Friday, 26 July 2013

Latitude & Lords


Here I am just minutes away from the 2nd Ashes test at Lords but I don’t have cricket completely on my mind, what’s going on?  Well in a couple of hours I’ll be heading off to the Latitude festival so I doubt I’ll follow much cricket for this match, apart from text updates from friends I’ll be cut off.  I decided against taking the radio as I want to enjoy the festival without being too side tracked, we’ll see how that works out.  Before I depart for four days of over indulgence, England have won the toss and will bat in good conditions, this was always going to be a bat first toss.  Bresnan comes in to replace Finn which will definitely strengthen the batting a little but I’d have liked to have Finn in the side on his home pitch.  Sure Bres will do well though.  Five minutes till the start…

I kept in touch with the cricket while I waited for the little lady and loaded the car, another poor start with England reduced to 28-3 with good bowling from Harris.  Bell & Trott began a recovery and made it to lunch, by which time we were on the road to latitude!

The journey took us through the beautiful Suffolk countryside in glorious summer weather and we had ‘Hot Chip’ pumping through the stereo to get us in the festival mood.  We expected to be caught in festival traffic but it wasn’t as bad as we feared.  As we pulled into the car park and began to unload Trott had passed 50 and the score had reached 120 but before we locked the car he’d been caught in the deep and England were precarious at 127-4.  Not good enough on this wicket surely?  It was now time to forget the cricket and begin the long walk through the check in and to the campsite.

This is our third Latitude festival so by now we know what to take and how to take it.  The big comfortable tent plus sleeping bags etc. were pushed on a fishing barrow and I had a big Karrimor rucksack on my back.  The walk was about a mile and it was heavy going in the heat, my arms ached by the time we reached our chosen camping spot, the same general area that had served us well last year.  Close to everything but not too close.  It took a while to get the tent up and everything organised, it was too hot to do anything quickly and too hot to hang around the tent so as soon as we were ready we wandered off to the village to begin exploring.

Everything seemed pretty much the same as last year but joy of joys outside the supermarket tent was an Ashes scoreboard reading 158-4, that’s a bit better!  We were amongst the first to enter the arena a little after 1730 and once again found everything in pretty much the same places as last year.  In some ways this is a little sad as there is little new to discover but on the other hand it makes everything familiar, like coming home.  Our first priority was food.  The Fish & Chips  stand was close (right in the middle of the arenas) and didn’t have a queue so that was good enough for us.  It was in fact dreadful, barely edible and this franchise will be avoided at all costs in future.  Next stop the bar, two pints in reusable glasses, my bitter was ‘Hobgoblin’, I didn’t like it. 
A text from lil sis.  Close of play 289-7.  I’d have settled for that after 28-3 but we need 350+ !!!  I wonder who got the runs…

We sat by the lake and watched the sun go down, chilling out with music coming from a PA system somewhere.  All of a sudden a 20 foot white swan came out of nowhere, followed closely by a second.  In the circumstances it was beyond surreal.  The explanation is obvious, yes there really were two 20 foot swans on the lake but they were on boats and accompanied by ballerinas.  These were followed by two more boats with illuminated globes and more dancers.  Then finally a balloon in the sky and another dancer suspended beneath it, all dancing to modern music but I can’t remember what.  After that we went dancing in the woods, DJ was Craig Charles and it was rammed, rowdy and fun.  Bed 0130ish.  From here on in we’re in festival mode.

Hot.  Damn hot.  We drank loads of water and no alcohol.
Into arenas for flushing roulette and morning movements then breakfast.  Ostrich burgers, far better than yesterday but not great.
First act Nick Helm & the Helmettes in Comedy tent.  Had enjoyed them last year and with a different set, even funnier this time.  The Helm is a great character.
Big Charlatans fan so had to catch Tim Burgess at the obelisk.  Love the guy but found the beginning a bit slow and flat, maybe because it was a small crowd?  Loved the dreamy version of ‘Only one I know’ and liked the music when the pace upped a bit.  Would love to see the Charlatans at Latitude!
Ashes scoreboard  England 361 all out.  Will that be enough runs?  With our bowlers, probably.

Saw Coves on the lake stage at some point in the weekend and I think it might have been Friday.  Got drawn in by a cover of ‘wicked game’ and enjoyed the rest of the set.  Also saw ‘I am Kloot’, didn’t like it much.
Spent some more time in the comedy tent.  Tiffany Stevenson & Angela Barnes were OK, Andrew O’Neil was a big surprise, very funny and different.  Marcus Brigstock was pretty good too.  The MC, Lee Nelson warmed on us through the day too.

