Cricket By Numbers – 0, Zero, Nothing..

22 May 1982.

For some the date may be memorable for one of the worst Cup Finals in living memory. A dull 1-1 draw between Tottenham and QPR, played on a dull day, with a dull outcome. However, 22 May 1982 will always be remembered by your humble author for feeling as low as he ever has on a cricket field. On 22 May 1982 I scored, if you can indeed score “a nothing”, my first duck in proper organised cricket. Not for me a scrappy nought, playing and missing, a couple of airy shots, followed by a biff straight up in the air. No, mine was a most soul-destroying, devastating duck. First ball of the match, a nick to second slip, pouched.

In a series of however many I feel like, but limited to the number 83, I am going to have a little go at the numbers of cricket as related to my wholly useless cricket “career”, and watching the game over the years. To start us off, I am going to probably take on the longest piece of the whole series, the futility of zero.

For some cricketers, they aren’t bothered about getting nought. For people like me, who in club cricket pay their £10 a match to bat for at least a little bit of time, it is something to be feared, and at school, something to worry about. For me, getting off the dreaded nought is the be all and end all. It is such a focus that when, in a work game a couple of years ago, Matthew Wood of a work outfit we played against induced me to play on for a wretched six or seven ball nought, it was a disaster. Because, since August 1999, when I got floored by a toe-crushing yorker that bashed big toe and leg stump with equal ferocity, it had been the first nought this Millennium for me.

I’m no Bradman – walking to the station today I was wondering whether I’d passed 50 more than ten times in my illustrious career (I think I have 13 or 14 scores over that) – but getting out for nought is something to be avoided at all costs – the self-perpetuating stat is that I haven’t scored a 0 for the Old Jos since 1999 – I pretty much stopped playing in 2004. Whether it is a fraud (Catford Wanderers away –see the article upcoming on the number 1) or whether it is a jobbing 4 playing like a blind man, avoiding nought was more than just avoiding packing the kit, the punishment bestowed on the lowest score made in the team. It was to not have your contribution in the scorebook count as much as a dead man. As I walked off the pitch at Alleyns on 22 May 1982, I think I’d rather have been dead.

I recall it vividly – and the context is as amusing now as it was then – and I can see the scene now. As usual, because my year cricket team were full of cowards who wanted the fatboy to take the shine off the ball and maybe tire the quick bowler out, I was put up front to face the opposition’s opening bowler. His surname was O’Gorman – I think his first name might have been Tom – and for a 12/13 year old he had a pretty long run up. No bother, he couldn’t be as quick as Vivekenandam, that Emanuel School bowler who terrified the life out of us the year before, and who I watched take a hat-trick as I stood at the other end as non-striker. He was to be feared, but until he whistled one past my bat, I’ll take it as I see it.

Walking out facing first ball was always a nerve churner, whoever the bowler. Negative thoughts pervade you – just see this ball out. Sometimes you get that elusive wide one that you leave well alone and then breathe for the first time in a minute. Sometimes you get one just a little too good that beats you – no bother, that’s never worried me, playing and missing. I much rather play and miss than mistime an attacking shot. Other times you get the one you fear, the straight one, a little quick, and pray you can dab down on it in time. Little did I know on 22 May 1982, that none of these would happen, and that such a chain of events would ensue that would affect our year’s cricket team for the rest of its days.

You see, people of a young age, in 1982 FA Cup Final day was a huge deal. People wanted to watch it as it was one of the few games shown on live TV. It was a massive occasion. In 1981, my first year in secondary school, we missed out on a school cricket game on Cup Final Day (or it might have been the morning), but in 1982 we did not, and when it was clear that Alleyns was the game on the calendar, the moaning began.

What did not help was that our new Master-in-Charge, a Mr Farrar was of the brooding, malevolent type (a good economics teacher as I was to find out at A Level, but a stubborn man when it came to cricket teams) and the two forces – obstinate teacher, moaning kids – were going to meet. We had the youthful “need” to watch one of the few live TV games against a teacher who loved to prove a point – what followed was bizarre in the extreme. In the run-up to the game three players I recall started to moan about playing. I recall their names, but I’ll spare them here, but one of them was a very talented batsman who we would miss if he didn’t play. He came back to haunt me at the end of the year when he spanked us all over the park in an inter-form game. He was, I recall, the most vociferous, but he wasn’t alone. Another came up with the great excuse that he had Harlem Globetrotter tickets that night and couldn’t play. As events turned out, he played, and got there with plenty of time to spare. I was one of those that just accepted his fate and knew that part of the deal with the school is that you were required to attend events outside school hours if selected. I was used to it in the choir, and now I had to accept it for cricket. Those that were forced to come, and moaned, never played for us again.

Our year team was weakened and it was utterly understandable that we won just one game each season in the two seasons we had Mr Farrar in charge. However, the incessant moaning and whingeing were to have a much more immediate consequence, and I started it.

The day of the game, and we were praying for rain to watch the Final. It didn’t. My Dad was a star, saying that as his son was missing the Final, so would he, and he came along to support. Now not until the last game my dad ever saw me play did I put up anything resembling a performance in his presence, so that wasn’t necessarily a good thing, but my Dad was a very important cog in the day as I’ll come to later.

We traipsed over, moaning as we went, to Alleyns school in Dulwich from Lee, where my school was based. We got changed, and the moans didn’t die down – the thought of this happening now just defies belief, but this was 1982 – and our captain, Geoff, went out to toss up. I can’t remember if we won or lost the toss, but we batted first. Mr Farrar looks at me and says, “Old, number 1″. As usual, I padded up, scared witless at what might befall me, but knowing this was my role in the team. I think in the two years Farrar was in charge he dropped me down the order twice. I scored sweet eff all down there, so hardly made a case to not be the team’s cannon fodder.

I can’t remember who my opening partner was that day, but it hardly mattered. It may have been James Harris, because his dad had come along too, but that’s by the by. I took my guard – middle in those days, it is so much more sophisticated to ask for two legs now, pretentious idiots we are – and looked behind me at the keeper and the slips. The thought here was that with two in place, my best scoring area, the nick along the ground, was gone. Unlike this fat lump at first slip, the chances are these guys looked like they could have stopped my thin edges. That said, if Jabba the Hut were there (no jokes) he’d have looked like Derek Randall when I faced a first ball. Already doubts were in my mind – where am I going to score runs? (I did not hit a four in front of square until I was nearly 14!)

So, DF Colt bat in hand, I take my usual stance, which has changed little during the years. I wait for the umpire to say “play” and then I start to concentrate big time. The breathing becomes slower, and the heart races. The bowler starts his run-up, and it looks a long one for a 12/13 year old. He gets ready to raise the arm up and propel the missile down towards you. The thoughts race…”It is first ball of the match. It is Cup Final day. Your team needs you Dmitri. It needs you. Geoff, Simon, the rest don’t need to be facing the rough stuff early. That’s your job fatboy. It is what you are “good” at, because quite frankly, you can’t hit a ball off the square. Your 150 minute 27 at Kingston last summer proved that. You are there to take shot and shell. It is why you are in the team, and not the B team like you started in last summer, and got promoted because the Prep School boy couldn’t/wouldn’t open.” Yep, all that in the time it took for O’Gorman to reach the crease. I wonder what a sports psychologist would make of all that. “How did he have the time” probably. I think, in professional parlance, I might have been “primed for failure”.

