I Saw Joe Root In His Prime





Root and Carberry

Derbyshire v New Zealand, Derby, 6th May & England  Lions v New Zealand, Grace Road, 10-11 May 2013

Last week I took the opportunity to have a couple of looks at the New Zealand tourists, as they prepared for the coming Test series with one game against Derbyshire (effectively a sort of Derbyshire 1 1/2 XI) and another against England Lions (pretty much the England 2nd XI).  I saw very little of New Zealand’s batting, but I’d say collectively their four seamers (Boult, Southee, Wagner and Bracewell) would make a very useful English County attack who shouldn’t really trouble a Test side – unless they happened to be playing in England in May, that is.

Before it became fashionable to insult Grace Road, the done thing was to complain about the County Ground in Northampton and, before that, it was usually Derby.  Although this piece of publicity material is a little idealised (you can’t actually see Chatsworth or the crooked spire of Chesterfield in the background)


they have been making efforts to beautify the ground, with a new marquee and a temporary stand.  If you can avert your eyes from the Pavilion and the ricketty old stand with ‘East Midlands Demolition Company’ on it and ignore the constant roar from the infernal ring road, it can, on a sunny Bank Holiday Monday, be a very pleasant place to watch cricket.  Unlike at Grace Road, which I’ll come to in a minute, there was a very decent crowd, many of them families with small children, who seemed to have been attracted by the chance to sit in the sun and eat ice-cream (the best on the circuit, incidentally) rather than any particular interest in watching New Zealand.

In the eyes of the press, the story was what one of them (rather melodramatically) described as a ‘shoot out’ between Wagner and Bracewell for the role of third seamer in the Test side.  I’d agree with them that there wasn’t a great deal in it.  What did distinguish the South African born Wagner was his Steve Kirby-style act of following through to within a few feet of the batsman and pulling faces at him.  After Billy Godleman had hit one ball for four Wagner followed this up by first miming throwing the ball at him and then actually letting it go, knocking his bat from his hand.  This would have been more impressive if he hadn’t been considerably shorter than Godleman, and earned him a warning from the Umpire, but may be enough to give him the edge over Bracewell in the eyes of the Selectors.

If the crowd at Derby was respectable, the attendance at Grace Road was frankly pathetic for a match featuring the full New Zealand Test side and an England Lions XI featuring one or two potential all-time greats.  On the Friday the paying customers were outnumbered by a huge contingent from the ECB (there for a strategy meeting, apparently) including Giles, Flower and a smartly-suited Andrew Strauss.  For some reason (perhaps they were afraid of an assassination attempt on Kevin Shine) this seemed to involve a massive security operation, including extra stewards, a draconian enforcement of the ‘smoking policy’ and Matthew Hoggard being ordered from his perch on top of the Fox Bar.  And all for a crowd that was smaller than I’ve seen at some Second XI matches.

Much of the crowd was a made up of a group of what appeared to be full-time autograph hunters, who seemed to be stalking Strauss, in particular, with the cunning and avidity of a group of tweenage Beliebers.

Autograph Hunters

I didn’t learn much about the New Zealand batting.  This was my only sight of McCullum, who edged one off Onions when he was on one (imagine the roar if that had happened at Lord’s!)


– nor the Lions’ bowling.  Rather like the New Zealanders, Onions, Woakes, Barker and Roland-Jones looked like a useful County attack, particularly in May, though it was Roland-Jones who seems to have the knack of picking up wickets.

The Lions’ reply got off to a flyer with three successive No Balls off the first three deliveries from Boult (a problem that continued throughout the afternoon)

No ball

– but the big story was, of course, the simultaneous appearance of Root, Bairstow and Taylor.

Root’s talent seems to lie in an iron determination to ‘execute his plan’ (as they say), regardless of any ideas the bowlers might have.  His plan for the day seemed to be to make 50 by tea, which involved a lot of this


and this

Joe Root

before moving from 44 to 50 with a six into the Pavilion, then accelerating to 100 by the close of play.  In the two hours of play on Saturday his batting was positively Apollonian, and was supported very effectively by the low handed shovelling and slapping of Johnny Bairstow.

There was a reprise of the New Zealanders’ coconut shy routine, incidentally, with Boult, I think, banging the ball into the ground from close range so that it bounced over the batsman’s head and another chuck hitting Umpire Jeremy Lloyds on the leg with what purported to be an attempted run out (provoking an outbreak of tittering in the slips).  Lloyds was responsible for most of the no-balling and had turned down a couple of appeals.

