Archive for May, 2013

Unbelievable Geoff Ensures Bore Draw

Sometime shortly after seven on the evening of Saturday 18th May, cricket died.

Elstow Second XI are playing at Woughton on the Green against Milton Keynes City. Under grey blankets of matted cloud in something approaching muggy May, just off the A421, near central Milton Keynes, an emphatically short, wide, loopy Nick Lewis delivery is left alone by the home team’s Geoff Silk.

Frankly every conversation I’ve had over the last twenty or so years in my time as a cricket lover, in an instant, was rendered utterly inconsequential. Those sneering Brit-baiting Germans on my travels I’d fronted up to in hostels the length and breadth of the Antipodes, the ardently disbelieving sceptic Septics, even those dissenting voices closer to home were, in that brief passage of play, proved ultimately, and heavy-heartedly, correct.

Big Lew’s delivery was so incredibly tempting, so invitingly slow, so eminently hit-able. Like a fat bird offered a second slice of double chocolate gateaux or a lonely, socially repugnant fifty-something offered a lithe, comely Thai mistress, it was a heaven sent opportunity that just had to be taken.

Silk, for reasons known to him, wholeheartedly resisted temptation. This followed a similar pattern that left the protagonist 39 not out from 1000 balls (ok, 100 odd really, but you get the idea here) and his team, after 44 mind-numbingly dull overs, 142 runs adrift of the Elstow score they’d been asked to chase. Two wickets down, replying to 219-8, MK City put the barricades up. Silk, through his dull-as-ditchwater, dour defence was the chief architect.

Try explaining this to a wide-eyed, keen as mustard young cricket fan making his debut in seniors cricket. Why should any self-respecting teenager not want to be sat in front of the XBox, experimenting with dubious pastimes or hanging aimlessly around shopping centres when this is the alternative on a Saturday afternoon?

Two and a half hours of watching some gentleman of advanced years block, press, dob, and leave his way through a salvo of deliveries in pursuit of five measly points for his team. Why would you bother?

Elstow tried and tried, but found Silk abrasive. A smart catch by Gary Flower at cover off the bowling of Alan Phillips brought about MK’s first wicket. James Tanswell snared the next two before, with overs, wickets in hand and time in the match, the home team, to the joy of cricket’s detractors the world over went about their ugly volte-face. Singles were turned down, twos turned into ones, punishable deliveries went unpunished all for the sake of a meagre share of a drawn match.

Elstow lacked sharpness through the absence of attack-leader Steve Russell, but Phillips, in the first game in his tenure as 2nd XI skipper, and his charges gave it everything in pursuit of their first win of the campaign. Indeed, earlier the batsmen belatedly got their season off to a flyer as the top order all made decent starts. Lewis top-scored with a joyful 42 runs, Gary Flower hit 24 and Pete Burraway 28 as Guraj Galsin, batting at three, vitally provided the backbone to the innings with a resolute 29. Yet Ravi Kalyan’s cavalier knock of 34 caught the eye with a hefty six that wowed the thrill-seekers and a four through cover that pleased the purists; all sealed with an artisan’s flourish.

The smiles faded from the Elstow team as the afternoon progressed. The elation and hope provided by Tanswell’s opening spell was systematically and painfully ground down by the home side as they escaped undefeated.
This afternoon, the game of cricket itself, however, lost badly.

Horner Shearing Man of Substance of the Day: Jimmy Tanswell. Some lower order hitting, exemplary fielding and a spell that produced, according to the man himself, “my best bowling figures since middle school.”

Clag Nut of the Day: Ravi Kalyan. A wonderfully entertaining innings was curtailed by a daft run out which was then compounded by a dafter run out decision given in a two over spell while umpiring. He will score more runs, he will take more wickets. He’s never umpiring for Elstow again though.

The Sammon Pie Light Moment of the Day: Al Phillips was warmly welcomed to his new role by nearly being decapitated by his right-hand man’s wild throw. The new skipper, stood at short-mid off and seemingly out of harm’s way, hit the deck as Lewy’s wayward shy thudded into his upper back. Cue laughter, for probably the only time in the afternoon during the MK City reply.
Et tu Brute?

