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Category archive: Sport

Wednesday August 24 2016

Here in London, when a pedestrian sees a red light saying don’t walk across a road, it usually looks something like this:

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Or like this:

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Those being from the archives.

But yesterday, I was in a place where the corresponding red lights look like this:

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Definitely horse-riding country.  Although, perhaps strangely, I saw no real horses.

I was in that part of outer London known as Epsom.  Having disembarked from a train at a station called Tattenham Corner, I found myself in … Tattenham? … and then kept on for a bit and emerged, just like that, into the open countryside.  And I saw things like this:

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That being, I’m pretty sure, in the foreground, the actual, original, Tattenham Corner, around which the horses and their riders go, in races.

But if, instead of making your way towards that big grandstand to watch the racing, you instead turn right, up a slight hill, through various clumps of trees, you eventually come out the other side of these trees, and you find yourself enjoying a distant view of London.

I did not come to Epsom in order to photo pedestrian lights or sporting architecture, although I did do this.  What I came to Epsom to photo was scenes like this:

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And like this:

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And like this:

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When I took these shots, the scenes I was shooting were so far away that it was very hard for me, with my ever more terrible eyesight, to work out what I was photoing.  I only learned that I had photoed The Wheel when I looked at that shot on the screen of my camera and enlarged it, and hey, that looks like The Wheel.

As for Wembley Arch, I do vaguely remember thinking that I saw a shape that might be that, but I wasn’t sure until I got home.

And even then, these distant views of London weren’t that good, on account of being too distant and my non-SLR camera being too primitive.  Epsom is a long way away from London.

The above explains, as not promised in the previous posting, why I was in Croydon yesterday.  Getting by train from London to Tattenham Corner meant, for me, going from Victoria to East Croydon, and then changing to the Tattenham Corner train.

I half had in mind to break the journey back to Victoria at Battersea Park station, which also has fine views of London’s Big Things, but I slept through Battersea Park, and anyway, it was getting dark.

Sunday August 21 2016

On September 7th 2015, I took a ton of photos of Surrey beating Notts, including half a ton of photos of Kumar Sangakkara, who scored a wonderful century that day.

Sangakkara, having had time off to go and win the Caribbean Premier League with his team out there, has been back playing for Surrey in recent days, with his usual huge distinction.  He made the highest score of the match in Surrey’s win against Warwickshire in the County Championship, and he made that match winning 130 not out against Northants, to get Surrey to the semi-finals of this year’s 50 overs tournament.

The best time for this photo-tribute to the great man would have been just after I took all the photos.  But now feels like the second best time for it.  Very late is not good, but it is a lot better than never.

The first lot of pictures are of Sanga scoring his 166, of him becoming increasingly tired while doing this, and of him walking off after getting out to first ball of the final over of the Surrey innings.

Several of these shots are of – ho ho – shots.  One shot should be particularly noted.  This is the so-called “ramp” shot, which is when the batsman scoops the ball right over where his head would have been, straight behind the wicketkeeper or thereabouts, hopefully for a boundary.  Sanga did at least one of these last September, as you can see (2.2).  And he did another, even more spectacularly, when he ramped a six in the last over of that one wicket victory over Northants.  (Very short YouTube video of that here.)

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I also particularly like the shot of Samit Patel of Notts congratulating Sanga (3.2), as he walks back to the pavilion.

And the second lot of photos are of what Sanga did after this great innings.  He fielded (4.1).  And oh look, who is that doing exercises in the foreground?  That would be Jade Dernbach.

After the game had concluded with a narrow Surrey win, Sanga was given a Man of the Match medal (4.2), and a Man of the Match bottle of Champagne (4.4).  Surrey commentator Mark Church interviewed Sanga (5.2).  And then (5.3 to 6.4) Sanga mingled with us punters, and had his photo taken by lots of us including by a very happy me, who by then was but a few feet away from him:

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Note in particular the Bald Bloke, with a very battered old-school looking camera, whom I managed to include in a couple of my shots (5.3 and 6.1).  Maybe I am in some of his shots.

Finally, a bone weary Sanga decides that he really has done enough mingling, and he makes his bone weary way up the steps to the Surrey dressing room (6.3).  But then, he gets ambushed yet again by an admirer, a kid (6.4), and he obliges with one last shot, before making his final exit.