Once the rain set in, Bairstow (who seems a thoroughly likeable bloke) commandeered the TV in the Fox Bar and spent the afternoon watching Rugby League.  James Taylor, however, who had been dismissed for two before I arrived at the ground, headed off  for a session in the indoor nets, perhaps hoping that a win in the Cup Final for his team – Manchester City – might provide him with some consolation for a doubly deflating day.


I think there is a real danger of England losing a great talent in Taylor, though it is worth bearing in mind that he’s still only 23.  He does have one flaw, and has always had it since is his days at Leicestershire, which is his tendency to play across his pads to balls pitched up on off or middle stump.  Once he is set he gets away with it, but, in the first few overs he is in, he is terribly vulnerable to being out LBW.  If he tries to compensate for this by playing straight he tends to get caught behind (as he was on Saturday).  As I have to no pretensions to being a batting coach or a sports psychologist I’m afraid I have no advice to offer as to a cure, but I suspect a minor technical flaw may be turning into a mental block.

This would be a pity. I would always prefer to watch Taylor’s witty, inventive, brave batsmanship  in preference to Bairstow’s jolly bludgeoning or even Root’s rather glacial classicism, which inspires awe rather than affection.  And in a side with five established batsmen (including Prior) there must surely be room for a little self-indulgence.

But perhaps his omission for this series will work in his favour.  Taylor is at his best against spin and real pace and his natural element would be a spitting turner in Chennai or a fierce lifter in Perth.  His weakness is against the English county seamer in May, which, as I have suggested, is pretty much what he would be facing next week.

“Prediction Is Very Difficult, Especially About The Future” : as illustrated by a day at Trent Bridge

Nottinghamshire v Middlesex, Trent Bridge, County Championship, 12th April 2013

April is, in the English cricketing world, traditionally the time for predictions.  On the other hand, somewhere in the top ten of great cricketing commonplaces is that the beauty of the game lies in its unpredictability.  My tip for a sure-fire bet would be to put some money on the number of times the phrase ‘Who would have predicted that!‘ is used in the commentary box.

There is a saying in football that ‘the table doesn’t lie’ and that the best side over a full season will always win a given division.  Unfortunately this generally means that, given the imbalance of financial power in the Premiership, there are only three clubs with a realistic chance of winning that league.  Not so in cricket.  In Division One there is only one side (Derbyshire, I’m afraid) who appear substantially weaker on paper than the others.  The others all begin the season with a realistic prospect of finishing Champions and the only prediction I’d make with any confidence is that it will be whichever side plays to the limits of their paper capabilities.

In Division Two, unfortunately, things are a little easier to predict.  There are probably four Counties whose strength on paper makes them promotion candidates (Lancashire, Hampshire, Kent and Essex).  Of the others, it would be a surprise to see Worcester or Northants either being promoted or finishing last, and then, bringing up the rear, there are Glamorgan, Gloucester and some other County I can’t quite bring to mind.

But then again, then again … there is the phenomenon of the side that, through some effort of collective will, plays considerably beyond its apparent capabilities.  Two years ago Lancashire won the Championship with a largely name-free side and last year, of course, Derbyshire, with a ragbag of cast-offs and local talent, defied all predictions by winning promotion.

And then, of course, there is the weather, a great leveller.  Bradman’s Invincibles themselves would have a hard time winning promotion if they were forced to spend most of the season in the pavilion, playing Championship Manager and idly tweeting #Raincard (which is largely what happened to Yorkshire last year).  So there is hope for us yet.

To prove my point, consider the day’s cricket I saw last Friday at Trent Bridge, a strange medley of four entirely distinct passages of play.  In the first two matters proceeded in an orderly and predictable fashion, in the second two the game was turned on its head and turned over again, like an egg-timer being used to boil two eggs.

My first prediction (as I left the house in steady drizzle) that would have been wildly awry would have been that I wasn’t likely to see much cricket and that I was wasting my train fare even going to Nottingham.  In fact, although this was the scene when I arrived at the ground (the floodlights lending it an eerie, midnight sun quality)

Trent Bridge April 2013

play began at 11.30, and continued (more or less continually floodlight) until 5.30 when, puzzlingly, they went off for bad light.

When play resumed Middlesex were on 291/7, in reply to Nottinghamshire’s 278 (Toby Roland-Jones having taken 6-36).  The questions were how far Middlesex could extend their lead (to 75 in the end) and whether the Middlesex ‘keeper Simpson would make his century (left stranded on 97).  The Notts seamers, who had apparently being spraying it around like hyaenas the previous day (to the tune of 57 extras) bowled a little more tightly without suggesting that bowling is going to be their strong suit this year.  Shahzad strutted, Fletcher lumbered and Carter loped and bounced, but not to any great effect.