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Our Man In Tokyo

Last week I gave my neighbour Josh’s new blog a plug. It turns out he’s having a great time as his prolific blogs reveal. I’ve never been to Japan, but like Italy, Canada and much of South America, it is on the growing list of places I will get to and thanks to Josh’s vivid account of his exploits, it’s fair leapt to the top of this list.

Which, conveniently, brings me on to Monday’s Big Question.

Which of these big lads won?

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Have a read of this to find out the answer as well as the rules and the background to one of the world’s most iconic sports;

http://findjoshb.com/2013/05/12/tokyo-day-3-japanese-water-garden-sumo-wrestling-chanko-dinner-

Keep blogging Josh mate, it’s terrific stuff.

Football, Bloody Hell!

Apparently some old Scottish bloke who retired this week said that once after something or other happened late one night in Spain a dozen or so years ago. He may well have had a premonition about what unfolded in deepest, darkest Hertfordshire this afternoon.

Minutes left of the biggest match of their season and Watford have a penalty awarded against them. If Leicester score, they cement their place in the Play Off Final and with it the chance to get back into The Premier League. For Watford, having been dealt a harsh blow in their last league fixture with a home defeat to Leeds and after a harsh season scrapping at the top the game looks up. Run the VT.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cI__QLV40i8

No, I don’t care a jot that the ‘atters longstanding rivals, the ‘orns emerge victorious. Good on ’em I say. Good luck to the Golden Boys at Wembley.

Football is the real winner here. I defy you to watch this and not feel your spirit soar.

Similarly, I defy you to watch this and not laugh uproariously.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZBiHzCxOek

Unbelievable indeed, Jeff.

Marlene!!!!

You’ll be aware from my wearying accented ramblings that the world’s game, through my eyes anyway, grows less beautiful by the day. Yet there are moments still where my sourpuss comments are rendered obsolete.
Like those moments when the wife comes back from the hairdressers with a fetching new style, or steps out in a dress that rolls back the years or produces a welcome new set of exquisite undies that renders you momentarily speechless to make you think, ‘yeah, the old girl’s still got it’. I guess this is why I continue to be enchanted by football.

One of the downsides of following my team, the ‘atters, is the role of surrogate or foster parent you assume amongst the other overwhelming negatives that inevitably entails from supporting a team forever in crisis. As soon as you become attached to a player, he leaves.

It is the nature of a selling club and fellow supporters of this type of team will surely empathise here. I have seen some fantastic footballers in the twenty or so years watching football at Kenilworth Road. Some of them even played for the home team.

To mention but a few, and among many others, there’s been Kingsley Black, Mark Pembridge, John Hartson, Kelvin Davis, Paul Telfer, Scott Oakes, Gary Doherty, Matthew Taylor, Curtis Davies and Leon Barnett (goodness, there’s nearly a whole team’s worth there…).

Yesterday occurred a real heartstrings tugging moment. It happened at the conclusion of yesterday’s FA Cup Final and Wigan Athletic’s sensational victory. As tradition dictates, the victorious captain having done the hard yards on the pitch and the emotional foot steps leading up to the bounty itself, then plucks the famous old trophy from the grip of the jammily ennobled sponsor or oblivious official before lifting it high above his head while shouting something, usually uplifting, raucous, obscene or all three into the North London air. The cheers of his team mates and supporters echo around Wembley while the millions of people around the world listening and watching, regardless of their allegiance, enviously allow themselves a smile and the goosebumps to prickle at that man’s sense of achievement and for fulfilling one of their childhood dreams.

Yesterday the man to follow in the footsteps of Billy Wright, Bobby Moore and Tony Adams was Emmerson Orlando Boyce. He too played for Luton Town.

I first saw Boycey play against Notts County towards the end of the Nineties at Meadow Lane. I was immediately won over by his athleticism, ability in the air and pace as he starred at right wing-back in a tedious nil-nil draw. We won’t have him for long or words to that effect I think I remarked to Cousin Tommy.

I was to be proved correct.

Although, mercifully we retained his services for a year or two more as Emmerson Boyce, was an integral part of our promotion winning team of 2001-02. His game developed significantly in that time too. Add tackling and reading of the game to his strengths and it was no surprise to see him move up the leagues to Crystal Palace. He joined Wigan two years later in 2006. Wigan had recently been promoted to the Premier League, I smiled at Boyce’s career progression and hoped for him a strong future.