Yes, I know, I show recognisable faces here.  But a public sports ground is a very public place, and you don’t go there unless you are willing for your face to be included in photos and TV coverage of the event.  Plus, if you place yourself right next to a Celeb, then you become fair photographic game, same as the Celeb himself is.  Well, those are my rules.

Saturday August 13 2016

Proof that the day that Darren and I saw Surrey beat Gloucester was a great day out is that I have already done three postings about that day here, and have hardly scratched the surface of how much fun I (for only one) had, on that day.

Posting (1) about that day concerned vans.  Posting (2) was about cricket, and in particular about the emerging cricket superstar that is Jason Roy.  Posting (3) was about the Oval’s contrasting architectural Big Things, and about seeing (or not seeing) London’s biggest Big Things from one of the Ovals Big Things.

The final test match between England and Pakistan is now under way, at the very same Oval that I have been going on about.  (England are getting stuffed, as I write this.  Go here to be sure.) So it is appropriate that this posting takes us, those of us who are interested, back to cricket, and in particular to the photoing of a cricket scoreboard.  Sporting scoreboards make for great photos, packed with memory-triggering information.  Not just obvious things like the score of a particular game, but, as the years pass, forgotten names, and forgotten moments in remembered games.

I didn’t take many pictures of the old scoreboard that day, the one way off to the right of the Pavilion (as you look at it), but here is one of the pictures I did take of it, along with a lot of other stuff all around it:

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You can’t really see the scoreboard there, unless you look rather carefully, so here is a close-up:

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This looks to me rather like an eighties style computer screen, the sort that started you off with cryptic messages like: “A:>“.  Such old screens often had orange letters or numbers on a black background.  No doubt there have been suggestions that this scoreboard be replaced by something more twenty first century, but no doubt also, the old fogeys of the Surrey County Cricket Club drew the line at such vandalism.  Cricket is, after all, a game typically played before an audience made up mostly of oldies.  And as you can see from my pictures, this audience is too sparse for cricket people to be able to ignore the tastes of those who do show up.

I can remember scoreboards far more primitive even than this, where you hung the numbers on hooks.  I even helped to operate such a scoreboard occasionally, when Englefield Green played nearby teams like Egham, Staines and so on, on … Englefield Green.  Because yes, there really was an actual Englefield Green.  There still is.

All that that old scoreboard showed was, as I recall, total runs scored, wickets down, batsman number this, this much, batsman number that, this much.  And, if the other side had already batted, the other side’s total.  Batsmen would not have been identified with numbers like 58 or 59, i.e. with the numbers on the backs of their shirts, because they wore no such shirts.  Their number would be their place in the batting order, which is actually far more informative about the state of the game.  If, say, there are seven wickets down, and batsmen 8 and 9 are batting, both with smallish scores, that’s one sort of game.  But if batsmen 3 is still in with a decent score to his number, that’s a much better prospect for the batting side.  “59” doesn’t tell you anything about whether the guy can bat or not.

Here is a much newer scoreboard, to be seen on the other side of the ground from the old scoreboard:

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Here we learn who batsmen 58 and 59 actually are.  Yes, they are the Curran brothers.  They came together at the fall of the sixth Surrey wicket, and a lot depended upon them.

T(om) Curran is about twenty, and S(am) Curran is eighteen.  On the day I took these photos, the Currans came together with the Surrey innings struggling for adequacy.  There had been a flurry of wickets.  More wickets now and not many more runs, and Gloucester would probably chase down the Surrey total easily.  More runs now, and more wickets not so quickly surrendered, and Gloucester would have a fight on their hands.

For a while, the Currans “rebuilt” the innings, in other words scored rather slowly.  But then the younger Curran (S(am)) stepped on the gas.  Soon, this Curran partnership had become a …:

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… and then, seemingly in no time at all.  S(am) Curran had brought up his personal …:

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… and the partnership was looking like this:

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S(am) Curran got out soon after that, and was duly thanked by the scoreboard:

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We can see the Surrey total on the old scoreboard …:

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... the Surrey total being just about the only thing that the old scoreboard did tell us, during the interval.  That’s the thing about old-school scoreboards.  When they’ve nothing to tell you, they are unable to tell you anything else instead.

Surrey had done well.  Although there had been no outstanding innings in the manner of Kumar Sangakkara, who scored 166 back in September 2015, Surrey had actually made more in their first innings this time around.  Besides S(am) Curran’s fifty, there were also substantial scores from Davies and from Burns, and it all added up.  The stand-out moment of the innings, the sort they call a “champagne moment” on Test Match Special, was when Surrey captain Gareth Batty hit a ferocious six that went smack into the middle of the new scoreboard.  With no apparent harm done to it at all.  Which was impressive on both counts.

