Glory/Anguish

Nov 29

Have a read for me - haven’t written an article in a while!

http://sportsreligious.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/critics-face-giroud-awakening/

Ponting has faded into the distance, Hussey is long gone and Katich will never wear the baggy green again. Three men with grit and courage have been lost, their successive exits leaving Australia with a middle order that is brittle at the best of times. George Bailey has the disposition to solidify the batting lineup of the test squad, however the Tasmanian captain is in dire need of first class runs heading into a Sheffield Shield season that could define him as a player – he must pay for his test cap in centuries.

The Australian long format lineup has been repeatedly rocked by a chop-and-change selection policy that undervalues disposition and weight of runs. Embattled left-handers Usman Khawaja and Phillip Hughes are unable to withstand the maintained pressure of test cricket, consistently unable to rotate the strike and falling victim to persistent off-stump attacks. Khawaja has never looked remotely comfortable on the grand stage, managing just two fifties in his nine matches. Hughes has three centuries from 26, however two of the three came in his second test in Durban in 2009. He has drifted in and out of the test squad since, most famously being shepherded from the world-class South African bowlers by the hapless Bob Quiney. It was a low-point of Australian test selection – Quiney was mercilessly thrown to the wolves in an attempt to preserve the mentally fragile Hughes. He and Khawaja have consistently failed produce their best cricket and it has lead to a growing sense of public distrust in the ailing pair.

Bailey brings that trust to any team that he plays in. It is a reflection of his character and ability that he will play exactly as the situation demands. There is no better example than his maiden one-day international century, an innings that was as memorable as it was vital to an Australian victory. After the West Indies made quick inroads on a bouncy WACA pitch, the score sat at 4/56. Bailey set about restoring pride to an innings that was collapsing around his ears. Matthew Wade and Glenn Maxwell departed cheaply before Bailey dominated a 100-run partnership with James Faulkner to lift Australia from 6/98 to 7/198. He saved his finest exploits for the final overs of the innings, hitting a six off a Kemar Roach full toss to bring up his ton then tearing a disbelieving Dwayne Bravo apart after regaining strike in the final over. He cleared the rope four times in his last six deliveries in a fearsome display of power hitting.

What was most striking about Bailey’s century was the composure in which he compiled his runs. Using one-day performances as a basis for test selection is a slippery slope in the age of T20 cricket, therefore it can never be part of the direct reasoning for choosing a player, however it is important to note the manner in which runs are scored. Bailey does not flinch in face of danger. The hostilities of international cricket may weigh on the minds of his younger counterparts, but he is unaffected. This mental fortitude makes a natural leader of Bailey, part of the reasoning he was plucked from relative obscurity to captain a new-look Australia in T20 cricket on his international debut.

Having averaged a measly 18.28 in his 2012-13 Shield campaign, the spotlight is on Bailey. His stellar performances for Australia have not gone unnoticed, however without first class runs on the board, his form in the format would suggest that it would be unwise for Bailey to play test cricket. One summer century will give him a chance; two will all but assure him of a slot batting at five for Australia. He is the right man to fill the void and needs to give head selector John Inverarity a signal that he is ready. The pressure is on for Bailey to perform – yet perhaps that is how he likes it.

Sep 12

Every so often in cricket there comes a bowler that appears untouchable. It is not through talent or training – it is an intangible aura. Dale Steyn has it. He imposes himself on batsmen, so much that when you consider his prodigious ability to control the ball, it becomes impossible to believe that he could be beaten comprehensively – yet it happened at the hands of Kevin Pietersen.


It was an unstable time for the adopted Englishman. South Africa led 1-0 entering the second test at Headingley. Earlier in 2012 Pietersen had blazed to a magnificent 151 against Sri Lanka filled with improvisation and enterprise, but his past heroics were long forgotten. There were mocking parody tweets flying around that he suspected were masterminded by teammates. There were text messages concerning tactics that he’d sent to opposition players. There was a growing sense of distrust between the players in the English dressing room and a rift slowly emerged. The ominous cloud that hung over Pietersen grew darker by the day as the public and media weighed in on the fiasco. He was a man under siege. His future was on the line when he strode out to bat on day three.

Pietersen is a maverick that can play innings of brutal nature when the mood suits him. There are always warning signs beforehand, like the earthy smell of rain before a storm. There were a few shots here and there, but he was sedate at first - then he stood tall on the front foot, crashing an out-swinging Steyn delivery through the covers with contempt. You could sense the storm brewing. He swiftly struck his half-century before the heavens opened late in the day.

