Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Michael Jennings on Michael Jennings on the likely progress of the Cricket World Cup
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Category archive: Sport
Yes, they aren’t playing any squash today. It’s been rugby rugby rugby all the way.
First Wales knocked up a cricket score against Italy in Rome, and took the lead in the three-way race for the Six Nations. Then Ireland thrashed Scotland and took pole position. Now England and France are playing a mad game at Twickenham. At the moment it’s England 48 France 35. How mad is that? It probably won’t be enough, but England are giving it a right old go. England need about two more tries, I think, and since France are also scoring tries every so often, even that might not be enough. But. Five minutes to go, and England have just scored another try. 53-35. Bloody hell. This conversion has to go over. Then they have to score another try and convert that. Conversion over. 55-35. It’s on. It all has the air of been too frantic and unreal to work. But, maybe.
Trouble is, I’ve got a terrible headache and bunged-up face, and am in almost no state at all to enjoy it all. Maybe too much Parma ham at Christian Michel’s last night? That or the cheap white wine. But, I have most of it on video.
Game nearly over. England need one more try off, basically, the last play of the match.
No. England attacking but France hold out. Whistle. 55-35. Epic fail. But epic in a good way.
Wales were favourites after their big win in Rome, but they now have to make do with the bronze. Ireland win it. England second. A great day.
Squash? And what the hell is squash? Exactly. It’s a potentially great game, in which a couple of guys with slimmed down tennis rackets bash a black rubber ball around in a small courtyard. The trouble is that the courtyard is too small. As a result, the better the players, the harder it is to hit a winning shot. Watch a top squash game, and you are watching two of the people least likely ever to make a mistake, waiting for one of them to make a mistake. Watching paint dry is Shakespearian drama by comparison.
Well, rugby union is becoming like this. Two teams now consisting entirely of men-mountains knock seven bells out of each other for an hour. (Backs now look like forwards used to look, and forwards now look like laboratory accidents. The teams who are most depressing to watch are France and Wales, because they used to have diminutive attackers who did things like smoke, and dodge tackles instead of driving into them like human tanks the way everyone does now.) If either team gets tired, the other team might then score some tries, but if neither does, the contest is settled by the referee making incomprehensible penalty decisions, and by the two opposing penalty kickers.
Watching Ireland and Wales, two of the best teams in the Six Nations, is what is making me say this. It’s deep into the second half already, and for the first time in the entire game so far, one of the teams (Ireland) looks like it might score a try. But no. The ref has just blown his whistle, again, and Ireland fail to score. So Wales stay in the lead by four penalties and a drop goal, to three penalties.
Now Wales have just failed to score a try. The commentators are saying that this has been “a fantastic ten minutes of rugby”. No. Fantastic would have been if someone had actually scored.
The trouble is, the pitch is just not wide enough. I remember Bruce the Real Photographer saying this to me about a decade ago. He may have been right then, and I reckon he’s definitely right now.
And the Welsh have now scored, a really good try. Typical.
And now Ireland have scored, a penalty try, which is rather unsatisfactory but at least it’s a try. A penalty try is the one where the two scrums go at each other, and the defending scrum does something mysteriously illegal to stop the other scrum tanking themselves over the line. Wales 20 Ireland 16. It’s livening up.
Commentator: “It’s a thrilling encounter. It’s a shame there’s only about eleven minutes left.”
So. Squash for an hour. (One of the commentators called it “muscular chess”.) Then a quarter of an hour of rugby. This is what counts as “a fantastic game of rugby”.
Later: Wales 23 Ireland 16.
Libertarian Home have been having their meetings in several different venues of late. Last night’s event was in the Prince of Wales, Covent Garden, which is on the corner of Long Acre and Drury Lane. I got there a bit early, and filled the time by strolling along Long Acre towards where the old Alternative Bookshop once was, hoping for photoable diversion, and I was not disappointed. Through a window, just across the road from Covent Garden tube, I spied, and photoed, this:
I’m pretty sure I don’t like it, but it’s definitely a Thing worth photoing. This time I remembered to photo enough information about the place to be able later to identify it. The outside didn’t actually say what the place is, merely the address. But that was enough for googling purposes. It turns out this is a Fred Perry place, where Fred Perry and Co ... does things. And this wooden Thing is a combination of reception desk, seating and window logo. The Fred Perry enterprise makes, I assume sporty stuff and in particular sporty clothing, although that’s only a guess. That Fred Perry website is all design but bizarrely little information.
