Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Category archive: Radio
On Monday last I attended a BBC Radio 4 event, at which Evan Davis interviewed Deirdre McCloskey:
Yes that is the same screen, and it remained the same colour throughout. In “reality” I mean. If you were there, which I was.
But digital cameras, when set on “automatic” as mine always is, have minds of their own when it comes to colour. One picture happens to have a lot of a certain colour in it, and it changes the overall colour of everything to compensate. For instance, when you take indoor pictures but there is outdoor sky to be seen, then even if in reality the sky is deepest grey, the camera turns the sky deepest blue, and the indoor bits orange. Likewise, when the sky is blue, but if you are outdoors, the camera, for no reason, is liable to fill a clear blue sky with pollution and turn it a sort of slate colour. What was happening here is that these two pictures are both cropped. But the left one was only cropped a bit, while the left one was cropped a lot. And the stuff that got cropped out of the left one meant that the screen was no longer green. It was blue.
As to what Deidre McCloskey actually said, well the thing I was most intrigued by was that she was entirely cool about being asked about how she used to be Donald McCloskey. In which connection, don’t you just love how that circumstance is alluded to in this:
That’s an article reproduced at her website. So, is that her handwriting? Could well be.
I doubt the medical side of the switch was as easy to do as that.
The libertarian propaganda side of this is that McCloskey is a character, rather than just a boring bod in a suit. The usual evasive sneers against pro-capitalists just won’t work on her. And I even think it helps that (maybe because of those medical dramas - don’t know) her voice is a strange hybrid of male and female, often sounding a bit like electrical feedback. She also has a slight but definite stutter.
The reason I feel entitled to mention all this is that it clearly does not bother her, or if it does she has learned very well to stop it bothering her, and indeed to make a communicational virtue of it all. I guess she figures if you are saying interesting stuff, it really doesn’t matter if your voice sounds a bit funny and if people sometimes have to wait a second or two before hearing the next bit of it. In fact it probably even helps, because it gets everyone listening, proactively as it were, guessing what is coming instead of just hearing it.
See also: Hawking.
Referred to by a Radio 3 announcer, this afternoon:
If Music is a Place - then Jazz is the City, Folk is the Wilderness, Rock is the Road, Classical is a Temple.
I heard it, googled it, and was able to copy-and-paste it from here.
I’m watching and listening to the England v Australia test match at Chester-le-Street, and the first hour of the fourth day has been a cracker. Stumps flying, a bouncer fended into the gully, and a flurry of boundaries from England as they try to set Australia a decent target. As of now, England are 277 ahead.
There has been much discussion from the TMS commentators about how lots of wickets have fallen in the morning, this morning being no exception. But, that being the case, tomorrow morning could be very important, which they have not been discussing. If England can just stick around for another few overs, Australia won’t be able to chase down all these runs today, and will have to bat tomorrow morning. That could be decisive. The prospect of them having to bat tomorrow morning may cause them to hurry today, or at least be in two minds about whether they should hurry.
All that said, this series has an air of insignificance about it. This is because there is an imbalance built into these two series, in England and then this winter in Australia. Whoever wins in England has to do it again in Australia to keep the bragging rights for a decent length of time. Whoever wins in Australia gets those bragging rights. If England win in England but Australia then win in Australia, Australia end up the winners.
The only big deal about this series, following that Lord’s slaughter, was: could England make it 5-0 and avenge that earlier 5-0 thrashing that Flintoff’s team got handed in Australia a few years back? Bragging rights from a 5-0 thrashing last for ever. That’s the rule. But England couldn’t win at Old Trafford, in fact only the weather stopped England losing. So, no permanent bragging rights.
Bresnan out for a crucial 45, England 285 ahead with just one wicket left. But hello. A dropped catch in the deep. Steve Smith. He doesn’t usually drop anything.
Anderson now prodding away defensively. It’s like England have worked out what I said about tomorrow morning even if the commentators haven’t twigged that. That flurry of fours was great. But dot balls are now very good too. But, another four from Swann! He now has 22. And another! A real one day four, where he stepped back to square leg and bashed it through the covers. It’s the kind of game where every ball feels like a tiny change of balance in the match. “That dropped chance has already cost nine runs.” Make that thirteen because there goes another four. England 298 ahead. Anderson caught behind! Spin! Good for Swann! Australia need 299. “A morning of fluctuating fortunes.” I’ll say.
