South East Stars v Western Storm. Beckenham. ‘Freezing’.

Have watched Heather Knight a fair bit – live. For England, for the Storm. She is both an outstanding player and a gathering force.

By that I mean she has added a boomtasticism to her game that she may once have lacked. As though somebody warned her there was a danger she may seem too old-school, too one-dimensional – a bit like a typical England Captain in virtually any era pre- this volcanic present. Knighty the honest plodder-plus. Heather the Redoubtable but Predictable.

I of course have absolutely no idea if she *has actually had* conversations of this sort, merely rehearsed them with herself, or been blissfully ignorant of the discussion (should it actually exist). Whatever. If it was in the ether or in the dressing-room the universe has been asking questions – as though or because her genuinely gutsy stoicism and durability and consistency were no longer enough.

For what – 18 months? – Heather Knight has been answering powerfully. Possibly most noticeably in last seasons KSL Finals Day, when most of us ran out of superlatives. She is manifestly NOT just a steady bat, now. As well as being a shrewd, implacable competitor she has other, more expansive, more entertaining gears. The England captain is an ace as well as a brick.

But coming into this New Era and specifically this #RHFTrophy, just how much of the upgrade would we need to see? At a decidedly parky Beckenham, I imagined a throttled-back H would do it: a steady steering job. So it proved. But as a frost-bitten Mark Church enthused… this was, predictably, a masterclass.

Live blog below.

Watching via live-stream (though I do hope to be able to attend #StormTroopers home games, Covid-protocols permitting): also following various key twitter feeds, asyado. Don’t need to be Hercule Poirot to deduce that conditions are testing: ‘freezing’ to quote Raf Nicholson, whom I imagine to be ‘huddled’ in a safely-distanced kindofaway avec her fella Syd in the rather alarmingly shaky depths of Mark Church’s boundary-side tent.

But to the cricket.

George and Shrubsole for Storm, versus Smith and Capsey, for Stars. It’s proper baltic.

Western Storm cope better and wickets fall – Smith, Capsey, Dunkley in the first twelve overs. All a tad clumsy from the batting side – though Shrubsole does well to catch Dunkley, off Nicholas. To be fair, it’s hard to say how much of this is skill, how much nerves and how much weather-induced misjudgement. Interestingly, neither Shrubsole – who as she sometimes does, looks a little laboured – nor George feel all that threatening. Holding your form in any discipline is plainly a challenge.

New Storm Head Coach Mark O’Leary will have been delighted by his side’s fielding, for the first twenty overs plus: almost flawless. Bowling-wise, meanwhile, it continues to be one of those days where things *just happen*.

Ultimately, Hennessy finishes up with a four-fer, without (it seemed, from the distance of live-stream) doing that much. This not remotely meant as a put-down, just hard to equate the performance with the stats, as is so often the case.

Fi Morris however, looked both nervy and also tasty – is this a word I can use? – in the sense that she really got some spin. Despite the inevitable inconsistencies, Morris found enough beauties to befuddle the batters. She deservedly takes the key wicket of Susie Rowe, after the Stars player had, mid-innings, been single-handedly stalling the Storm charge towards a seemingly invincible position. Fair play to the off spinner for giving the ball a legitimate tweak in the gale, and to O’Leary and/or captain Sophie Luff for persisting with her when the occasional wide crept in.

As Southby joins Farrant, the team in Glammy clobber are 109 for 7 and – dare I say it – struggling in a way not entirely unfamiliar for the men of that Welsh county.

With the departure of Rowe, Katie George returns, as if to bundle the home side out pronto: the thinking being that her sharpish left arm over may be too much for the Stars’ tail to cope with. But it is Morris who strikes again, with a peach of an off-break that, turning profoundly, completely unpicks Southby’s forward defence. 113 for 8. The sense builds that Western Storm may, despite difficult conditions for every facet of the game – it is cold, it is windy – cruise quietly but stylishly to an easy win.

A further but necessary reminder that bowling anything in a strongish, gusty blow is tough. Morris, whom I am already suspecting might be a real influence in the Storm’s campaign, has now nevertheless wheeled down a few full-tosses and a wide or two. But with the live-stream camera flapping about like a recalcitrant seagull on the roof of commentator’s Mark Church’s gazebo, I am watching Fi Morris and thinking ‘has quality’. Be really interesting to see if she can maintain or surpass this impression, should the autumn winds ever abate.

Farrant is fortunate to survive an airy miscue. Keeper Wraith, who looks accomplished (despite the etc etc), can’t race across as the ball loops infuriatingly high to off, but safe. Claire Nicholas returns, for the 37th, starting with another full-toss. 124 for 8, now.

As we approach what feels like The End, it seems that Storm must win this. ‘Fatal’, naturally, to speculate but think a low total plays right into the hands of the visitors particularly because Heather Knight is back with them; as with the rest of the England players she is available for the first two #RHFlintTrophy matches.

The England skipper has a fabulous, stoic temperament and can certainly play the slow and steady role: in fact, as I have argued on previous occasions, she can also now do a compelling upgrade in terms of dynamism, should the need, the urgency be there. (This doesn’t appear likely, currently – although, with Farrant and Davies gritting their teeth and picking off Nicholas a little, the Stars total has reached 156 for 8 as we enter the last five overs).

Importantly, Farrant has now been dropped twice in the previously impressively attentive Storm Troopers field. As Hennessy returns to bowl the 47th and with the sun brightening, it feels if you can survive the cold and be watchful in the wind, batting is almost certainly a tad less fraught than South East Stars have generally made it made it look… and yet… might we have a game?

Davies is bowled by Hennessy. That partnership (of 49) with Farrant may be the difference between a competitive game and and a stroll. Let’s hope.

Gibbs joins Farrant. Cruelly for her, a horror-show of a muddle with the newcomer leaves her run out for 37, and closes the innings at 166 all out. Advantage Storm, unquestionably, but there is now, that ‘total to bowl at’.

Knight opens, with Fi Morris. They proceed relatively comfortably to 35 without loss, after 10 overs. Then 50 for 0, in the 14th. Both openers are despatching the loose one and being watchful; judging things nicely. When Davidson-Richards slings one especially wide to leg, her body-language and that of some of her comrades seems understandably muted. (This is what Knight can do. She takes a further single and moves to 32 not out).

Responding, Grace Gibbs beats Knight, wide-ish of off – no result. Morris then pulls a genuinely short ball, with good control. And a further leg side wide. There may be time left in the game but the Stars are in danger of being ground down, early. 71 for 0 after 17.

Morris looks in good nick with the bat as well as the ball. Unhurried, compact but looks to have flow in reserve. But slightly ignominiously, having been given a warning in the previous over, she is run out: critical wicket, ‘from nowhere’. Morris – who made 27, from 60 – is replaced by Luff.

Sophia Dunkley is bowling goodish, controlled leg-spin but Knight (what did I tell yas?) is through to her 50. She appears to have an ominous amount of time to pick her shots. With the experienced Luff alongside her, there is no sense that the door, having been opened by the Morris dismissal, will now be hoofed down by an inspired Stars line-up. Church, describing the Knight knock as an ‘absolute masterclass’, captures the mood.

Enter Bryony Smith, as Stars mix it up again. She drags one down, then gets one to turn. A leg-side wide ticks the scoreboard over past the ton; 100 for 1 after 24.

Smith and Dunkley – both England-quality players – work well, in tandem, to the extent that the former forces an error from Luff. She is caught miscuing, by Farrant, moving backwards, to bring in Hennessy at 102 for 2, in the 26th. Knight remains at 62. Nice moment in the match as the two Stars spinners are now asking some decent questions… but only the most apocalyptic collapse could deny Knight and Western Storm the victory, surely? The quiet chat between Knight and her new partner should re-settle the destiny of the game, you would imagine. Hennessy proceeds, calmly.