The Middlesex innings ended conveniently at lunchtime and set up the passage of play that must have had Andy Flower (who was apparently present at the ground) opening his notebook and licking his pencil.

Toby Roland-Jones (the name to drop at the moment) had taken 6-63 in the first innings and would be bowling to the Australian Cowan, and the England prospects Hales, Lumb, Taylor and Patel.  Roland-Jones is 6’4″ (at least), has a long (very long) smoothly oiled run up and is, as you might expect, on the brisk side of fast medium and gets a lot of lift.  Cowan, as it happened, was bowled by the underestimated Murtagh for 1 and Lumb swiftly bagged his pair, LBW to Roland-Jones.

This brought together Hales and Taylor who, mindful, I think, of the presence of Flower, seemed to be on their best and most responsible behaviour, treating Roland-Jones, in particular, with courtly respect.  Once or twice Roland-Jones succumbed to the temptation most tall fast bowlers feel to bounce Taylor (which is like throwing Brer Rabbit into the Tar Pit) and was despatched, but mostly bowled the line indicated in this photograph.  Taylor ostentatiously refused to nibble at the offered bait.

Roland-Jones to Taylor

After 16 overs Hales and Taylor had taken Notts through to 50 without giving any chances.  Roland-Jones and Murtagh were taken off and replaced by the industrious but unrenowned Berg and Dexter, who is close to being a part-time bowler and would not have been bowling at all if James Harris had not pulled a hamstring.  At this point the proprieties were thrown to the winds and the spirit of some Lord of Misrule took over Trent Bridge.

Hales and Taylor must felt that they had seen off the worst of the threat and earned the right to be a little more expansive against the second stringers.  I missed Hales’ dismissal but he was caught behind off Berg for 32.  Patel, who replaced him, hadn’t really earned the right to anything but played a hopeless sort of backhand smash against Dexter that rose almost vertically to be caught by the substitute Podmore (son, perhaps, of Dave, the legendary bits-and-pieces player of the ’80s).  Taylor, presented with a short ball outside off stump by Dexter played a wonderfully muscular cut.  Unfortunately the ball kept low (or at least a lot lower than the stuff he’d been getting from Roland-Jones) and – in the opinion of the Umpire – it caught the underside of his bat on its way through to the ‘keeper.

In swift succession Read and the runner-assisted Wessels were removed by the demon Dexter to take Notts to 68-7.  Shahzad had a brief swish but went the same way at 93-8.  The stalwarts in the crowd sighed, shook their heads and scanned the papers to see what was on the way of football to occupy their newly vacant Saturday afternoon.

The Lord of Misrule must have been tiring of his little joke with Dexter and had thought of a better one, as Luke Fletcher came to the wicket to join the veteran “Dr.” Dre Adams.  Middlesex skipper Rogers, not wanting to push his luck with Dexter, brought Roland-Jones back to – as he must have thought – polish off the tail.  Adams was in no mood to be intimidated by any pesky kid and hit Roland-Jones for three boundaries in his first over, including a huge six over the very long leg side boundary.  The spell was broken and the disbelieving Roland-Jones was transformed from some reincarnation of Joel Garner into a gangly youth bowling in his back garden with a tennis ball.

To make matters worse, until the end of his innings, Fletcher belied his reputation as the Costcutter Flintoff by poking around like Peter Roebuck, before he too started hoicking Roland-Jones into the flowerbeds.

Luke Fletcher at the wicket

Fletcher couldn’t quite make his fifty (b. Murtagh for 47): inevitably he later described himself as ‘gutted’ on Twitter.  Adams finished with 50 from 38 balls and Dexter with a career best 5-27.

Well, who would have predicted that!

As for what Andy Flower would have come away with in his notebook, I’d guess:

Roland-Jones !? Hales ? Taylor ?? Patel !!

Dozing Demons And A Twisted Ankle (Notts v Somerset)

Nottinghamshire v Somerset, Trent Bridge, County Championship, 20th April 2012

I think it was the poet Stevie Smith who once wrote …

“Why does it only rain when I go to Trent Bridge? It does not. I only go to Trent Bridge when I think it is going to rain.”

Well, not quite. My choices on Friday were to go to Derby to watch Leicestershire, which would have cost me £17.50 on the train and £13.00 on the gate, or to go to Nottingham to watch Notts v Somerset, which cost £17.50 on the train and nothing (as a Leicestershire member) to get in. 