1600 Text from lil sis; Aus 96-7 at tea.  49 to avoid follow on.
1629 lil sis;113-9
1641 from Mr RedAussies in huge trouble!
1652 Mr Red; Swann 5-44
1707 lil sis; 128 all out. Swann 5, Bres 2, Broad 1, Jimmy 1. 233 ahead.  I’m your own personal Geoffrey Boycott!
Bloody hell!  Well that’s the game then.  Less than 2 days in and this match is effectively over, there will be no close finish this time.
1838 lil sis; 31-3 at close
Another dodgy start for England but by now I’m sure someone will play an innings and England will get the runs.
Back to tent for early evening rest.

Evening meal was Curried goat for me, excellent!  Mango Chicken for the lil lady, good.
Saw a bit of Calexico, not bad
We intended to go see Texas but stopped in at the Obelisk for the beginning of Bloc Party and ended up staying for the whole show.  We knew very little about them so had no expectations and found ourselves really enjoying the show.  The front man seemed humble and likable and the music was much more to our taste than the Coldplay clone headliners of previous years.  Bloc Party were a big, happy surprise for us and the first night had delivered.

We chilled out by the lake with donuts, no surprise to see ‘Swans & co.’ again.  It had been a long, hot, debilitating day.  It’s great to have dry sunny weather because it makes many things easier, you can just sit down anywhere for an example.  After our spring this year I hate to moan about summer but today had been too hot. We felt knackered and dehydrated so had a night off dancing & had an early-ish night, about midnight. 
Memory becoming more hazy now.
Today it rained in the morning.  Weird drizzle showers swept in but by the time we reached for a jacket they passed and we didn’t seem to get wet.  It was still hot though and once again we drank loads of water.
Breakfast - Buffalo burger, very good.
Festival attire this year, mostly shorts and tee shirt with a hoody tied round the waist.  A hat is essential, Indiana Jones style for the day then Baseball cap for the evening.  Thick socks and comfortable footwear, whatever you can walk a long way in and still dance.
Comedy tent.  We saw Joe Lycett and Rob Beckett, can’t remember which was which, one was OK the other (blonde one who joked about his face?) was good.
Much of today was spent wandering around the arenas looking for something that would hook us in.
Saw Bo Ningen on the Lake stage.  Seen them before and enjoyed them despite literally laughing at the Spinal tap beginning.  They drew a good crowd today and their set was warmly received which they thoroughly deserved.  I love the hypnotic rhythm and the tortured physco guitar.
Wandered over to I arena, there was a lady playing a harp, we didn’t last a song.  Sorry.

Couple of updates from the Ashes scoreboard revealed England building partnerships and stretching the lead and increasing the pressure.
1402  lil sis; 119-2  Root 65 Bres 35
1427 lil sis;  Bres out 38
1515 Mr Red; More bad umpiring.  Going our way but spoiling game.  This will not be another 2005!
1542 lil sis; Tea 171-4.  Root 97.  Bell 16
1615  lil sis; 178-4. Root ton
1734  Lil sis; Bell out 74.  Root 151
1737 Mr Red;  500 lead!
1803 lil sis;  Close  333-5.  Root 178.  Bairstow 11.
The game was decided yesterday. A massive lead, it’s just a case of getting ten wickets tomorrow, nothing to worry about, no distraction to the festival.

After a late afternoon rest and magic beans it was time to get back into the Obelisk arena for what we hoped would be an evening of dancing….
On the way we had dinner.  The Thai green curry deal, which was tasty, filling and decent value.
Toilets were rammed but we managed to get that job done and squeeze into a good position towards the front of the Obelisk for the start of Hot Chip.  This band is one of very few that I was quite familiar with at the festival this year and both of us were looking forward to dancing.  They sound good on CD, how will they be live?  The answer was quite brilliant!  They were fun, bright, sounded great and we danced for the whole hour amongst a group of people half our age.  We had high hopes for Hot Chip but they exceeded expectations.
Next up were Kraftwerk, a band that has pretty much passed me by except for a couple of hits in the eighties.  I appreciate they are said to be influences for many of the bands I love so we resolved to stay at the Obelisk and give them a go.  This proved to be a great decision!  We hadn’t remembered to pick up the 3D glasses that most of the crowd were wearing but that didn’t matter, once again we were hooked up by the beat and danced through the whole set.  It was noticeable that a lot of the glasses clad crowd were just stood watching the 3D effects and we were in a minority of dancers.  No matter, Kraftwerk were pure class and we thoroughly enjoyed the show.
After fuel provided by donuts we just had to keep on dancing so circled the sound systems looking for something to dance too.  None of the DJ’s really kept us busy but we spent most of the time in the woods for ‘Musical bingo’.
Two very battered and knackered party people returned to the tent around 0330.
Memory more hazy still.
It was cloudy when we got up, not sure when that was…
Down to the arenas for a dump then…

Text lil sis; 347-7 dec.  Root 180
It’s Just a matter of ten wickets now, will be all over today.