Smith bowls a maiden and the run rate has temporarily stalled. Dunkley floats one up, boldly, but Knight drives through the covers for four – first ball. Then a pull follows – also four. Heather Knight (suddenly in the rain) appears to be re-stating her dominance.

Her partner won’t match that level of skill or composure. She swishes rather, across another full leg-spinner from Dunkley and only succeeds in hoiking it high to mid-off. Out. Hennessy out for six.

Freya Davies, formerly of Western Storm, returns, as her captain Farrant no doubt thinks this is the moment to batter away at that metaphorical door. Wraith has joined Knight, who now need 45 to win it. Maiden. Credit to South East Stars, who are certainly not capitulating. More rain… but they seem determined and able to play on through.

Wraith makes a promising start: looks confident, looks positive. We are 129 for 3 as Knight parries away the last of Davies’ deliveries in the 34th over. Knight is 74 not out with 38 required.

Farrant bowls Wraith. Hmmm. A wicket maiden ensues. Could be that Storm have failed, relatively, to engineer the strike towards the enduring Knight. Can George now quietly rotate things so that her senior partner can see this out? Davies from the other end.

George is solid in defence to a full one from Davies. 132 for 4 after 36. Knight has the strike. Poor error as Stars are penalised for having too many players in the deep in the powerplay – meaning no ball and free hit. Knight biffs it but can only chase out a single.

Farrant is offering some variations but Knight will wait and play late; two through the covers. She has 80. We are into the 38th over with only 28 needed.

Davies again. Knight may be experiencing some discomfort; she kicks out that right leg as if to stretch something. The bowler falls short and George encourages it round the corner with some stye; four. Then clips another one from her hip for a further two, behind square. Erroneously, you feel, Davies drops short again, allowing another flick to leg; in truth George is furious that she misses out on the boundary.

Warrant concedes an early four and the thing feels done. Fifteen required as Knight takes guard again. Single. She will miss out on her century now but the England captain will again be the key protagonist. Again she looks a class above – simply too good to get out.

A cool reverse-sweep despatches Hannah Jones’ first to third man. Ouch. Heavy rain. George – looking to get the win ASAP – booms left and right as the bowler struggles to grip the ball.

Finally, appropriately, Knight launches one over mid-on to claim the decisive runs. Western Storm are deserved winners, by six wickets, with Heather Knight not out 91 and Katie George likewise undefeated on 19.

Excellent performance in truly challenging conditions, for the #StormTroopers: they might arguably have won it earlier but this was a convincing victory and an encouraging start in the #RHFlintTrophy. Noteworthy that other England players have been influential elsewhere, today. But that’s as it should be. Be good to see other players taking the lead when the women’s internationals start.
Now. Where’s me soup?

New, from the Universe Podcast: we talk life outside cricket, with Glamorgan’s Andrew Salter.

Andrew Salter is a ver-ry capable all-round cricketer, bowling zingy off-spin, batting astutely mid-late order and fielding energetically, for Glamorgan Cricket. I know the bloke a little – Pembrokeshire connection.

The mighty Universe Podcast, part-furloughed, caught up with him via satellite at his home in Cardiff. (Well, okaaaay, via FaceTime… but then, having neither shaved nor bathed in recent memory, plumped for a purely audio version for this esteemed website).

Being aware of the various strings to Salter’s bow, this honourable bloggist-reporter meandered beyond mere cricket. But hey – go listen. Could be I add some further reflections having listened back, myself.

*Apologies for differential volume(s). We ain’t the BBC*. Couldn’t be in the same room, for obvious reasons… and am too dumb to do a trial run.

 

 

A few reflections and some information. Some of you will be aware that Salts was an England age-group skipper – and therefore his ambition here, emphatically re-stated, to get himself in contention for an England slot, is neither entirely delusional nor some bland auto-response. Given that he apparently repeated that focus ON STAGE, whilst receiving an award from the PCA, I think we can assume this ‘quietish’, un-starry young man possesses more drive than might be immediately apparent. (And this is not a cue for motorbike metaphors – promise).

Salter does have a strongish all-round game. He’s looked the part in the Blast, in particular, where his intelligent variations on the flattish off-spin theme have seen him feel central to Glam’s attack, on a good night. (I say this picturing his best chance for breaking into the elite-elite set-up as the shorter formats: in simple terms, the guys ahead of him in the pecking order don’t feel completely out of reach – not the off-spinners, arguably. His four day/potential Test game is goodish but it may be that Leach and Bess and Moeen are more decisively ahead of him, currently. But great to hear him so intent on providing competition to these guys, over time).

Vis-a-vis the Baffle Culture sideline, similarly encouraging – wonderful, even – to hear Salter describe that whole falling in love again thing? Maybe as an impressionable youff, he saw Beckham cruising some exotic block in groovy gear and began to dream. Some years later he’s plainly grafted hard to learn Essential Motorbike Stuff to the extent that he can now legitimately position himself as a potential entrepreneur in the industry *as well* as being a genuine biker, out riding and loving a cruise round the Welsh landscape. I doff my helmet to him.

I approached this interview hoping and expecting a multi-dimensional chinwag: without being entirely crass I know Salts is no mug.  But I may have under-estimated his knowledge, his growth and his commitment to well, everything.

Turns out he is the articulate, rounded individual I expected but with added extra gears: richer layers on the extra-curricular front and a refreshingly flinty drive for his own cricket career. (Soz; those biker metaphors). I wish him well with both the now unravelled Baffle culture and with his ambitions at Glamorgan and beyond. He really is a a good guy, working hard at all of this. 

 

Now what?

Eve of Easter. Sun blazing. Barely a motor about, not that we get many but blimey this is extraordinary – idyllic actually, with all due respect to the grockles that prop up our entire county, year on year. The shingle, artfully dolloped around our tiny front garden, is baking; the dog is maybe overheating. Junior (well, six foot four) Walton’s smiliferous uni’ dance-music swells at an appropriately easy pitch for a thoughtful lounge. Proper indulgence.

Where we are (forgive us) the Covid-19 situation really does feel like a phoney war. We’re aware of both ‘some Pembrokeshire cases’ and also also of our responsibilities but frisson around exercising is at an entirely lower level than it might be around Bute Park, Cardiff – to take a random example from the known world.

Now that we’re barred from walking the coast path, we generally yomp about a mile and a quarter to a favourite beach along the road, but in doing so don’t tend to see a single vehicle and only occasionally another couple or family taking their own, equivalent quiet promenade.

Big tides so the beach is a zillion, golden, slumbering cricket-pitches at low water. We tramp like sedately ecstatic lurv-zombies the entire width, more than once, unashamedly breasting through the one hour limit our sagacious minister(s) may or may not have made available for Daily Soul-Maintenance. Done this three times this week; estimated duration six hours. Seen five people, total.

But what else? What else for you? What’s it like?

I’m working a bit, on media/social media stuff. This should constitute about a third of my weekly graft – the remainder being the Community Coach role. Doing no coaching in schools or anywhere else, for obvious reasons. So if I was so inclined, things could be pret-ty sedentary: only (and this is not a boast) I don’t do sedentary.

Have no viable garden – or at least genuinely not viable for most ball games. (This probably accounts for current, high step numbers on the roads). Am honestly outstanding at clattering my way into or through jobs, so been on that – garden, kitchen, garage – and will return. But it’s the pleasurable and the healthy stuff we need to get to yes? What do you do? What can, or do we do? I’m gonna tell you some of my restorative strategies and by all means send me yours.

Restorative bloody Strategies! Who am I kidding? Like you miserably shapeless lot, I am almost exclusively following instinct. Working pretty good, mind.