If I’d been guaranteed a full day’s play I’d have splashed out on Derby, but as I was expecting rain, I chose Trent Bridge.  Trent Bridge is a more attractive place to watch the rain fall than Derby, and if you have to cut your losses and leave early, Nottingham boasts more alternative attractions than the other place.  I suppose this illustrates which I usually describe myself as a Leicestershire member rather than a fan.

In the event, although there were false alarms all morning, the rain didn’t set in in earnest until tea time, and there was even a spell of glorious heat immediately after lunch, which almost sent me to sleep.  In most sports this wouldn’t be a compliment, but in County Cricket it’s a sign that the old game is working its magic once more.

Apart from that spell in the afternoon those Early Season Conditions are still in operation (and, looking at the weather forecast, look set to continue until the arrival of T20 in June).  Notts were on 93-6 overnight, 52 of those having been contributed by Chris Read, and most of the damage done by Peter Trego.  It looked like I’d be seeing Trescothick in action by about 11.30.  But not so.

Trego continued to flummox the batsmen by doing the obvious things (for a medium paced seamer) sensibly.  Read continued to bat sensibly for the conditions and made a century with a bit of sensible, unselfish tail end support from Harry Gurney.  When June comes around, it won’t be any spectacular performances that will have placed counties at the head of the tables, but seamers who’ve made the most of the cold and damp, and batsmen who’ve kept their heads and picked their way through the minefield, taking advantage of the breaks in the cloud cover.

The morning’s entertainment was enhanced by the performance of Steve Kirby, probably the best physical comedian in first class cricket, a sort of more belligerent Stan Laurel.  The first time I saw him in action was at Leicester in about 2002, when he hurled the ball at Darren Maddy’s head from about five paces (I think the two had history from Kirby’s time on the staff at Grace Road).  When he returned to the pavilion, I think it was the nearest I’ve ever seen to a cricketer being lynched.

In his maturity, his act is now more like a wrestler in the Mick McManus mould, prowling the boundary and engaging in pantomime banter with the crowd.  He did shape up to throw the ball at the batsman a couple of times, but you know he isn’t actually going to do it these days.

One thing I did notice (with some envy) was how regular the run ups of both Kirby and Trego were, as revealed by their footmarks on the damp turf

both had bowled virtually unchanged through the match and you can see how their feet have hit the same spots with perfect precision.

The other big event of the morning was Marcus Trescothick twisting his ankle. 

 As he is one of the few genuine big beasts left in the the Championship, a long-term injury would be a major blow to Somerset, and there were groans from the West Country men behind me when he went down, though, in the event, it doesn’t look as though he’ll be out for more than a couple of weeks.

Nottinghamshire’s major acquisition from Leicestershire doesn’t seem to have made much of an impression yet, though he has been persuaded to continue his unwilling career as a catalogue model (if ever an expression said ‘Can I go now, please? this is it) –

The other player that Notts have snaffled from the Foxes – Harry Gurney – seemed to the major talking point among the home contingent, who seemed impressed by his pace.  Gurney had a puzzling career at Grace Road, playing only 17 first class matches since his debut in 2007 (and not doing much in any of them), not being a regular in the one day side, but being a star of T20 (which I never get to see).

Bowling left arm over he had Compton in all sorts of problems to begin with, bowling three maidens in his first three overs and causing the batsman to insist that one side of the area in front of the pavilion should be cleared of members to allow him a better view.   

After lunch, though, the sun shone and the demons in the pitch joined me in dozing off.  Suppiah and Compton played watchfully (against what was, frankly, some fairly ordinary bowling) through until the sudden downpour just before tea ended proceedings.

As we now know, on the Saturday, Suppiah and Hildreth went on to make hundreds and Compton a double, with Gurney taking 0-89.  As I write, Taylor is in the position he so often found himself in at Leicester, of being asked to dig his side out of a deep hole in the second innings.

Already, voices are being raised (albeit mainly on Twitter) suggesting Compton could fill that troublesome no. 6 slot. I wonder, if so, whether anyone would object to yet another South African (he has a stronger accent than Trott, for instance) being chosen for England?  Or does it make a difference who your English grandfather was?

On this showing, Nottinghamshire looked prime candidates for relegation, and I wouldn’t be amazed if Leicestershire were to be promoted.  Given Taylor’s desire for First Division cricket, I wonder if he could be tempted back to Grace Road?

Somewheres East Of Suez Where The Best™ Is Like The Worst

Having been offline all week with a nasty bug (the computer, not me), I’ve  been following England’s performance East of Suez via TMS and the newspapers.  (Consequently, it wasn’t until I got back online that I realised that there were any doubts about the legality of Ajmal’s action).