It would be a lot more logical to have a reception desk, some seating, and a company logo in the window, each separate, each doing their own job, each replaceable as and when, or if decreed to be imperfect in some way. Why do all these things need to be connected? They don’t. They need not to be connected. And the reception desk bit must be very inconvenient actually to do receptioning on.
Thinking about this some more, this Thing makes me think that the Fred Perry enterprise is all about “design”, way beyond the bounds of intelligence or sanity or usefulness. The website exudes the same atmosphere. It tells you almost nothing, very prettily. The whole company seems like one of those arrogantly stylish twats whose attitude is: I don’t have to explain myself. I have your attention. I am not going to deign to use it by actually talking to you. I am wonderful and wonderfully stylish me. That is enough for mere you. Consider yourself lucky to be even seeing me.
But then, I guess that I am not their target demographic. I am neither sporty (as in actually doing sport), nor stylish (as in myself wanting to look stylish).
While trying to find some kind of link to this enterprise, I learned that Fred Perry, the man himself, Wimbledon tennis champion in the year whenever it was, was also the 1929 world champion at ping pong. Blog and learn.
Yes, incoming from Michael Jennings:
As I see it, we have five teams in this World Cup who are any good and have some chance of winning it: Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lankan in Group A, and India and South Africa in Group B.
New Zealand will win Group A, the winner of the game between Australia and Sri Lanka on Sunday will come second, and the loser of that game will come third. (England will probably limp into fourth.) Barring major upsets, India will win Group B and South Africa will come second. Pakistan and the West Indies (or possibly even Ireland) will take the third and fourth places, but it is very hard to say in what order at this point.
This means in the quarter finals, New Zealand, India, and the winners of Australia v Sri Lanka get relatively easy quarter finals, and South Africa and the losers of Australia v Sri Lanka get a tough one. Given South Africa’s history of choking in World Cup knockout matches, I can’t imagine this thrills them. The possibility of playing Australia at home in the quarter final really doesn’t thrill them, I suspect.
Australia will want to beat Sri Lanka, though. Not only do they avoid South Africa in the quarter final, but that way they also avoid the possibility of having to play New Zealand in New Zealand in the semi-final. If they beat Sri Lanka and come second in the group, the only way they can play New Zealand again would be at the MCG in the final. The New Zealand crowd was apparently rather abusive towards the Australian players last week, and Australian crowds remember such things and have a tendency to want to get their own back. (The New Zealand players were apparently paragons of sportsmanship, though.)
I’m following it from here.
Alas, the team I’ve been supporting (aside from Dead Team Walking England), Afghanistan, have just been crushed by Australia, by what I am guessing is a record (of some sort) margin. These record margins have become a World Cup Thing, presumably because net run rate now looms large in qualification calculations. So, when you get on top, you make sure you stay on top and cash in. It will be interesting to see if anyone does qualify, or fail to qualify, because of run rate calculations.
The other day (to be more exact: on this day) I described England as a “dead team walking”, in the currently unfolding Cricket World Cup. So, if England now turn around and start winning and winning well, well, that’s good because hurrah England. But if England carry on losing, and losing badly, then hurrah me for being right.
How to snatch happiness out of thin air: be a prophet of doom proved right. There are other ways to place a bet besides spending money.
This explains a lot about the world, I think. Basically, as Steven Pinker has pointed out in the first half of that excellent (because of its first half) book of his, everything (approximately speaking) is getting better, slowly and with many back-trackings, but surely. Yet to listen to publicly expressed opinion, both public and posh, you’d think that everything was getting worse, all the time. And it’s been like that throughout most of recorded history. But people are not really that pessimistic. All that is really happening is that people are predicting the worst in order to be happy if the worst happens, and also happy if the worst does not happen.
If you know your cricket, you can learn an amazing amount about what just happened from a screen like that.
For me, the most remarkable bit is where it says: “80 runs, 3.2 overs ...” What we see, basically, is the moment when the game went from difficult for the Windies to win, to impossible.
Match report here.
I had the radio on all night to listen to this game, woke up at about 7am when SA were about 320 off nearly fifty overs, listened until they were 378 with one over to go, went for a piss, and came back to find them having finished on 408. 30 off the last over, including four sixes. I then switched off, in order to get back to sleep quickly enough for it to be worth it, confident the game was over as a contest. So it proved. Gayle made 215 in the previous Windies game, but I was not surprised to see him get out for a small score against SA.
I also had the radio on for the previous night, when Afghanistan beat Scotland, in a see-sawing thriller.