Prepare to be shamed, bored, amused or utterly gobsmacked by the torrent of indulgobollocks about to spew forth. Cos it’s all about What I Done, Lately. (*Of course I have some faint hope it may either make you laugh, or get you off yer arse, thereby neatly dodging the allegation that this is all a bit me, but hey).

Those of you who know me will maybe take the following without too much offence:  that I’m such a shamelessly persistent clown I really don’t care what you might think. This – by that I mean this blog – is about entertaining ourselves, getting stuff done, not about whether I happen to be good at something. To my mind, the ‘me’ is taken right out of this: it is, therefore, merely an offering.

Hey but let me start with something kosher – something that seems relevant, that figures.

Two or three times in the last fortnight I’ve ambled across the road into the dingletastic field opposite, armed with three coloured hoops, two newish sidearms and a bag of balls. Purpose? Being to get somewhere near competent with the slingers. Have gone up to the almost-flat-but-still-unhelpfully-tussocky heights a hundred and thirty-seven yards from the front door, paced out a pitch length and laid the hoops out. Then slung.

Awful, so far. Too many snatched, accidental bouncers: line okay but if I had been in a net with a group of juniors (let’s say), I’d be banged up unceremoniously by now, for Affray With a Sidearm. So work to do; which is fine in the current time-rich era, yes? May need to look at a couple of videos but will be back up there soonish, trying to hook into a groove: consistency is tough.

The other stuff is both daft and almost ludicrously ‘creative,’ darlings, so now strap in for the cringeathon: some surreal slings of fortune and geography bundled in here, which I hope may be diverting.

Great mates have a caravan on the sweet, relatively unobtrusive wee site down close to our beach. (‘Our Beach’ – lols!) The owners can’t use it as the site, like the county, is effectively sealed-up. They are, however, well up for me checking it over and using it discreetly as a retreat or for any legal purpose, particularly as this has involved heroic clearing-out of 14 million flies that had recklessly expired over the winter/early spring. (What is it with caravans and flies, by the way? Had to wade in to a mincemeat horror-show, which has taken several visits to clear).

Whatever. This caravan has become a haven for two alarmingly healthy pursuits but before I spill the wotsits on those, I feel the urge to say, rather intently, that I’m not looking to escape from anyone or anything (thank you ver-ry much) when I ‘nip down’ there. Relationships all good. Just living in a tiny house – as we do – it makes practical sense.

But what does? Yoga and guitar.

Eh?

Yoga I’ve been doing, clunkily and inconsistently for a couple of years but I now really get it. Guitar, well as the angriest of youffs emerging from the punk epiphany, I acquired a fairly horrible Gibson Les Paul copy and, flukily, a marvellous Ibanez acoustic, before becoming a half-decent rhythm-geetar strumster. Criminally, I stopped playing, almost completely, about twenty years ago.

Some of you will be aware that my wife is often referred to as The Finest Yoga teacher in Wales ‘cos, yes… she is. For twenty years, hugely to her credit, she restrained herself completely from bundling me towards the classes she teaches in nearby Haverfordwest, Narberth and St Davids but finally that wall of restraint (or restraining wall?) crumbled. Not sure quite how, fascinatingly, but I found myself attending sessions and did so with little enjoyment for about eighteen months. This despite being aware that yoga was blindingly obviously something that might benefit a berk like me: I’m 84% fast-twitch fibres. Mostly, life is lived in an optimistic rage. Plus, me back is stiff.

Eventually another wall (or something) broke – or, on reflection, I lump-hammered my way through it. Whether it was working with the breath, just finding myself less gutty and bloated, or something mystical about rhythms and space, couldn’t tell you. But eventually I have begun, despite the continuing lack of flow in my super-annuated, sporty-but-brittle frame, to enjoy yoga. So I’ve been doing some on my own, down the caravan.

Bethan’s classes continue, via the grace of Facebook Live but because we really do live in a tiny house, I can’t work alongside her, out of view. In time I’ll get back to going to classes but for now I stroll beatifically down the van with my iPad, from which an emailed practice can be conjured. (Did I mention, by the way, that caravans these days are more like apartments? Smart). So picture me, silently, unhindered and (ahem) unselfconscious, as I inhale, pause, move, in the medium-copious ‘living area’. Like a cross between Peter Crouch mid-robot and erm… a ballerina.

I’m going down there nearly every day, just now, to ‘do something’. Having had a hernia op’ some months ago – and therefore a yoga gap – I’m building back up towards the 75 or 90-minute sessions typical of a Bethan W class.

But my retreats to the caravan aren’t just about yoga, or even just about that yoga/guitar combo. I am kinda rehabilitating my fingers to the strings and re-engaging the muscle memory for chords: I’m also going to try to learn a few songs. And I’m also trying to write a few songs. This means, among other things, singing.

Real blokes don’t sing, do they? Or not whilst sober – not in front of people. But hang on; let’s go back a little.

Writing songs; song-writing. Shocking truth is I’ve always felt I should or could have done that… but only played at it. Intently, once or twice, but never with any discipline. There was a time when there were fantastic people around me – I make no apology for calling them soulbrothers – who might have joined with a committed rock and roll adventure: didn’t happen.

Not at all saying it’s likely to happen now. Not even remotely suggesting that what I’m doing is good. (It’s at least as likely to be raw embarrassing and I really am fine with that). I’m just saying I’m actually trying, over a period of time, to *finish* some songs – or get them to a place where they feel done.

I know plenty folks live via fixations or aspirations towards Pole Stars or Intentions but I’ve never worked like that: (you?) I lack the Ambition Gear Thing and I suspect this is something I’m perversely proud of.

Right now what feels clear and ‘important’ to me is the instinct to create something while the time and opportunity is there. Broadly, that’s it. There’s flow and energy around so I’m using it. Specifically, this means re-learning the guitar – which I know I can do – honing and crafting some ideas into song lyrics – which maybe I really can’t – and either finding my voice and performing – doubt it – or passing the songs on if there’s any real merit in them, to someone who can perform. Or… leaving them in the metaphorical cupboard, which is fine, particularly if they’re *finished*.

What’s both great and scary is I really do not know if the proto-songs are garbage. And I’m more sure than not that my singing is pret-ty embarrassing. And I’m recording, as part of the challenge! But maybe the result doesn’t matter? Maybe this is a truly developmental experience, whatever?

Yes. Emphatically yes.

The caravan and the glorious, generous, idyllic solitude makes it possible to bawl out loud, bollocks up the guitar, grimace or preen to the mirror. (I do all three). Mainly I forget the words and fear I’m sounding ‘like James Blunt’s dad’ – think it’s likely I look like him.

But none of this matters. The ludicrous nerves(!), even when flying utterly solo; the angst about how lyrics might be understood – would people get the irony, here? – all that is clearly strikingly testing, but great. Part of the newness and growth.

(Re-cap: I’m a reasonably oldish geezer who feels about 34. I get that every word of this is ridiculous – and beginning to sound like some self-help guide – but the point is I’m bloody invigorated by this challenge. Being unsure of whether you really are a complete embarrassment but ploughing on, anyway, is a manifestly edgy place to be, believe me. I recommend it).

I have four songs or song lyrics which feel close enough for rock and roll. I hope to practice versions of them all, over the next few weeks. Could well be they never get aired outside that caravan: who cares? In a month my guitar will be on the up and that will feel good. The documents that are my songs will be there, good or bad, but there.

Have tumbled into a longish read – apologies. Ditto for the extravagant indulgences. Hope that some of this resonates in some way: I think it’s about committing, about making your contribution and just not worrying about where it might sit in the hierarchy of things. There is no good or bad that can undermine the brilliance of your commitment.