Gloucester made a bad start:

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That’s twice I’ve watched Surrey in a 50 overs game, and twice I have seen Jade Dernbach do decisive things.

There followed a promising stand, but it ended too soon, for Gloucester’s purposes:

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I will end with a burst of horizontality.  Darren was kind enough to say that he especially liked the posting I did after our previous Oval expedition which featured lots of adverts piled up in horizontal slices.

Here, which I hope Darren will also like, is another pile of horizontal slices, this time of Gloucester’s last six wickets falling in a rather humiliating heep, and the time at which each wicket fell:

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As you can see, Surrey won easily in the end, with Batty again distinguishing himself with five wickets.  Story of the day: Surrey got in a bit of a mess, but recovered.  Gloucester got in a bit of a mess, never recovered and instead crumbled.  If you’re there, your team winning narrowly may be better, but winning easily is pretty good also.

Thursday August 04 2016

That day out that Darren and I had at the Oval a week ago now, was not quite as supremely great as the earlier day out we had at the Oval, last year, but by any other standard it was a great day out.  Besides which, setting aside the boring matter of which day out was merely better, the differences between these two days out were, to me anyway, very interesting.

Just as happened on September 7th 2015, Darren began by taking us up to the top of the Surrey Pavilion.  I love this building, which was (I just learned) completed in 1898:

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That is a picture I took of this Pavilion, later in the day, when (again just as last time) we descended from on high to view the second half of the game from another level and another angle.  In the foreground we see the Surrey team, who have just come out to field, and the Gloucester openers, who are beginning Gloucester’s reply to Surrey’s 323-8.

But my concern in this posting is not the cricket, very diverting though that was.  What I want to focus in on is the exact spots we were sitting in during the Surrey innings, and the contrasts in what I was able to see and to photo from those two spots.

Let me draw the attention of honourable readers to the seating up there:

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On September 7th 2015, Darren and I were seated pretty close to the front, at the top there, about two rows back, if the picture in this posting is anything to go by.  And from that spot, last September, I also took this photo, off to my right and your left, of the Big Things of London:

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When we got up there last Wednesday just before play was due to start, Darren said: Where d’you want to sit?  And without thinking very much about it, I said: up here.  By which I meant several rows up and back from where we had been earlier.

And from that spot, I took this photo, off to my right and your left, of … well, this:

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I have denied myself any face-saving rotation there, in order to include the tiny bit of nearby building that we see, top right.  That marks the edge of what I could see of central London.  And I couldn’t see nearly so much, Big-Thing-wise, as I had last September, because I was sitting further in.  No Strata (the one with three holes at the top). No Shard.  No Walkie-Talkie.  No Cheesegrater.  And because I couldn’t see all these Big Things, I stopped thinking about what I wasn’t seeing, insofar as I gave it much thought in the first place, and instead photoed other things.  Like the cricket.

And like lots of other architectural stuff that I could still see just as well as last time.  But, I’ll end this posting with a view of some architecture that was rather nearer.  Since I have been discussing stands, here is the new and rather dramatic stand at the Oval, the “OCS” Stand:

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This being the dramatic stand that has made the Oval playing area dramatically smaller.

Sunday July 31 2016

Don’t get me wrong, it was a very fine day indeed.  Deepest thanks to Darren for sharing it with me.  But, it wasn’t the magical day that the game that Darren fixed for us both to see last year was.

There are several reasons for this relative lack of magic.  For starters, last time around, it was all happening, for me, for the first time.  I had never before sat high up in the Surrey Pavilion like that, so last September I was doing that for the very first time.

The game in 2015 was a semi-final and was very tense throughout, in fact the result was in doubt until the final ball.  The game last Wednesday was a handsome win for Surrey, which was good.  But it rather fizzled out at the end, as handsome wins in sport so often do.

But the biggest difference between this game and the previous one was that whereas, in that 2015 game, a cricket legend by the name of Kumar Sangakkara made a superb century, in this game, there was no megastar super-performance, just a succession of very capable Surrey players doing very well, until the game was won.