I am now suffering from World Cup lag. I think as reason why I am enjoying this tournament so much is that England are a dead team walking. They were a long shot going into the tournament, and it would now take a total miracle for them to win it, by which I mean about three miracles laid end to end. That means I can relax and enjoy all the other teams knocking seven bells out of each other. And if those miracles do start happening, I can enjoy them too, as a bonus.
This blog is where, among other worthier things, I boast about what a clever fellow I am, given that not many other people are in the habit of saying this. A recent incoming email from Michael Jennings, entitled “You told me about this 12 years before the New York Times did”, gives me another opportunity thus to indulge.
The New York Times piece is this, which is a about how rich people have less stuff than poor people, because stuff is now so cheap.
And I said this in this, just over twelve years ago, as Michael says.
I’m guessing it’s the BJT Bosanquet reference that he particularly remembered.
Last night, seeking to illustrate a point made in the previous posting about how things on the ground look like toys, when viewed from an airplane, I failed to find any pictures of my own to illustrate the point, but I did come across this:
Triple Chess!!! I did not know that such a thing existed, as a serious thing, until last night.
I took this photo in 2008, but it was one of those photos that I took and then instantly forgot about. Then, later, when looking through the photos I took, I skipped straight over this one and concentrated on others taken at the same time, so I did not actually learn of the existence of Triple Chess, in 2008, when I photoed it, even though I had just photoed it.
Also in this photo is another strange contrivance: the Four Wheeled Pedal Board. How the hell does that work? Judging by the absence of any feedback at the other end of that link, the Four Wheeled Pedal Board never caught on. Perhaps because nobody else could see how it worked either. And perhaps also because it actually did not work? “How far”, asks the box, “can you go without falling off?” I’m guessing that for most the answer was: not very far at all.
Despite the instructions for the Four Wheeled Pedal Board being in English, this photo of stuff in a shop window was taken in France, in Quimper, a city which regulars here will know that I often visit.
And look, there is a website. Does the fact that this Four Wheeled Pedal Board seems to be an Anglo invention reflect the continuing interest of Anglo culture in pointless gadgets, in mucking about instead of doing serious things? Because in Angloland we think that mucking about can lead to serious things? Perhaps.
Some might seize on all this as illustrating the fact that photography is a substitute for really looking at things. I photoed it, but I didn’t actually look at it! But, I am looking at it now. And, do people who do not take photos look carefully at everything that they see? Of course not. The real problem with photography (as I recall mentioning in this talk I recently gave about photography) is not that you don’t look at things, but that you are liable to spend your entire life looking at things and never doing anything else.
Note also the red, white and blue accordion, bottom right. Confirmation of the Anglophile inclinations of this shop? Well, no, because the French are also big on red, white and blueness, aren’t they?
Yes, I spent the whole of today telling myself that it was only Saturday but feeling it to be Sunday.
For starters, the first of this year’s Six Nations games happened yesterday, on Friday. I don’t remember that happening lately. Isn’t the first 6N game usually on Saturday? And then today, I went to a birthday party at Rob Fisher’s home, in the afternoon, out in the deep suburbs. Which was nice, but that’s something I associate with a Sunday rather than a Saturday. It was the quite early start and the quite early finish that did it. Saturday jollifications usually seem to start later and end later. I’m not complaining about the timing, you understand, just saying that it messed with my head.
I was telling myself this all day long, yet still, when I was in the train back to London, I was thinking that I needed to buy some milk and some bread, but reckoning that I’d be too late for any of the big supermarkets, which are the ones which have the cheapest milk and the sort of bread I like, on account of these big supermarkets closing early, what with today being a Sunday.
Not that I mind any of this. It’s been a great weekend so far, and there is still a whole day of it left. England beat Wales in that 6N game last night, and today, Spurs beat Arsenal. Spurs are my favourite football team, but I’m not a proper Spurs fan, because if Arsenal are involved but if Spurs aren’t, I like Arsenal to win. Your real Spurs fan wants Arsenal thrashed, by Sporting Beelzebub if that’s who Arsenal are playing.
It actually is now Sunday, and I am cheating on the timing of this posting, by a short while. The day ends when I got to bed is my rule, and I make the rules here. What are you going to do? Cancel your subscription?
Incoming from Michael J:
Katy Perry and dancing Nazi sharks. I guess this is why you stay up for the Superbowl.
Actually I missed KP’s half time performance, but I have it on one of my various TV hard disks. I did stay up until the Superbowl ended, but I found myself only giving it about a third of my attention.