So, what’s your guitar, your yoga? Get to it, c’mon. With me. We can support each other, okay?

A-one-two-three-four go!

 

 

 

 

The World Cup Final.

Post-game. Raising my mug of hot lemon to an impressive, not to say ruthless Australian performance. Talk about ‘turning up’. Talk about ‘executing’. Something of a classic, in those terms, on a historic day, with more eyes upon them than ever seemed possible a year or two ago. Important that this showpiece got some real quality: of course for neutrals or newcomers it may have been better if India could have played to a similar, competitive level. But they couldn’t and didn’t. From the very first over in the field, India contributed to the Australian surge. Unwillingly, of course; they entered this sumptuous arena determined to make their own, proud statement. But they couldn’t.

We will never know how much of this ultimately one-sided affair was the result of Indian nerves and/or under-achievement in the mega-glare of #T20WorldCup and #InternationalWomensDay: such things aren’t measurable. More generous to switch the discussion towards the undeniable brilliance of Healy, in particular, and her opening partner, Mooney.

Whilst we need to tread carefully around the word glory we might comfortably use its adjective to describe Alyssa Healy’s skill and confidence, here. She was ridiculous, she was spectacular, she ran away with it. Let’s all enjoy that thrillingly positive achievement. For India, let this be a step along the way.

Here’s the live blog…

Up in time for the anthems. They were brief but not so brief as to obscure the fact that Australia share with England that Obvious Duffer title, eh? Then a few minutes of tracking around the crowd as India gather and Healy and Mooney stride out. New territory for all of us, pretty much, a women’s cricket event with a stonking crowd – important and wonderful.

Sharma is in and the ball is gone. Four, Healy connecting well enough, through the on-side. Better still, the brilliant right-hander creams one through the covers and cuts sweetly, gently behind square. But there is a mini-drama, early, as Shafali Verma, the young superstar standing out on that edge of the circle drops a sharpish but eminently catchable effort, fifth ball. It was Healy… and that could be big. So instead of grabbing back the initiative, India concede 14 from the over.

With Shikha Pandey conceding 9 from the next and Healy utterly disrespecting the concept of ‘nerves’, the Southern Stars take flight. They are 32 for 0 after 3, after Sharma is again expensive.

Rajeshwari Gayakwad will try her luck for the fourth. She drops Mooney.

Ah. Have expressed concerns recently about the quality of the Indian fielding: in short it’s often mixed – certainly at a lower level than Australia and England, for example. Would be a real shame if this became a theme that the sexists and the moaners could latch onto again. When Poonam Yadav painfully dives over a routine stop, suspect I’m not the only one to wince. Awful, from the women in blue, so far.

Finally something for the fielding side to cheer, as Gayakwad completely unpicks Healy but the off-spinner misses off by an inch. Australia finish the power play on 49 for 0.

Poonam Yadav is in. Can she find some of that magic – plainly India need something.  Quietish over, which is a minor victory. Then Healy explodes into Gayakwad, striking two thunderous sixes, one of which, measured at 83 metres, being the most boomtastic of the tournament. With Mooney now also set, Australia reach 79 for 0 after 9 overs. Dreamland, for the home coach and the home fans.

Healy gets to an outstanding fifty from 30 balls. No doubt watching hubby will claim the credit – or perhaps hubby’s coach?!?

It becomes an exhibition. Healy is dispatching at will, Mooney contributing heavily. Australia soar past the hundred partnership. They are 114 off 11 as 23 come from the over. Remember Healy came into this allegedly out of form: when she is out, inevitably caught at long on, she has amassed 75 from 39 balls. In the World Cup Final. Stunning and brilliant – match-winning, you suspect.

So how does Harmanpreet Kaur drag her team back into this? You feel that just ‘weathering this storm’ and re-gathering to go huge during their own knock is simply not an option. They (India) have to counter NOW, but this is easier said. Mooney and Lanning seem determined to power on. With Australia on 135 for 1 after 14, 200 actually feels possible. Mooney gets to fifty.

Of course Mooney and Lanning can afford, as it were, to charge everything. Wickets do not matter. The game can be mercilessly buried.

Healy in interview is saying “I think we can get 200”. She may be right. As a relative neutral here, I am thinking a) that the Australians are showing great quality (and this is good, for the game) but also b) that an absolute massacre (which we might be foolish to rule out) would be erm, unhelpful.

Lanning is out, for 15, caught at square leg. 154 for 2, off 16.2. Can the change come? Sharma follows up by beating the newcomer Gardner, a small reminder that there’s theoretically a contest, here. When the ‘replay’ comes, two balls later, and Gardner is comprehensively stumped, perhaps… yaknow, perhaps? 157 for 3 after 17, with Haynes joining Mooney.

Poonam Yadav, who has become something of a world-wide cult figure over recent weeks, has the dubious privilege of bowling the 18th. All the tricks, now, from Australia – and ver-ry good running. Yadav goes around. Haynes steps wide outside off, looking to slog to leg; succeeds only in swishing onto her stumps. 176 for 4.

Carey fends the final ball of the over to safety and the drama subsides a little.

Australia finish on 184 for 4, with Mooney having batted through for an almost flawless 78. If the final four or five overs may have represented a minor fightback from the visitors then let’s hope for a competitive second phase.

Verma looked nervy to the point of shell-shocked, in the field, making multiple errors. She may need to throw off those horrors and grasp the moment, for India to have any chance. To be blunt, that seems unlikely, to me. They have some quality but not the depth of the Southern Stars batting line-up.

The sixteen-year-old will face: how about that, in front of 90-odd thousand? Schutt will bowl. Wonderfully-but-alarmingly, Verma straight-drives, classically straight, but highish. First ball! She ‘escapes’, or at least it feels that way, so dangerously bold was that option. Two balls later, she is gone, caught in the crease, nicking one behind: arguably the prime threat snuffed out.

The elegant Smriti Mandhana remains, of course, and there is batting to come, but it’s been Verma who has been the driver for most of the dynamism we’ve seen, of late, from India. Jonassen is in.

Then something unfortunate. Bhatia, who has looked nervous, misses a sweep and the ball appears to strike her helmet. I am honestly not clear if it’s nervous upset or possible concussion that forces her to retire hurt – but she does. It gets worrying (predictably?) when her replacement, Rodrigues, has to walk, for nought.

India at 8 for 2, then, with their two great players in about as much poop as you could ever imagine – cricket-poop, anyway. A World Cup Final. A huge score on the board. Wickets early. Sadly, they (to use Nasser Hussain’s word) “crumble”. Mandhana directs straight to mid-off, where Carey takes a simple catch.

When Harmanpreet Kaur is caught on the boundary, off Jonassen and India fall to 30 for 4, the bowler’s celebration shows you she thinks it’s all over. I think she’s right. Deepti Sharma has shown some form with the bat, as well as ball, and Krishnamurthy may offer something, but with the power play done, four down and relatively little remaining ‘in the shed’, we can only hope that embarrassment can be avoided.

We get to 47 for 4 after 9. Molineux bowling, Mexican Wave a-rolling. Veda Krishnamurthy strikes defiantly downtown, stylishly, but the ball plugs, rather, and the boundary is easily saved. Cut to Shafali Verma, looking inconsolably glum, in the dug-out.

We have a great, full stadium, with the homers loving it and the thousands of Indian fans in manifest pain. Australia are doing a professional job, now – seeing it out. Jonassen takes a good catch at full stretch above her head, to dismiss Krishnamurthy: Kimmince the bowler. 59 for 5. A reminder that mostly the Stars look like pro’ athletes in the field, whereas this is simply not the case with their opposition.

