Monday, 25 May 2015

5th day Lords 25/05/15

The first part of the day didn’t go to plan, quick runs didn’t come, Cook was out for 162, Ali made 43 but England were all out for 345.  As an England fan I felt confident we couldn’t lose but how nervous would the kiwis make us?  After two balls the answer was “not very”.  Five balls later it was “not at all” and when Taylor fell with the score at 12-3 a win seemed inevitable.  England’s bowling in the hour before lunch was intense and brilliant.

NZ performed better after lunch, Williamson hung around a while with Watling, (who had come in ahead of McCullum for some reason) but Stokes ripped out two in two balls and England believed again.  Watling remained with Anderson and they put on 107 runs, could the kiwis hang on?  No, Wood bounced out BJ and Root snared Corey.  The game was up, NZ hung around a bit but eventually all out for 220 and England had won a brilliant test match.

The stats; 40 wickets for 1610 runs in five full days of cricket.

This New Zealand side is possibly the best that has left their shores, certainly much better than the abject rabble I watched surrender in a morning at Trent Bridge in 2008.  For England to beat them is an impressive performance made even more so because we kept battling back from adversity.  At 30-4 we are used to seeing England all out for 150 but instead we recovered to 389.  The Kiwis reached 400-3 but England clawed it back to 523 all out.  Again second innings we were 25-2 and 75-3 but reached 478 in quick time too.  Then on the last day our bowlers had obviously learnt from their first innings mistakes and pitched the ball up!

Credit to New Zealand, they came and played the game in good spirit and had spells in the game when they were dominant.  In the end they may have become victims of their own egos and perished because of their all out attacking philosophy?

As for England, well we looked a good team in this match but there’s another tough test starting on Friday in Leeds.  After this one we should be able to assess our Ashes chances…

Sunday, 24 May 2015

What a test match!

What a test match!  England were out early on day two but Ali managed to make his fifty and England reached 389.  How would NZ bat?  The answer was very well!  Both openers passed fifty but both were out with the score on 148.  England’s bowlers didn’t get it right after that.  Two new batsmen at the crease gave England hope but Taylor and Williamson batted to the close then started up again in the morning.  Williamson got to a hundred early on day three then Taylor got to fifty but England bowled well thereafter and slowed the scoring down and wickets began to fall.  Ali got a couple and Wood looked good on debut.  McCullum came and went in the blink of an eye and racked up 40+ while he was there.  Watling hit 50+ but the rest didn’t contribute much but NZ finished on 523, a lead of 134 and control of the game.  England’s reply began in familiar style with the early wickets of Lyth and Ballance but Cook and Bell saw England through to the close.  England had lost two wickets and were still over 60 runs in arears

So far three days of top class, entertaining test cricket but day four was even better.  Southee got Bell on the third ball of the morning and I was thinking ‘oh no, here we go…’.  There was no need to worry, Cook and Root batted through difficult conditions through the morning but the partnership flourished thereafter.  Root looked certain to get a century but hooked straight down a fielders throat on 84.  With the score on 232 the game was still in the balance.  Great test cricket!

The next couple of hours got even better, Cook got a well deserved century but was very much a junior partner to Ben Stokes who was just brilliant.  Stokes simply put bat to ball and whacked it all over and out of Lords hitting 15 fours and 3 sixes on his way to the fastest test hundred at Lords.  He was out soon after, the partnership with Cook put on 132, Stokes scored 101 of them!!  Buttler came and went quickly but Ali stayed with his captain till the close with the score at 429-6, England have a lead of 295.  Twenty four hours ago we were wondering if we could avoid defeat, now we think we can win!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Day one at Lords 21/05/15

Image result for joe root

What a cracking first day!  New Zealand won the toss and stuck England in and after an hour it looked a good decision as the score was 30-4.  A couple of good balls and a couple of poor shots, seeing an England innings in tatters has become too familiar.

Root and Stokes counter attacked and began scoring freely, the two put on a partnership of 161 but both got out in the nineties.  Buttler (who I rate) and Ali (who I don’t) then put another century stand together but Joss was out on the last ball of the day for 67.  Ali finished unbeaten on 49 and the score stood at 354-7.

England will probably sleep better tonight.  McCullum will not have wanted to see 350+ after inserting England and at 30-4 we should never have got there.  The scorecard shows our middle order batted very well but Boult and Southee can bowl better than they did today.  Did we seize the game or did NZ let us take it?