Finally, they’re talking about the tomorrow morning effect, and the fact that Australia will be pushed to get all these runs without England having a second new ball. Mornings have brought wickets in this game. So have new balls. What we need now is a couple of Aussie wickets in the twenty minutes between now and lunch. There’s every chance of that.
No. Australia 11-0 at lunch.
LATER: According to Simon Hughes, Keith Miller slept with Princess Margaret.
One benefit of meeting up with fellow libertarians is that together we sort out the world. But there is also the matter of sorting out the ongoing activities of the libertarian movement itself.
When I finally got to the Rose and Crown did some exploratory chit-chatting with Simon Gibbs, about such things as future writings for Libertarian Home by me (I promise nothing but hope to do something) and about how he does his videos. I would like to get good at doing videos, but don’t know where to start. Except now I do. Simon has agreed to teach me what he does. He uses Adobe Premier Elements. So, that’s what I have in mind to be using. I also showed him my camera, the reviews of which when I first bought it said it would be good at video. Will that do? Yes, he said.
In exchange I was able to offer Simon some tips about how to do radio in general and the BBC’s Moral Maze in particular, which he was nearly on last week, and will surely be on Real Soon Now.
I daresay similar conversations were going on elsewhere in the room, where other libertarian doings were likewise being furthered.
I also got to talk with Richard Carey, who is to be my next Last Friday speaker but one. Which means that I now have my next three Last Fridays sorted. February 22: Michael Jennings. (We now – at last - have Samizdata author archives!) March 29: Richard Carey. April 26: Rob Fisher. Michael will be telling us some of the things he has learned about the globe and its ways of organising itself from his various globe trottings. Rob will be talking about open source software. And now it is pretty much settled that Richard will talk about the relationship between libertarianism and Austrian Economics. Excellent. Email me (see “contact” top left here) if you want to know more about any of these events.
Oddly enough, the one thing I didn’t think to do at this gathering was take any photos. I was similarly forgetful on the Last Friday of January.
Neither omission was at all clever. Photos create an aura of significance, a penumbra of meaningfulness, a force field of where-it’s-at-ness. Not much. A bit. We can all do out bit, and bits like that are easily done by me, except that on these two nights, they weren’t.
And after all that I went home, watched some TV, and then went to bed.
Indeed. My own happy new year was delayed by illness. During New Year’s Eve and for a lot of today, I was ill (which meant that I had to pass on all this). But then, late this afternoon, quite suddenly, I switched from being definitely ill, to recovering. I am not fully recovered, still having the remains of a head ache. But I am nevertheless in that state of post-illness contentment that comes from knowing that I definitely am recovering.
So, I am now having a happy new year, and I hope that my small band of regular readers having been having a happy new year also.
I am now listening to this (that’s YouTube sound only) over the top version of the Blue Danube on the piano, played by the wonderful Ben Grosvenor, on the radio. Lovely, albeit mad. (Lovely because mad.) Later I will record the Vienna New Year’s Day concert from off of the telly, with its superb music and its vomit-inducingly kitsch-ridden ballet dancing. The visuals being because I like to watch conductors and orchestras at work. I can just not watch the balletic ghastliness.
Well here I am watching England v Scotland in the Rugby World Cup, and so far it’s been almost all Scotland, maybe because it’s raining and they love that. Only after about half an hour have England started to do anything. Parks has landed two tricky penalties into the wind, with the second one being adjudicated with the help of television. A first, apparently. And until just now, Wilkinson was on 0 and 3. 0 and 3. Wilkinson. It’s now 1 and 4, with Scotland leading 6-3, but if England can’t rely on Wilkinson, then as all their enemies (i.e. the rest of the world) say, what do they have?
The scrum seems to be a perpetual bore, with all this “touch” pause “pause” pause “engage” nonsense from the ref, which (a) seems to go on for ever, and which (b) still falls to pieces. However, this time, it is only the England scrum that is falling to pieces.
