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Category archive: Sport

Monday April 07 2014

The English language is strange.

Consider this.  We’re talking football, not something we often do here, but we are.

Suppose one of us says: “Liverpool are back.” This means that Liverpool, as in the single club Liverpool, is now doing very well, and much better than they have been doing for the last couple of decades or so.  Which it is.  Top of the Premier League as of now.

But suppose someone says: “Liverpool is back.” It would be clear from that remark that what is meant is that the entire city of Liverpool is on the up-and-up, footballwise.  And it is.  Both Liverpool (the club) and Everton, the other big club in Liverpool, are doing well just now.  And Everton … are.

So, “are” is singular, and “is” is plural.

Very singular.

In other soccer news, check out the new Spurs stadium that they are going to build, which is to be called the Naming Rights Stadium.

Prediction: Spurs will do surprisingly badly (i.e. they’ll be eleventh rather than seventh, their current default position) for the next few years.  Why?  Because of this syndrome.

Monday March 31 2014

I have been following the World T20 cricket tournament now taking place in Bangladesh on Cricinfo in the last few days or weeks or whatever it is, and it has been non-stop thrills and dramas and surprises, the latest being an amazing game between Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

Sri Lankan fans had been urging the replacement of Sri Lankan spinner Mendis by Sri Lankan spinner Herath for some time, and they were not wrong.  Mendis in the earlier game that Sir Lanka lost against England: 4 overs 0 maidens 52 runs 0 wickets. Herath in today’s game against NZ: 3.3 overs 2 maidens 3 runs 5 wickets.  NZ, chasing a modest 119, only managed 60.

Things will probably calm down as the final games approach, as often happens at big international sports tournaments.  I seem to recall many football World Cups starting out fun but then getting duller and duller, culminating in four Continental European teams beating each other one-nil after extra time or nil nil with penalty shoot-outs, and one of them (I immediately forget which) gets to win it.  But in the early rounds, when teams like Cameroon and Croatia and England are still involved, it is fun fun fun.  I can even remember the long ago times when Scotland used sometimes to be involved in these early dramas.

I can’t say I was too distressed this morning about England being humiliated by The Netherlands.  When I saw the scorecard after it was all over (I had been doing something else) I actually laughed, and not bitterly.  Well done the Dutch.  This is one of those results that are “good for cricket”.  Cricket badly needs to extend its empire beyond the usual British Imperial suspects, and nothing attracts attention in an outsider country like their outsider team thrashing one of the insider teams.

England were never going to win this T20 tournament.  They did okay for most of it, and only crashed into this Dutch debacle after they were definitely about to go home anyway.  Besides which, this is T20, and crazy things happen in T20.

England were a bit unlucky against New Zealand, when rain gave NZ the win that they might not have managed had it not rained, given England’s quite decent total.  England’s best game was against Sri Lanka (see above), when Hales hit a brilliant century.  Lucky Herath wasn’t yet playing.  And England did not disgrace themselves against South Africa.  The margin, a mere three runs, flattered England, because actually it was all over several balls before that, with Bresnan only adding a bit of consolation slogging off the last few balls that got England near, but couldn’t have got them near enough in the absence of no-balls.  Even so, decent effort, jolly good game, etc.  Like every other England fan, I have no idea why Jade Dernbach remains in the England team, despite being regularly clobbered for about fifty.  This time he conceded 0-44 in three overs and didn’t bowl his final one, and was dropped for the final game against The Netherlands.  Will he play for England ever again?

The Dutch, on the other hand, had a terrific tournament.  They got totally creamed by Sri Lanka and beaten by New Zealand.  But in the first round they pulled off an amazing win against Ireland, where run rate calculations meant that in order to go through to the next round they had to score something like a hundred and ninety something in about fourteen overs.  The Dutch were never going to manage that.  But guess what, they did, and they eliminated both Ireland and Zimbabwe.  Astonishing.  Then, they gave South Africa one hell of a fright, losing a game by six runs that they were well course to win.  I was not amazed when they beat England.