Australia are the best side in the world: I personally feel that England are second-best, largely because they field to a level that bears comparison to the Aussies.

It may be unfair and unwise to extrapolate this argument further but here goes. My hunch has been very much that England might provide tougher opposition in this final, than India. England are better in the field than India; they are more durable, batting-wise too, currently – Knight and Sciver in particular being consistent and resilient where Mandhana and Kaur have looked comparatively flimsy of late. This is not to say that this event is somehow diminished. The finalists are both world powers in the game and the losers are, in goodish time, closing the gap: just not today.

Jonassen is bowling the 16th; steady as she goes. 88 for 5.

Depth Sharma clouts Carey to deep mid-on, where Mooney calmly takes. Australia may run through them now, possibly. Pandey has joined Richa Ghosh, who has 12. Schutt will be back for the next. Crowd confirmed as 86,174: that’s THE MESSAGE, yes?

Mooney takes another excellent catch running backwards: it’s Shikha Pandey, gone for 2. With nothing to lose (as it were) Richa Ghosh swings high but holes out to Carey: 96 for 8 with Schutt now wondering if she can really make her mark, after what feels like a relatively quiet tournament. (In truth she will finish as leading wicket taker – without being at her peak, in my view). Another skier… but it falls just safe.

Hard to keep up, as Mooney takes another catch, off Jonassen, to leave India nine-down. The Aus support-team all on their feet as we enter the final over and the roar builds again. Schutt to close. Poona Yadav obliges, spooning her to leg, where Gardner races in confidently to make the grab. Australia have won it by 85 runs.

Many, many positives. This crowd – the whole visibility of this event, on #InternationalWomensDay. Australia consistently ver-ry good, today; India under-achieving. May reflect more, later: it may take a good walk on the Pembs Coast Path to wipe away the sight of Shafali Verma, under peaked cap, turning away tearfully from the action, during that last over. But hey, she’s sixteen; she’ll be back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Universe Podcast: “Let’s get at it”. #InspiringGenerations – the launch.

Wrote a demon blog and t’internet ate it. So rambled, below, on the theme of the ECB Action Plan 2109 – specifically the ‘Transforming Women’s & Girls’ Cricket’ tome, released and placed before the media on Tuesday.

There are ‘qualifications’, here, which I hope are decipherable. Chiefly, though, there is a genuine hope and even belief  that the massive commitment of funds really will change levels of awareness and participation: that the commitment to supporting and re-structuring (which may be politically/philosophically questionable to some) will at least work, significantly, in terms of the ‘gender re-balance’ that Clare Connor and others have spoken of.

Makes me smile that much of this feels driven by the need to keep pace or catch up with the Aussies – fair dinkum to them for blazing the trail for women professionals, in particular. But I don’t work and am not particularly likely to work at the elite end of the game. I’m a grassroots geezer and proud of it. What feels good to me is that because of the holistic, wholesale, humongousness of this project, many wee female humans will register cricket in a way that simply hasn’t happened, previously. The girls I coach will feel the sport-tastic blur going on above them. Love that.

In short, despite ab-so-lutely acknowledging concerns about the implications around new tournaments, new regions, I am buzzing – this does feel like a transformation. It’s right that we pour resources into W & G Cricket; it will be liberating, inspiring and blood-dee exciting. Just like sport should be.

 

*Note. Fully intend to get back into gathering in guests for the Universe Podcast ver-ry soon!

Below are some of the key commitments, from the ECB: copied & pasted from the “Transforming Women’s & Girls’ Cricket document”.

£20m investment by 2021.

171% total funding increase for girls’ County Age Group (CAG) Cricket.

8 new regional teams for elite domestic cricket.

500k girls in primary schools to receive a great cricket experience.

40 new professional contracts for female cricketers.

2,000(!) female South Asian All Stars Activators trained by 2024.

Final note; belatedly remembered (and am reminded, re-reading the document) that Women’s IT20 comes to Brum, in the Commonwealth games in 2022. Edgbaston could do a great job of showcasing that: see you there!

 

Universe Podcast/codcast. @cricketmanwales is in the kitchen with the #WomensAshes.

Could only be me. Could only be some daft bloke in his kitchen, trying to make sense of the #WomensAshes.

A ramble, then; a further adventure into longish yomps through Bristol and cod-psychological retrospectives on Eng Women Cricket, on Lanning… and on everything.

Have a listen?

 

*Important note – important to me, anyways*. I use the phrase “even though it’s the women’s game” here. This – I am about to argue – is not remotely the diabolically sexist remark some may fear. Why? Because what I mean is “even though it’s the women’s game – and as we know in a sexist universe it ain’t gonna be funded and supported to the level of the men’s game…” blah di blah.

Hope that’s understood that way because despite my middle-aged blokeyness and the inevitable baggage that brings with it, I am hoping, in my imperfect way, to make arguments FOR equality and respect for women in sport and beyond.

But back to the blog… and to the issues I look to discuss.

Shots fired? Some. But maybe more ‘issues raised’, as follows – or these are some of the things that fascinated, or struck, or tickled me.

  • England’s ‘mis-execution’.
  • Aussie superiority – the reasons why?
  • Perry’s genius.
  • Cultural differences.
  • Structural differences.
  • Fitness/agility/execution/performance.
  • England’s alleged lack of dynamism.
  • Australia’s alleged lack of dynamism.
  • That thing about The Women still needing to ‘legitimise their game’. (Cobblers!)
  • Prospects for Test Cricket for women.

And on the cooking front? Hilarious-but-true, kinda ‘caramelised’ the onions and distractedly dropped about a tonne of bouillon in there, so the alleged veg soup turned out brownish and over-salty. Metaphor for my life.

 

Since I wrote and recorded this, further interrogation of All Things England Women, for broadly failing to rise to the challenge and specifically getting ab-so-lutely Lanninged, at Chelmsford.

On the one hand this has been deeply disconcerting – you suspect *to the extent that* the ECB have been stirred into a series of declarations around policy/intent on professional cricket for women. On the other, just WOW: can we just pause to enjoy the exhilarating, stylish and entertainingly boomtastic way in which the Australian skip and her colleagues went about squishing England? Fortress Chelmsford was in shock. Aus did that thing of finding another level, that probably most of us (pommies) were fearing or waiting for. Either way it was magnificent.

So all the questions feel more urgent. And maybe most positively, the discussions regarding development and structure have exploded. Suddenly Women’s County Cricket has a partial reprieve and ‘commitment’ and ‘investment’ are re-promised.

In terms of the actual cricket, either this Ashes really will be a massacre, or perhaps England, or an England player or two, freed-up by the refreshingly-sexy pliably-rubbery deadness of the last two fixtures, will clonk some defiance into these strangely inequitable times. I’ll be in Bristol to see the last T20, so let’s hope for something there, eh?

 

The Universe Podcast 4. Swing; some Science.

 

 

 

Two years ago the Waltons visited Bath – and Bath Uni specifically – in support of my son, who was contemplating an application to the Department of Mechanical Engineering. As well as being wowed by the L, L, L, and indeed the F, F, F (Facilities, come o-on, keep up), a particular one of us was more than mildly diverted by a particular chance-occurrence. Or was it fate?

(By the way, it’s cool to call it ‘Uni’, right?)

Following an encouragingly cosmopolitan, reasonably well-healed crowd into the relevant building, we encountered the usual signage, plus material delivering to the departmental sales-pitch. A formula-something racing car, in the foyer; a video twinkling out sexy-but-profound Things You Should Know But Probably Didn’t, About Bath Engineering and a clutch of posters in a rack, speaking of specific research undertaken in the gaff.

The first of these posters was winking at me alone.