Drop goal from Dan Parks, and at half time it’s England 3 Scotland 9. Where was Parks and his drop goaling when Scotland were playing Argentina? Can England pull themselves together and win this? My understanding is that if they don’t win, they’ll be in the strong, otherwise Northern Hemisphere half of the draw, and after losing to Scotland won’t frighten anyone there, except themselves.
If Scotland win, but without the bonus point from winning by eight points (or whatever it is) or more, they won’t go through at all. So at least England might take Scotland with them into nowhere land.
They’re showing the England scrum giving away penalties. Not pretty. It’s all looking very much like Rugby is Only A Game.
There’s just been a great tackle by Tui … langi? Followed by some England attacking down the left. Better. But Scotland are doing well at the line-out. England back on the attack. If they can keep hold of the ball they look a threat.
Another scrum, more grief for England.
When the weather is wet, rugby is more of a lottery. Here in England we are having a first burst of truly hot (as well as cloudless) weather of the entire year so far. Hot weather is left wing. Have you noticed that?
England have just won a Scotland scrum! England attack. England knock-on. Too many England errors. But, another England turn over at the scrum. Better. Wilkinson misses a drop goal. He’s the weak link. I’ll say it again. Wilkinson is the weak link. Is this his last England game? Nevertheless, England as a whole look stronger. If they could just score a try. Not this time, England give it away and Scotland attack. Scotland nearly score! Scotland penalty, it’s good. Scotland need to win by “8 points or more” and now lead by 9.
Until today I was happy with England’s progress, and may yet be, if they can win this. Hey, Wilkinson puts over a drop goal! Scotland back needing more points. As I was saying, I was happy with England. Everyone moaned about their early wins, but at least they were wins. Argentina are hellishly difficult to beat, and England beat them.
Lots of displacement activity from me, rearranging CDs in CD shelves. Another penalty success from Wilkinson! England look threatening now. England 9 Scotland 12. If England can just scramble a win here, I’ll be back defending them.
What happens if it ends in a draw?
Another Wilkinson penalty attempt. Just short.
The England scrum seems to be working better now. The reason I’m unclear about the details of this game is that another of my displacement activities just now is listening to CD Review, where they’re comparing all the Bruckner 8s.
Penalty to England. If this goes over, it becomes 12 all, with minutes left. If it stays like that, then, according to my calculations, England will win the group. But, England go to the corner.
Ashton scores on the right! England ahead! “You can only feel sympathy for Scotland!” Well, I can think of a few other feelings I can feel. Hah!!! Toby Flood gave the scoring pass, a big miss-out looper. He seems to have made a difference.
No swallow diving by Ashton this time. Flood nails the conversion. Flood is looking very good. 16-12. That conversion means Scotland have to score a try, and, well, until now, Scotland haven’t done tries. We’re past the 80 minutes mark, the next stoppage does it. England win!
I have lots of recordings of Bruckner 8, but none of three the BBC has just recommended. Bugger.
So, it’s official. England are now the Germany of the rugby World Cup. They look rubbish in early games. But then the prettier teams knock each other out, and hey presto, a month later England are still in it. That’s what happened last time. I hope that happens again.
Apparently Tonga beat France. Hah!! (All the pool results so far are to be found here.) Looks like if Tonga could only have beaten Canada also, that would have meant France being out of it. I think. Antoine Clarke (pronounced Claire for the duration) won’t be happy.
The cricket County Championship ended on Thursday, and I am now suffering severe withdrawal symptoms, having this year got completely sucked into it. Surrey, my preferred county (on account of me having been born and raised in it and it having won the County Championship every year from when I was four to when I was ten) got into a promotion battle. To win promotion to Division One they had (a) to win their last four games, and (b) to get enough bonus points (which you get for batting and bowling well in the first inningses) to get them ahead of the opposition. Winning one County Championship game is hard. Winning four is a considerable achievement. They did win four, which at first looked totally impossible. They did get just enough bonus points. And they got promoted. I tracked all this, with growing fascination and growing admiration, because I wanted to, and because, thanks to the www and local radio, I could.
It was a three horse race, from which two horses would be promoted, between Middlesex, Northants and Surrey, the three of them in that order when the final round of games began, last Monday morning. If all three won their final games (which they all did) then Middlesex, way out in front, would be Division Two champs, which they were. The interesting action concerned Northants and Surrey, the former being ahead of the latter by one point when the final round of games began. Surrey had one more win than Northants, so if Surrey got one more bonus point than Northants in the final games, with both winning, they’d have equal points totals and Surrey would would be promoted.