Australia didn’t win a single game at the group stage, and were yesterday bowled out by India for 86.

The white guys have not been doing very well at this tournament.  It’s happening in Asia and the Asian teams are the strongest.

Saturday March 15 2014

I am watching the England Italy Six Nations rugby game.  Already England have, rather to my surprise, already scored two tries.  6-17 England.

Throughout the week there has been a whole lot too much talk, for my liking, of how England were going to beat Italy by fifty points, so that Ireland would then face points pressure in Paris in the day’s final game, rather than the mere pressure of having to win.  That’s the sort of talk that can have you neglecting the small matter of simply winning the game.  And indeed, England did begin rather scrappily.  Mike Brown even made a mistake.  But England are now playing like they assume they will win, and the only question is by how much.  I sit corrected.

It’s hot out there in Rome, by the look of it.  Both sides are making mistakes.  But England are looking really dangerous when the backs have it, and are scoring tries.  Brown is looking good, as he has all tournament.  Burrell looks very strong, ditto.

The thing is, games which end as try fests often begin as hard slogs, and the idea that the winners might rack up fifty seems ridiculous.  And then, bang bang bang, they do.  The commentators are now pointing out that the Ireland Italy game was very even, until suddenly, at the end, it wasn’t.  England will know all about that, and by that reckoning they are ahead of schedule.

Even if England don’t run away with this, France can still win the Championship for England by beating Ireland.

And hey!  Another England try!  Two for Mike Brown, of the three England tries so far.  6-22 England.  Farrell needs to kick everything, and in particular this one, from far out.  No worries.  6-24.  Farrell four out of four.  Half time approaches.

Well, England can’t lose this now.

Probably just as significant as the England tries is that Italy nearly scored an early try themselves, like they did against Ireland.  But England stopped it.

Half time.  The commentators are saying the Italians are already knackered.

Thank goodness Burrell and Farrell are both spelt the same way.  Burell and Farrel (for instance) would have been hard to live with.  Although, while Farrell is pronounced Farrell, Burrell is pronounced Burelle.  Reminds me of Hyacinth Bucket.  I wonder if they ever call Farrell Farelle.

Second half begins.

LATER (there was always going to be a LATER with this one, and probably more than one): 6-31 England.  Burrell off for Tuilagi!  Bad luck Burrell.  6-38 England, Tuilagi try (pronounced Tooey Langy - don’t ask me why).  Tooey Langy another try.  6-43.  But oh dear.  Interception and try by Italy.  11-43.  Again, every point matters and someone with an English sounding name (Alan?  Allen?) misses it.  11-43.

It’s not going to happen.  From the tournament point of view, England might as well have won 17-19 or some such semi-fiasco.  England pressing but time is running out.

At 6-43, England were playing catch-up rugby, and it cost them.  When Italy scored that was it.  No more England tries since then, and the whistle is about to go.  But, Robshaw scores!  Too little, says the commentator, too late.  Indeed.  11-52 England, unless Farrell misses the penalty from nearly in front of the posts.  “Immaculate from him once again.”

And it ends.  Now Clive Woodward is saying that all the substitutions made at the end might have cost them.  In particular, substitutions affect defence, you suspect.

So, an Ireland win by anything in Paris wins it for them, and a loss by Ireland wins it for England.  Allez France!!!

LATER: Not quite.

Sunday March 09 2014

Just chanced upon this piece of dialogue at Cricinfo:

John Ryan: “Tell me - did it rain all day on what would’ve been the 5th day in Port Elizabeth?” Actually, it didn’t. Rain arrived only after lunch, had the match progressed that far.

That was in the commentary on this game, the start of which was being delayed by more rain, when I came across this, which is why John Ryan was able to ask about the rain on that phantom fifth day (February 24th) at Port Elizabeth without changing the subject.

6000 reckoned, in the comments on this, that the weather was bad until 4pm, and that play therefore might not have been possible at all, and certainly not before then.  The above says otherwise.  Odd.  A very local effect perhaps.  The weather in Port Elizabeth was bad, but not so bad at the ground itself, maybe?