The nearest thing to a dominant superstar on show last Wednesday was Jason Roy.  Roy is not yet a cricket legend on a par with Sangakkara, and of course he probably never will be, having arrived only rather recently as an England one day and twenty-twenty star.  But he has made one hell of a start, starts being what he specialises in.  He supplied, for example, the rapid start that England had to have if they were to get anywhere near to South Africa’s huge score of 229 in England’s World T20 must-win game back in March of this year, in Mumbai.  Roy hit four fours in the first over of that amazing and ultimately successful chase.  Then, back in England, Roy did brilliantly in the 50 overs games earlier this year against Sri Lanka.  He shared in the huge opening partnership with Alex Hales that won game two, and in game four he made 162, in another dominant England win.

On Wednesday, Roy got the game started in his usual style by hitting the first ball of the match for four.  And I got a photo of that very predictable moment:

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And so it continued, for a short while.  But then, Roy got out for a mere 34, and Surrey needed many more runs to set a decent target.  They got those runs, but the day would have been a whole lot more fun if Roy had hung around for longer.

Here is another and much better picture of Roy in action, which shows his face as well as one of his actions:

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That shot, in both of its two meanings, was shot by a Real Photographer, again at the Oval, last Friday evening, when Roy played exactly the sort of innings that I would loved to have seen him play on Wednesday afternoon.  This was a twenty-overs-each-way game.  Roy again went in first for Surrey.  But this time he stayed in, and slammed 120 not out.  Roy and the formidable Australian, Aaron Finch, shared an opening partnership of 187, and Surrey ended up with 212-4.  This was more than enough to crush Kent, but sadly, it was not enough to get Surrey through to the last eight, because another result went against them.

Darren, having so kindly invited me to accompany him to the Wednesday game, was also at the Oval on Friday evening, when I was busy hosting a meeting at my home.  Perhaps this posting should end now, on that note of, I trust, good humoured envy.  But I want to contrast the events of that game last Friday, which Darren witnessed and which I did not, with what happened in another cricket match, in Sri Lanka, that was happening at the same time.

On Saturday morning, yesterday morning in other words, I followed this other game on Cricinfo. Sri Lanka and Australia were playing out a test match.  Remember those?  The ones that sometimes go on for five whole days?

Sri Lanka, back home but still smarting from their disappointments in England, had got themselves out for a mere hundred in their first innings.  But they then confined Australia to two hundred, and then got a real score in their second innings.  By Saturday morning my time, Australia were struggling to get a draw, on the final day of a rain and light interrupted match.  And in the course of this ultimately unsuccessful struggle, their ninth wicket pair, Nevill and O’Keeffe, resisted the Sri Lankan bowlers for more than twenty overs, without scoring a single run.

Here is a screen snapshot of cricinfo commentary, taken by me during this dot-ball-fest:

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At that point, during over number 77, and as commenter Viran Salgado pointed out towards the bottom of that bit of commentary, it had already been twelve overs of dottiness with no runs having been scored.  And when the ninth wicket eventually fell during over number 86 the score was still stuck on 161, with the final wicket falling three overs later, also at 161.

In other words, on Friday night Jason Roy made 120 and Surrey as a whole amassed 212, in the space of 120 balls.  A few hours later, Australia, in the passage of play in their game against Sri Lanka that I have just described, faced almost exactly the same number of balls as that, and scored a grand total of: no runs.  And in the course of all this relentless blockage, Sri Lanka managed to take: no wickets.  0-0.  Zero for zero.  Bugger all, for bugger all.

It’s not that nothing happened.  It was riveting stuff.  But this extreme contrast does illustrate how the game of cricket is now changing.

Thursday July 28 2016

As I said yesterday, much socialising this week.  Another do tonight, and yesterday, another visit with Darren to the Oval.

One of the advantages of my White Van fetish is that whenever I am waiting to meet someone in London, I can pass the time by photoing White Vans, of which there are invariably some and often many.  So, while I waited to meet Darren, I photoed White Vans, and also a couple of not-so-White ones.

Before elaborating on the vans let me be clear that Darren was not late.  He was spot on time.  I was early.  The trip to the Oval is not a totally familiar one for me, so I made sure I was not late by being early.  Hence these vans.

Pride of place goes to the first van, light green in colour, decorated with the regalia of the Surrey County Cricket Club.  I spotted this vehicle as I was making my way towards the Hobbs Gate, where we were due to meet.  It was parked under one of the Oval’s huge stands.  All the other vans were photoed outside the aforementioned Gate.