I have faced hundreds of first ball since, and I have been out to just two of them. One was unplayable and knocked my middle pole out – you really can’t do anything but tip your hat to one of the fastest bowlers you have ever faced – and the other I foolishly tried to square drive and was caught at gully. More of those later. These came a bit later in life when I’d grown up a bit and didn’t have that utter terror in me, and quite frankly, I could tell anyone having a go to “fuck off”. This was 1982 at fee-paying school. Telling Mr Farrar to “fuck off” wasn’t really an option.

On 22 May 1982, I did have that terror in me. Every first ball was a hell. An experience to fear. Not for me the KP push to cover and run like the wind – I ran more like I had the wind – but it was about survival. See off the first ball, and the tag “golden duck” couldn’t be applied to you. I recall the ball. As it came out of the hand it looked short, but not too short. The run-up was a bit deceiving in that he had some pace, but not the quickest I’d faced (I found that out when I faced him in the next two years). He was a little tall, I think, for his age, so if there were any bounce in the pitch, then it would lift a little, but this was May, not July, and pitches were like puddings, and this wasn’t Alleyn’s first XI square we were playing on. Yep, I thought all that. Primed for failure.

The ball carried a bit further and the inclination to go back was over-ridden by my default thought – get forward. Fancy Dan’s call this stuff a “trigger movement” these days, I’d all it a rigor mortis movement as I’m scared stiff and hell, you get everything in the way. If it hit you on the pad and you were stone plumb in front, you could always claim that an LBW wasn’t really out and it was the deluded evil motives of the opposition’s Master-in-Charge who without exception, wherever you played, was a cheating bastard. This wasn’t going to be LBW though.

Uh-oh. As the ball pitched, just short of a good length, I knew I was in trouble. On a pudding the bloody thing took off. My bat, draped away from my body like hanging a cat out of a window, froze. I lurched back a little, but not enough, or not quickly enough. As I went back, so my bat came up, and as the ball veered up and in to me it took the outside edge, somewhere near the shoulder and looped. “Uh-oh. Trouble here. Where’s the bloody thing gone?”. Or something like that….

It didn’t take long on its fateful journey, although it wasn’t moving fast, to reach second slip who pouched it. The cheers went up, and the home team were jubilant. At that point I wanted to die. I walked off the field as disconsolate as a young child can be, feeling as though the home team were laughing at me, and those in my team were too, as well as thinking “he’s shit”. I felt that horrible feeling of utter shame. I was beyond embarrassed. Geoff, a great bloke, walked past me, and you could almost sense his visceral hatred of me at that point. “Old, you idiot”. It was stamped all over his face. The eyes started to fill with water, or as Band Aid sang “the bitter sting of tears”.

I didn’t even remember my dad was there, and I just did not want to talk to him even if I did know. This wasn’t one of the highest points of my life. The fact that it got laughs in subsequent years does not replace the fact that at the time, I felt like the world’s biggest loser. There was, however, to be a very large sting in the tail. My nought was to be the start of one of those great school games of cricket…..

In my own cloud of despair I barely remembered how or why it happened, but wickets kept tumbling, and, quite strangely, mostly at the end I got out. And by tumbling, I meant rapidly. By the time our innings had wrapped up, Colfe’s School Under 13s had managed a deeply impressive score of 18 all out. I hope Alleyn’s have kept that scorebook, and I’d be delighted to reproduce it if anyone ever stumbled across it, but it was a day where my 0 had really great context. As a certain TV programme I’m no longer allowed to mention might have said in the title song “My duck, was only the start of it….”

Farrar was fuming. Steam out of the ears fuming. As the innings ended, my dad, and James’s dad went out to look at the pitch. Farrar was in a very stern conversation over at the 1st XI square where our Headmaster was stationed watching them put up a slightly better effort. The conversation ended and Farrar marched back, face like thunder, and said something along the lines of “That was a disgrace. The Headmaster wants to see all of you NOW. Over to the other side of the field NOW.”

I have a number of words to describe this action in hindsight, and bastard is about the mildest one. I was in bits when I came off, but this chump believed that due to all the moaning and groaning, we’d, or more to the point, I’d done this on purpose. I loved batting, especially as I wasn’t getting a bowl for this mob so I better had love it, and if he thought I got out on purpose he had to be off his stick. I choose humiliation, ritually. It’s what I do. It’s why I support Millwall.

When we got over to the Headmaster, who was some behemoth, someone we saw at Assembly and that was all, and in his own way a pretty scary figure, I think my emotions were of fear – I was petrified. This man could do ANYTHING to me. What followed indicated just what Farrar had said. I obviously don’t have exact recall, but this is the gist of it.

Mr Farrar has told me about your appalling performance over there. I have heard from him how you have moaned about playing this weekend because of the FA Cup Final. This is no excuse for embarrassing our school. You have let yourselves down and Colfe’s School down. Scoring 18 is a humiliation and I am given to believe that it is because you lack effort and will to play. You had better make up for it. When the game is finished, and if I hear that you have not put in the effort of your lives to at least show some heart and pride in this school’s name, and I will be over to watch you (he did say at some point – bloody good job we didn’t open the bowling with a hand grenade merchant or we’d all be in detention still – I digress) then you will be in detention Monday after school, and every day after that until I see fit. Now off you go.”

Well – fuck off headmaster wasn’t an option here, either. One could interpret that as a magnificent pep-talk that geed up the boys and got them going, but Vivian Stanley wasn’t Brian Clough. At the time I thought it was a scary, horrible thing to do. I felt like I was the one most responsible as I’d got out first ball, and that the number one honcho in the school was blaming me. That infused the confidence – Yes, I really wanted a catch to come my way in the second innings. I rated my chances of holding the easiest dolly at about 100 to 1. I wasn’t shot, I was jelly. Utter terror. To think, I played cricket for fun, and I got this?

As we went out to field, I noticed my dad, along with James’s walk back from the pitch and straight over to the Headmaster. I’d caught a word with dad on the way out, and said the headmaster had given us a real telling off, and dad, in his own very understated way, just shrugged and looked a little concerned. Dad didn’t give a lot away, and I loved him dearly for that, but one thing Dad never stood for was nonsense, and as far as he was concerned, what had transpired between the two teachers was just that. As he told me later on the day, this is how his and Mr Harris’s conversation with our headmaster supposedly transpired.

“Hello headmaster, I’m Mr Old/Mr Harris”

“Hello Mr Old/Mr Harris”

“I understand you’ve told the boys off for a bad performance”

“Yes, Mr Old. 18 all out isn’t acceptable.”

“Have you watched any of the game?”

“No.”

(My dad didn’t go into sarcasm, but you can hear it dripping in his voice, and as he told me the story, you could see that little smile he had, and at that point he had that look – the rolling of the eyes as if he were dealing with a complete muppet. I have that look, but it is blatant. With Dad, unless you knew it, you missed it. I know I go on about his demise a lot, but I really miss that little smile, that little glint, that roll of the eyes in an imperceptible manner. He was such a great dad….sorry about that….Farnborough Hospital, unlike Farrar and Head, I can say “fuck off.” Dad wouldn’t approve though.)