The point of all this is that if Australia had managed not to be all out on day four, which they very nearly did manage, and then if no play had been possible on day five, they’d not have lost.

And now this latest match has been abandoned without a ball bowled.  But you followed the link above, and you already knew that, didn’t you?

Never mind.  England v Wales at Twickenham is about to start.  And then there is West Indies v England in Bridgetown, Barbados.  England.  It gets around.

Early England try at Twickenham.  Did not see that coming.  But then, I’m remembering what happened in Wales last year.  Wales now have a penalty.  7-3 England.  Already England have more points than they got last year.  Sunny day.  Looks like it will be a cracker.  (Wales just missed a try by kicking when a pass would have been a scoring pass.)

LATER: England win 29-18, two tries to none.  As I say, I did not see this coming.  Home advantage strikes again.  If England can beat Italy, and they obviously can, and if France can oblige with another home win, against Ireland, then England will win the Six Nations.

A DAY LATER: My summary is that England played like a good England side, and Wales played like an average England side.  Last night I was trying to work out why the match was so disappointing for me, despite England getting a very good win.  It was this: that Wales of old seem to be no more.  Presumably the Welsh plan is that Wales should play like a decent All Blacks side.  But what I like to see is Wales playing like a great Wales side, and we’ve not seen that for quite a while now.

Tuesday March 04 2014

My Ashes Lag is really being taken care of, by the South Africa Australia cricket, which is in South Africa, God bless it.  It starts at Really Early am London time.  Crucially, it keeps on doing that.  You don’t cure Ashes lag with just one virtuous wake-up.  You have to string a bunch of them together.  Nothing like a really good test series that starts at Really Early am day after day to do that.  It’s just a pity the series is not a fiver rather than a mere threeer.

Australia are crushing South Africa in the third and final game, just as they did in the first game, and just as South Africa crushed them in the second.  And I sort of told you so:

Mitchell Johnson won the first game for Australia, then did nothing in the second, but I think I heard that the pitch for the third game will suit Johnson, so maybe it will be an Australia win.

Well, not really, I mostly sat on the fence.  But, at least I am not surprised.  South Africa are 71-4 in their second innings, with Amla out but AB de Villiers still there.  At tea they were 15-3.

I really hope they have lots more one-day games, and that at least some of them start good and early.

The other really good news, aside from the Ashes Lag thing, is that South African captain Graeme Smith has now retired from internatioanal cricket, and can now devote all his energies to getting Surrey back on their feet.

Rather annoyingly, what with me trying to get other stuff done, cricket remained interesting all day, with Pakistan chasing a vast Bangladesh score, in the Asia Cup, or something.  The highpoint of that was the innings of Shahid Afridi which began like this, the W at the start being the fall of the wicket that brought him in:

W 6 2 6 1 |6 2 . 6 6

35 in ten balls, in other words.  At the start of all that, Pakistan were in a seemingly hopeless position.  After those two overs, the chase was doable, and they duly did it, despite Afridi having a bad back which meant he couldn’t stretch out and avoid being run out, just after he’d raced to fifty.

Tomorrow, the decisive SA v Aus action is likely to come at the start, so that’s more good news on the Ashes Lag front.  If early wickets fall, especially that of de Villiers, that will be it.  If they don’t, and especially if de Villiers hangs around for a decent time, South Africa would have an outside chance of a draw.  But, I doubt it.  South Africa’s only real chance is if Johnson gets hurt early in the day, just like Steyn got hurt early on day one.

Monday February 24 2014

The Six Nations has been its usual unpredictable self this year.  Italy lost to Scotland to claim the Wooden Spoon, or so it looks.  Can either of them win any games during the last two weekends?  While above them, Ireland, England, Wales and France are all played three won two.  All the results are here.

Those top four provide us with a typically delightful Six Nations circle of scores.  France beat England 26-24.  But last Friday, Wales hammered France 27-6.  In round two, Ireland crushed Wales 26-3.  So, did England then lose to Ireland by a margin of 2 + 21 + 23 points?  No, they beat Ireland 13-10.