It may not, actually, have been called The Science of Swing but clearly it should have been. It was the story of one particular student’s release into the mysterious world of hooping cherries; some hows and whys of bowling swing – swing measured and experimented-upon in wind-tunnels and stuff. Proper, academic swing. Shockingly, I departed from family duties at that moment.

That project was written by a youthful James Scobie, the same James Scobie who triumphantly wheeled away to the Bath Uni Mech. Eng. staff room, where he still sits: that poster said as much.

Clouseau-like, I eventually discovered that the Dr Scobie was, on the day of our visit, “in the main sports hall, doing the student-welcome effort”. I went, and finding a gap in the worryingly-rehearsed but no doubt sincere questions from young hopefuls, began a conversation about balls. Later, graciously, James sent me his original research and our contact persisted, somewhat.

Two years pass and whilst delivering our newly-enrolled son into his room on the campus, I re-meet Dr Scobie, as arranged, for a further delve into the science and as it transpires, the poetry around the subject. The result is Podcast 4, for the Universe Podcast, which I present below.

It’s a rather magnificent 20-minute ramble through Laminar Flow, Turbulent Flow and dimples, on golf balls. Meaning there is science, but not of the deathly dry variety, I trust.

I strongly recommend it – the Dr is well worth listening to. The bloke who says WAGGA, instead of WACA (I think because he was raw excited and thinking of the GABBA) maybe less so.

 

 

I’m adding some thoughts and reflections because they may contribute to the understanding – maybe. Bullet-pointing, because a) speed b) there’s that feeling we bolted through many complex things and my head remains excited. To the extent that I will revisit this and re-claim some form of intelligent conclusion, in time.

  • It’s not about the humidity, folks!
  • It *may be* partly about the relative stillness that grey/cloudy/humid conditions deliver above the pitch. During ‘classically good bowling conditions’ at (e.g.) Trent Bridge in September, there may be an atmospheric stillness which enables the necessary Fluid Dynamics.
  • Conventional Swing is about the difference in two types of air flow… and about new balls and Boundary Layers around them.
  • The Duke’s ball swings (conventionally) when skilfully steered, when it’s newish, when the surfaces are in a condition that supports ‘hooping’.
  • The Duke’s ball is a ‘fabulous product’ with no unhelpful groove or slot between the four pieces of leather that make up the two hemispheres. The ‘fast’ or polished side can, therefore, be slick and quick – supporting swing.
  • The Kookaburra ball has a noticeable groove, which may negatively affect the possibility for swing.
  • *Also*, in Australia/India where there is often significant heat, turbulences above the pitch may interrupt or reduce the possibility for swing. James Scobie/Bath Uni conducted an experiment to try to replicate this WACA-esque phenomenon, using a grid to complicate air flow.
  • Wind tunnels are not 30 yards long. They are room-sized bits of kit in which the chamber may be the size of a suitcase, or tea-chest. The ball is fixed in position and air propelled across it to reproduce events. But the science is still valid.
  • Reverse swing is a function of speed and/or deterioration in ball condition.
  • Sandpaper can accelerate or make possible Reverse Swing.
  • Sugary spit can artificially maintain or improve the surface condition of the ball – and therefore promote swing.
  • Both sandpaper and sugary spit are ver-ry naughty.

Important: lots of chat arising about humidity and a perceived contradiction in the Scobie argument regarding the influence of muggy conditions. To be clear, Dr S conducted experiments where humidity was increased incrementally (and measured) in the wind tunnels. These showed clearly, in his view, that humidity specifically – the presence of water in the air – played no role in the production of swing.

Extracts, here, from a further explanation from Dr Scobie.

’humidity in isolation has no effect…

What we are arguing is than in order to cause the ball to swing you need the asymemetry set up by laminar flow on one side of the ball and turbulent flow on the other. If the environment is not conducive to this then swing will not occur’.

Encouragingly and for me more than slightly wonderfully, it is scientific fact (of a sort) that some of this remains… a mystery.

Last Chance Saloon?

Early the morning after, reflecting on another extraordinary night of sport. Savouring again (I AM a Glammy fan, after all) the intensity, the ecstasy and the daft rejuvenating joy of those key moments; Meschede’s knock; Smith’s two-in-two; VDG’s ultimate last-over roar. Wow.

The Crash-Bang Story is clearly that Glamorgan’s season remains alive but my own experience of the day was enriched by conversations with colleagues – Senior Blokes at Cricket Wales.

So respect to Matt Thompson, Kerry Lloyd, Peter Hybart and to Mark Frost, out in the Fun Zone welcoming folks and proferring his cricket storybook. (This for children, this intelligently linked to the CW/Chance to Shine project to embed/develop the link between sport and thought, all proceeds to cricket in Wales). Behind the Glam rollercoaster, there is honest, strategic, generous work.

Meanwhile, here’s how it was; the game – live.

 

Big Few Days coming up, for Glammy. In which a season, a coach maybe, might be saved.

Juicily, we’re against local rivals Gloucestershire, at Sophia Gardens, with conspiratorially muggy skies enhancing that possibility-for-intense-drama thing as we ease towards blast-off.

Glammy are without their recently-imported star Aussies but are emphatically buoyed by yet another great win away at Mighty Southern Softies, Surrey, a handful of days ago. After a prolonged period of disappointment, if not trauma, for Glammy fans, there’s a dangerous wee buzz building as the potential for a successful T20 campaign threatens to emerge.

Tonight, we know, is important: at 3.32 p.m. it’s still not clear if Colin Ingram will play. If the South African leftie-genius doesn’t march out there that would surely be a blow, unless the budding beauties – Donald, Carlson, maybe – sear into the void?

After my customary pitstop at The Plan, I scoot through Bute Park into Sophia Gardens to meet up with Matt Thompson, recently appointed by Cricket Wales to oversee the Player Development Pathway. (Official job title Talent Programme Manager).

Matt is every bit the spookily authoritative, engaging and – despite his preposterous youff – experienced cricket bloke I imagined he would be. I spoke to him for cricketmanwales.com and will post the podcast soonish.

By 6 p.m. a comparatively smallish crowd 3-4,000(?) is in and enjoying the sunshine. The Glam Media Team are hoping and expecting for more following ‘goodish ticket sales’. A win tonight will surely boost attendances for the remaining home fixtures but a defeat, in the context of frankly poor form throughout the County Champs and 50 over season, will inevitably see them remain lowish.

Payne – left arm over, quickish – opens to Donald, who drives him for two off the first ball and then middles the next to point, who gathers. The young welshman then survives two wobbles on consecutive balls as  a beauty beats him playing inside the line then a misjudged effort flies up into his face – off bat, I think – dislodging part of the helmet. Only three off the over.

Higgins follows, for Glos. Donald drives him lustily over mid-off, into the river, for the first boundary and follows that with an angled drive backward of point. Early signs are that the pitch is looking true-ish and placid and that therefore we could see a bundle of runs. After Payne’s second over – the third – Glam are at 20 for 0. Enter Tye – a unit – for the fourth.

People, it’s now a delightful evening and maybe you should be here?

Khawaja finally middles a pull over midwicket for four and Donald betters that with a cover drive for six. Good start now, as Glamorgan reach 37 for 0 off 4.

The night’s first great catch is a crowd catch, as Khawaja drives Payne majestically over mid-off but a yorker/full-toss cleans the Aussie out for the first wicket. 45 for 1; in comes Meschede. It feels like honours are relatively even as Glamorgan rack up 68 for 1 off the first seven… but maybe Glam would have liked one or two more boundaries? This is comfortable rather than explosive and the evening is looking set fair for top, top batting conditions.

Donald tries to invent nine different shots at once and spoons one out to backward point for another disappointing dismissal. He made a goodish-but-also-mixedish 31 – so neither bad nor really influential again. Absolutely right that he opens… but does need to flesh out these promising starts. Enter Carlson, who did so well the other night at the Oval.

