Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Category archive: Australasia
My rule about being a sports fan is be very happy when your teams are winning, but relax when they aren’t. Enjoy the good stuff. Let the bad remind you that it’s just games. I am not, in other words, a “real fan”, the sort of who puts his entire happiness at the mercy of events that are wholly out of his control.
And just now I am happy, because two autumn rugby internationals have just kicked off, Wales v Australia and England v NZ, and in both games the Brit teams have scored early - and frankly very surprising – tries. 7-0 Wales. 5-0 England. This is the kind of thing you must enjoy while it is happening, without assuming that it will get any better, in fact while assuming that it is pretty much bound to get worse. Protective pessimism. Am watching Wales v Oz on the telly. Highlights of Eng NZ on the telly later.
And Australia score under the posts. 7-7 with the easy kick (yes). But, according to the BBC:
New Zealand are reeling from England’s blitz start.
Don’t you just love it when the other fellows reel. Reeling is something only now done with an -ing on the end. Why is that?
I am giving a talk on Jan 6th at Christian Michel’s about Sport Being A Substitute For War. Just thought I’d mention that. I will try to write it down and will thus be able to shove it up here afterwards.
And NZ have now scored. 5-5 with a kick to come. And Oz have now scored another. Wales 7 Oz 12 with a kick to come. I must stop. Three antipodean tries have been scored since I started writing this. It’s only games.
Or is it? Wales Oz 7-14, but Eng NZ 8-5, to England. And now Wales have scored in the corner. Wales 14 Oz 14. I remember when rugby was played in mud and you were lucky to see a single try in an entire match. So far there have been six tries in under half an hour. Make that seven because Oz have just scored again.
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.
England’s men, on the other hand, are now, according to
my Michael J’s calculations, 10-1 down, with one two to play.
I took this photo on Wednesday evening, on the way back home from one of Christian Michel’s 6/20 talks:
Do you think it is gloomy and grim? Maybe so. But Earl’s Court is London’s Australian quarter, or it was in the days of Barry McKenzie. And today I am Loving the Aussies slightly less, although my reasons for this are this, rather than that.
Time for an I-told-you-so moment.
I told the Australians not to rouse the kitten:
Darren Lehman may have made a bit of a mistake, when he called Broad a cheat for not walking when Broad was clearly out and should have been given out, and said that Australian crowds should have a go at Broad in the Ashes series this winter in Australia. Lehman was only joking, but it was a joke he may regret.
But they went ahead and roused the kitten anyway. Here is George Dobell reporting on Day One of the Ashes:
Rubbished, ridiculed and reduced - the front page of one Australian tabloid dubbed Broad a “smug pommy cheat” on the morning of the game - England, and Broad in particular, arrived with abuse ringing in their ears.
Broad, it was claimed by an Australian media stoked by their national coach, was little more than a medium-pacer whose disregard for the rules shamed him, while England’s batsmen were running scared of Australia’s pace attack.
But instead of wilting in the cauldron of the “Gabbatoir”, Broad appeared to revel in the occasion. Indeed, he even admitted he found himself whistling along as a large section of the crowd chanted “Broad is a w*****.”
This may be no surprise to the England camp. As part of their exhaustive preparation process - a process that was ridiculed at the start of the tour when sections of the Australian media were leaked details of England’s nutrition plans - England’s players were analysed by a psychologist and Broad was one of three who, in his words, “thrive properly on getting abuse”.
“It’s me, KP and Matt Prior,” Broad said. “So they picked good men to go at.
“It was good fun out there. I think I coped with it okay. It’s all good banter. Fans like to come, have a beer with their mates and sing along. I’m pleased my mum wasn’t here, but to be honest I was singing along at one stage. It gets in your head and you find yourself whistling it at the end of your mark. I’d braced myself to expect it and actually it was good fun. I enjoyed it.”
Australia 273-8. Broad, so far: 20 overs 3 maidens 65 runs 5 wickets, including the first four, and including the one truly class act in the Oz top six, Clarke.
Just got hold of the latest Radio Times, and so far as I can discern, there will be no Ashes cricket highlights on regular TV. Google google. Indeed. It was true last month, and it seems that it still is.