The other thing you need to know about Division Two of the County Championship is that this year they have been using a kind of cricket ball which has two important properties. It is very hard to bat against when it is new. And it is very easy to bat against when it is old. What this means is that batsmen who can merely survive when the ball is new are at least as valuable as batsmen who can flog it around to all parts when the ball is old.
On Monday morning, Surrey, batting first against Derbyshire, lost two very early wickets, captain Hamilton-Brown, and Ramprakash. (Ramps has finally, it would seem, run out of puff. He has had a bad season, for the first time in well over a decade. But part of his problem is that he bats at number three and frequently goes into bat when that ball they are now using is new.) Things looked very bad. But Steve Davies (badly dropped early on) and Zander de Bruyn (pronounced de Brain) then batted until lunch, taking the score past 100, in other words they not only survived, they actually flourished. They both got out soon after lunch, and Tom Maynard then made a century, others also chipping in with important support. But that very early batting by Davies and de Bruyn was crucial. Thanks to Surrey batting aggressively, they were 400 for 8 by the end of day one, which got them maximum batting bonus points. But if it hadn’t been for Davies and de Bruyn on that first morning, they wouldn’t have got anywhere near to 400 (the exact number of runs you have to get to get maximum batting points), because by the time the ball had got old and easy to hit everywhere, the way Maynard did hit it everywhere, Surrey would have been more like 200 all out. Even if they had then contrived to win the game, their bonus points would not have been sufficient.
Northants, meanwhile, also batted well enough to go on and win their game, but they were all out in their first innings, on the Tuesday morning, for 343. They also needed to get to 400, given that Surrey already had. But they didn’t. Ergo, they lost out on promotion by two points out of 227.
I love that I knew all this (scroll down here for all the rules about how many points you get for what) at the time, and consequently knew exactly what was going on, and why the batting of Davies and de Bruyn was so crucial, even as it was happening. Cricinfo and BBC Radio London (aka Mark Church) were my two main sources, but in truth Mark Church, busy describing a cricket match, doesn’t always get all the subtleties of things like bonus points exactly right. For that, you really need to be able to read something.
Mark Church is an amiably rambling old codger on the radio, but an intensely scripted, driven, humourless young professional on Surrey TV. Odd. Something to do with doing radio for six hours on end each time, but telly for more like six minutes each time. Surrey TV’s picture and camera coverage is now appalling, but give it a few years ...
Davies and de Bruyn weren’t the only ones doing vital stuff for Surrey. I pick them out merely because what they did was not quite as obvious as other other stuff that Surrey also did (or even as obvious as other things that Davies and de Bruyn did), like win four games in a row, which was, as I say, an amazing achievement. Much more obvious was the contribution of Pragyan Ojha, the Indian spinner that Surrey signed for their last few games. The thing about him was that he was not only able to bowl well. He was able to bowl well when the ball was old and when nobody else could bowl well. So he kept opposing sides down to much lower totals.
In general, Surrey’s bowling just gets better and better, which tells me that their new coach, Adams, is very good at coaching indeed. Surrey not only triumphed themselves this year. They also supplied England with two of their best new regular bowlers, Tremlett and Dernbach, supplying England with regular bowlers meaning, basically, saying goodbye to them. Linley and Meaker, the next two Surrey quick bowlers in the queue, have done very well. Hence, along with Ojha, all those wins. You can’t win proper games of cricket without getting people out.
As for Surrey’s batting, I even suspect that Ramps may have done them a favour by not scoring centuries two games out of every three. That meant the other batters couldn’t say, oh well, Ramps will bat properly, we don’t have to. They had to. They did.
Talking of proper cricket, two days after getting promoted, Surrey also won themselves an improper cricket title, the forty overs each way slog final against Somerset having been at Lord’s on Saturday. Ojha didn’t play, but Surrey did play numerous other spinners, who tied Somerset into all kinds of knots. In slogfests, the slower it comes at you, the less it just bounces off your bat to the boundary. You have to really hit slow deliveries, and that can get you out. Surrey made a bit of a meal of slogging off the runs, and rain complicated things, but they never really looked like not winning.