I see that the Independent has signed up Ian Bell as a columnist (he previously graced the pages of the Evening Standard).  Belly appears with the tagline View From The Middle (the middle of the dressing room, mostly, in this match).

I don’t know whether Bell writes his own stuff  but, if not, his ghost has captured perfectly the tone of his interviews – resembling an American airman captured during the Korean War and subjected to fiendish Chinese brainwashing techniques.

Bell’s column only appears on the first day of the Test.  So what was on his mind?

“I was fortunate that wrist X-rays showed no fracture after I was hit right at the end of my final practice session before the first Test.

While at the hospital, I read an article about Saeed Ajmal, the Pakistan off-spinner, and his new delivery, which they’re calling the ‘teesra’.  We’d seen some footage of it in a recent one-day match against Sri Lanka.

If he has developed another delivery, though, brilliant.  Let’s take it on.  If he’s got three different deliveries and you still score runs against him, what a plus that is for the team.  He was the leading wicket-taker in Test cricket in 2011 and I know how good it feels to score runs against that class of bowler, so that’s our challenge in these three Tests.

Now that we are top of the ICC Test ranking, we still need to be there in  a year’s time.  If we could win this series and follow it by winning in Sri Lanka and India later in the year, it would be one of our biggest achievements.”  

Wouldn’t it just?

We shall have to wait until next week to see how Belly has reacted to this week’s events – (Bell c. A. Akmal b. Ajmal 0 & lbw Ajmal 4 –  Ajmal 10-97 in the match – Pakistan win by 10 wickets.)

Perhaps, under the heading “Why Ajmal Makes Me Want To Chuck!”, he will launch an amazing attack on the spinner and reveal how the stress led to him embarking on a drink-fuelled spree ending in a three-in-a-bed love romp involving the wife of the Emir of Abu Dhabi?  

Or perhaps they will have looked in the mirror, asked themselves some hard questions, decided to draw a line under it and found some positives to take out going forward? 

We shall have to see.

And what of the England Lions, who, a little further East, are touring Bangladesh (or, as they seem to refer to it, Bangladonkey?) Is Captain James Taylor managing to stamp his personality on the team?  Coverage is sparse in the English newspapers, so we shall have to look to Twitter for the answer, which I think is Yes.

Before leaving Taylor tweeted –

That day has come round again! Last few hours in england before we fly to bangladesh! Last bit of english food for a while.
But not to worry, once out there …
@alexhales count me in! I’ll be up in a bit bud after pizza!
And Alex Hales does seem to have bought into the Captain’s agenda, as a selection of his tweets demonstrates –
Steak and ale pie for the last meal before Bangladesh!! 
Cheers for the birthday messages people! Feel old at 23 so I had my party at pizza hut in Chittagong to rewind the years!
 6 quid a corona at the bar in Bangladesh?!!! #offensive #cheaperinthewestend
 I’ve seen some weird things before.. But @SMeaker18 breakfast is comfortably leading the way..
 nah banana and jelly on toast!! I could understand jam…
Think I might stick to the hotel grub if I’m honest!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Everyone off to the Aussie high commission in Dhaka for a feed and some brews.. 
 This is all very well, but what about the curries?  What about the cricket, indeed?
(n.b. The Number One Side in the World™ and The Best Team in the World™ are registered trademarks of the England Cricket Team.  Rankings can go down as well as up.)

Christmas With The Stars … Of Leicestershire C.C.C.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I don’t do Twitter, but I am intrigued by the notion of having access to the workings of the minds of today’s sportsmen, unvarnished by the gloss of media training.  I thought I’d have a look at Cricket Tweets, a site which aggregates the Twitter streams of those cricketers who have accounts, and see what some of Leicestershire’s stars (and a few who’ve decamped to Nottinghamshire) have been up to over the Christmas break.
(Warning – this no-holds-barred expose of the sometimes brutal word of today’s professional County Cricketer does contain swearing.) 
As Christmas approaches, solid opener Matt Boyce seems a little underwhelmed by the quality of his Twitter stream –
This was my everest this morning… @adamray112 was getting off the toilet “#comingthroughweasel” http://t.co/AfaKDD95
Updated via Echofon at Saturday, December 17, 2011 10:31 AM
as was up-and-coming speedster Nathan Buck –
Time to go home! Great 3 weeks in Potch to get us ready for the Lions tour to Bangladesh. God my tweets are boring. #zzzz
Updated via Twitter for iPhone at Sunday, December 18, 2011 1:36 PM
Wantaway starlet Josh Cobb was taking time to reflect on some of the deficiencies of his performance last season, and resolving to do better next year
@mvclayton @mongoosecricket I’ll have a crack in 4 day cricket. Can not do worse than last year ha
Updated via Twitter for iPhone at Monday, December 19, 2011 9:26 PM
Unsung hero Wayne White was taking a – no doubt brief – break from his rigorous dietary programme –
beware any takeaways within a 5 miles radius, youre in for a big order.
Updated via web at Tuesday, December 20, 2011 9:41 PM
T20 specialist Harry Gurney was at a bit of a loose end following his move to Notts –

