Thursday, 16 December 2010

The harem's newest member - "Olivia"

My new pride and joy arrived today, even if initially it was inexplicably delivered to a Mr Hill at number 39, a house a significant distance down the street from mine. It matters not, she's here now and she looks gorgeous. I've never seen such a piece of willow. It's a good thing I'm not superstitious, as I counted thirteen grains on the face...

I spent a while wondering about names. I knew it had to be a girl's name beginning with 'O', and came up with about a dozen candidates. I whittled these down to Odessa, Ophelia and Olivia before finally plumping for Olivia after I got one of my twitter friends to decide a winner. Given the olive-green colour of the labels I suppose it's rather apt!

So now comes the preparation, and I'm really rather nervous about it. I really don't want to muck up such a lovely, expensive bat. I rang M&H for some tips and they were very helpful, and I'm going to try my best. The first coat of oil went on at 2pm today and the second is due at 10pm. By the time the tea-break rolls round tomorrow (much of my life at the moment seems to revolve around the timings of Ashes Tests) the oil should have soaked in and I can start with the knocking in, which is the part that terrifies me the most. One thing M&H were at pains to stress was that I will probably need to hit the bat much harder than seems sensible, so no namby-pamby taps... Once I think I've got it nicely knocked in, the facing can go on, and the bat will be ready to start the season.

One simple, really nice touch was the guy at M&H wishing me good luck with the bat. I'm already dreaming about what shots I'm going to play and how many runs I'm going to score. I know a bat, however good, can't turn a rank amateur into VVS Laxman overnight, but for the moment it's nice to dream a little...

For those who asked, here are a few photos of my new bat:

Sunday, 12 December 2010

A new blade

I've finally done it. I've finally bought myself that bat that's been nagging away at me all season.

As you read this a Millichamp & Hall Original weighing 2lbs 7oz with facing and a toe guard is winging it's way closer to my loving embrace. I don't quite know why I've bought it though, My batting average is, as I keep reminding myself, a mere 1.43 after my seven innings last year. How can I possibly justify spending £185 on a piece of wood? Well, it's a very nice piece of wood, and I've never seen anything but praise for Millichamp & Hall's hand-made bats. I suppose it fits in with my age-old maxim of making sure I'm never in a position to blame my tools. Certainly last year I felt a few times that I'd struck the ball pretty well but it hadn't gone as far as I'd expected. With my new bat, if it doesn't go like a rocket I'll know I can't blame the bat.

To justify this expense, nothing less than a ten-fold increase in my batting average will do, although 14 runs an innings is probably still too small a contribution to be meaningful. I still think in our league a team needs 160 or more to have a good chance of winning, so I need to be looking to 20 or more before I'm really pulling my weight with the bat. Hopefully having a lighter and better bat will help me to regularly make double figures.

So what do I call this one then?

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

In Affectionate Remembrance of Australian Cricket...

...which was mercilessly put to the sword by England at the Adelaide Oval.

England have beaten Australia, in Australia, in a match that actually counts, by an innings and 71 runs, and we have a 1-0 lead in the series. Now re-read that sentence. I know. I can't quite believe it either.

Michael Atherton said that this was the best performance by an England team in 30 years, which since I'm not yet 29 makes this the best in my entire lifetime. Having watched most of it, I can easily believe that. We comprehensively thrashed them on four out of the five days, and if it hadn't been for the rain we could have wrapped this up with Monday off. From start to finish, our batting, bowling and fielding were an order of magnitude better than Australia's. There's only one word for it, this was a ROUT.

I was going to write a post a couple of weeks ago appealing for everyone to stop being so bloody English, stop thinking this series was going to be close and realise that actually we have the better individuals and the better team all round. I couldn't quite bring myself to write it, as I guess I was being too bloody English! If we can maintain our current form, this is the promised land for us. Our performance in Adelaide was so good, so ruthless, so utterly flawless in every department that we can with some justification look forward to challenging not just for the odd series but for nothing less than World dominance in the Test arena. In recent years we've beaten the West Indies, Australia, Bangladesh and Pakistan at home, beaten Bangladesh away and drawn with South Africa. Next year we face India and Sri Lanka at home and if we can win against them we will be right up there. Good times!

In the meantime, the nature of Australia's performances so far - and don't forget that our second innings at Brisbane is still going at 1137 for 6 - allied to the lack of any clear way back for them, leads one to think that it's not a matter of if England retain the Ashes, so much as a case of how much we win the series by. Right now, a cricket match between England and Australia is like a battle of the bands between Led Zepplin and McFly...

Saturday, 4 December 2010


The England vs Pakistan series seems a long time ago now, but it's worth returning to one particular match, and one particular moment.

Let's go back to the Oval. England were two-nil up in the four match series, but while our bowlers had proven adept at skittling Pakistani batsmen cheaply, many of our own batsmen were also struggling for form. Only Morgan and Prior had scored centuries, and of all England's batsmen Cook was looking particularly uncertain. Never mind what had happened on the far-away winter tours, no matter that he had competently understudied as captain in Bangladesh, in the English summer season he had posted scores of 7, 23, 29, 8, 12, 17 and 4 prior to the Oval Test, where in the first innings he had again succumbed for just 6. Even against some clearly highly capable bowling, for an opening bat this was simply not good enough. At that point, frankly, he was for the high jump.

So in the second innings, Cook was under serious pressure. It showed. His innings was not one of those where you very quickly see that a big score is coming, it was one of those where every ball survived seems a decided bonus. He hadn't come in to form, he just seemed to be riding a rare flush of good luck. Somehow, he rode this luck all the way to 96, but there was nothing certain about his transition to three figures until another generous dollop of good luck came his way. He blocked a ball back to bowler Asif who, frustrated by Cook and Trott's continued presence, pick the ball up and shied at the stumps with a throw so wayward it went directly over the keeper's head, and on over the boundary to give Cook his first and only century of the summer. Cook's ticket to Australia was finally booked.

That overthrow has so far cost Australia 438 runs...