By the way, I love what I found when I followed the above link, to the Cricinfo Hobbs profile:

Jack Hobbs was cricket’s most prolific batsman. He finished with 61,237 first-class runs and 197 centuries, most of them stylishly made from the top of the Surrey or England batting orders. And he might have scored many more had the Great War not intervened, or if he hadn’t been inclined to get out shortly after reaching 100 to let someone else have a go.

Anyway, here are the vans:

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1.1: The Surrey CCC van, as related above.

1.2: The first of two snaps with a bike angle.  But, bicycle recovery? This van is for collecting bikes to mend, but not, alas, for recovering bikes that have been stolen.  The bits where it says “We fix bikes” have, for me, an air of clarificatory honesty about them.  Like they were added to lower falsely aroused expectations of daring do against the criminal classes.

1.3: This one I especially like, because I like White Vans and I like signs (by which I mean: I like to notice them).  And here is an example of the former devoted to the latter.  Note in particular: “Health & Safety Signage”.  A big growth area in recent years.

2.1: I think this is my favourite one, of these.  Usually, what I like about the White Vans I photo is the profusion of information that they supply.  But in this case it’s the lack of information that made me smile.  VOITH?  Like: Everyone knows what VOITH is!  But not me.  Turns out it’s an enterprise that makes stuff for cars.  When it says it “builds its partnership with Vauxhall”, this doesn’t mean with Vauxhall the place (which is very near to where I was standing when I took the photo), but rather with Vauxhall the car making enterprise.

2.2: A black van, devoted to cleaning.  Very wise.  One of the problems with White Vans is how dirty they can look, if only slightly dirty.  And if you are a cleaning enterprise – and especially if you are a fantastic cleaning enterprise - you don’t want your vans looking dirty.

2.3: More bike involvement, this time in the form of a Deliveroo biker upstaging a van devoted to motorbikes.  Luckily, I also like to photo Deliveroo bikers.  (See 2.4 here.)

That’s enough vans.

Wednesday July 27 2016

Last weekend and all through this week, despite still not being totally well, I have been doing lots of socialising.  I now face more.  This Friday I have a meeting at my own home (Michael Jennings speaking about Australia).  Today, my cricket buddy Darren and I are going to see Surrey v Gloucs at the Oval.  Plus, The Guru and I are, in the midst of all this, trying to fix a visit by him to see to my big old home computer ("Dawkins" is the name I think I gave it), in time to beat the Windows 10 For Free deadline, which I think is on Friday also.  So, blogging here during the next few days may be more perfunctory than usual.  It may not, but it may.

On the other hand, blogging doesn’t need to take that long, and while doing this apology-for-not=blogging posting, I also concocted another blog posting.  See below.

This is why I make a point of promising nothing, so very frequently.  Once I have promised nothing, my immediate inclination is to break that promise.  Whereas, if I promise something, that is all too likely to be the promise that will get broken.

Wednesday July 20 2016

My entire day today was bent out of shape by a cricket match, between Surrey and Hampshire.  Surrey were trying to bowl out Hants and win, but the pitch was a belter and a draw was the likely result all day long.  Nevertheless, every time the day looked like it had died, Surrey took more wickets.  It reached six down, and Surrey were in with a chance.  But then there was yet another long stand, by two Hampshire guys, in a match distinguished by long stands.  The game had begun with a stand of over two hundred by the Surrey openers, and the Surrey first innings ended with another two hundred stand, unbroken, between the Surrey wicketkeeper and the Surrey captain, Gareth Batty.  So today, Hampshire six down, with the game nearly over.

But then, Batty suddenly got a couple more wickets in the same over, bringing his total for the innings to six and his total for the match to eight, and then Stuart Meaker got another, and suddenly Hampshire were nine down.  Could Surrey finish it?  Earlier in the season, they got another side nine down but then got beaten by a big tenth wicket stand, so nothing was done and dusted until it was done and dusted.  But then Meaker got the final wicket, and it was done and dusted.

Just now I did manage a posting at Samizdata, based on some photos I took out in the blazing sunshine of yesterday afternoon.

The two photos I showed at Samizdata were chosen for their content, not their artistic expression.  Here is one of my favourite photos, from the artistic expression point of view, that I took yesterday:

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Mmmmmm.  Cranes.  And roof clutter.  And The Wheel.