“That pitch isn’t fit for 12 or 13 year old boys to play on. If you go out there, as we have, there is a ridge in the pitch on a good length from one end. It lands on one side of it, it flies up around their heads. It lands on the other side of it, it scoots. I suggest you watch when bowling from this end (pointing at the O’Gorman end) and you’ll see. I’m not very happy that kids are playing on it, to be honest.”

(My dad wasn’t a health and safety freak, and kiddywinks, we never wore helmets at that age. It is a shame we do now. We respected a cricket ball then…)

“Oh,”

“Because, headmaster, to suggest that my son isn’t putting in any effort isn’t particularly a nice thing to say, is it? I saw Dmitri after he got out. He was extremely upset.”

“Well, I wasn’t particularly picking on him, Mr Old.”

“No, but you’ve threatened them all with detention, and didn’t stop to think, did you?”

“Well….”

You’ve got to love my dad – he wasn’t one of those screaming on the line about his “boys”, but rather would put us down in a very charming way (no malice ever intended, but you earned your praise – as an aside, I came off the field having bowled a dreadful spell in a work game in 2005, and Dad was there. He was a shadow of his former self, and it was great to see him out. In front of my work colleagues, in his quiet, but audible voice, said to me  “well, that was a load of old rubbish then, wasn’t it?” My colleagues laughed. Old sod). As it happened, Alleyns thought 18 wasn’t much of a target and reversed the batting order. 18 wasn’t much of a target, I mean, how silly is that statement? Of course Alleyn’s did win….by three wickets!

22 for 7 chasing down 18. We fielded well, except for a chap called Hobbs dropping a catch I’m glad I wasn’t under which might have made it more interesting, but when the winning boundary took a relieved home side to victory, all we were worried about was whether we’d done enough to save our skins. The game had finished at around 3:30, and the Cup Final was the last thing on our minds.

As it transpired, my dad hadn’t finished with his quiet word…

“So headmaster… do you think you were a bit hasty?

“I see what you mean Mr Old.”

“I thought you might.”

We were spared detention. The headmaster was not apologetic, you couldn’t be with 12 or 13 year old kids, but he was grudging in saying we’d shown a good effort and were not to be forced to go to detention where presumably we’d be told to write “We must not be crap at cricket” a thousand times. My dad had witnessed a debacle but along with the other dad there, saved our arses. Sure, the pitch wasn’t brilliant, but it wasn’t really an 18 all out wicket – as was proved in the next couple of years, we were utterly hopeless, and if Geoff failed, we failed.

The reason our team was more rubbish was because after this game and this FA Cup Final, several of the team were told they’d never be picked again. Brilliant. We were crap, and just made ourselves worse and those “most responsible” were told they didn’t have to bother as if it were some sort of punishment. Banning them from rugby might have hurt them more, but this was a rugby school, and you could have done all sorts and not be kicked off that.

Those left were to pick up the pieces and play on.Character in being thumped and all that. It was only in our fourth and final year, when we got rid of the albatross that was Mr Farrar, in favour of a new master-in-charge, Paul Hollingum, when we improved out of all recognition and actually made the Kent Cup Semi-Final. The two years before were miserable, and cricket was a chore.

As ducks go, this golden, or is it platinum or diamond duck, was a beauty. You know what else was a beauty that day? We were so rubbish that we got home in time for extra-time in the Cup Final where we saw both goals in a turgid final. Alanis Morrissette sang a song about that.

I have so much more on the number zero in cricket to write, and I’ll be back. Any errors in this piece are down to my tainted memory and may have got exaggerated or warped over time. Of course they would, it was 28 bloody years ago and they are probably over-egged. It’s a good story of a crap team on a crap day and a crap Cup Final.

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Copy: Know Your Place – 11 February 2014

I stumbled across a Tweet from the Cricket Magazine, suggesting that a Press Release from the ECB was imminent on L’Affaire KP. Muppet Pringle seemed a little put out that his Sunday afternoon was being disrupted, as was the terminally annoying Jeremiah Agnew. As 3 pm passed, there was no Statement; Pringle then questioned who said it was 3pm? Leveraging his sources at the ECB, who have been leveraged quite a bit in the last few weeks it seems, Pringle announced a couple of deadlines later in the day. When the statement finally arrived on the Twitter feed, all the cricket bloggers, eager for news, were matched by the press, who seemed somewhat tired of the whole process.

Anyone not paying attention to this saga can’t get the real time feelings this wait exposed. We’d seen the Sky Sports programme, where Steve Harmison gave a player’s perspective, as a man who shared a dressing room with KP, against a journo and Bob Willis, who has decided KP is just the sort of charismatic maverick, tired of authority and false prophets, that he obviously never held against Ian Botham. The same old arguments rehashed. The establishment side saying KP can’t be trusted, the counter view being he should be managed better.

Then there was the poll on Sky – 87% or so saying it was wrong he should be dropped. This is not something on which only one side is passionate, and thus skewed. The comments against KP are every bit as vicious as those supporting our batsman and attacking those who made the decision. Less than 1% of those commenting know anything about KP other than what they’ve seen in media controlled settings or how he carries himself on the field. He hasn’t said a word, other than a couple of tweets/facebook posts since his sacking, yet is accused of waging a media assault on the decision. Whichever way you look at it, those who are the paying public who have spoken out are miles more in favour of him being kept than ditched. In the absence of a sackable offence, which is being played down by all and sundry, then we are left asking “can’t we at least try to keep our best batsman” (and no, no, no – Ian Bell is not better than KP. Please stop that now.)

So, with baited breath we read the KP statement from the ECB. And to a man, the blogosphere were gobsmacked. It wasn’t that this was never going to say anything that would dump on KP. Strauss had played a not too subtle card earlier in the day with his “lack of trust” speech, which was absolutely no way encouraged by the ECB, former colleagues and or anyone linked with Team England. Despite the floods, I’m sure he’s very happy talking to the Flowers. It was several of the more hissy-fit statements, and a couple of belting statements that had gasps of derision from the cricket blogging fraternity.

First – the future:

However, the England team needs to rebuild after the whitewash in Australia. To do that we must invest in our captain Alastair Cook and we must support him in creating a culture in which we can be confident he will have the full support of all players, with everyone pulling in the same direction and able to trust each other. It is for those reasons that we have decided to move on without Kevin Pietersen.

We MUST invest in our captain Alastair Cook. England only sack captains these days if they rock the boat. Literally in the form of Andrew Flintoff, who copped it after Fredalo, and figuratively in KP’s case. Being a laugh, or having a forceful opinion is grounds for sacking. Being widely condemned as clueless, unadventurous, and out of his depth in Australia is not reason to sack the captain. A captain needs full support with everyone pulling in the same direction – yes, everyone loves Michael Clarke in the Australian dressing room, just ask Shane Watson – and because KP might think that the winter’s farce was down to an overbearing coach passed his sell-by date, and a dutiful captain out of his depth, that’s it. As Ian Chappell said yesterday, if players weren’t making comments about Cook’s captaincy, they were doing the team a disservice.