Breakfast was a nice Venison burger for me and a not quite as nice hog roll for the lil lady.
First music of the day was the legend Bobby Womack performing at the Obelisk.  A nice, soulfull beginning to the day.  A big soul band and great backing singers.  All good.  We were still knackered from our big Saturday night so had a leisurely stroll around.  There was nothing much that interested us so returned to the for an afternoon nap finding the…
 Ashes Scoreboard  Aus 60-4

After a long rest through which texts telling of Australian wickets came through regularly we dragged ourselves up and headed down towards the arenas.
We missed the beginning of Eddie Izzard but snuck into the crowd and soon picked up the various threads of his routine.  He was very good but not great and I’m very glad we got to see him.
Dinner was Chicken in Black bean sauce.  Nice.
Saw a tiny bit of Rudimental in the BBC tent then wandered over to Obelisk for Grizzly Bears who should be called miserable bears, wasn’t our thing at all and made worse because we missed the start of the next act...  Back to the big tent for Disclosure who we really liked and we were soon dancing along.  Only saw about half this set but enjoyed it.

Somewhere in the early evening the final text came through announcing England had won the test match in the final over of the day.  This was a poor performance by Australia, if they can’t improve England will win 5-0.

We couldn’t decide which headliner to see so started at Foals which I quite liked but the lil lady wasn’t convinced.  We hot footed over to check Beach House out but only lasted about two songs (not lively enough for our mood) before legging it back to the Obelisk.  The more Foals went on, the more we got into it.  A good show, loads of roaring guitar but we didn’t rate it as highly as the previous two evenings.
We never want Latitude to end, so wandered round the lake and the various sound systems ending up with Dermot O’Leary but were too tired to dance much.  We crashed in the early hours.

Hot, tea, decamp, labour, patience, home.

Best Dinner     Curried goat from stand near the main bar.    Thai Curry
Best Comedy  Andrew O’Neil                      
Best Music      Hot Chip/Kraftwerk   Bloc Party      
Best DJ           Dermot O’Leary
Best Surprise   Swans & Co.
Three Latitudes now and three fantastic weekends, all memorable for different reasons.  We love Latitude and will be back next year!

And the cricket.  Australia were awful, they may come back stronger but England are 2-0 up and still not firing on all cylinders.  The Aussies bowling is pretty good but fitness is already taking its toll, they have a decent keeper but their batting line up is full of holes.
Cook and Trott will both score big runs before long which will worry the Aussies.  The KPego may miss the next test but when fit has a point to prove.  Matt Prior is not at his best with the bat but his glove work has been fine.  England look a more disciplined side with Bresnan in the attack and the bowlers are just purring.  If the KPego misses out I’d like to see poor old Compton get a chance but it’ll probably be Taylor.
It’s hard to see Australia winning a test at the moment, despite my previous slight pessimism this series could well end up 5-0.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

An Ashes classic or an umpiring nightmare??


…And so it continued.  The Aussie batsmen would threaten to pull away, Watson & Rogers put on 84 before the former was out, then England would take a wicket or two and have me breathing easier.  I spent the late afternoon sitting by a lake behind some fishing rods but the radio had most of my attention.  At the close England needed 4 wickets and Australia 130 something runs.  Breathing easily now but this is Ashes cricket.

The final days play started at last, Australia began nicely but then a new ball burst from Jimmy reduced them to 231-9.  Surely the game was ours now?  No, we had to endure another 10th wicket partnership that went on and on.  An Edgbaston scenario loomed and I couldn’t settle anywhere, pacing between the TV in the living room and the radio in the garden.  Nervous texts between friends, lots of groaning and chuntering…then lunch. 
The forty minutes just ramped up the tension then the players took to the field again.  England needed one wicket, Aussies just twenty runs.  After the break England looked more in control but the Aussies nicked a few more runs…then Jimmy got the edge and after another DRS review England got the wicket and won by 14 runs.  Breathe……………

England’s plus points; Our big two batsmen, Cook & KPego both got a few runs in this match and Bell scored a fabulous century in the most difficult of circumstances.  Jimmy Anderson was brilliant with ten wickets in the match and Broad bowled with control.  Swann had an indifferent match and Finn had good spells and bad.

Australia’s bowlers look good and showed they can take twenty wickets, unlike 2010/11.  They make up a strong tail too and England will have to work hard to get them out.  Australia’s batting line up has one obvious star and a couple of decent players but little else.  Their star player was without doubt Ashton Agar but it will be difficult for him to repeat this performance.
Australia gave everything and pushed England to the brink.  We know England can play better than this and expect them to do so but can Australia improve??

So England won what was probably the best Ashes test match since 2005 but it has to be said, if the 3rd umpire had got that stumping right on day two the game would not have been close.  Bad umpiring almost ruined this match and only the fair final result allows it to be classed as a classic, had Australia got over the line, England would have felt robbed.