Yesterday’s wonderful moment will be the pinnacle of this journeyman footballer’s career. His side, away from their glorious cup winning moment, find themselves looking down the barrel in terms of Premier League survival. Whatever happens, they’ll always have Wembley. Whatever happens, Boycey will always be a Hatter.
Congratulations Emmerson, I (along with, hopefully, several thousand other Luton fans as well) am very proud of you.

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Tonight We Fly II

I’ve given it a good go, but, and forgive me the indulgence here, like when Des Lynam moved from BBC to ITV, things just haven’t been as good since I got home. As hard as I try to make the mundane interesting, Dances With Chazzwazzers readers have voted with their feet.

No one really gives a flying stuff about things here back in Blighty. I’ll grant you a detailed synopsis of my Fantasy Cricket Team can only be so interesting up to a backward point, and my bitter musings on the travails of Luton Town aren’t even in the same hemisphere (literally and metaphorically) when compared to the vibrancy of the Huka Falls but I have tried, dear reader.

Thankfully, over the hill comes the cavalry (again, literally and metaphorically) in the shape of my neighbour. Josh is heading overseas for a bit, starting off in some of the greatest cities and destinations Asia has to offer before ending up in Australia for the Lions Tour. He has set up a blog chronicling his adventures. Here is a link.

http://findjoshb.com/travel-blog/

Talk about getting stuck in from the off, like a blogging equivalent of Lewis Moody, our man isn’t going about this travelling malarkey softly-softly, as I type Josh is Tokyo bound. The famously demanding capital of Japan is the first step on his journey, no easing himself in via some former colonial outpost, Josh is going for it big style. Read all about it on findjoshb.com

I wish him every success. It promises to be a great trip. For those of you seeking a travelling fix from the comfort of your own home and a bit tired of my daily grind, I urge you to follow Josh!

That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore II: The Denouement

It was the wording of the article on the website rather than the actual event that caught my eye.

“Newport End 25 Year Football League Exile”

That’s a quarter of a century. It is a life sentence in all but name. I guess to those bleary eyed South Welsh men waking up this morning it will feel like the end to the longest stretch.

United fans had to wait nearly that long, from ’67 to ’93, to win the top division again. I am confident Liverpool’s wait for the same honour will now bridge three decades. This, though, is the football supporting equivalent of enduring the harshest drought to be ultimately rewarded by the richest and most bountiful harvest.

It is gratifying to see a proper football club with history, tradition and a loyal fan base as opposed to some fly-by-night tin pot outfit funded by an Abramovich wannabe and a thousand band wagon jumpers on a ego-jolting jolly (Yes, Fleetwood, Crawley, Rushden & Diamonds; this is you…) achieve promotion back into the 92 league clubs. Congratulations to Newport on this magnificent achievement.

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Salvation! County fans celebrate their return to the football league. My pal, his lad, brother and mates are in there somewhere…

To my mate Welsh Andy; I say old boy; Tally Bally Ho! Those plastic Welshmen took one hell of a beating. Jolley well played, I am delighted for you sir.

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Is it? Could it be? It bloomin’ is you know! Front of picture, ex-Spurs cult (although I could have one of the consonants wrong there) hero, now County manager, Justin Edinburgh leads the celebrations.

Which all, rather conveniently although a tad gloomily, brings me to Monday’s Big Question. Will my lot, the unhappy Hatters have to wait longer than County to become a football league club again?

Sun Rise Light Flies

Summer is here people! Or late spring anyway. Cracking day yesterday. I even applied sun cream at some point. At The Warren, the wispy white blossom of the cherry trees and the Dulux paint catalogue’s worth of lush greens served notice of summer’s intent. Yes, the Bunyan Breeze continued to bite like midges in a cold quarter, but the sun shone magnificently throughout. As we lurch from the long winter into a longer summer (trust me on this one), Matt ventured a drought had been forecast.

So we are set fair, at last.

Except for one day. Sunday 19th May. You can count on it.

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My annual visit to Lord’s with The Cheshires. It’s always a truly wonderful day out at The Home of Cricket.

The trouble is, every time we go, it rains.

Still, rejoice, the first Test Match of summer is a mere fortnight away. And that, along with this gorgeous May morning, is another reason to smile.