At the halfway point Glam are 90 for 2, meaning 200 should be within their compass – but again this feels like a deck where nearly anything might be chaseable. We’ll see.

Carlson contemptuously despatches Noema-Barnett to square leg for six to signal the necessary gearing-up; he backs it up a superb, whipped cut-drive through point before sadly skying one to mid-off. Missed opportunity, you sense; 105 for 3. The incoming Cooke will know he needs to maintain, if not build, the momentum.

Meschede baseball-bats Smith through cow corner for six: come the end of the 14th, he’s onto 49 and Glamorgan are 131 for 3. (Spoiler: he gets his fifty).

Cooke sweeps Smith over backward square for six, drives him out over extra cover for four, then heaves him over midwicket for a further six. Important. The shadows are long and the night still: there is much drama to come.

Cooke is caught at deep midwicket off Howell for 29, in the seventeenth, bringing in the other hero of the Oval, Wagg. He must tee off, immediately. Instead, he falls l.b. to a cute slower ball. Salter must fire. Glamorgan are 159 for 5 off 17. Not enough, for me.

Things are in danger of falling apart, as Salter is caught behind, swinging hard to Payne, who now runs in from the River End. Meschede remains, defiantly swinging that same bowler over long on for another four, bringing his own tally to 63. Glammy surely need 20-something off each of the last two overs to be competitive?

They do get 25 off the last over, from a furiously frustrated Tye. Innings closed on 201 for 6, with Meschede on a creditable 77 and Selman also undefeated on 12. Good score, clearly but from where I’m sitting – looking straight down the strip on a glorious summer’s eve – it simply does not feel enough, against Klinger and co. Is that weird?

Gloucester have been competent rather than brilliant. Glam have been okay. Let’s see where this goes from here…

Hammond and the consistently excellent Klinger will open for Gloucester… and they will attack. Almost the whole of Sophia Gardens is now – at 20.09 p.m. – under deep shadow but as Glos race to 30-something this feels less than relevant. That is, until Hammond skies (and I do mean skies) Hogan to mid-on. After 3, the visitors are 39 for 1, with Hogan looking notably fired up; bowling full, quickly and with a beautifully bounce-inducing high hand. Heard it said that Hogan is a spent force. I like him for his intelligence, consistency and heart.

(Interestingly, we hear in the Media Centre that a Glam fielder has been penalised under the new law on feigning control or possession of the ball. Could be that Salter faked a return to the keeper but honestly not clear on this. The penalty is clear; five runs to the opposition).

In the sixth over, Cockbain exquisitely drives van der Gugten out through extra for arguably the night’s most delicious boundary before fluking an ugly one past the inevitably vacant leg slip area. But Glam respond, dramatically, having that man Klinger caught at long off *and* Cockbain caught behind next ball! Wow. 58 for 3 and game on with knobs on. Change of pace for the 8th as Salter comes in.

He fires in a beauty – ragging the ball for spin – but the edge goes through slip for four. Good little over, mind, encouraging shift in momentum, here. The wicket-taker Smith runs in again from the River End; like Hogan, the fella seems fired-up.

At the halfway, with Gloucestershire County Cricket Club at 76 for 3 and Glammy seemingly in control… I’m delighted and surprised. (Cue the inevitable six, from Hammond).

Wagg’s first ball is a peach, speared in, dismantling the stumps, removing the opener Howell. Such is the nature of things that his third – a perfectly decent, full, straightish delivery – is heaved over midwicket for six. 102 for 4 off 12.

Could be my eyes – long day, already – or my sympathetic nature but Meschede appears to be following the other Glamorgan bowlers by finding an extra yard: another sign that the home side want this.

A moment or two of concern for Wagg, who collects one on the head on his follow-through… and lies prostrate for some time on the pitch. He eventually storms off, having been instructed to leave by attending medical staff, understandably concerned re- a possible concussion. Almost funny but then not.

With five overs remaining, at 129 for 4, Gloucester have a lot to do. They attack van der Gugten, with some success – until Donald pockets Higgins for 37, at long on. This could be close. Crucial over from Hogan upcoming.

Oof. Carlson spills a tough chance out at square leg. Not critical, as Donald promptly takes Noema-Barnett at mid-on. 154 for 6. Jack Taylor biffs the last ball for six. 41 to tie, from 6.

Meschede from underneath me (as it were). Streaky four then dot ball. Awful misjudgement in the deep gifts cruel four. Then powerful drive for four – fifteen off the over. 27 from 2 wins it. The crowd are willing Glammy on, now.

The penultimate over will be Hogan’s. Another delay after Taylor takes a knock. Tense.

Roderick spoons a scoop-effort to backward square. Out. Should settle it but is settle a word we can use, here? No. Taylor hauls a six.

16 required off the last over, which van der Gugten must bowl.

We all leap as he cleans out Taylor with an emphatic yorker! But – there’s gonna be more buts, right? – Tye heaves a six high into the night sky, leaving 9 from 3 required.

Dot ball!

SIX!!

BOWLED!!! NEVER IN DOUBT!!

Stunning, painfully brilliant finish… for all of us. Massive, massive result for Croft, for Glamorgan, for Welsh Cricket. Take me to a dark room or a bar, swiftly, please? Fabulous, crazy, dramatic night.

 

 

 

 

 

In the ether.

Update: questions remain, following this extraordinary, garish, polarising Trauma of the Now. The role of the much-loved Boof may be chief amongst them, even if we accept that his six, soon-to-be-iconic words (“wtf is going on?!?”) are accepted as key to his innocence in the moment of ball-tampering. 

What  I’m wondering is – given the obviousness of Warner as a long-term arse – why no sense that he, at any stage, has been reminded of his responsibilities, reined in, by his coach, fellow players… or anyone else?

Fans have hated Warner (strong word but justified in this extreme case), for aeons. His cheap, unnecessary malevolence has been plain to followers of the game around the world. So in the whorl of emotions and reactions around the powerful conclusions from Sutherland’s enquiries, perhaps it might be wise to reflect some on that ‘environment’ thing? Again, this may bring us back to Boof… and to the Cricket Australia hierarchy more widely.

 

Here’s wot I wrote as the story was breaking…

 

So the world’s exploded into a rage that we really don’t need to add into. But we will anyway… because #sandpapergate.

The thing is hatred is a strong, ugly, unhelpful emotion and it can’t be good that there’s so much of it about: and yes this applies generally but let’s stick to cricket – to the cricket ether. 

Warner. Raw truth is Warner has been hated pretty much across the globe for some years. Ye-es, there is an argument that he is feared by opposition fans because he’s a threat, a player but let’s not be so daft as to think that the hatred is arising solely or even mostly from that; it’s not. It’s stoked by the persistent, cheap, boorish-aggressive behaviour of the player – of Warner. Warner carrying the flag for a country (or maybe just a squad?) who pride themselves on being the toughest.

Davy boy is the attack-dog, the snarling soul, the little big man, leaping and punching hysterically, hatefully sending all-comers off. He is Aussie Toughness personified.

Forgive us our feebleness but some of us don’t think real toughness is the same as Davy’s loudness, as his crassness, as being most-intimidating-in-a-foul way. We reckon the essence of real toughness is often a kind of quiet.

So this Aussie notion of ‘going to war’ and getting into the heads of your opposite numbers through erm, a game of cricket feels pitifully weak, as understandings of toughness go, to us. As a concept it feels weak, indulgently, incriminatingly weak, weak intellectually, morally and in terms of modelling.