While out and about taking snaps like that, I was also following the Hampshire v Surrey game on my mobile.  When I left my home, Hampshire were nearly all out in their first innings, and Surrey were on course to get them in again and get stuck into their second innings.  But while I was drowning my sorrows in photography, Hampshire’s last wicket pair were frustrating Surrey for the last hour and a half of the day, and Hampshire still hadn’t lost their last wicket at close of play.  This morning, the stand went on, only ending with a run out.  Like I say, this was a match which Surrey always deserved to win, but you never thought they actually would.  And then: they did.

Yesterday, I was opining that you shouldn’t let yourself be at the mercy of popular culture, to the point where you start getting angry about sequels and remakes, in this case the remake of Ghostbusters.  But this is the fate of every true sports fan.  He is at the mercy of events entirely controlled by others, and is doomed to constant disappointment.  But, I suppose, there are enough good days, like today was for me, to make it a satisfactory bargain.

And I really am a true Surrey fan.  While Surrey were piling up the runs on the first day of this game, England were busy being bowled to defeat by Pakistan.  And while this was happening, I was wondering how many Surrey wickets I would surrender to cancel out England wickets.  It turned out: hardly any.

So here, to celebrate, is another photo I took, last year, when I actually went to watch Surrey play:

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That being Gareth Batty.  Man of the Match, and Surrey’s Man of the Season so far.

LATER: Cricinfo agrees:

Batty was not so much leading from the front as picking up those around him, yapping under the helmet and then getting the job done himself. A century in the first innings began his work before two for 78 in the Hampshire reply was bested by a sensational six for 51 in the follow-on. Throw in Stuart Meaker’s reverse swing addled 18 overs of four for 40, and you wonder where the doubt in obtaining a result came from.

But with 10 overs left in the day, hope had all-but gone. At the end of Batty’s 24th over (56th of the match) he walked duck-footed to mid off, shoulders slunk, cap in hand, dreading what might be. Of all long-form cricket’s gut punches, the handshakes after a drawn fixture take the most out of a skipper who has spent the last few hours on top. And Batty’s side had been ahead for the last three days.

Summoning one last push, Batty returned to take two in his next over. Lewis McManus, having started the day with bat in hand, looked like he would finish it, too. But, after six hours and 21 minutes of crease time across both innings, he was finally dismissed to a fast arm ball. Three balls later, Andrew’s outside edge was found with a perfect off spinner. It was left to Meaker to finish things off. Late movement into the right hander did for Gareth Berg, before Mason Crane was the recipient of a bouncer that would haunt the most weathered opening batsmen, let alone a 19-year-old number 10.

Surrey currently sit outside the relegation zone, 10 points away from Nottinghamshire, who have replaced them in the bottom two. Even if Hampshire were to win their game in hand with full bonus points, they would only go one ahead of Surrey. It bears reiterating: rarely will you see a side work so hard to achieve a four day win of this magnitude.

Read the whole thing.

Monday July 04 2016

I am an occasional visitor to Londonist, and I rather think that they’ve made it easier than it used to find be to your way to Oldie But Goldie type postings, of the sort that are not going to lose their appeal merely because they were posted six months or a year ago.

Postings like this one, which steers Londonist readers towards an amazing website, where you can compare old Ordnance Survey maps of London and surrounding areas with how things are now.  As you move around in one of the maps, the other map automatically follows you.  Brilliant.

Says Londonist:

The National Library of Scotland has just made freely available online 16,865 historic Ordnance Survey maps covering Greater London and the south east of England, dating between the 1840s and the 1950s.

Me being me, I compared the Oval cricket ground of old with how it is now:

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Click on that graphic to get a bigger version of it.

Look how the playing area has shrunk, to make way for more places for people to watch play from.  X in each map marks the same spot.  On the left X is way out in the playing area.  On the right, it is on the boundary edge.  No wonder they hit lots more sixes these days.  It’s not just bigger bats.  It’s smaller grounds.

Tuesday June 21 2016

As I write, this game is boiling up nicely, following an England collapse at the start of their run chase.  And then, in the midst of all the drama, there was this:

Ilanks: “Isn’t there a Ben Foakes being discussed as a potential keeper for England. If he’s selected, England could have Stokes, Woakes and Foakes in the line-up!” Yes indeed. And wouldn’t that be A Thing?

A Thing indeed.  And if Chris Woakes was instead Ben Woakes, it would be Ben Stokes, Ben Woakes and Ben Foakes.  An even thingier Thing.