So, Surrey promoted. Surrey win a cup competition. The other London county also promoted.
Plus, England beat India 8-0. 4-0 in the tests, once in the twenty over slog, and 3-0 in the fifty over slog series. Surrey have a bowling line-up India could only dream of. (Why Odja didn’t do any bowling for India this summer is very mysterious to a Surrey fan like me, although I presume English 2nd Div batters are far worse at playing spin than sub-continentals in test matches, so they didn’t realise how good he’d be until he proved it for Surrey, too late.)
Cricket lovely cricket.
Actually, the funniest single thing in the entire cricket season was the extraordinary public attack launched by the Chairman of Yorkshire CC on his own players, Yorkshire having this year been relegated to Division Two. (So Surrey won’t play Yorkshire next season either.) In the same season that Lancashire won the Championship, which won’t have improved his mood any. (No more Roses matches in the Championship.) Usually when sportsmen do badly these days, those in charge of them are impeccably polite about them in public, taking “full responsibility” for their own errors, blah blah, and keeping any complaints about their underlings strictly private. Look at Indian captain Dhoni’s relentless public politeness, every time he was interviewed after yet another Indian debacle. But t’ Yorkshire Chairman went ballistic.
Last night I did a Samizdata posting about a BBC Radio 4 programme on the psychology of the global warming debate. Then, since one of his commenters had mentioned in passing that this programme was coming up, and what with him having long specialised in the subject, I thought maybe Bishop Hill might be willing to give my Samizdata posting a mention. So I emailed him with the link, on the off chance. And sure enough, there it is, generously quoted, in the latest (as I write this) Bishop Hill posting. I have just emailed him thank you.
It says a little something about how well Bishop Hill has been doing that now it is a Samizdata contributor hoping that Bishop Hill will give a plug to a Samizdata posting. I can just about remember when we were plugging him, and he was emailing us his thankyous. Those days are now long gone. Another straw in that wind: five comments so far on the Samizdata piece, one by me. On the Bishop Hill posting, already, seemingly in no time: eleven.
When trying to think of an example of significant bloggers to mention in my previous posting, I found myself giving equal billing to Guido Fawkes ... and to Bishop Hill. And I think that’s now about right. I don’t know the numbers, but, in terms of impact and influence in their distinct arenas, I think they are very roughly on a par. And that’s absolutely not to do down Guido. It’s to do up the Bishop.
I’m now watching the TV highlights of the final day at Sydney, and now I’m celebrating. Like the England team itself, I am now happily counting the chickens of this series, because they have now all hatched. Three innings victories, to set against the one weirdly big defeat inflicted by the otherwise ineffective Mitchell Johnson at Perth. Wow. Was there ever such a tonking in a series the win-lose-draw result of which was still in doubt as the last game began? The Guardian reports, in this, that a Sydney Daily Telegraph blogger has opined thus:
A 3-1 result flatters Australia.
The series win count for the last four Ashes series now stands at England 3 Australia 1. But because of that 2006 Australia 5 England 0 bollocking, and because an outclassed Australia did still sneak one win this time around, the test match win count for the last four series is: Australia 8 England 7. How about that?
Anyway, a few more random thoughts and a little more linkage. I don’t normally have asterisk type gaps between this bit of a blog posting and the next one, but this time, I think it may help. If you get bored, don’t give up on on the whole thing. Just skip down to the next asterisk.
A reason that so many of us find it hard to think of Jimmy Anderson as the great bowler he surely is may be that, when he takes a big top order wicket that really matters, he celebrates by running about and skipping and high-fiving with both hands, and jumping up and down like an excited girl on her birthday. Yes, he’s doing it again, on the telly, as he takes the ninth Aussie wicket.
While doing his regular bowling, and when reacting to bowling disappointment, Anderson has learned to get his “body language” right, i.e. suitably statuesque and impervious and manly and undefeated:
“Body language is a huge thing,” he is reported as saying. “I try to keep my shoulders back now and to be positive. In the past I’ve been pretty average at that.”