England’s winning try against Ireland was a thing of beauty.  I recall saying here (here) that England’s loss to France didn’t really bother me, and that England actually looked pretty good.  Against Ireland they proved me right.

A clue to that strange circle is, however, that of the first nine games, seven have been won by the home side, including all four games in that circle.  The only home defeats were when Italy lost to Scotland, and when Scotland lost to England.

Meanwhile, the cricket series going on between South Africa and Australia is terrific.  The games all kick of at 8.30am England time, which makes them the perfect cure for Ashes Lag.  Australia won the first game, and I made a point of tuning in promptly for the start of the second game.  Sure enough, Australia soon had South Africa reeling at 11-2.  But from then on it was all South Africa.  They won inside four days, having been desperate to stop it going to five, because the forecast for day five was rain, rain, rain.  But was it?  I just tried to find out what the weather was like on Feb 24th, but all you get on the www is forecasts.  No reports of the past.  The weather of the past is another country, it seems.

It may be that the Australia win at Centurion, an away win, will be the exception.  England beat Australia 3-0 in England.  Australia smashed England 5-0 in Australia.  Meanwhile NZ were beating India in NZ.  Now South Africa to beat Australia in South Africa?  Mitchell Johnson won the first game for Australia, then did nothing in the second, but I think I heard that the pitch for the third game will suit Johnson, so maybe it will be an Australia win.

LATER: I nearly forgot about this, this being Afghanistan Under 19s beating Australia Under 19s, at cricket.

Tuesday February 11 2014

Indeed:

image

Taken by me today, from outside Waterloo Station, as afternoon was turning to evening.  Strata is suffering from red eye.

I love this time of year.

There’s the Six Nations.  The England France game was a cracker.  Oddly it did not distress me that England lost, narrowly, because they played some really good stuff and might have won.  The England Scotland game, on the other hand, did distress me, because both Scotland and the pitch were utter crap.  And although England were okay, on a proper pitch they could have really played well and scored a decent number of tries, instead of just one in each half.  As it was England played only adequately.  Very dispiriting.  But, it’s still the Six Nations.  Maybe week three will be as good as week one was.

And, I love it that the days are now lengthening.  My photography depends heavily on daylight.  Even the difference between dusk and dark is very important to me, as the above photo illustrates.

Wednesday February 05 2014

So Kevin Pietersen has been sacked by England, for not being a team player, being obnoxious, friendless, or whatever it was.  Still a good player, but not a team player.  The gory details will presumably all emerge, soon enough.

But the really important question is one that nobody seems to be asking, obsessed as they are with England, England losing the Ashes in humiliating fashion, and so forth and so on.  Will Pietersen now be able to play more often for Surrey? Or, will he be so busy roaming the earth playing T20 cricket that he won’t have any more time to spare on Surrey than he has had in the last few years, ever since he joined them.

A couple of years ago, Surrey were in the throes (sp?) of the Maynard drama and the Ramprakash retirement, nobody was playing very well, and in particular nobody was batting very well.  My theory is that when tragedy strikes a sports team, the natural reaction of the other players is to play badly, as a mark of respect.  To play well, in the immediate aftermath of tragedy, would be to display insensitivity, selfishness, greater concern for one’s own career than about the tragedy.

But Kevin Pietersen, being Kevin Pietersen, is impervious to such emotional atmospheres.  So, some crazy kid gets hyped up on drink and drugs and gets clobbered to death by a train?  Although I hardly knew the guy, I am supposed to be all bent out of shape?  Forget it.  So out Pietersen goes and makes 234 not out, …:

This, by any standards, was an extraordinary innings. It was not just that Pietersen hit the fastest first-class century of the season - 93 balls with 13 fours and three sixes - or that he went on to hit the fastest double-century of the season - 170 balls, 25 fours and seven sixes - but that he bullied the bowling - the bowling of the county champions, no less - with a dominance rarely witnessed in the professional game. It was an innings that would have made Sir Viv Richards proud. And there really isn’t higher praise than that.