Following the announcement of that decision, allegations have been made, some from people outside cricket, which as well as attacking the rationale of the ECB’s decision-making, have questioned, without justification, the integrity of the England Team Director and some of England’s players.

This is the bit that really riles me and my ilk. Outside cricket here is a catch-all for the ECB to rather peevishly have a go at Piers Morgan. Number one, the ECB should just ignore a man who feeds off the oxygen of reactions. Secondly,by casting a tent over the ECB, the players and those in the press privy to these going ons, you are not inside, you are outside. As someone, rightly, said, four days before this announcement Paul Downton was “outside cricket”. There in lies the true inner feelings that the ECB have stated loud and clear. Pay your ticket money, your sky subscriptions and shut the fuck up.

Secondly, with this bit, is the laughable line about attacking the rationale for the ECB’s decision-making. James Whitaker’s laughable first interview as Chairman of Selectors didn’t exactly put the doubters to bed about his integrity, ability and decision-making skills. A controlled interview he failed to control, a phone going off which the ECB have got mad about with Sky because they broadcast the interview as live, and weren’t totally in compliance with their demands, and evasion and obfuscation hiding behind legalities was not an auspicious start. Downton has said nothing in front of a camera. Cook has gone to ground. Flower has been quiet sorting out his new role. Giles wants the England job, so isn’t going to be talking. In the absence of anyone talking, we’ve basically been asked to trust an organisation that is keeping on in some capacity the coach that lost 5-0, is backing the captain that lost 5-0, and sacking a player who scored the most runs for us in Australia (albeit, at a poor average). I watched the collapse at the MCG on the 3rd day that handed the game to Australia. I saw player after player play stupid shot after stupid shot. If I’d have been KP, I’d have been pissed off, given the light shining on him at Perth. The rationale? How can we question it, when all it seems to us is that KP’s a bit awkward, and we don’t want our lame duck captain to be any more lame than he already is.

But then, I’m outside cricket.

Clearly what happens in the dressing room or team meetings should remain in that environment and not be distributed to people not connected with the team. This is a core principle of any sports team, and any such action would constitute a breach of trust and team ethics.

I’ll reproduce my Tweet when I get the chance. This is hilarious. The ECB is a source of so much stuff it is untrue. Players leak all over the place. Freddie Flintoff, not a man I have a ton of time for, tweeted that if this was such a source of angst, maybe they should have fired Duncan Fletcher and some of his team-mates for their comments about him in 2006. The fact is that we all see the stories out there which go something like “The Telegraph understands that….” or “The Mail can exclusively reveal that…” These are players and officials briefing out of school. For the ECB to get pissy because KP told Moron before the announcement that he’d been fired is hilarious. It seems that instead of players and officials leaking about a fiery team meeting, they are somewhat interestingly, putting the blame elsewhere. KP hasn’t said he slagged off Flower. Moron is accusing Prior and/or Cook of doing it. Or are Muppet Pringle, Mike Selvey and Paul Newman integral parts of Team England? Has anyone extricated Nick Hoult from the ECB canteen yet?

Whilst respecting that principle, it is important to stress that Andy Flower, Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, who have all been singled out for uninformed and unwarranted criticism, retain the total confidence and respect of all the other members of the Ashes party.

You need to back Cook, and yet feel KP won’t. Who thinks he won’t. None of the players seem overly fussed. Graeme Swann, and reportedly Stuart Broad, hardly two founder members of the KP Fan Club, have said KP has been fine. Cook said he should go on for quite a while on Boxing Day, and then Ashley Giles called him a Million Dollar Player. Only when Cook was questioned about KP’s future later on in the tour was the temperature changed. To say that our criticism is uninformed, is because you’ve not informed anyone about what he’s done that’s so heinous that you need to ditch your most attacking player. Whether this criticism is unwarranted, frankly, is not for the ECB to judge. Again, one can’t get away from the smell of the educated officer class telling the plebs to shut the fuck up.

If KP has done something so terrible, then have the courage of your convictions and fire him. You’d have no shortage of media lickspittles to do your bidding. Because you can’t produce a smoking gun, you let us decide what the motivation is when you say nothing. To me it seems that you back a yes man like Cook, who is insecure because a popular (with the people) maverick like KP, not frightened to open his mouth when things go bad, and instead of saying get on with it, you’ve thrown the best batsman out with the bathwater, and instead of strengthening Cook’s position, you’ve made him look weak. The conclusion is that KP was a customer to hot for Cook to handle. Instead of this being an indictment on Cook (and Flower’s) leadership, you treated it as time to part. Yet again, we are the only cricketing nation who doesn’t give its top players a chance to bow out on their own terms unless they are good little boys. As was rightly said, somewhere on line, if Shane Warne were English, he’d have been booted out before 200 wickets. We can’t produce another Ian Botham, because one “gin-swilling dodderers” remark would have him out on his ear.

This statement was all about Know Your Place.

The citadel needs to be stormed. Not for KP, but for the next talented player with an opinion and ambition.

Temporary Hitch

Hopefully we’ll be up on the main site later today. There has been an issue with WordPress which isn’t their fault but I am less than thrilled with their reaction to shut us down until it is resolved without any warning.

Give us a few hours. 

If it’s not resolved, who knows. HDWLIA is still there as the back up plan! 

Replay: You Abandoned Me, Love Don’t Live Here Anymore

It’s T20 Finals Day tomorrow, and it will always remind me of the day HDWLIA went mad. 14000 hits in one day.

So, as HDWLIA is no longer with us, I thought I’d drag the article out for old time’s sake….

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There’s No Vacancy

Let me take you back nine years. To that lovely summer of cricket. The reclaiming of the Ashes after 18 and a half years of ritual humiliation. To the last test match played on terrestrial TV. Do you remember, as I do, being in an office and knowing when a wicket fell when somewhere across the open plan someone had a quicker internet connection? We had a TV room, and plenty of us sneaked out for 10 or 15 minutes to watch what was happening. As each wicket fell people were working out that equation of runs v time. How much did we need to make the game safe? How many would the Aussies be able to chase in 50 overs, 40 overs, 30 overs? Were you like me and saying “bloody Australia, why can’t they lay down and die? We NEED this!!!”

Then remember the aftermath. Remember the Freddie Fever, the parade, the drunken idiots, the joy the occasion brought the nation, the pride we felt. Cricket was relevant going into the era of restricted Pay TV coverage for all international matches brought to you live. Freddie wins Sports Personality of the Year and leveraged his success to become England captain. Michael Vaughan is revered as the man who brought back the Ashes. It was a great time.

But on Day 5, this looked in jeopardy. One man held the line. While all the other top batsmen got out, one man rode an early piece of luck to then just take Australia to the cleaners. Aided and abetted by a spin bowler people derided, that one man kept the dream alive and then made us believe it was all over. Without that one man, Australia would have been chasing 200 or less to win the Ashes in 50-60 overs. You want to know what would have happened without that one man’s innings, you saw exactly what in Adelaide 18 months later.