The point being that he has had to make himself do this. It does not come naturally to him. And as I say, when he takes an important wicket his default body language (happy version) still asserts itself. When he gets a big success, there is no still, calm posing, like Flintoff did, and none at all of the even better unposed pose, so to speak, where the triumphant bowler is an expressionless tower of calm in a crazy sea of team-mate congratulation. Anderson is the opposite of that. Most of the stills of him celebrating don’t show this, because they usually freeze him into a pose of some sort. You have to watch him on the telly to see what a girlie man he still is, when very happy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. If he carries on bowling for England like he has in this series, he can do it in a bikini for all I care. There was a great self-send-up by Anderson in one of the Swann videos, where he celebrated his feminine side by appearing with his hair wrapped in a towel, girlie style. Yet “Anderson” is now going to be on lists also containing words like “Larwood”, “Tyson”, “Snow” and “Botham”?
Anderson took twenty four wickets in the series, without once taking five in one innings. Has that ever happened before? Those numbers speak both to Anderson’s relentless leadership of the England bowlers, and the fact that he was always followed by the other bowlers also taking wickets, every time. In a team with less good other bowlers, Anderson might have taken even more wickets. But, England would not have won the series.
As for the other dominant England player in this series, did you know that although Alastair Cook may look like a movie star, he talks like Noel Fielding? Do people realise how hilarious this will be when Cook is the captain? Plus: is that an original observation? You can’t google to see if anyone else has said this because it’s Noel Fielding. There’s a lot of fielding in cricket reports so you get a million irrelevant hits.
Cook quote (from an admiring piece about England coach Andy Flower):
We’ve had an amazing two months since we got here but we’ve already said we want to improve, that’s one of our team ethoses,” said Alastair Cook, whose own partnership with Flower grew in stature during his spell as captain in Bangladesh, and whose tally of 766 runs was the outstanding performance of the Ashes.
Shouldn’t that be “ethoi”?
In other England batting news, Ian Bell has finally learned how to be a tough bastard by doing cage fighting.
Good teams – in fact good enterprises, groups, firms, outfits, operations of any kind – get lots of luck, or they seem to. This is because when they get a bit of luck, they make maximum use of it.
Trott, supposedly a clogger in the field, runs out Katich for a duck in the first over at
Melbourne Adelaide, and soon after that Australia are three down for two wickets. The Perth blip is immediately reduced to a blip. England are on their way to their first win.
At Sydney, Cook gets caught off a no ball when in the forties, and goes on to make 189. Bell challenges a caught behind, gets away with it, and goes on to make another hundred. Prior, who also made a hundred in that last huge Sydney innings, when asked what had changed for him as a batsmen as the series went on, said that he just got luckier. If an Aussie had been caught off of a no ball in this series when in the forties, he would soon have got out for about fifty, and we would all have forgotten. In fact, the Aussies did have lots of luck, as all sides do in cricket games, in the form of close play-and-misses, nearly catches, balls shading the stumps, nearly run-outs, nearly lbws, etc., but because they did not exploit these bits of luck, we don’t now remember them. There was general commentator agreement that, on the first morning at Sydney when England got just the one wicket off the final ball of the session, England could in another version of the same morning have got nearer to five wickets, so well did they bowl but so lucky were the Australian batters. But that is now quickly being forgotten, because soon after that Australia were their usual 140 for 5 or whatever.
The English celebrations immediately following the Sydney win, consisting of journos and commentators talking to England players, featured a perfect storm of sporting cliches, “perfect storm” being one of the cliches, or so I seem to recall. Strauss in particular spoke almost entirely in verbal plasticene, and the others mostly copied him. “The guys deserve all the credit in the world, and not just the players but also the backroom staff”. “Pressure”. “Bowled in the right areas.” “We stuck to our plans.” Thank God for Swann. “So, Swann, what did Strauss bring to this team?” Swann: “Nothing. Nothing at all.” Looks at other England player standing next to Swann, who goes along with this joke: “No, nothing whatsoever.” Both together: “Nothing.” Strauss joins in: “Well I was going to congratulate the other players, but I don’t think I will now.” Ho, ho. Under Swann’s influence, even Strauss was saying unprepared, vaguely funny things. But it couldn’t last. “But seriously, the guys deserve all the credit in the world and not just the players but also the backroom staff, the bowlers bowled in the right areas, we stuck to our plans, pressure pressure pressure, blah blah blah, cliché cliché cliché.” All true of course.