Got the flat to myself all night, what shall I do? Updated via Twitter for iPhone at Wednesday, December 21, 2011 5:56 PM

 Josh Cobb had a suggestion –
@gurneyhf: Got the flat to myself all night, what shall I do?” polish the bishop
Updated via Twitter for iPad at Wednesday, December 21, 2011 6:01 PM
(Believed to be a reference to the small bust of Archbishop Cosmo Lang that Gurney keeps on his mantelpiece).  And the consequence was …
Well… The having the flat to myself thing ended up with being in a random karaoke bar in town… Thanks for the suggestions.
Updated via Twitter for iPhone at Thursday, December 22, 2011 12:36 AM
On Christmas Eve, lanky paceman Alex Wyatt was on a goodwill mission to my birthplace –
Kettering – one of the worst places to go out. Standard of clubs, terrible, and people even worse #britaingoingdownthedrain
Updated via Echofon at Saturday, December 24, 2011 4:16 AM
Well, Alex, I believe they speak very highly of you.  Harry Gurney, unfortunately, was still not usefully occupied –
250 headshots with the ACR, time to find a more productive hobby.
Updated via Twitter for iPhone at Saturday, December 24, 2011 11:46 AM
Good to see, though, that someone was thinking of their family.  Back to Matt Boyce –
 Welcome @maisiegmorris to twitter. The trendiest 91 year old grandma with her new iPad2! Looking forward to seeing her tomorrow!

Updated via Echofon at Saturday, December 24, 2011 3:06 PM
And how about this heartwarming picture of festive domestic bliss from Captain Hoggard –
Merry Christmas to one and all santas drinks and nibbles in the fireplace rudolphs food is ready ernie tucked up alarm set 4ish ? Hope later
Meanwhile, Wayne White was heading out on the town, full of seasonal spirit –
happy xmas to everyone and be safe 2night celebrating. god bless us all x
Updated via web at Saturday, December 24, 2011 7:01 PM
The day itself dawns and crafty twirler Jigar Naik is first with the festive greetings (his punctuation, perhaps, betraying a hint of anxiety about the state of L.C.C.C.’s finances) 
Merry Christmas to all. Have a great day and a wonderful, prosperous new year ????????
Updated via Echofon at Sunday, December 25, 2011 6:56 AM
It’s not clear whether Wayne White has been to sleep, but, if so, he wakes with thoughts of absent friends –
@jamestaylor20 merry xmas james. i miss you x
Updated via web at Sunday, December 25, 2011 10:11 AM
Tiny Tim responds with “God bless us, every one”
@wayneAwhite you too! merry christmas Wayne! Have a good one!
and –
@whereaglesdare2 follow luxury menswear brand… 50% Christmas sale please visit http://www.whereeaglesdare.co.uk
But it seems that all is not well with Wayne White –
where is my car?
Updated via web at Sunday, December 25, 2011 10:11 AM
mother “did anyone spike your drinks?” “i hope so
Updated via web at Sunday, December 25, 2011 10:16 AM
Josh Cobb is full of Dickensian good will –
 Merry Xmas too one and all, enjoy your day and get smashed. #butthendontdrive.
Updated via Twitter for iPhone at Sunday, December 25, 2011 12:21 PM
But it is clear that something has gone horribly wrong over at the White family household –
@cobby24 So kind! In horrible nick here, family looking at me with Disaproving eyes
Updated via Mobile Web at Sunday, December 25, 2011 2:41 PM
@cobby24 More embarrassing telling my mum to f-off as I’m spewing all Over her house
Updated via Mobile Web at Sunday, December 25, 2011 2:56 PM
By late on Christmas Day, as the spirit is wearing off, Josh Cobb has discovered an exception to his offer of good will to all men –
 “@LiamJKinch: Have a shit one” miserable bastard

