see the store in the distance, about 150 meters away. However the shop's usual quiet exterior had been replace by a rather large gathering of people outside. It wasn't quite a crowd, but it was large enough to be unusual. My first thought was that there had been some major news event, maybe a death or terrorist event. It wasn't until I got there that I realised that, no, it definitely was the cricket showing on the display TV screens.  It turned out that we were giving the Aussies a bit of an early kicking……..

If memory serves me correctly, they were by this time three wickets down for only about 20-odd runs. I and the rest of the dumbstruck viewers on the shopping precinct then witnessed in the next hour or so a veritable clatter of Aussie wickets fall - mayhem had re-visited the Ashes. I was late back to the office, but it was worth it for by the time I had to leave the shopping precinct Australia were a staggering 54 for 8. It was heaven. I rang a friend in another office to tell her the score. She called me a liar and promptly hung up.

The afternoon flew by in a haze of excitement and expectation. This time the odd snippet of information came my way via a quick phone call or two from friends (private calls were frowned upon)……. the Aussies were fighting back……….they were all out for a measly 110……..Atherton & Butcher were coming in to bat……….we had collapsed to 16 for 2………let's blame the pitch……..let's not blame the pitch because Messrs Thorpe & Hussain were starting to leather the Aussie bowlers. 

Nasser giving the lovely Mr Warne some pain

It was amazing stuff as by the end of day one England were 200 for 3 with both Hussein and Thorpe in the 80's. Heady stuff.

The second day was as equally wonderful for the England fan with a hundred for Thorpe and Nasser reaching his double hundred. We even decided to take the piss a little by declaring eventually on day 3 for 478. Quite remarkably, the Aussies were facing a first-innings deficit of 360. The heady days continued.

Saturday meant no work for me, it also meant I could watch the whole day's play, which as it turned out was a bit of an anti-climax in more than one way as the Aussies were true to character and rather annoyingly decided to fightback. Mark Taylor ( you remember, out of form, arguing over money with his cricket board, his career possibly soon to be over) played something of an heroic innings - I hate it when that happens. 

Mark Taylor finding his form…go figure.

Shortly before lunch on the fourth day, Australia had lost just one wicket and were a measly 30-odd runs adrift. Surely even England couldn't cock things up could they?

Well no, because a collapse soon ensued of, well, English proportions as a certain Mr Gough decided his ego needed once again to get into the act. After what had been looking for a day of the possibility of a draw, or worse, an Aussie win, victory was in sight for an England win well within the 5 days. 

We needed 118, just 118, for a famous win. 

……..And you know what, our boys did it in some style. Mark Butcher set things going a la pronto before Messrs Atherton (YES, MICHAEL ATHERTON!) and Stewart blazed away. Athers smashed 57 in 65 balls, passing 5,000 Test runs on the way. Yes it was out of character for him, yes it was bloody exciting. Yes, it was victory.

For a while we dared to dream. It was the first match of a six match series, but we had mullered the Aussies. They were beaten and demoralised , they were nursing injuries and bad form…. but they were also bloody good Australian players. Even when the next Test match was drawn due to the weather, not England, halting the Aussie charge for victory we were still optimistic. That optimism wasn't misplaced in the sense that we won again in the series, alas it was the final Test match that we won. The Aussies once again gave us a sound tonking in the middle three matches…… god that was painful.

Two Golden gods

What cannot be taken away from me and the couple of dozen people stoodoutside the electrical goods store on that Chilly June day in Sheffield was the sight of Australian panic and Andy Caddicks joy. The sight of Thorpe and Hussein treating the bowling attack with disdain and the sight of Michael Atherton discovering his animal side will never be forgotten.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

My Ashes memories - An Introduction

I was sat thinking earlier today - an act which is something in itself that would shock and appall many of the people that I know personally. As it turned out, I didn't need to spend too much time in thought. I was pondering what could do in a cricketing sense while the madness of the IPL was taking place - I needed to circle the cricket waggons as quickly as I could before I became swamped with all manner of references to the IPL on Twitter and Facebook. Now I don't want this to turn into a diatribe against the aforementioned league that is currently taking place in India - I won't call it cricket, that would possibly get me prosecuted by the blog police under the trades description act -  the list of atrocities to cricket that the IPL has committed are far too long to list here. However, I have an Indian and indeed a multinational extended cricketing family and so have no intention to offend them. The day to day experience of that cricketing monstrosity of a competition is too raw, so i'll say no more - for now. Needless to say, I required something else to occupy my cricketing mind, or in other words, to mindlessly blog about. Then it hit me.

On July 10th at Trent Bridge, one of sports greatest rivalries is rekindled - as it were. No, I'm  not talking about the annual 'Anderson family kick-about world cup on the beach' competition - that actually takes place in August for a start.

That's either a giant Urn, or two really small flags….

Of course I mean the Ashes, silly. That little matter of a biennial series of Test matches between England and Australia which has occupied the cricketing obsessions of both countries since 1872. Yes, that's right, for in case anyone has forgotten, this summer the Aussies are in town.

I'm not yet going to write anything on my much anticipated predictions for the 2013 series. There will be plenty of opportunity for me to muse at length upon the build up to the upcoming series (I'm sorry about that, but there will. And yes, that is a threat. So I thought an interesting project for me to do would be to take a personal walk down my cricketing memory lane and waffle on about some of the Ashes encounters that are special to me. There will be no date order, or indeed, order of preference. Instead it will be a random ( some may say haphazard) choice of games - some of which i may have been at, some just witnessed on TV or radio. Yes, the mention of the name, Botham, may take place. If truth be told, there may also be the odd game that took place before I was even born. The point is, they are special to me,  If nothing else, it should keep me out of trouble now and again.

I realise that publishing this pre-amble might instigate a social network tsunami of fevered anticipation of what my first choice would be in the series of Stuey's Ashes memories. So in an effort to avoid such a stressful experience - the first entry will be on the the First Test at  Edgbaston, in the 1997 series….
Nasser & Thorpe - boy's own story stuff

... yes that's the one - the Aussies 8 wickets down on the first morning then Nasser Hussein and his double hundred. The Ashes were coming home! Or were they?

Almost as an afterthought, just as I was about to press the publish button in fact, another thought occurred to me. It may be fun if any of the readers of this blog want to suggest a particular Ashes match that you want me to write about, then I may have a go. Even if it's one that England lost ( and there are a FEW of those to choose from!).