I seem to recall earlier cricket TV brinkmanship, with regard to the IPL. The Radio Times, some years ago, had no mention of the IPL being about to start and to be live on ITV4, but it was, and it was.
Let us hope that, for the sake of Western Civilisation, sanity will prevail.
At Cricinfo, stat geek Steven Lynch is asking that, i.e. was asked it by someone and he reckoned it an interesting question. Interesting, because the answer is a bit of a surprise:
I expected the answer here to be Sachin Tendulkar - he was the youngest to 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000 and 6000 - but actually he was shaded by England’s Alastair Cook, who was 27 years 347 days old when he reached 7000, in the course of his 190 against India in Kolkata in December 2012. Tendulkar was about seven months older when he got there, in November 2001.
So, will Cook also be youngest to 8000? Or will this be an anomaly?
The Ashes resume on November 21st. There go my sleep patterns for another few months.
Stuart Broad is no pussy cat, certainly not if you are an Australian batsman.
But, he has got a kitten heel:
Less than a year ago, he left the tour of India with an injury that will likely affect him for the rest of his career. The one-time enforcer, England’s fast-bowling big cat had been diagnosed with a kitten heel - a lacerated fat pad for which little could be done beyond rest and careful management - and, as 2012 drew to a close, Broad knew he faced an uncertain future.
Which makes his recent Ashes contributions all the more admirable.
When Broad is having one of his hot bowling spells, he is outstanding. And Broad reckons he bowls best when he is a bit riled up.
“I am one of these characters who seems to thrive off a little bit of niggle, a little bit of pressure,” he says.
Which means that Darren Lehman may have made a bit of a mistake, when he called Broad a cheat for not walking when Broad was clearly out and should have been given out, and said that Australian crowds should have a go at Broad in the Ashes series this winter in Australia. Lehman was only joking, but it was a joke he may regret.
Do not rouse the kitten.
By which I mean interesting software news from New Zealand.
A computer programme is not an invention:
A major new patent bill, passed in a 117-4 vote by New Zealand’s Parliament after five years of debate, has banned software patents.
Quotulatiousness (to whom thanks for the NewZ) says hurrah.
LATER: I emailed Rob Fisher about this, and he replied thus:
That is interesting, thanks.
There are lots of pieces now doing the rounds, pieces like this one, about how Australia are now behaving like England used to, by picking too many players and not sticking to one side and backing this side. The implication is that inconsistent selection is what is now causing Australia to keep on losing, just as similar inconsistency used to cause England to lose. There is some truth in this sort of talk, but not nearly as much as those who say these things seem to imply or believe.
Saying that selection inconsistency makes a team lose is mostly to get the causal connection the wrong way round. England used to pick lots of different players because they were losing, and were constantly searching for a different and better side. England now select consistently because they are now, on the whole, winning. Australia now keep picking new or different players because they keep losing.
It is perfectly logical that a losing side would chop and change, in the search for a better team than the losing team they now have. Pick your best team and stick with it, say the critics who demand consistent selection. But does it make sense to stick, and to keep on sticking, with a team that keeps on losing? Selection consistency may be a virtue. But consider also that saying about how doing the same thing again and again but expecting a different result is daft.
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.
A losing team which behaves like a losing team is denounced by its fans for behaving like a losing team. Pull yourselves together guys! Show a bit of spirit! But a losing team which behaves like there is no problem is denounced for not caring about losing. If Australia now strutted about like they were 3-0 up instead of 3-0 down, everyone would call them pillocks. If they carried on picking the exact same team, game after game, just as they would if they were winning, everyone would moan about that too. A losing team just can’t win! Until it does win, at which point its body language automatically gets better and its selection automatically becomes more consistent.
LATER: Here’s Broad making the exact same point about selection as I have been criticising:
“We are lucky we play in a time when selectors back players. It would have been different if we had this group of players in the 1990s. If they had two bad Tests they would be gone.
“But now, because the selectors have backed a group of players, we have a collective experience and belief in each other.”
But what if their “collective experience” had simply been a long string of losses? Would these same selectors have continued to back the same losing side?