Today Surrey had one of their best days of the season so far, given what a crappy season they’ve had so far.  At the start of today, in their game against Notts at the Oval, Notts were 82-2, in reply to Surrey’s 323, following a very rainy day two.  But this morning, Notts rolled over for only another hundred, and Surrey (who threw away a similar big first innings advantage in an earlier game) then built a big lead.  If Surrey can do tomorrow what they did this morning, they could get their first win of the season.

I am becoming more and more of a Real Cricket Supporter, in the following sense: that my county doing well matters more to me than my country doing well.  I would not have swapped Surrey’s strong position for a better England position earlier this evening, against Sri Lanka.  I would still prefer a Surrey win tomorrow to an England win this evening.  Although, now I think about it, an England loss would be easily corrected by a win next time, but a Surrey win would be far huger for Surrey.  It could, as they say, kick start their season.  So maybe I just prefer a huge win to a nice win.  That could be it.

Ben Foakes, by the way, is the Surrey wicketkeeper.  I knew you’d be excited.  Plus, I heard indefatigable Surrey radio commentator Mark Church say yesterday that the best spin bowler in England just now, if England want a good one for their forthcoming tour of India, is Surrey’s veteran captain Gareth Batty.  Batty’s bowling today: 11.4 overs, 3 maidens, 23 runs, 4 wickets.  I know, I know, it’s almost too much excitement to take, in just one paragraph of one blog posting.  You’d best have a little lie down.

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That guy was photoed last Sunday, watching day one of the Surrey Notts game.  I really should, every now and again, visit the Oval and support Surrey in person, having paid some money.  It looks like I should just about be able to squeeze in.

LATER: Well.  I just nipped out to Sainsburys for a loaf of my favourite sort of bread, and while there I consulted Cricinfo on my mobile, one of the few things that my mobile (as controlled by me) knows how to do non-contemptibly.  (Don’t get me started on phone calls.) It revealed that England needed seven runs to win with one ball to go.  So, that, I assumed, was that.  But when I got home, I learned that Plunkett had hit the last ball for six, and it was a tie!  As you will already know, if you followed the first of the above two Cricinfo links.  Fan electronic bleeping noise tastic.

A DAY LATER: Well, well.  Yesterday morning, Notts went from two down to all out, for a further hundred runs.  This afternoon they went from two down to all out, for less than fifty, and Surrey got their first Championship Division One win of the season.  (Follow the second link above for the details.) Finally.  This time, it was the Surrey spinner whom England are likely to take to India (because he has a big future (unlike Batty)), Zafar Ansari, who did the damage.  11.3 overs, 3 maidens, 36 runs, 6 wickets.  Notts lost their last eight wickets for thirty eight, and crucially, went from 119-2 to 124-6, courtesy entirely of Ansari.  Ansari can also bat.  Moeen Ali look out, he’s coming for you.  Ansari would already be an England player, had he not bust his finger thumb at the end of last season.

LATER: Cricinfo agrees.

Tuesday June 14 2016

So I photo this guy outside Westminster Abbey who is wearing a Chicago Lions shirt:

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Later I ask him what sport the Chicago Lions play.  He doesn’t know, but the magic WWW in the sky knows, because it knows everything that there is to be known.  Turns out the Chicago Lions play rugby. I couldn’t find any Chicago Lions shirts looking like that one, that colour.  But I could find no other Chicago sports team called that, so that must be it.

In the course of googling I also came across some Lion statues in Chicago, and further news of how these Lion statues were made to wear Chicago Bears helmets (American football), and Chicago Blackhawks helmets (ice hockey):

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Such is the world.  Such is Chicago.  Such is the internet.

Saturday June 11 2016

To you, yes, I hope that you had one, but actually what I’m saying is: I did.

England came belting back against Sri Lanka at Lords.  After sampling the London weather last night, I had a feeling that might happen.  It was not bright and sunny, more overcast and sweaty.  It felt like swing bowler weather, which made SL’s reply yesterday afternoon (to England’s 416) of 162-1 rather strange.  Dropped catches apparently.  Well, this morning, order was restored and SL are now 218-6.  Woakes, luckless yesterday, got a wicket with his first ball.  England now look likely winners of that series 3-0.  The longer the series goes on, and the more the Lankans get acclimatised (following seriously inadequate practising games), the more it counts beating them.  The first game, where SL collapsed twice, meant nothing, I reckon.  I’ve been following the score here.

Deep thanks to Michael Vaughan, who mentioned on one of the bits of cricket commentary I listened to that England were also playing Australia.  At rugby.  Aus 28 Eng 39.  Must have been some game, and according to the BBC live updates, it was.