So, all you “haters” out there, remember that. Remember it when you boo him. Remember it when you spit out YOUR bile (for that’s something I’ve been accused of) on the various sites. Remember it when you demean a great career. Remember it when you slag him off relentlessly as some sort of traitor despite the fact he was sacked, has been abused by the cricket authorities more than any other player I can remember, treated with disdain and contempt by a media in their back-pockets because maybe, just maybe, he didn’t like them. He is a bit arrogant? So what? He scored masses or runs, loads of hundreds, played injured (and was then slagged off if he took time off to cure or rest them). never gave less than his all (remember Headingley 2012, before textgate, when he opened the batting for the team in the second innings?) and yet still there’s this hatred. For what?

He was sacked. He was told, despite being the top run scorer in Australia, that his was a malign influence and that he had to go. A new man, old school tie, establishment to his bootstraps, wanted to make his mark with a “brave” decision and he did. Imagine being told to eff off not because of what you did on the field, but because of some other reason. As Maxie says in a comment below, he never turned up pissed to a training session, he never took the foreign shilling instead of England, and he never took a step back on the field of play. He scored quickly, he turned games, he frightened opponents, and like players with a maverick, arrogant streak before him, he terrified the establishment who still live in a “know your place” world.

So those of you who revile him, I don’t want to hear about the 2005 Ashes ever from you. I don’t want to hear about the World T20 championship, the ONLY world title we’ve ever won, and with him as man of the tournament. I don’t want to hear about the Ashes Down Under when his double hundred at Adelaide buried the Aussies into the dust to set up the vital first test win (and he cut Clarke off in a second innings that threatened to be big). Winning in India, forget about it…that “over-rated” innings (yes, people even slag that off) in Mumbai changed the series around and without it, who knows? Remember us being nothing for 3 in Napier in 2007/8 in New Zealand? Someone made a series saving hundred, that then allowed us to post a total and go on to win the game? Remember Trent Bridge a few months later when he made a ton and no-one else came remotely close? Or how about his double ton at Lord’s in 2011 that set that game up and meant we could build the platform for a 4-0 win? Or that innings in Headingley, while hated by his teammates, with a storm brewing, with the turmoil, and saving us from a whitewash.

Too many say he should be playing country cricket to “put pressure on the authorities to pick him”. Have you lot been paying attention at all? They have ignored all the evidence about Cook’s captaincy and still ploughed on regardless. They’ve ignored people having a pop at Anderson and Broad going too far on the field of play, and instead paint malevolence in those pointing out their sins. They ignored Day 4 at Headingley, a perfect storm of captaincy, coaching and player performance ineptitude rarely witnessed on these shores. They ignored their own effing confidentiality clause for goodness sake in their desperate desire to reclaim the narrative. They leaked against him, they got their puppets in certain papers to slag him off, drip their poison, feed the bloodlust. Instead of looking at what genuinely went wrong in Australia, they offered up a human sacrifice. And you want him to play county cricket to pressurise people who ignore basic evidence? Are you mad?

I have a little bit of the hump with him over yesterday. He should have played a prep game if he was serious about the T20 Blast Finals, but really, I don’t care. He’s not playing test cricket and that’s my disappointment. Although a Surrey fan, I don’t really care much about that hit-and-giggle stuff unless it is international stuff. Those who deride the IPL and all its bastard offspring, suddenly use the format as another stick to beat him with. “When was the last time he made even 50?” ignoring of course all the 30s and 40s, while screaming from the rooftops that “Cook is near his best” when he hasn’t a ton in a year and a half, a first innings ton in nearly two years, and hanging on to a scratchy 95 like it was a liferaft off the Titanic. I don’t care what he does, it is what he isn’t doing. Batting 4 for England and being dropped on form, not on personality.

So those of you who booed KP, aren’t grateful for KP, don’t think we owe KP something, then I say, more fool you, you intolerable hypocrites. He has been integral to our team’s success in the past decade, played the entertaining innings, played the vital innings. He won’t save you a game for a draw, because he’ll attack his way out of it, as many have done before. Freddie couldn’t do it, Botham very rarely did it, but they are folk heroes. Both loved the limelight, were arrogant (you don’t think Freddie is, really?) and both had flaws. But both were born here. There’s the difference.

Because that’s what it comes down to. Some of the hatred, the denigration, some of your scorn is because “he’s not English”. As someone married to a non-English wife, I know how much that accusation pisses me off. If I had a child, and were living in the States, and my kid was brought up there, and had an aptitude to succeed, I’d advocate he/she represent England, but would be proud if they represented the US. Deal with it. It is the modern world.

So when I heard he was booed yesterday, and when I saw the antis sticking the boot in, and when I read the bile on Twitter, yes, I got annoyed. Some may call me a hypocrite because of how this blog has been so pro-KP and so anti-Cook. Well I’m pointing out performances on the field, Cook’s captaincy, the lack of hundreds, the chronic form. I am anti-Cook as a person as he’s the face of a rotten establishment, a prop for the likes of Downton and Clarke who will dump him when he isn’t needed any more (he needed to get some form of success this summer), and he’s shown himself to be as establishment as anyone could be. He’s been a crap captain, but we have to remember India and the dreary stuff we played last year which we tolerated because we were winning. He’s also been treated with kid gloves by a media who cared more about him and propping up the ECB than actually investigating and revealing the mendacity of those making the key decisions.

If I were KP I’d do what these idiots want. I’d leave. I wouldn’t grace an English cricket field ever again. Stuff us. We don’t deserve it. What’s KP doing? Going to play a couple of county championship games in September. He doesn’t have to, according to the Surrey members I sat with, they don’t want him to, and well, he has nothing to gain. But he is. It’s not some amazing sacrifice, but he doesn’t have to do it. I wouldn’t.

I’m grateful Pietersen. A lot of us are. I wouldn’t blame you if you upped sticks and sodded off. I would.

UPDATE:

Two points of clarification. Most photographs taken on here, not all, are mine. I am flattered when someone uses them elsewhere, but a credit would be nice. Not having a pop, as I’m guilty of usage as much as anyone.

Second – I’m not asking you to like KP. I hated Beckham for most of his career, but hell, I wanted him to play well for England. It wasn’t my first choice to cheer, but I wouldn’t boo him. What I’m saying is why slag him off? What has he done? Spare me textgate. Spare me IPL, Spare me talking out this summer (he’s been amazingly restrained). What has he done to deserve being slagged off?

UPDATE 2:

Er. This went slightly nuts. I went out to Homebase with the beloved to get some paint and flooring, and come back to see:

  • 4000 hits in the hour after 1 pm.
  • Retweets, favourites, followers and a few disagreements in the timeline
  • Some nice, really nice comments, on a post that was written from the heart, and yes, a few who disagree with me;
  • I know I’m middle-aged, I know I shouldn’t feel like a One Direction fan, but I know KP has read this post, and he thanked me for it. Hey, I don’t do it for that, I’m not a fanboy, but he has been my favourite England batsman since Thorpe, and that’s super nice.

It isn’t. in any way, one of my better pieces – I still think the cricket nets, and the piece on my diamond duck in 1983 are better. But Pietersen gets hits. He brings interest. He brings controversy. This is what I mean about the schism, which the ECB want to exploit, not mend, for their own reasons that I have no idea of. It saddens me.

To the new people who want to stay, welcome. I am touched people are interested in what this ordinary Dmitri has to say.

42

For James Vince the number 42 must strike dread in his heart. It is his top score in test cricket and he has been dismissed on it twice. It is the number that will be the stick used to beat him. He got as far as 42, and never made it past that fateful score. It may even be his test epitaph.