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.
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.
England are now facing the distinct possibility of having to follow on in the third test, having won the first two. Because there was a pause after the second, which England won by a huge margin of 347 runs, there was a small torrent of commentary to the effect that Australian cricket is doomed, doomed, and will take years to recover, if it indeed ever recovers. Titles to savour include: A tale of two depths - While England plan, Australia dream - Australia: hubris, despair, panic - What can Australia learn from English cricket? - Ashes 2013: Sheffield Shield decline lies behind Australia’s demise - There is no easy way back for these Aussies - Australia’s darkest hour shows no sign of dawn.
My favourite Australian Cricket is Doomed piece has been, I think, A schoolboy curse, which is about why posh Australian schools don’t produce top cricketers, apart from Warne. The problem is that promising posh boys don’t play against men, only against other less good posh boys. Boys from scuzzy government schools, on the other hand, play for local clubs on Saturdays, against tough bastard older blokes, and thereby get better and better.
Yes, I know. Warne is posh?
In England the problem is that only posh boys ever seem to get good at cricket. You’d think this would make England worse.
For reasons that I may or may not explain some other time (it involved this), I found myself, exactly one week ago today, at the toppish layer of Kings College, London.
There was some hanging about waiting for events to start and for lifts to arrive, and at such times I took (grabbed) photos, mostly through windows, out at London in its various manifestations, near and far:
Just as there is much aesthetically anarchic clutter at the tops of buildings, so too is there similar clutter around the backs of buildings, the bits where you are looking at the stage scenery, so to speak, from the other side.
As for the more orthodox view, of various Big London Things (bottom right), you may think, not much of a photo, technically speaking, and you would be right, but I like it nevertheless, in the sense that it is a technically rather average realisation of a very good shot, like so many of my photos. Also, I had only a few seconds to take/grab it, and only one go at it, because a lift was even then opening up and demanding my presence. I was with someone else, which always complicates the taking of photos, I find.
Note in particular the exact alignment of The Wheel with the New Tower (most recently featured here in one of these snaps (3.2)) that they are now finishing off, at Vauxhall, the one where there was all that crane drama. See also Big Ben and that other Parliament Tower (St Stephen’s), Battersea Power Station, Westminster Abbey, and even the tower with the crazy hairdo in the previous posting. What the green dome with the Union Jack flying on it is, I do not know.
Shame it’s not Austrian, and economics.
Incoming from Michael J:
Amongst other things, 482 was the most runs Australia have scored in a day in a test match since 1910, Michael Clarke scored 120 runs in the final session, Australia scored 202 runs in the final session, and Michael Clarke became the first player to score four double centuries in a calendar year. (He still has another two and a half tests to play). After all that, David Warner’s 119 off 112 balls earlier in the day almost looks an insignificant footnote.
And what’s more, 482-5 after 55-3.
I went to bed when Warner got out (210-4), figuring that at that point the big hitting had ended. Wrong.
Makes a change from this, doesn’t it?
This year, I really (although I promise nothing) want to do one of those “my year in photographs” postings, for Samizdata. The trick with such postings is to start assembling photos early, i.e. around now.
Trawling through the year’s archives today, with the above in mind, I found this fun photo, taken in the part of London where people grumble about how the Olympics haven’t helped them as much as they were promised.
Yes, it’s a pub dwarfed by modernity:
I wondered where exactly this is, and then I saw that three doors away from the Builders Arms is the West Ham Labour Party. So: West Ham. Although googling says it could be Newham, or Stratford. Eastenders land anyway.
The pub itself is not as unmodern as it is trying to look, being built in that Ye Olde Interwar Style with bogus half timbering. As one raised in the suburbs of London, I know the style well. An earlier version of the Builders Arms was demolished to make way for road widening, and that one is its replacement, built in 1937. That being the time when a lot of London’s suburbs got built, with lots of buildings looking just like that.
Osbert Lancaster’s phrase “Stockbroker’s Tudor” has just popped into my mind. While googling for images along those lines, I came across this, about the “Interwar Old English” style, as practised in Australia.
As so often with architecture, form follows fashion.