It's not easy loving cricket when the Ashes are at stake...

Saturday, 13 July 2013

The Ashes grind on


More of the same on day three, once again listening to the radio perched on the balcony at work.  Cook and the KPego began well but just as my nerves began to settle both fell having passed fifty.  Bell settled in, soon followed by Bairstow, a few runs were added but the latter fell, nerves well and truly on top, the game is in the balance.  Prior whacks a few and England are pushing ahead before the keeper picks out a fielder, bringing Broad to the crease.  Bell reaches fifty and on then after a few false strokes Broad starts to hit the ball, England now have the momentum.  Then comes the flashpoint, Broad edges the ball and is caught at slip but stands his ground and isn’t given out!  The reviews had been wasted and the Aussies are going mad.  Terrible decision but it still doesn’t even out the two from the second day.  From here on in its England’s day and we push away to the close.  For the first time in this match England have the advantage at the end of the day.  This England fan is relaxed.

Day four and there is far less tension, at home with the luxury of TV and radio coverage.  The landmarks are reached, Broad passes fifty and Bell completes one of his best test centuries.  After these two fall England are bowled out quickly but have a handy lead of 310.

As I sit here just after lunch, the score is 69-0 and the Aussie openers are digging in.  They shouldn’t win from here but this is Ashes cricket, anything can happen…butterflies are beginning to emerge in my stomach….

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Ashes, heaven and hell

I let the Ashes series creep up on me quietly.  I tried to ignore it, not get too excited and I couldn’t work out why?  Now I know.  I’ve remembered what it’s like to live through an Ashes series, it’s emotional and it takes its toll.  So two days into the series and I’m a nervous wreck already.  Two days of highs and lows, elation, bewilderment and even despair.  This affliction isn’t going to go away any time soon, even if one side gets an early upper hand in this series it will only be a temporary respite.  It will all start again at 0-0 in the winter.  We won’t be free of the Ashes affliction until next year!

So the first day and the radio was tuned in on the work balcony. England win the toss and bat, a nervous start but by lunch we’re 98-2 and things are looking good.  We’ll take that thanks!  Then the Aussies mostly Siddle, roar back wickets fall in clusters and England are all out for 215, disaster!  That’s not enough runs, England have batted poorly.  It was really painful listening to those wickets fall.  First Finn while I was listening on the car journey home and then Anderson on TV at home bring England into the match with four quick wickets and that ball from Jimmy to Clarke…WOW!  An even game at the end of day one.

Day two starts slowly, Australia begin to edge away but back come England, Jimmy leads the way to finish with five wickets!  At 117-9 the game is virtually over and we’re very happy at work.  Then comes Ashton Agar and that amazing innings, it began with controversy, (let’s face it he was out) but he did play a great knock. 280 all out, the Aussies edge ahead, you could argue Agar was unlucky to finish 2 short of a century but you could also say he scored 96 runs more than he should! The Aussies are ahead in the match and then pull away with two quick wickets.  Another shocking decision from the 3rd umpire and we English fans are deflated, it’s agony!  Cook and Pietersen steady the ship but bat very slowly and it makes nervous listening, at the close England are 15 runs ahead with eight wickets left.  Still an even game.  If Pietersen makes a ton tomorrow then I’ll drop the KPego tag…  Seriously we need a big score from someone…

Talking points; two very bad decisions by the third umpire really helped the Australians and could ultimately be the difference between winning and losing.  However we have to remember that there have always been bad umpiring decisions in cricket and these things will even themselves out over the series, we hope.

Another day tomorrow and I daren’t even think about it…

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Ashes 6 days and counting...

The Ashes series is less than a week away and the England XI for the first test looks certain to see Joe Root opening with Cook, followed by Trott, KPego, Bell and Bairstow.  Barring injury Matt Prior is certain to keep wicket and bowlers Swann and Anderson are inked in.  All three are proven world class players who consistently produce the goods.  There is a little doubt about Broad’s fitness but he should play.  Finn is currently in pole position for the final bowling place but Onions bowled well in the practice match and the selectors could go for a ‘horses for courses’ selection at Trent Bridge.

It was inevitable that Root would open for England sometime soon but does this put more pressure on the captain?  He now has a young, inexperienced opening partner and who knows what will happen.  In truth whoever he opens with, Alastair Cook is expected to score runs and if he has a good series England will always be well placed.   

The Aussie team is less certain but we’re sure to see Watson, Clarke, Haddin and Siddle, all of whom are genuine test players at the very least.  I don’t believe any Australian team is as bad as some press have been reporting recently and they will compete.  England have to find the form they showed in India once again and cannot perform like they did in New Zealand.  I think the first test is crucial and if England win they will retain the Ashes comfortably.  However an Aussie win against the odds will set up a much closer series.