Thursday, 19 December 2013

Some books from 2013

I’ve read loads of books since the last time I found time to ‘review’ one on here so here are a few lines on some of them.

 The title “Stoner” written by John Williams led me to believe the subject matter would be something entirely different when in actual fact the novel was nothing of the sort. If I had to describe it I’d say nothing really happens but that would sound like a criticism. It’s a strange book about a man named Stoner and his life as a child, a student and a lecturer.

 I’m sure it’s not for everyone but I really liked it. I’ve read a few by Ian McEwan and enjoyed them all. The latest was “Sweet tooth” which is about a middle class girl recruited to MI5 in the early seventies. As the story progresses the reader thinks he knows where it’s heading but its McEwan and we’re wrong. Another good read.

 I’ve recently discovered US crime writer Michael Connelly and have devoured two of his books; “City of Bones” and “The Black Box” both feature D.I. Harry Bosch who I would describe as Los Angeles answer to Rebus. I like Bosch and will be reading more in the future.

 I had high hopes of Phillip Pullmans “Grim Fairy Tales”, I expected more than just re-telling of the same old tales but I was wrong. A big disappointment.

 Finally “A Kestrel for a Knave” by Barry Hines has sat unread on my shelf for years as I’ve seen the film so know the story. I finally picked it up and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

 A few others from 2013.
 “The 100 year old Man who climbed out of the window and disappeared…” by Jonas Jonasson was probably the funniest book I read all year.
The best classic was “Far from the Madding crowd” by Thomas Hardy.
The most disappointing was Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” but the most unreadable was “Tom Jones” by Fielding.
My favourite‘re-read’ was definitely “Glue” by Irvine Welsh whilst Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” wasn’t as good second time around.
The most surprising was “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel for which I had no expectations but really enjoyed.

J.K. Rowling proved their is life after Hogwarts, " Casual Vacancy" was a really great read that was a great insight into British society.
 However the best, most enjoyable, moving, life affirming thing I read all year was “Shadow of the wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. This will remain on my book shelf as a cherished favourite which one day I’ll read again. I’ll also be keeping an eye out for more from the author.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Ashes gone & why isn't my blogger working properly?


It’s a little over halfway through this match and therefore a little over halfway through the series.  It’s safe to say now that the series is over, England cannot retain the Ashes from here.  To this point this performance is even more dismal than 2006 because that Australian team was full of all time legends of the game and this one isn’t.  Take nothing away, Australia have some very good players and to be honest I don’t begrudge players like Siddle, Rogers, Haddin and even Johnson their Ashes success.  But not Warner.
At the end of the summer series Australia may have lost 3-0 but they knew with a little improvement they could beat England.  The trouble for England was, they knew it too.  Confidence shifted in a big way.
So to avoid my doomsday scenario England will have to bat for the best part of two days and not even this biased England supporter doesn’t believe they can.


For some reason my blogger is playing up and I can’t post so god knows when any of this will go online.  Day four followed the script.  Australia battered England then chipped away taking the odd wicket here and there.  There has been a little fight from England but not enough to change the likely result.  At least Ben Stokes will gain some confidence from passing fifty for the first time in test.


A few days later.  Blogger is still playing up and the test is over, the series decided.  Well played Australia, better in all disciplines throughout the series to date.  A few bright things for England, well one actually, Ben Stokes getting 120+

Who will play in the 4th test?  Bob Willis has gone on Sky TV with a team missing Carberry (really Bob?), Prior, Swann and Bresnan.  Willis moves Root up to open and brings Balance, Finn and Panesar.  I’d stay with the top three of Cook, Carberry and Root, switch Bell & KPego to 4 & 5 Keep Stokes at 6 and bring in Bairtow for Prior at 7.  My four bowlers would be Broad or Bresnan at 8 then play Jimmy, Monty and Rankin.  I’d not play Finn on this tour but get him right and bring him back in the summer.  So Swann and Prior would drop out, both have only enjoyed a couple of bright moments in the last twelve months and there are replacements waiting in the wings.