… which was, actually, the exact thing that the Surrey cricket team then needed.  A ruthless bastard prepared to go on playing cricket, really well, when all about him were shuffling about staring at their feet, as if at a seemingly endless funeral, which mentally speaking they actually still were.

I bet Surrey would be very, very glad to have as much of Kevin Pietersen as he is now willing to bestow upon them.  And what is more, at a time when he will be in the mood to inflict maximum embarrassment on England, for dumping him.  To this end, merely thrashing sixes in T20 tournaments in faraway countries will not suffice.  What he will want will be huge first class scores, in England, at exactly the time when England are being bowled out for smaller scores by visiting test teams with bowlers no better than English county bowling, and all in England for every cricket fan and cricket person in England to see and talk about and chortle about.

LATER: What Pietersen brings to the IPL.

Wednesday January 29 2014

Here.

England’s men, on the other hand, are now, according to my Michael J’s calculations, 10-1 down, with one two to play.

Monday January 20 2014

So, earlier this evening I did my talk at Christian Michel’s.  It went well, I think.  More about that tomorrow.  Maybe.  I promise nothing.

I’ve just got back and am now watching the NFL semi-finals highlights on Channel 4.  I am really enjoy this.  All the boring stuff is cut out.

Super Bowl: Denver v Seattle or San Francisco, probably Seattle, Feb 2.  All the boring stuff left in, but a great occasion.  Seattle.  The Guardian really seems to be doing well with the NFL.  Or is that just me, linking to the Guardian recently about other stuff?

Then, the Six Nations.

Meanwhile, England are doing really well in the Ashes.

Saturday January 18 2014

Photographed by me, in the Underground, in July of last year (those were the days (and these are not the days)):

image

I like the colour of that.  Click for a little more context.

Nice to have a posting that combines sport with poetry, as cricket used to do, rather a lot.

More thoughts about the poem here.  The complete poem here.  (For some idiot reason my blogging software turns “Lord’s” into “Lord/’s” in that link.  Remove the “/” in the URL to view the poem.  Anyone know what’s going on there?)

The more I ponder that “impact of digital photography” thing, the more I become convinced that the photographing of text is one of the most significant things that digital cameras do.

Saturday January 04 2014

In these last two games, us England cricket fans have really been made to suffer.  In both of them, winning positions have been surrendered.  Last time around, England got a first innings lead of fifty, but then got mangled in both the second innings and lost by eight wickets.

And in this final game … well, put it like this.  Twenty four hours ago, as I write this, just after lunch on day one, Australia were a hundred for five.  But then they got past three hundred, and now, just after lunch on day two, England are sixty for six in reply.  No way will England get to three hundred now, because Mitchell only has to run in for the England tale to drop dead.  Presumably, if you follow this link to the game in a week’s time, you’ll arrive at yet another dispiriting England loss, very possibly by an innings.

The worst Ashes losses I can recall of this sort were: a game during the 2006/7 whitewash tour, when Pietersen and Collingwood both got big hundreds and England declared their first innings with over five hundred, yet still lost; and a game at the end of which Benaud knocked England over when they were cruising it in the last innings, in ... 1961?  Yes.  Australians, of course, will always have this memory to treasure.

I wonder if they’ll now keep Flower.  My guess: yes, for the time being.  Who would be better?

Thank goodness for Spurs.

Wednesday January 01 2014

While hunting for various links to embed in this piece for Samizdata yesterday, I chanced upon an earlier Samizdata posting of mine On the uncertainty of sport, which I did just as the Ashes marathon of 2013 was about to start.

I knew I had been saying what I said in it about how England were absolutely not Ashes shoe-ins.  But I am glad to discover that I actually wrote it down and stuck it up as a blog posting.

Key sentences:

England now have the Ashes and all the smart talk says that on paper they are by far the stronger side, and will still have the Ashes in a year’s time.