I did tune in at the end. That bizarre catch was fun. But the game ended the way it did because, at any rate in the opinion of all the commentators, the Seattle Seahawks made a horrible mistake. ("I cannot believe that call!") Truly great games are won because of something wonderful, not something horrible. In an ideal world, you want the losers thinking, not: “Oh Shit, What Were We Thinking?!?!? We’ll have nightmares about that for the rest of our lives.” You want them thinking: “Well, there was nothing we could have done about that.” And the winners can spend the rest of their lives remembering that they did it, not that the other guys did it for them.
And then this morning there was this:
6 1 6 . 6 6 | . 4 W 4 W 1 | 1 . 1wd 6 6 6
That’s the last three overs of the England Second Eleven‘s batting effort against the South Africa Second Eleven. I love how you can now follow these bizarrely obscure games. Ben Stokes, who has been having a rough time of it of late, is the one hitting six of those seven sixes at the end, and finishing on 151 not out (off 86 balls) , out of 378-6. Perhaps someone in the England First Eleven (recently crushed by Australia in a triangular warm-up tournament) will get hurt during the forthcoming World Cup, and Stokes will be inserted into their team. Such is the romance of sport.
Finally, here is a piece by cricket boffin Ed Smith, about how having fun is very important. Because of fun, Alexander Fleming invented penicillin, etc. But the real reason for fun is that having fun is fun. It’s articles like this that cause insane parents to send their children to Fun Classes.
I shouldn’t mock. It’s a good piece. And fun is what this blog here is mostly about.
This morning I had fun keeping half an eye on one of those Big Bash 20/20 games they are having just now over in Oz.
This morning‘s hero was a certain Jordan Silk of the Sydney Sixers, who slogged five such boundaries against the Sydney Thunder. And thanks to the www, I immediately learned about what a long neck the man has.
Silk has a huge neck, but Small has no neck at all. I imagine the (cricket part of the) internet is awash with pictures of these two guys, side by side.
The game was what they call these days a roller coaster ride. One moment half of Sydney was cheering. Next moment it was the other half cheering. Thunder looking like walking it, with the sixers on seventy something for 5 after 13 overs. Then someone is reminded of his team’s name and hits three consecutive sixes to swing it the Sixers’ way. But the Sixers still need way over fifty off the last three overs. In over 18, they get 25! But, next (penultimate) over: 1, 4, W, 1, 1, 1. Thunder look like winners. Sixers still need 23 of just the one last over. Someone called Lalor then comes on to bowl the last over, with bowling figures so far of 3 overs 1 maiden (a maiden in 20/20 being a miracle) 6 runs 4 wickets. And Lalor then goes for 23, and the Sixers win on the last ball. Jordan Silk and his big neck score two sixes off balls 2 and 3 of the final over. But Silk gan only get a single off ball 4, which swings the match back towards Thunder. But then, a tailender, needing 8 off two balls, promptly hits two fours, from his second and third balls faced.
Quite a game.
The one thing I really do not like about cricket writing is whether to put two or 2, four or 4, six or 6, twenty or 20, etcetera. Comments about that, anyone?
Here, at the end:
You don’t always have to understand exactly what’s going on to enjoy what you’re seeing.
Words to live by, in all manner of situations.
That was said about this fun and games stuff, but I was saying much the same to myself as I watched the fabulously entertaining highlights of the semi-finals of the F(ootball) A(merica) Cup, or whatever they call it over there. A great come-back and extra time win by Seattle. A crushing victory by New England, and accusations that they cheated by softening their balls. What more could you ask for?
Well, what you could ask for is a duet of monodirectional brackets in the heading. But, no need, because there it is.
Spent the day writing half a talk about sport as a replacement for war, for Christian Michel. But, on the night (i.e. tonight), I just winged it. One of the better talks I’ve ever given, which admittedly isn’t saying much. And one of the most shambolically prepared. Now knackered and watching the Wildcard Playoff Highlights on C4. More considered content should follow, Real Soon Now.
I also like this one, of the Wembley Arch, seen from the Wheel.
Incoming from Michael Jennings:
As of this morning, thirteen successive Australia v India tests have been won by the home side. Seven of these matches have been won (and hosted) by India, and six by Australia. If Australia win the remaining two tests in this series (which may or may not happen) this will be the fourth successive Australia v India series to be a whitewash to the home side.
He was talking about this game.
Cricket has been a bit of a wasteland for me lately, what with county cricket being in hibernation and England playing nothing but one day cricket, which they are rather rubbish at. They have been preparing for the forthcoming one day World Cup, by losing a one day series in Sri Lanka and then by replacing their captain. But the feeling among cricket’s chattereres is that sacking Cook will improve England, and one day knock-out tournaments are such a lottery that I will live in hope, for as long as there is any.