After this series is over…what next?  Well the KPego needs to get some runs in the next two matches or he’s out.  Likewise Carberry who I like watching play, but is on borrowed time because Joe Root will eventually open the batting again.  Ian Bell plays at 4. Who comes back?  Surely Compton deserves another crack at some point and Trotty if he starts getting runs for Notts. James Taylor is waiting in the wings too but who else?  If Stokes continues to play anything like as well then he has to stay. As for the keeper, I’d pick the country’s form player at the time and if Prior finds his form he’s definitely in the mix.  Jimmy is getting battered but we know he’ll be brilliant again on home wickets next summer.  Broad is now our best bowler.  Monty should be our first choice spinner, he’s a better bowler than ever now.  Graham Onions must get his long over due return to test cricket.  Right now the question is, who captains?
1st test vs Sri Lanka

Cook, Root, Trott, Bell, KPego, Bairstow, Stokes, Broad, Onions, Anderson, Panesar

Thursday, 12 December 2013

3rd Ashes test. Optimism?


The third test begins in the early hours of the morning.  Australia are full of confidence and expect to win.  England are making all the right noises but it’s hard for even their most passionate fans (myself included,) to have much optimism.  Before the series started I couldn’t see how England could lose this series, surely this team will find their best form when it really matters?  Now it’s hard to see how we can possibly win, this team seems to be well past its best.  The Perth pitch should definitely be more suited to the Aussies and England’s record here is woeful.

Team England obviously believe they are putting the best eleven players on the pitch but are they denying the evidence that the players being selected are no longer up to the task?  Perhaps we’re putting too much of an onus on England and it’s time to give Australia some credit.  They may have lost the summer series but from it they learnt what their best batting line up is.  With the obvious exception of Michael Clarke, few of these players look world class at this stage but they are solid and are doing their jobs.  The Aussie bowlers done well this summer too and with the addition of the resurgent Mitchell Johnson they now have a fearsome attack.

Despite this I can’t help feeling England will step up and perform in this match.  I don’t know where this belief comes from, maybe it’s just the blind optimism of a long term cricket fan?  When I wake up tomorrow morning we’ll see if I’m right or wrong.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Ashes miracle required.

 The fifth and final day of the 2nd Ashes test is looming and barring a miracle, Australia will be leading 2-0 by this time tomorrow.  This will be a totally deserved position as England have only performed on two, possibly three days of the test series so far, Australia have dominated.  England have been out played in every department; in the field where the 50/50 chances aren’t sticking which makes the batsmen’s jobs harder.  The batsmen have let us down the most, they simply haven’t stood up to Johnson & co, they wouldn’t have lasted a session against the great West Indian quicks.  It’s painful for this passionate England fan to say it but this series will go the same way as this test, Australia will win the Ashes unless we can complete one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history.

We have to face reality now, this great England side is well passed its peak and some of the players are playing for their careers now.  Unless this team can suddenly rediscover their absolute peak form, change must come wherever the Ashes come to rest.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Adelaide, Day two


We didn’t win the toss and we didn’t bat all day but England are still well in the match!  The selection of Ben Stokes was bold but the choice of Monty a surprise.  After the first day it looks like it could have been an inspired choice but there’s still a long way to go.  275-5 at stumps is an even day and as an England fan I’d definitely have taken that at the start of play.  All the bowlers have good figures on a flat track but there were a few missed chances in the field which could have made things so much better.
The first session today is huge, if England can take quick wickets they’ll be right on top.
Here in the East we’re bracing ourselves for the highest storm tide in decades, looks warm in Adelaide...

RIP Nelson Mandela

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Second Ashes test, 90 minutes away and counting...


It’s freezing cold in eastern England but I’m sure it’ll be hot in Adelaide, in every sense of the word.  This is a massive test match for England, not just for this Ashes series but for the direction this team takes in the future.  Right now defeat would almost certainly mean England will lose this series which will be a bitter blow for us supporters enjoying this period of dominance over the Aussies.  If the Ashes are lost then the makeup of the England team will have to change. 

In 2010/11 England’s batting line up was consistently excellent but it hasn’t fired consistently since.  Trotty has gone for now and may struggle to fight his way back into the side.  This would be a damn shame, top bloke and a top cricketer.  I’d play Joe Root at three then add an all rounder at six for this match.  I also a big fan of Matt Prior but his form over the last six months does not justify his selection.  If his form doesn’t improve then Bairstow is waiting in the wings.

The three main bowlers have rarely let England down but the fourth slot is always up for grabs, no one player has managed to make it his own.  How long will Swann and Anderson be able to carry on at their best?  A couple of years ago our bowling strength looked deep but form and injuries are beginning to make it look a bit bare.

All this doom and gloom!  England need to win the toss and bat properly, then in 24 hours’ time things will feel a lot better!