For your scribe, though, the number 42 was one of the most important scores I ever made. Without it, who knows how I would have reacted to another failure? Let me explain.

On the old blog, before anyone remotely cared about the musings of a mad old cricket fan, I did a series called by “Cricket By The Numbers”. It was a cathartic piece, recalling all my ducks, most notably my three golden ones (one off the first ball of the match on Cup Final Day 1982) and trying to laugh at the psychological horror of it all. How one of my goldens was on the day of Linford Christie’s Olympic 100m win in 1992 and to a ball of such pace and swing, I managed to get bowled between my legs! Or the other where I reacted so well to being caught at gully first ball on a flat wicket that I hopped into my car and drove a couple of miles away to calm down (and find a store selling crisps). There were also stories of other scores of 1 – including a scorers error that meant I didn’t get a duck in the 2000s until triggered late in the decade by the niece of Fred Goodall.

But I digress, and to explain the story of 42, we need to do a little back story-telling.

At my school I was an opening bat. In school batting hierarchies, opening the batting was for two cannon-fodder who faced all the good bowling, were expected to block it out for a few overs, before our star batsmen bothered themselves at 3 and 4. I had a nice line in defensive technique, which, of course, is school cricket speak for “he couldn’t hit it off the square”. I could, of course, but only via the outside edge, or leg glance. I remember my cover driven fours at school fondly; both of them.

We had a terminally useless year team, winning one game in each of my second and third years, while losing the rest. In the fourth year we played for the last time together under one of the most inspirational cricket masters you could wish to play for, and he imbued us with plenty of confidence. It manifested itself on the first day when we batted out for a draw at a team that beat us every year we played we them and he went ballistic at us. It then came to a head on Cup Final Day 1984, when we were short a ton of players, had someone keep wicket who had never done it before, saw the home team rack up 160 (always well beyond our means) with a ton in byes, and our tail starting at 5. I did not include myself in the tail, as I was opening. Me and Geoff put on a mere 138 for the first wicket, which I contributed a “vital 28”, and we won. None of us could believe it. Especially poor Geoff who was dismissed for 97!

Now I was chuffed with 28. Absolutely delighted. I made doughty 20s all year, putting up solid numbers at the top of the order, but knowing that I had no chance of making our school 1st XI when year cricket ended (as it did in our 4th year). They wanted guys scoring fifties and hundreds. That wasn’t me. So, hoping I might get going in the 2nd XI, I thought it might be a chance to make some runs in that O Level year and see where we went from there.

The 2nd XI year was a disaster. I got into double figures once. It was 11 not out. That would not normally be an issue, but I carried my bat! The game after that I was run out by my opening partner, I’d not got on with our captain, my master-in-charge wasn’t interested, and two weeks after carrying my bat, I was dropped. The 1st XI master, the former inspirational man from my fourth year, immediately sought a meeting with me (hark at me – it was “I want to see you, now, *****”. I’d scored one of the fixtures early in the season, and he wanted some stats analysis, radial scorecharts and all that, and knew I could do it and he knew I could do it. My school cricket career, with one exception, had ended. That exception closed the door shut, and I genuinely thought I’d never play again.

The exception was a late-June game against our Old Boys 2nd XI. While our firsts were losing the first of three games in a week (the second being the Kent Cup Final) at our Old Boys ground, we were playing at home and chasing down a total near 200. One of our year’s late bloomers – hopeless in year cricket, but stupendous in the 2nd XI – had made a wonderful 70-odd and I’d been dropped down the order. Padded up to go in at 7, when the 5th wicket went down, someone else more adept at chasing runs went in. Fine. Then when the 6th wicket went down, I was told not to bother again. Time was running out and batsmen were falling. When the 7th went down, the captain put in our year’s former number 11 batsman in front of me. I liked “S” but jeepers, he couldn’t hit it, let alone hit it off the square. I was now a number 10 batsman, who didn’t bowl. I was, to put it mildly, fuming. Putting “S” in in front of me was insulting. When he was out first ball, the skipper told me I might as well go out there “and block it for the draw”.

I joined “S2” out there, who used to bat 8 or 9 for our year team, but had gone out at 8 in this game. We had a brief chat, he played out the penultimate over, and then it was up to me to block out the last to draw. I am, as you can probably tell, a slightly recalcitrant character, so the first ball of the over, with everyone around me, I was given a short one, punched it into the covers, took off for a single, and then walked down to “S2” and said “you save the fucking game.”

I got changed, had no desire to go for a session of underage drinking, and never played for my school again. I vowed I would never play for them, or the Old Boys if I ever got to be decent in the future, if they were the last team on earth. I was a stroppy sod then too.

Get on with it…..

After two and a half years scoring, and being the first at my school to get Full Colours for it (genuinely proud of that), and also getting to score for England Schools (South) on one occasion, I went off to University. There, my good mate and fellow Law student (well, student stretches it for me) Spencer got on my case to start playing again. He played for a club called Old Josephians and they had a Sunday 2nd XI. It was a variable standard, he said, and often they had old duffers who came just to enjoy a day out and field. His charms didn’t work the first year, but after constant encouragement in the second, I said I’d give it a go.

Now, I have to say, I wasn’t very keen to play. I hated fielding, and I really didn’t fancy big lads smashing it hard in my direction. I hadn’t done well in the 2nd XI when stronger kids were about, so what was I going to do in this environment? The first game, on a warm Sunday afternoon in Sutton, just about confirmed all my fears. We nicked a few out, a big lad who had the build of a night-club bouncer smashed us to all parts, and I found myself begging to field at third man. Once the nightmare was over I was resolved not to play again. This was big boys stuff, and although I had the requisite width, my power with the bat wasn’t in these guy’s leagues. It was humbling.

Skip, an old man who I barely knew, but with an old school attitude and the sort of scowl I worried about, asked me whether I could bat. I said I did at school, so that was enough to get me up to number 5 in the batting order. The game meandered to a draw as two of our better players put some runs on, but not quickly enough, meaning when I came out with the third wicket down, we needed something like 70 off 10 overs. I had an old GN Powerspot 5*, the sort Gower used in the mid-80s, but it hadn’t had a ball hit on it for four years. I took guard wondering what sort of bowling I’d face. It was, to my great content, military medium stuff and I got used to it quite quickly. Not used to it to score, but it wasn’t a clear and present danger to my stumps, the edge of my bat, or being smacked in front. I tried to push runs, but I still didn’t seem to have the strength. Then, a wicket fell at the other end, and then came in Spencer’s father. Who promptly ran me out. I still hold a grudge J.

I’d made 5, which was nothing of course, but something. I’d held my own against the bowling, and our next opponents, I was assured by Spencer, were a lot more gentle. A team called Raffles. They were a wandering side, with a variety of park pitches doubling up as their home venue, but on this day they came to our home turf – completely new to me – at South Bank Poly (as it then was) ground in Dulwich.