Joe Root is looking a class act, our best batsman by a mile at the moment.  Ben Stokes done well but we need more consistency from him.  England will hope to reach 400 and if Ali is awake in the morning we can get it but NZ can make it tough.  Sometime tomorrow England will bowl and this will put day one into context.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Some books

I like detective books and Mark Billingham is an author in this genre that I hadn’t encountered before.  “The Bones beneath” features DI Tom Thorne who is ‘baby sitting’ an imprisoned serial killer as he leads the police to a body he buried many years before.  The story is set on a small rocky island off the Welsh coast and the author is able to build the sense of isolation as well as the tension.  In Stuart Nicklin he is trying to create a ‘Hannibal Lecter’ type character but he falls well short.  I enjoyed this book right up to the end which I found unsatisfactory because I like things tied up neat and tidy.  Would I read another Mark Billingham book?  Yes I probably would but there are many other writers in this genre that I’d choose to read first.

I’ve read several books by Ian McEwan and he really is a brilliant writer.  “Saturday” is a day in the life of wealthy Neurosurgeon Henry Perowne who lives a privileged lifestyle with a beautiful family.  The book is set in 2003, after the terrorist attacks which changed the world forever and before the war in Iraq.  Indeed the day in question is when two million people march in London to protest against the Iraq war.  Perowne’s Saturday starts when he wakes early and through his window watches a plane aflame on its descent to Heathrow, his whole routine is then thrown off kilter.  What should be a routine day becomes anything but.

Throughout Perwone’s day the reader is given an insight into his musings and we learn his life history and those of his extended family, there is also an unexpected encounter with a character hitherto unknown.  All these elements come together in the evening with a family reunion that goes wildly off plan.  There is danger here and as a reader I cared about the characters that were literally on a knife edge.

Ian McEwan at his best finds the extraordinary in everyday characters and in “Saturday” he’s at his very best. 

Irvine Welsh is probably my favourite writer and I’ve read everything he’s ever published.  I didn’t particularly like “Bedroom secrets of the Master Chefs” and “Filth” was a bit too dark for me but I’ve loved pretty much everything else; “Trainspotting” and “Porno” are two of my all time favourite books. 

“Sex lives of Siamese twins” is the latest in paperback and is one of his best.  Set in Miami it features Lena and Lucy as the two main characters who are not actually conjoined twins but more alike than they realise.  Familiar themes from Irvine Welsh; Obsession, addiction, dark humour & darker places, the best and worst of human nature, weird sex, bad language and filthy minds, all are present in abundance.  With this story you don’t know where Welsh is going to take you and there are shocks right up to the end.  Welsh’s stories often have an uplifting conclusion, sometimes euphoric, “Sex lives…” didn’t quite take me all the way but it came damn close.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The mad world of English cricket.

In the weird and wonderful world of English cricket the madness continues.  First Andrew Strauss is appointed as… whatever his job title is?  We love Straussy and hope things go well for him.  Then before you can draw breath poor old Peter Moores is sacked to be replaced for the short term by Mr Farbrace, (I’ve been drinking some red stuff with ‘beaujolais’ on the bottle and it’s quite nice but I can’t remember his name and can’t be arsed to google).  Is Moores the wrong man?  Or, has he been the right man at the wrong time?  We will never know.  My problem with Moores’ two terms in charge is I don’t think the right teams have been put on the pitch.  Is this down to Moores or is this the responsibility of the selectors? 

Next the KPego saga rolled on, he makes a career best 355* for Surrey then is told he won’t feature in England’s plans this summer.  From what I’ve read the there’s nothing that says the door is locked and bolted for KPego and if England have a bad summer he may yet come back.  On the one hand KPego is a selfish twat and shouldn’t be anywhere near the England team.  On the other, based on talent and recent form he should be picked.  I don’t like the bloke but I do enjoy watching him bat.

Now up to date and the squad for the first test against New Zealand has been announced and I’m disappointed to see its virtually the same as the last one.  Adam Lyth will make his debut as Cook’s opening partner, fine.  I’d like to see Alex Hales given a go but maybe his time will come.  The rest of the batsmen look fine too but Bell has been inconsistent of late.  Buttler behind the stumps, no problem there either.  The trouble for me is with the bowlers/All rounders.  Neither Stokes nor Jordan look like they could bowl a team out so we only have room for one of them.  Hopefully Wood will make his debut.  If we’re going to pick an all rounder then we should ditch Ali and play a proper spinner, surely he’s not our best option?  Give Rashid a chance!  Where’s Monty?

I’ve said it before New Zealand are capable of beating England, this will be a serious test series and even if we win, will we be any closer to knowing what our best team is?

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Been busy lately....

“I also expect England to win, no matter which XI they put on the field.”

Words come back to haunt me…  England won the toss and batted making 257 built around a long overdue century from Cook.  Ali was the only other batsman to pass 50 and most observers thought this total was way short of par but the pitch was taking spin.  In reply Blackwood top scored with 88, Jimmy took six wickets and WI were all out for 189.  England’s spinners were poor and again many people thought England could have done better.

England’s second innings was a cock up, all out for 123 but a lead of 191 might be enough?  Bravo scored 82 and Blackwood was unbeaten on 47 to lead West Indies to a five wicket win.  Once again England’s spinners were ineffective.