And before all that, I even managed a quick (they’re often the best) Samizdata posting, about something odd I heard on the radio, about the EU.

Here is one of the funner pictures I took while out and about last night, this one taken at the Parliament end of Whitehall:

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Great reflections in her sunglasses, right?  On the left, as we look, the two devices she is holding, and on the right, you can just see a tiny Big Ben.  Is that red thing she is holding a charger?

Plus an elephant.

The onward march of mobile phones into photography continues apace.

I haven’t always been blogging here as early as I’d like to in recent days, but today, I did it.

If you had as good a morning as I did, lucky you.

Tuesday May 24 2016

Surrey being in Division One of the County Championship has, so far, not been nearly as much fun as I thought it would be.  After that great day out last year, I toyed with being a Surrey member this year.  That toying is now on hold.  Actually, I don’t want to spend anything like that much time attending to cricket, but what I mean is: I am now really, really not tempted.

The other team promoted with Surrey at the end of last year was Lancashire.  Look what happened today between Lancashire and Surrey, up there in Lancashire.  That’s pretty much exactly what England did to Sri Lanka.

As someone said, soon after this debacle:

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Memo-to-self: It’s only a game.

Monday May 02 2016

A week ago and more, the story was that Spurs were hunting them down, waiting for them to falter.  But it was Spurs who faltered, twice.  They had leads against both the last two teams the have played, but all they could muster was just the two points.  So Leicester, and most of the rest of the world that cares about such things, is now celebrating:

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All season long, people have been saying that Leicester would falter.  Now people are saying that this is a one-off, and that they’ve been lucky not to have more injuries and to have picked a moment when the hitherto best teams were all “rebuilding”.  We’ll see.  Leicester remind me a bit of Nottingham Forest of old, who were also said not to be front rankers, and had quite a few players rescued from the scrap heap.  They did pretty well, for a while.

Spurs?  Well, they have a new stadium coming soon, so there’s a decent chance this is Spurs on the up too.  On the other hand, there’s nothing like new architecture to take people’s eyes off the ball.  Again, we shall see.

As frequently threatened, this blog is going more and more to be about the process of getting old.  Yesterday’s posting was about that, and so is this one.

I have spent the morning doing various household trivia, internetting, and then, in particular, come eleven o’clock, keeping up with county cricket.  This really takes me back, to the time when, as a small boy, I was glued to my radio, keeping up with county cricket.  Then as now, just the numbers were enough to tell me a lot of what was going on.

Second childhood is catered to by tradesmen with just as much enthusiasm as first childhood is, the difference between that we second childhooders now make all our own decisions.

When I was a child, a magic machine that trotted out not just county cricket scores but entire continuously updated county cricket scorecards would have been a marvel.  Now, I have it, and just at the moment in my life when my actual life is winding down, and county cricket again seems like something interesting.  Between about 1965 and about 1995, I paid almost zero attention to county cricket.  I could not have told you who was winning or who had last won the County Championship during those decades.  The newspapers and the telly had remained interested only in international cricket, there was not yet any internet, and above all, I had a life.  But now that life as such is slipping from my grip, county cricket becomes an attraction again.

Notoriously, old age is the time when you remember your childhood better than anything else, or at least you think you do.  And the things that had intense meaning then have intense meaning still.  So it is that much of commerce now consists of digging into the manic enthusiasms that reigned six or seven decades ago, and rehashing them as things to sell now.  On oldie TV, such as I was watching last night, you see shows devoted to the obsessions of the nearly (but not quite yet) forgotten past all the time, every night.  As the years advance, shows about WW2 are succeeded by shows about 1950s dance halls or crooners or early rock and rollers, or ancient cars and trams and steam trains.  Often the shows now are about how the steam trains themselves are being revived, by manic hobbyists who have just retired from doing sensible things.

I know the feeling.  One of the best train journeys I recall from my boyhood was in the Cornish Riviera Express, driven by a huge 4-6-2 steam engine (for real, not as a “heritage” exercise) in about 1952, out of Waterloo.  I can still recall leaning out of the window on a curve, and seeing the locomotive up at the front, chomping away in all its glory, gushing smoke fit to burst.  I never quite turned into a full-blooded trainspotter, but like I say, I know the feeling.

A bit of a meander, I’m afraid.  But don’t mind me.  You’d best be going now.  I’m sure you have more important things on your mind.