But sport is not played on paper. ...

I went on to talk about the 1958/9 England team that toured Australia which was (a) stellar on paper, but which then (b) got hammered 4-0.

Mentioning this tour now is no big achievement.  Mentioning it well before this latest England Ashes fiasco even got started was, I think, a bit cleverer.

I wasn’t saying that I knew what would happen.  Merely that nobody else did either, because sport has a way of turning round and biting you.  That’s a lot of its charm.

LATER:

This, from when England were winning the England half of this Ashes marathon and Australia losing, also reads very well now:

And what happens when this current winning England side starts to seriously fall apart, as it soon will, when players like Anderson and Swann (Swann in particular) have stopped playing?  How consistent will selection then be?  Something tells me I may be doing one of those I told you so link backs that we bloggers are so fond of.  When we actually did tell you so, I mean.

Put that next to this: England team changes a sign of chaos.

And put this, about body language, from that same piece of mine:

A similar mistake is made about “body language”.  Bad body language is said to cause you to lose.  Again, there is some truth in this.  Keeping your pecker up and not letting the other fellows see that you think you’re beaten can sometimes make a difference.  But mostly, it is your game going badly which causes your body language to be bad.  As soon as your game starts to pick up, so does your body language.

Next to this, now:

Downton has just assumed the role of managing director of England cricket and made his first appearance at an England net session at the Sydney Cricket Ground the day before the fifth Test. Observing from the back, talking to head selector James Whitaker, Downton kept his thoughts to himself, but cannot have been overly impressed by what he saw. ...

He would have seen a listless warm-up, a long team talk and a joyless net session from which smiles and laughs were absent. England look as if they cannot wait to go home.

Would Downton have preferred the spectacle of England players laughting and joking and having fun, like they didn’t care about losing their last four test matches?  Hardly.

Thursday December 26 2013

Now on display in the window of a local Oxfam shop, the one in Strutton Ground:

image

Here it is on Amazon.

(Further Amazon thoughts from me here.  The weird thing about Amazon is that it seems, still, to be a hangover from the dot com boom bust era.  It doesn’t make a profit, but still people want to own its shares.  Explanations anyone?)

But back to the latest England Ashes tour, which has become another very tough one.  Day One at Melbourne was hard going for England, not at all like their previous Day One at Melbourne.  And you can bet Clarke remembered that day when he put England in this time around.  This time over, he wanted to knock England over for something like 98, and end the day with Australia on something like 157-0.  At least England escaped that.  They didn’t do terribly badly, just not terribly well.  All the England top five got starts.  Only Pietersen got past 50.  It won’t be enough.  Australia will surely score quicker, get a lead, and win well, again.

Trott broken.  Swann gone.  They’re “playing for pride” now.  The pride, that is to say, of not being beaten 5-0, which they probably will be.

Australia aren’t especially good, and England aren’t especially bad.  But Australia are now definitely better in all departments, and with no interruptions or fluctuations caused by the weather like in England, they just keep on winning and England keep on losing, not just every match but pretty much every session.  Oh well.  Only a game.

England’s problem now is that the formerly great oldies (Cook, Pietersen, Bell, Anderson), are not yet bad enough to drop, and the newbies are not yet good enough.  But, if they don’t drop the oldies, the newbies will never get good.

Friday December 20 2013

I enjoyed this, which is the Daily Mash take on how cats “love any quirky and winsome humour associated with people”.

The piece concludes:

Cat Denys Finch Hatton said: “Our amusement at the eccentricities of human behaviour may be a way of switching off from our primal and sadistic natures which are obsessed by sex, killing and torture.

“Or maybe we’re just bored with our empty consumerist lives.”

To be a bit more serious, my understanding of cats is that they mostly look on us as giant domestic appliances, supplying food and warmth and strokes.  Seriously, machines that do these things seem equally attractive to them.

It’s dogs that are truly interested in people.  But dogs are goofy.

See also the Daily Mash view of the Ashes.

And, this is actually quite profound.