Provided you weren’t trying to listen to it on Radio 4:
It was unfortunate – some might say extraordinary – coincidence that it was the third time in the series that Radio 4 had cut to the shipping forecast at the moment of an England victory, missing the climax to all three of the team’s Test wins.
Sam Warburton, thanks for the best feedback of the day so far: “I reckon my phone must be Australian. When I try to text ‘Ashes’, predictive text suggests ‘cries’.”
To get a bit more serious about the Australian cricketing pickle, I earlier said that Michael Clarke had a chance in this final game to strengthen his claim to be the next Australian captain for real, rather than just as a stand-in for Ponting. Strangely, I rather think he has done that, despite the immensity of the defeat his team suffered. His second innings 41 may not seem like much, but until Smith went into futile gesture mode right at the end of the game, it was the top Australian second innings score, and was made under immense England pressure. More to the point, Clarke looked the part when talking to the journos, or he did to me. At least, with his talk about learning from England, he seemed to communicate an understanding of the scale of the defeat, while nevertheless managing not to subject Australia to a public psychological disintegration of the Kim Hughes 1981 variety. I now rate Clarke as a possible regular captain more highly than I did before this final match, although that isn’t saying much.
I see that another Guardian guy, Kevin Mitchell, agrees:
Clarke has impressed immensely in his brief tenure. He has been derided in the media, booed in the stands and utterly destroyed in the scorebook. Yet he has kept his explanations short and considered, neither railing at provocative questions nor dodging the really tough ones.
As for all the rumours flying around that some of the Australian players don’t rate Clarke very highly, well, they are in no position to expect their opinions about how well or badly they either have been lead (by Ponting) or will be lead (by Clarke) to have any great influence on anyone, given how they performed in this series, and given that about a third to a half of them may well be out of test cricket in a couple of years.
But here is some serious consolation for Aussies. I met up with Tom Burroughes last night, and he told me that somebody or other has now proved that countries doing better economically always do worse at sport. Not enough desperation to do well because if you don’t do well you rot in the slums, presumably. Too much else to do that is profitable and/or fun. The Aussie economy is motoring just now, compared to most other places. England’s, on the other hand, …
Since it’s Friday, here is this, which is a reminder of better Aussie times. (Warning: best to keep the sound down. The woman making the video occasionally shouts.) It’s Boxing Day at the Melbourne test in 2006. So very different from the 2010 Melbourne Boxing Day nightmare, which was the defining day of this latest series. At the time I speculated that while England were then very much on top, Australia might yet get up off the floor and land a few more big punches of their own. Because, you know, cricket is a Funny Old Game blah blah, and they just might. They never did.
31-0 after the first hour of the first day of the final game of this Ashes series, at Sydney.
This match is a big chance for Michael Clarke to grab the captaincy. Had Ponting not broken his finger, Ponting would surely have been captain until the end of this series. Making Clarke captain for this one game, after the Melbourne debacle, would have then been a Big Decision because it would have suggested they were committed to Clarke in the longer run, and the Big Decisions are surely all being postponed by Australia just now. Get the Ashes out of the way, for better or for worse, then have a big sit-down and decide about everything. That must surely be their plan. For a start they probably need a new bunch of selectors, or so everyone seems to be saying. Clarke’s problem is that he hasn’t really looked the part. He reminds me of Kim Hughes, who cried when Australia lost in 1981, and I bet lots of Australians think something like that too. But now that he is the captain, even if only as a stopgap, he has a chance to look the part in a way that he hasn’t looked it until now. Ponting’s finger could be the difference between Clarke being the next Australian captain for real, and them picking someone else, like Haddin. Of course, if England win again, and Clarke cries about it ...
The first rule of captaincy is: have good players. The second is: be lucky. So far Clarke is being lucky. Australia now 45-0. That’s way better than the average Australian first innings, first day start in this series. Swann is just coming on.
Without success. But Tremlett has looked good throughout, and has now got a wicket, just before lunch. Hughes, surprise surprise. Australia 55-1. After lunch, new guy Khawaja starts. I fancy Tremlett to get more. I said Tremlett might do well. That wicket changes things. England are on their way.