Hang on, did I say morally? Haha! Yes! Because however hilarious and pompous these, my concepts are, I’m going to plant a flag round this baybee:

there is always a moral and/or behavioural dimension to sport – particularly at the representative level. It may even define the thing… as sport.

So, no surprises that an evidently persistent – and therefore presumably coached and intentionally ‘confrontational’ approach – has blown up in the faces of the aggressors. Whether this is traceable to a sort of natural justice, righteous sports-karma or simply and only to Bancroft’s exposed intervention is for you honourable sleuths to decide: I’m less interested in the timeline of events than the haul towards progress, here.

Aus cheated and were caught. And hoisted.

Previously, South Africa and their fans have been guilty of ugliness, belligerence, foul sportsmanship. (This may have been the spark but #sandpapergate is, we all agree, inexcusable, irrespective, yes?)

Before these guys… well, again, make your own chart. Kohli may be guilty, Anderson may be guilty, Broad, Atherton, Henry VIII: the video, the betamax, the whisper, the quill records the mortal wrong. Blimey. Where do we go from here?

Maybe we gather our wits. Maybe we penalise Smith, Warner, Bancroft and (after further, prompt enquiries), their coach. Maybe then we have an intelligent review of the strengths and weaknesses of where we’re at, with a view to legislating and/or recalibrating the Preamble to the Laws? Or we scrap them and determine to be contemporary in our judgement.

Said many times I fully accept that the volume of guffawing around the Spirit of Cricket means we have to be ver-ry careful of anything that sounds or feels like historic posturing. Like it or not, the universe will not blithely accept stuff that feels preachy, sanctimonious, archaic. Even if that stuff reflects good.

The Aussies cheating should be the catalyst not for Furious of Fremantle to scream ‘but what about?… but for calm reflections on effective ways forward. In the blur around this one despicable act, there must be a way to account for or prepare a response to (for example) Warner and Rabada’s ill-discipline – to cultural over-zealousness, to the prevailing macho-mania.

It could be of course, that the necessary weaponry is in place. That umpires and match referees, never mind the ICC or individual national authorities can sort this. Let’s hope that in the inevitable charge towards Decisive Action, we don’t fall into the trap of demanding consistency, when the situations demand intelligent, individual appreciation. (I say this in the knowledge that high profile former players and pundits alike will bawl out for that comforting c-word – naively, in my view).

This won’t be easy. We’ve heard too many braying about the stifling of characters in the game or ‘sanitising’ the great confrontations for this to be straightforward. But anyone with more than a handful of braincells must surely see that a) plain cheating is wrong and b) bitterness and x-rated conflict are not essential to the drama of great sport. Yes that sense that feelings are running high can be exhiliratingly present… but no, no, NO, this is not the object, the pretext for indulgence.

There is tellingly little sympathy around, for Smith, Warner and Bancroft. Even on their home patch, apparently. Whatever happens next – and there will be somebody, somewhere, right? – this is one of the great, self-inflicted booboos in modern sport. Outsiders view it as the biter bit, par excellence, relishing the fall of these particularly prickly protagonists.

We need to convert this relish over to energetic renewal. If Australia at large really is mortified, then the onus may be on them to start the ball rolling on the cultural education front. But when the immediate concern is for #sandpapergate, will Cricket Australia be bold or generous enough to make the link between broad (but weedy, but spiteful) confrontationalism and hollowed-out sport? I hope so.

 

What do we call this?

Okay. Maybe you’re centre-midfield on a parks pitch in North Lincolnshire and it’s down to you. This. The ball plummeting towards, their grizzly number six feeling for your presence, aware you’re the one who can head. You’re gonna not so much head as clear out the universe, power through, make the most intimidating statement ever made in sport.

This only works if you bawl something as you leap; something kinda specific. Something like ‘RICKY’S UP!’ – which may on the page sound cheesy but in the moment, no. The two syllables of the name project, control, make real the intervention in a way that RICK just couldn’t. It would be ricdiculous. The words, the sound, the something… decide.

Everybody who knows footie – knows sport – understands this. The words in the event are massive. What you call yourself, what you get called, how you’re spoken of , is critical. Not possible to be bona fide without (weirdly, mainly) two syllables.

Of course this is why we get Gazzas and Glendas and (don’t worry I’m coming to cricket now) Rootys, Cookies, Jimmys. Cobblers to any other cultural-sociological considerations, it’s about what naturally fits, then. So I can be as Rick as I want but if I plant the ball majestically wide of cover’s left hand somebody on the boundary’s going to mutter ‘shot, Ricky!’ If the England number three does that beautiful unfurling thing through extra-cover, Farbrace is going to rumble ‘played, Vincey!’ as he’s stirred to his feet.

How else, though, is the gorgeous-but-infuriating Hants bat spoken to, or of?

When he strides back to pavilion, eyes down, caught at slip, what else could it be from Bayliss but ‘what the **** was that, Vincey?’

Actually it could be lots of things. It could be silence, for one. Bayliss may choose a later opportunity, maybe to ask a wiser, more searching question. Like ‘where do you think we are with the dismissals, Vincey*? In terms of pattern?’ And then they together choose what to work on.

*Could be of course that in the real world moment there’s another nickname. Not in there – don’t know. I’m betting it’s two syllables, mind. Vince is worth talking about; with yaknow, words.

Clearly there’s a lot of chat around all those starts, all those frustrating, demoralising finishes. (Sometimes I wonder if they’re worse for us poor buggers watching than for him!) Plus a rich vein of psycho-gubbins around personality, freedom, responsibility and yes, that coaching framework. There’s a documentary series, never mind a blog around What, Exactly, Vincey Should Do: for now, I’ll stick with the former.

Some are fascinatingly clear that what they deem a ‘failure to learn’ simply disqualifies him already; however he might purr, this cat ain’t suitable for Test Cricket. Others argue that the problem isn’t so much centred on poor choices as kindof disproportionately fiercely-punished non or near-execution. Failing to execute shots he very often plays. Outside off-stump. Imperiously.

From memory I think I’ve only seen one media name blame technical issues for Vince’s predicament. Chiefly he’s getting slaughtered for going there at all, given we’re under, or about to be pitifully legs and arms akimbo under the cosh. There may actually be something comical about the level and intensity of verbals aimed at the rather serene-looking strokemaker but head-in-talons at the unbe-leeee-vably serial transgression across the Don’t Play Eet Less Ya’ve To Principle, us nighthawks – Yorkie nighthawks? – have typically stooped full-tilt into raging fury. Perspective? Proportion? Intelligent Investment? Na.

Here’s a thing, though. Plenty of us have woken the dog – quite possibly immediately before the offending nick of the wide-ish one behind – with a snortaciously approving ‘Yesss, Vincey’ as the ball raced to the off-side fence. We’ve muttered something about ‘class’ – and I don’t mean his private schooling in medium-luxurious Wiltshire. Thus many a dark, dark December night has felt defined (or possibly caricatured?) by the cruel see-sawing between expressive pomp and dumb, tribal humiliation.

Incidentally, I wonder how many of us have marked a beautifully squeezed J.V. drive with a follow-up aimed (in increasing order of spitefulness) at Starc(k)y, Smithy or War-ner? And is there something else about doubling up – going bi? Bitterness? Bile? Emphasis? Certainty?

See, I am more sure of my two syllable hypothesis than any of the Vince cricket-things. He’s a fabulously gifted player – milky, honeyed, rich, pure. And yet we wonder either if no-one’s home, if nothing’s been said or if our fears about the empowerment of players through (ahem) *personal discovery* have in his case reached an epic high, or low?

Freedom for learning is a gift and a blessing. It’s also very much at the forefront of contemporary coaching philosophies. They change. The need to decide stuff arguably doesn’t.

Vincey, come out and tell us: what’s been said?