So the series ended all square which may have flattered WI but the scorebook doesn’t lie.  Like many people I have a great affection for the West Indies teams of days gone by and I would like to see them back competing at the top in test cricket.  This side looks like it has plenty of talented young players but I’ve thought this many times over the last twenty years!

As for England well Trotty has retired saying he no longer feels he is playing at a high enough level for international cricket.  Trott has been a big part of one of England’s greatest sides and a decent man on and off the field.  He has bowed out at the right time and leaves the international arena with honour and integrity intact.  Adam Lyth looks next in line to get a go as Cook’s opening partner.

England struggled to bowl WI in this series and only Anderson looked anywhere near best.  We played three all rounders, none of whom really looked capable of bowling out international teams.  Stokes, Jordan and Woakes (when fit) are all too similar and only one of the three should play at any time.  Ali simply isn’t good enough with bat or ball and has to make way.  England need to select a bowler who can bowl consistently fast and threatening, who?  That’s anyone’s guess right now.  England also need a world class spinner, anyone seen Monty lately?  Maybe this defeat is just the wake up call England’s selectors need?

Last weekend saw the richest boxing match in history.  I’ve not seen enough of either Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather to judge but most of the public wanted Manny to win by knockout while most seasoned observers picked Floyd to win on points, which he duly did.  By all accounts the hype far outweighed the action.  Mayweather is an unlikeable woman beating thug who has proclaimed himself the world’s best ever.  He is technically a great boxer but he does not compare to the subject of a book I read recently.

Muhammad Ali – A portrait in words in pictures by Wilfred Sheed
Before I start I have to confess that I love Ali.  As far as I’m concerned he is the greatest heavyweight boxer that will ever draw breath and I admire him enormously as a human being.  I was a kid in the seventies, what would you expect?

This is an old book in good condition that I added to my Ali collection recently.  It was produced in 1975 shortly after Muhammad had defeated George Foreman to regain the title.  It concentrates on Ali at the peak of his fame, Ali the ‘Black Muslim’, Ali the poet and comedian, Ali the media darling and Ali the great boxer.  It tries to analyse the ‘greatest’ and explain the man behind the myth.
This book was written before the damaging fight with Joe Frazier in Manilla, before the career stretched on way too long and long before the onset of Parkinson’s syndrome.  This book was written without any clue as to how Ali would become in his later years, (arguably greater for his afflictions?)  It predicts a bright future for Muhammad after his boxing career come to a close.  It makes sad reading in this context.

The author Wilfred Sheed attempts to analyse the various facets of Ali’s life and character; how has his early life and family shaped him?  Is his religion genuine?  Is he an intelligent man or an idiot faking it?  Once again the forty years that have passed since this book was published have answered all those questions.  In this context the author himself comes across as an egomaniac.  At times this book is easy to read and I skipped through the pages quickly but at others it’s a bit dull.  There are loads of great photographs throughout and it is a welcome addition to my collection of ‘Ali books’ which now numbers ten at last count.

A couple of weeks ago I took Isaac to see “Avengers – Age of Ultron” at the cinema.  Isaac loves this kind of superhero action movie, I can take them or leave them but he’s dragged me along to see lots of them.  This one is all action from beginning to end, always plenty going on and Scarlet Johansson for eye candy.  Samuel L. Jackson is the coolest man in Hollywood and he pops up in the nick of time too.  Isaac loved it and I thought it was pretty good too.

I’m happy to say Maddie has shunned the boy-band nonsense enjoyed by most of her peers and is a lover of Punk rock.  This is something the two of us have in common and nowadays we are often trading CD’s.  One of our favourite bands is Nirvana, led by the late great Kurt Cobain.  Anyone who was around in the early nineties and enjoys real music must be aware of Nirvana. Some may have been put off by the volume and attitude, if so I urge you to look beyond this and embrace it for your own sake.  Kurt’s music is timeless and it works at full volume or turned down a little.  This shared love of music gave me an excuse to take my daughter to the cinema.
Montage of Heck” is a documentary of Kurt’s life made from private family footage filmed on ‘super 8’ as well as clips of tour diaries and over unseen footage from the Cobain estate.  His parents, family, girlfriends and band mates contribute too.  There are animated sequences filling in some of the gaps from early in his life.  There are bizarre, disturbing animations made from Kurt’s own sketchbooks which are disturbing at times, maybe reflecting the demons in his head.  

The film is everything you would expect; dark & disturbing, beautiful and moving, shocking and unpredictable.  Kurt’s addiction is not glossed over and it certainly isn’t glamorised.  The concert footage makes the hair stand up on your neck.  The film finishes a few weeks before “the end” but we know what happened, at the time it felt inevitable and there is no need to replay it.  Maybe we are a bit nearer to understanding why.  If you love Kurt, go see the film.  If you don’t go see it anyway.