Updated via Twitter for iPhone at Sunday, December 25, 2011 5:51 PM
and Wayne White is in agreement on this point –
@cobby24 @LiamJKinch Horror bloke, imagine his face at the dinner table
Updated via Mobile Web at Sunday, December 25, 2011 5:56 PM
(In fairness, having looked at occasional second-teamer Liam Kinch’s Twitter – which I won’t reproduce here – he does seem a bit of a wrong ‘un.)  But on a more wholesome note, over in Smeeton Westerby, noted sociologist Greg Smith is putting his break to constructive use –
Loving the Ukulele that Santa brought me, not sure the rest of my family are enjoying it as much as me.
Updated via Twitter for iPad at Monday, December 26, 2011 10:01 AM
Nathan Buck, however, seems to have spent Boxing Day at the sales in a shoe shop (my best guess as to what he means by this enigmatic Tweet) –
#OFFICE staff excite me
Updated via Twitter for iPhone at Monday, December 26, 2011 1:56 PM
And it’s left to Matt Boyce to end Christmas on a note of good old  fashioned farce
My dad has locked my car keys along with my house keys in the boot! We are in Birmingham and my spare key is in Leicester! Busy @acfwyatt ?
Updated via Echofon at Tuesday, December 27, 2011 8:46 AM
Busy he may be, but probably not in Kettering.

A Good Feed

I wonder how James Taylor’s getting on in India.  Let’s have a look at his Twitter feed-

Good to be back playing again! However 50 overs in the dirt felt a very long time! #heavylegs!Now off to the hard rock cafe for a good feed!
Hmm.  I do wonder when these Bunter-ish tendencies began to set in, and I think – by studying the self-same Twitter, that we can begin to get to the root of the problem.
I believe we can trace it to the time that JT and his M8s recently spent occluded in the England Performance Centre in Loughborough (a place that we locals only speak of in hushed tones, in case we scare the children).  Precisely what goes on there cannot be spoken of openly, but rumour has it that – amongst other horrors – the aspiring England players are buried up to their necks in ice (rather like the treacherous in the ninth circle of Dante’s Inferno) –
No I can’t send out for a curry


 and force-fed MaxiMuscle by Andy Flower and his Grim Crew.
It’s only natural that – when they’ve made their escape – these young players should emerge craving  sustenance.  Twitter corroborates this.  What is Taylor’s first thought before setting out for a night rescuing cats from trees with the Manchester Fire Brigade (just the thing, I’d say, to eliminate his vulnerability against late movement in the early overs of his innings) –
Out for a quick curry!! Then on call all night with manchester fire service! Wish us luck!
I also note that he has re-Tweeted a photograph taken by fellow inmate Jason Roy of the pair of them getting stuck into the Pic’n’Mix, under the rubric
@JasonRoy20: Be rude not too wouldn’t it. @jamestaylor20 and I taking pic’n’mix DOWN. #neededforlongjourneys
But perhaps there is an alternative explanation – that this is an example of a player misunderstanding his own publicity.  Yes, one feels like saying, you were described as “Lilliputian in stature but gargantuan in his appetite for runs” and  as “A tiny man with an appetite for big hundreds”, but that was a metaphorical appetite, not a literal one.
Another tip to avoid this tour ending in tears – bearing in mind what transpired during the Rugby World Cup – would be to avoid any bar advertising a dwarf throwing contest.
You never know what might happen.

Vale : Taylor Minissimus

So, farewell then, James Taylor, the man who has made more appearances on this blog than any other.  But no longer.

Not dead, fortunately, but he has passed out from the sight of the faithful at Grace Road by – as long anticipated on this blog and elsewhere – signing for Nottinghamshire with one year left on his Leicestershire contract.  I suppose I’m pleased that it’s Nottinghamshire and not Warwickshire.  I might get to see him play now and again, and it’s quite gratifying to see the King of Spain getting his beard singed. 

Taylor does also have what in ye olden days would have been a birth qualification for Notts, having been born in Nottingham.  There has been some confusion about this in the past : the LCCC website and Wikipedia say he was born in Burrough on the Hill (unlikely, unless he was born on the site of an Iron Age hillfort, perhaps accompanied by a clap of thunder and other momentous signs and portents).  The Cricketers’ Who’s Who claims it was Melton itself, but the lad himself recently clarified the situation via a questionnaire in Spin magazine –

Place of Birth: Nottingham, only because mum didn’t like Leicester hospital.”

On the down side this means that Leicester now have five specialist contracted batsman (last year’s first class averages in brackets) – Will Jefferson (35.96), Matt Boyce (27.16), Greg Smith (25.83), Jacques du Toit (19.72) and Josh Cobb (11.94). 