Meanwhile, if post mortems do turn out to be in order for Australia, one of the more persuasive ones I’ve read lately has been by Scyld Berry, which puts the blame on Twenty20 cricket. Too many Aussie batters able to smash it about for an hour. Not enough able to bat for a day or more. England, as Berry points out, have three top order men, all of whom have got hundreds in this series, who are not now in the England T20 side: Strauss, Cook and Trott. Their one batting failure, Collingwood, is the captain of England at T20, and the other big England T20 man, Pietersen, has had his batting problems recently.
Is cricket slowly dividing into two entirely separate games?
Khawaja two and four off his first two balls. The radio commentators very impressed. They even mentioned Gower’s first ball as a test batsman, which also went for four. 61-1.
Radio 3 is overdosing on Mozart just now. Every note he ever wrote is being broadcast this week, apparently.
I’ve just been listening to Donald MacLeod playing recordings of some of Mozart’s very earliest pieces, all very diverting and entertaining. Right at the end of the show MacLeod reminded us that Mozart was, although MacLeod did not use this phrase, entirely home schooled, as supervised by his famous dad, Leopold. Mozart never went to school at all. Too busy working, as a composer and performer.
One of Mozart’s childhood companions (and yes, home schooled children do tend to have companions) said that Mozart might, had he not been so closely watched and taught by adults in his early years, especially Leopold of course, and steered towards honest employment so early, have become … a criminal. Mozart was essentially amoral, the friend said, and constantly tempted by every passing novelty. (It was indeed like that all his life, which was one of extravagance and debt, as well as musical genius of course.)
Had Mozart not been taught, very early on, how to make money as a musician, said the childhood friend, he might simply have grabbed it wherever he could.
By lunch on the first day of the fourth test at the MCG, Australia had already lost vital wickets, and also those of Hughes and Ponting.
I slept through the beginning and only awoke and searched out R5LiveSportX (my subconscious wanted to know what the score was) as they were discussing the wicket of Hughes, and right after that Ponting got out. Big news: Watson was already out. And then, just before lunch and just before a shower began, Hussey was out caught behind off Jimmy A.
After England went one up at Adelaide and before the previous test at Perth that Australia won
by an innings, I was a lone voice of sanity telling England fans to calm down and stop assuming that Australia was now a failed state. Now everyone will be wallowing hysterically in sanity, pointing out that Australia were four down by lunch on the first day at Perth and still won that one by several thousand runs. Now, everyone will be saying that England should not be counting their chickens and that four swallows do not make a test match morning.
Yes they do. Let me go out on a limb here and say that England have made a very good start.
. . . W . . | . . . . W . | . W
Australia 77-8. I told you it was a good start by England.
LATER: Australia 98 all out.
LATER: I just want to have this here as a souvenir:
It’s a slice from one of the set of photos at the bottom of this page.
The point being that good moments for your team in this series have a habit of being extreme, but fleeting. I don’t believe this has stopped. Ponting double century in the second innings anyone?
That was pretty sensational. But how about this!?!?:
. . . W W 1 | . . . 1 . . | W
So, 2 for 3 (as we say in these parts) after thirteen balls.
It could have been even worse. A close LBW that the technology said was going over. A catchable caught-and-bowled chance. A couple of near played-ons.
But runs are now starting to flow. Australia could yet get a very decent score. Australia are now 36 for 3, after eleven overs. Latest score here.
But whatever else materialises, definitely first blood, this time, to England.
And it begins:
England’s captain out for a duck, off the third ball of the game.
Just listened to an interview on Radio 3 with the author of The Last Lingua Franca. Publisher spiel:
In this provocative and persuasive new book, Nicholas Ostler challenges our assumption that English will continue to dominate as the global lingua franca. Drawing on his encyclopaedic knowledge of world languages and their history, Ostler reveals that just as past great languages like Latin and Sanskrit have died out, so English will follow.
Sounds interesting. Not because he is necessarily completely right, but because he sounds like he knows a lot about the rise and fall of languages generally.
This posting is just me reminding myself about this book, so that I buy it in paperback. Which it definitely will be because it’s a Penguin.