This time we won the toss and batted. It was decided, by Skip, that today would be the day to test my mettle as an opening batsman. Yes, he’d seen enough in those five runs to ascertain that I was above “complete cretin” status with the willow. So, off I trotted, nervous as sin, to face my first ball as an OJCC opener. I left it alone, and we were off and running. The second ball was rank, outside off, and I climbed into it, smacking it just in front of square on the offside for a lovely boundary. Brilliant. “I can play this” I said to myself. No problem. Next ball I smacked it straight in the air to short cover and toddled off. I think the term I was looking for was “totally embarrassed”. We ended up drawing that one too. Our top order subsided, and our 9 and 10 made 50 each to get us out of the mess. We then fielded well, with one outrageous catch by Spencer the highlight, and while it was an enjoyable game, I was concerned. As a schoolkid I’d always tried to play the big shot with not enough power. Now, as a 20 year old, I’d made the same mistake.

The following Sunday and I’m now really wondering whether this is worth it. I’m not assured by how the first two games I’ve played have gone, reminding me of the player I was in 2nd XI cricket for my school, and not enjoying it. This game was played just off the A3, near the Raynes Park junction, and was a conference fixture against a team called Commonwealth Officers (I believe). Skip, having seen my nonsensical opening efforts, decided I should go down to 6 this week. I couldn’t blame him.

The rest of this piece is based on the vaguest of memories, but do keep with me. I think we fell to something like 60 for 4, batting first, when I came in. I spent the first few overs just getting in. If I stayed in I would be hard to get out unless I started playing shots that would get me out, and although I made no conscious effort to stay in, I got through the first few overs without feeling comfortable. Wickets continued to fall, a couple more, until we were around 80 for 8 when one of the Kilpatrick brothers (I can’t remember which, think it was Brian) joined me. Assuming it was Brian, he could bat, but was of the Daisy variety – some days he did, some days he didn’t. Like me, he got in, but unlike me, he started to find the boundaries and tick the scoring over. We then knew we had a partnership going, it was really like that with me, feeling better batting with someone with a game I complimented (I made a couple of really big partnerships with our most aggressive middle order player over the years), with me ticking over the strike, and he scoring. We ran really well, and then a couple of boundaries, nearly always on the pull, came my way. I was a counter – no ongoing totals on scoreboards – and yet on this day, I had no idea what I had. Brian passed 50, and then got out. I eked as many as I could from the tail, and ended up running suicide runs with our number 11, Richard Duffy. I walked off the field with us around 180 for 9, to a load of applause from my team mates, Spence looking really thrilled I’d actually come off, and suddenly people thinking I was a joke, actually thinking “well, he could be a decent player at friendly Sunday 2nd XI” level.”

That was nice. All I wanted to know was “how many”? I thought I might have nicked past 28, possibly in the low 30s, but no more than that. Everyone else seemed to be getting the runs.

“42, Peter” was the response.

“You what?”

“42, well batted mate.”

Now, I know that number means nothing to those who have played the game to a really decent standard, or to aspiring better players, but to a keen club cricketer, fighting fears, insecure, with a new team full of people I barely knew, shy as they come, that score meant the world to me. It still does. It actually gave me the confidence to believe I could actually score some runs. When I went back to our pub to meet the 1st XI, when our better players started coming up to me and talking to me about how I’d gone, what they did when they got in, and saw how pleased some of the miserable old sods were, well, that was nice. I was someone again. Cricket is a lonely game when you ain’t playing well.

I sometimes wonder, as the rest of the season faded away with hardly a half decent score in there – I got the 8 runs at Petts Wood the week after to make sure I went 50 runs without getting out, but I soon did – our six game season before the kids went back to school was a toe dipped in the water. Without that 42 I may not have played on, never become top mates with Skip’s son, never have met such a great bunch of lads who are friends for life, never have gone to Australia on those Ashes trips, never known the thrills of doing your washing overnight (Danno), and most importantly, never harnessing and loving the game as much as I do.

So while for Vince 42 is the curse, for Dmitri, 42 was the inspiration. The following year I beat that best in an innings of 80 that was as surreal, as mad, as pure a joy as I could feel playing the game (because we had 9 men, and our tail started at 5) with all the responsibility on me, and I was away.

Hope you can forgive me this self-indulgence, but club cricket, especially crap club cricket, is so much fun when two teams are evenly matched, that I can’t help writing about it from time to time. Back to the proper stuff in a few.

 

Just also to let you know that SimonH’s part 2 on the 1976 Old Trafford test, my part 2 of the Trent Bridge test of 1986 and a guest article will follow the Oval Test this week. I’ve also a new series I’m going to start (and probably never finish, as always) which will get the eyes rolling among some, but I think, with the gap of time it can be done, and if there are any other posts out there that need writing, please do let me know.

100 Lines

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2016 Century Watch #4 – Temba Bavuma

Adam-Gilchrist-of-Australia-drives-during-day-three
All will be explained….

Temba Bavuma – 102* v England at Newlands, Cape Town

1st Test Century in his 7th test match.

This century goes down in history as the first by a black South African. Sitting from afar you can only guess the symbolism of it, but it was clear from people like Neil Manthorp’s reaction that it was certainly a seminal moment. Let’s hope so.

This column doesn’t deal in emotion but in boring old numbers, and 102 really isn’t that interesting. Sorry Temba. So let’s take some number checks and see where we go. Since readmission this was the 243rd test hundred by a South African. Bavuma became the first new South African centurion since Stiaan Van Zyl, who made a ton on debut v West Indies in Centurion in December 2014. This was the 61st ton at Newlands since readmission and the 94th in total. At the current clip, the 100th might come in the test after next at Cape Town.

We had one score of 102 in 2015 – that was by Misbah-ul-Haq against England in Dubai last Autumn. The last one by a South African was Jacques Kallis against Australia at Newlands in 2009. The last unbeaten 102 by a South African was another Jacques, Rudolph, who made it in a fantastic rearguard in Perth in 2005 to save a test match.

All round good honest guy Saleem Malik had a penchant for making 102 – there were four on his CV. Two other players have made three scores of 102; Misbah and Dilip Vengsarkar. There have been 112 instances of 102 in test matches.

One of them was particularly famous. On that blazing hot Saturday afternoon in Perth, when the temperature was over 40 Celsisus, we’d suffered enough. Hussey had his ton, Clarke had his ton, and we were chasing leather. So, with a Saturday night out in Perth beckoning, our merry gang departed our seats with me turning round, with a sense of foreboding when we left saying “this is just the type of situation where Gilchrist could go off”.

And he did. And I missed pretty much all of it.

The first 102 was made in 1884 at The Oval by Tup Scott of Australia. He shared a partnership of over 200 with Billy Murdoch who made 211. Interestingly in the three day test Australia batted for 311 overs in making 551. Different days…

So why Tup? He acquired his nickname during a cricket tour of England in 1884 from his love of London sightseeing tours which cost two pence or “tuppence“.

The cricket writer Ray Robinson suggests that Scott’s batting “was noted for grit rather than gaiety” but he did sometimes reveal an adventurous streak as shown when he landed a ball from A. G. Steel onto the pavilion roof at The Oval and by his assault on Saul Wade’s bowling at Bramall Lane.

Temba Bavuma’s hundred came up in 141 balls.