I suppose I can continue to follow Taylor’s progress via his Twitter feed.  This is very much a real-time version of the kinds of diaries published by Ed Smith and Peter Roebuck, a fascinating glimpse of the gnawing insecurity and existential dread that haunts the mind of the professional cricketer on the verge of England selection … well actually no it isn’t (and I don’t think I’d wish it to be).  The impression is of a naturally ebullient character, not much given to introspection,  whose interests are sport (any sport), “banter” with his M8s and food.  Preparing to tour India with England A he tweets –

will somebody please order me a steak I am starving!!!! i#longtouronarehands

and then again –

Just sat in the lounge waiting for the flight to india! Should be a decent trip, plenty of curries!
Ahem.  Shouldn’t that be plenty of protein shakes, young man?  You’re playing for England now, you know …

Having banked his first pay cheque, Taylor tries on his new Nottinghamshire blazer


Out Of A Misty Dream Our Path Emerges For A While …


So, I suppose we have to admit that the cricket season is over and the football season has begun.

A little known fact – at least I’ve never heard Alan Hansen allude to it on Match of the Day – is that the earliest use of the word “soccer” recorded in the O.E.D. is in a letter from the ‘nineties poet Ernest Dowson, dated 1889:

“I absolutely decline to see socca’ matches” 

The O.E.D. is tantalisingly bare of context – was he, perhaps, more of a rugga’ man? – but it does not appear that (unlike his fellow decadent Francis Thompson) he was very fond of cricket.  The only reference I can find to the game in his letters is the following, written from Bognor –

“I have I fear to be another ten days in this inexpressibly horrid plage – full of English Mlls and Varsity men who play cricket with them on the sands.”   

So not, apparently, an enthusiast. 

Ernest Dowson : Not a Socca' Man

But – once we have sent our little books out into the world – we have no say in how they are used.  So, to me, this – his most famous poem – is about the cricket season.

Fairfield Road in Spring


Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam


They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,

Love and desire and hate:

I think they have no portion in us after

We pass the gate.


They are not long, the days of wine and roses:

Out of a misty dream

Our path emerges for a while, then closes

Within a dream.


Fairfield Road in Autumn

Cheerio, Cheerio, Cheerio!

 Leicestershire v Middlesex, Grace Road, County Championship, 14-15 September 2011 

It’s an indication of how quickly the darkness of Autumn seems to descend that although this, the last match of the county season, only took place a week ago it seems to belong to another season altogether. 

My expectation when I booked the time off was that I would be watching Northants joyfully crowning their season with promotion on one day and on the other bidding a fond but melancholy farewell to Grace Road at the end of what has been a less than successful season.

In the event, I didn’t make it to Wantage Road.  Northants, who’d gone to the top of the Division at about the same time (early May) as Leicestershire had taken up residence at the bottom, had faltered, and were left needing a victory with maximum points in their last match against Gloucestershire and a miracle – or, to put it another way, a Leicestershire victory against Middlesex – at Grace Road.

Northants had won by lunchtime on the third day, but had failed to gain maximum bonus points.  All Middlesex needed to do was draw.

I imagine that – contrary to my expectation – the air of melancholy was at Wantage Road and the joy – of a sort – at Grace Road.  A number of pink shirted, expectant  and well refreshed Middlesex supporters had made the journey and kept us entertained with their amusing chants, such as “Middle, Middle, Middle – Sex, Sex, Sex!” and “Who Are You?”.

The Leicestershire players, too, seemed  in good spirits.  The regulars, most of them rested for the game, were looking forward to their trip to India and the younger players were glad to be playing in their place.  Ned Eckersley – who had begun the season as the man with no squad number (but a sackful of nicknames) made a century in the first innings and a fifty in the second.  Greg Smith, who has had a wretched season since coming down from Loughborough, made a century too.

At lunchtime on the last day there was a slightly presumptuous announcement that Middlesex would be presented with the Championship trophy at the end of the match by Giles Clarke.  At 90-5, chasing 124, there was some hope in the East Midlands that Mr. Clarke and the trophy might have to be packed in a taxi and sent over to Northampton, but some late middle order thrashing hauled the Middles over the line and into a shower of champagne and group hugs.

A sub plot – of little interest to the jigging horde of Middlesexers, but of great interest to this blog – was what seemed to be generally assumed – but could not openly be acknowledged – to be James Taylor’s last innings at Grace Road.  He’d made 80 in the second innings – with a defensible total in sight – when he was given out caught behind off Crook.  He stood, turned painfully slowly, looked to the heavens (or at least the Gower Suite) and lingered on his way back the pavilion, thrashing the ground and air with his bat as he went.

It was a particular pity, in the circumstances, that he left the pitch for the last time to a chorus of “Cheerio, Cheerio, Cheerio” from the Middlesex fans who’d occupied the dugouts – left over from the T20 – in front of the pavilion.

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