2016 Century Watch #3 – Hashim Amla

Syd Gregory
Syd Gregory – The First 201 in the first test at Sydney

Hashim Amla – 201 v England at Newlands, Cape Town

Test Century Number 24 – Ranks 4th highest in his Test Innings – 4th Score of Over 200 in Tests

Hashim Amla completed his fourth double hundred, his second in South Africa and his second versus England. It was beaten by his 311* at The Oval (saw a large part of that), 253* at Nagpur against India in 2010 and 208 against the West Indies at Centurion in 2014.

This is his third test hundred at Cape Town and moves into second on his most successful venues list. He has four at Centurion and two each at Jo’burg and Port Elizabeth. Ironically his least successful venue is his home one – his best at Durban is 69.

In terms of balls faced this was his second longest innings behind the 311. That innings lasted just 52 balls more (529 to 477). In terms of run rate for his centuries it was his third slowest, trailing 31.21 per 100 balls in a 123* v India in Kalkota (394 balls) and 36.38 per 100 in a 139* at Colombo against Sri Lanka.

This is Amla’s 5th hundred against England, putting them level with the other two of the big three. Three of those hundreds were made in London (The Oval and two at Lord’s).

This was the 22nd score of 201 in test cricket, which is not surprising as you would imagine declarations would take place once this landmark is reached. Eight of those 201s are not out, including the last one, made by Jacques Kallis against India at Centurion in 2010. The last man dismissed for 201 was Jesse Ryder when he made the score also against India, but this time in Napier in 2009. No score of 201 has ever been made in tests in England. There has been one in Zimbabwe (Grant Flower) and one in Bangladesh (the legendary knock by Jason Gillespie). The first 201 was made by Syd Gregory in 1894 in the inaugural test match at Sydney. This game was, of course, famous for providing the first instance of a team winning a test match having followed on.

In terms of balls faced Amla’s 201 ranks only 5th on the list. The most methodical was made by the man who my Slowest Century award is named after, Brendon Kuruppu, who took 548 balls over his effort against New Zealand.

Amla is the first non-Australian captain to make 201. Three other skippers have – Bradman, Greg Chappell and Bobby Simpson. Chappell’s knock, at Brisbane, according to Statsguru had just six boundaries in it. Lots of running.

Adelaide is the only venue to have seen three scores of 201. Another quirk is that 201 has been scored by two J Ryders. Jack did it in the 1925, Jesse in 2009.

This is the 69th double hundred by a test captain. The first was Billy Murdoch’s 211 in 1894, this is his second as captain, while the last was by Alastair Cook in Abu Dhabi. Most doubles by a captain? Brian Lara with five. Michael Clarke, Don Bradman and Graeme Smith have four each.

Hashim Amla’s 100 came up in 214 balls, and his 200 came up in 461 balls.

 

2016 Century Watch #2 – Jonny Bairstow

Les Ames
Les Ames – JB moved in front of him into 3rd in highest score by an England Keeper

Jonny Bairstow – 150 not out v South Africa at Newlands, Cape Town

Test Century Number One – Highest Score In Tests (obviously)

This was the 32nd score of 150 in test match cricket, and the ninth of those that was unbeaten. Last time 150 was made in tests was June 2015, in Fatullah, by Murali Vijay. There were two scores of 150 last year (the other by Imrul Kayes was covered in the Century Watch last year), so you can read about Billy Zulch:

“When South Africa followed-on, Zulch made a great effort. He batted extremely well in the latter half of his innings, but he might have been out three times before he had scored seventy.”

Must have been an Aussie writing that.

This was the second score of 150 made at Newlands – the other was by Ashwell Prince against Australia in the Bryce McGain test of 2009. It was the second score of 150 by a wicket-keeper in tests – the other was by Rashid Latif at Sharjah against the West Indies in 2002.

This was the 37th score of 150 or more by a keeper. The record is 232 by Andy Flower, with only Sangakkara, Dhoni and Gilchrist over 200. The English record is held by Alec Stewart with 173 against New Zealand in Auckland. Alec is also second with 164 against South Africa in the famous drawn test at Old Trafford in 1998. Bairstow moves into 3rd place on the list.

This was the 38th hundred by an England keeper. He sneaked past Les Ames (149) for the third best. Two other keepers have made hundreds for England at Cape Town – Les Ames in a match that started in 1938, but his ton was made in 1939, and Dartford’s own Henry Wood in 1892 who was a mere 38 years old when he made his 134 not out. There’s a bit of chicanery in this one though because, looking at the scorecard there is a stumping in the second innings, and it isn’t Wood doing it!

You think KP, Chris Jordan et al have it hard re qualifying – this amused:

In the winter of 1881 he accepted an appointment to take charge of the Streatham Club ground, and it was this engagement that enabled him to qualify by residence for Surrey.

This was the 6th century by an England keeper against South Africa. Half at Newlands, the others at Old Trafford (Stewart), The Oval (Ames) and Durban (Jim Parks). It was the 198th century by a designated wicket-keeper in test match cricket, so a stat to watch out for. Just for giggles it is the 834th test match hundred by an England player and he is the 162nd England player to make a century in tests.

This was the 193rd score of 100 or more in tests. Bairstow moves into 24th on the list of highest scores. Ranjitsinjhi’s English record of 175 remains from 1897. Only Ranjitsinjhi, Jack Hardstaff Jr (in the 1938 Oval test) and Derek Randall have made more from number 7 for England.

Jonny Bairstow’s hundred came up in 161 balls.

 

2016 Century Watch #1 – Ben Stokes

Another year, let’s see if I get past May this time. Going to shorten them a bit if I can…

Cricketer Tom Graveney Hits A Classic Offdrive.
The only other Englishman to make 258. The late, great, Tom Graveney

Ben Stokes – 258 v South Africa at Cape Town.

Test Century Number Three. Highest Score In Tests.

Third time 258 has been made in test cricket. Tom Graveney in 1957 v West Indies at Nottingham and Seymour Nurse in 1969 v New Zealand at Christchurch were the other two. Of scores over 250, 270 has been made four times, and 258 now joins 259, 260, 267, 274 and 275 on the made three times list.

This is the 12th = highest score made by an England batsman in tests.

Loads of records broken. Highest score by a number six batsman in test matches. Highest score by an England player against South Africa. Most sixes in an England test innings (beating Walter Hammond’s record).

Stokes is the 47th man dismissed between 250 and 300 in test cricket. He is the first non-Essex player to make a 250 in tests for England since Dennis Amiss in the West Indies in 1974. This was the 90th score of over 250 in test matches.

This is the eighth highest score made against South Africa and he was a boundary away from equalling the record against the home team at Newlands (262 by Stephen Fleming). Mahela holds the record for scores against South Africa – 374 in Colombo (and Sehwag and Gayle are the other two to make 300). No opposition player has made more than 250 at any other venue in South Africa. The highest at Kingsmead, Durban, is Eddie Paynter’s 243 in the infamous timeless test of 1939.

This was the 26th double century against South Africa in test matches. It was the fifth double hundred at Newlands (Gibbs, Kallis and Graeme Pollock). It was the 17th double in South Africa.

Borrowing one of Andrew Sampson on TMS – this was the second highest test score made by a batsman coming in on a hat-trick – Javed Miandad made 280 for Pakistan when coming on on one.

Ben Stokes 100 came up in 105 balls. His 200 came up in 163 balls.