First he stood still and swatted the ball to the midwicket boundary with a baseball swing. Then he carved it through the covers and a smile snuck onto the face of Steyn. Perhaps it was all part of his grand plan. At the other end, Kallis replaced Morkel only to be danced and lofted over the onside field. There was a ferocious cut through point followed by an imperious straight drive. He was on song. He happily skipped down the wicket to take a single, in doing so bringing up his hundred – his emotions were finally unleashed with a leaping, screaming celebration that made clear how much he wanted to succeed.

He nearly decapitated Steyn with a crunch off the front foot and as the South African made his way back to his mark, he looked unsettled – a forgivable offense considering the speed in which the leather passed his skull. He went shorter and Pietersen lazily lent on his back foot and dismissed the delivery like a king would his servant. It was pure disdain. The cameras focused on the bowler under fire as he briskly walked away from his superior – he was shaking his head. There was disbelief on his face. There were no more arrows in the quiver – he was helpless. When the next ball was violently belted back over his head for six, the muscles in his face were taut and his lips thin. Dale Steyn was mentally defeated.

It is a reflection on the nature of the man that he was out second ball the next morning. The crowd had packed into Headingley expecting the massacre to continue, but it was not to be. Perhaps he didn’t feel up to it – he certainly had on day three, but by day four he was in a different mood. He smiled when the umpire raised his finger and marched off the field without any emotion. There is no way to predict what will happen with Pietersen. Usually he is classy, sometimes he is placid and on occasion he is absolutely unstoppable.

For a man who revels in the increased attention, the summer of 2013 was a relatively quiet affair. He was subdued, well contained by a persistent Australian bowling attack. He made an unusually sedate 64 of 150 balls at Trent Bridge, failed with 2 and 5 at Lord’s, made 113 of the most responsible runs of his career at Old Trafford, then made no impact at Chester-le-Street. His first-innings 50 from 133 balls at The Oval was unbearably slow for a man with his aggressive tendencies. His second-innings 64 was a glimpse of times of old – he had the license to attack in order to set up a declaration, taking his runs at more than a run a ball, but it was hardly the swashbuckling century that the fans craved.

The return series in Australia could be what Pietersen has been waiting for. He might explode – then again, he might not. When he does, he strips the bowling of its dignity and clubs it wherever he wants. He becomes an untouchable deity that controls the game like no other can. We may not have seen it in England, but the potential is always there. Take every chance you can to watch him bat, because a man of his disposition and ability is a rare gift.

Sep 8
When Steyn Wasn’t Worthy
The greatest? To every fan of the great Valentino Rossi out there, have a read. I’m a fan too - nice to read over a few great memories and ponder the career of the legend.

http://sportsreligious.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/relaxed-rossi-no-longer-a-threat/
Sep 4

The greatest? To every fan of the great Valentino Rossi out there, have a read. I’m a fan too - nice to read over a few great memories and ponder the career of the legend.

http://sportsreligious.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/relaxed-rossi-no-longer-a-threat/

Cricket is a peculiar sport. Despite being team-orientated, it relies almost entirely on the performances of individuals. It also gives captains the ability to manipulate the game to a much greater extent than any other sport. Michael Clarke has been collectively worshipped by the cricketing world for his sporting declarations in order to give Australia a chance at victory, but at times a skipper’s entrepreneurial risk can come horribly unstuck – and in the fifth Ashes test at The Oval, it almost did. The legendary Garfield Sobers was not so fortunate.

 

It was in Port-of-Spain, the fourth of a five-match series between the West Indies and England. The first three tests had finished in draws and after the first day was marred by rain, the chances of a result were once again doubtful. Sobers was a captain at the peak of his powers, in charge of a dangerous side at home which featured batting talents such as Rohan Kanhai, Seymour Nurse and a young bespectacled Clive Lloyd. His bowling lineup was weakened, losing spearhead Wes Hall after the third test and his partner Charlie Griffifth to a leg injury mid-game.

 

Kanhai and Nurse hit centuries after rain had marred the first two days of play, taking the West Indies to 526 before Sobers declared on the third. The plump gentleman Colin Cowdrey then conspired with spritely wicketkeeper Alan Knott to post a reply total of 404, Cowdrey himself playing an artful hand of 148. The surprise packet was Basil Butcher, a man who wielded willow like a sledgehammer but had stunned England by taking 5/34 with his part-time legspin. Sobers’ eyes lit up at the prospect of a turning sixth-day wicket.

 

The match looked set to meander to another stalemate, but almost immediately after Kanhai had joined opener Joey Carew at the crease at 2/88, the pair were trudging back to the pavilion – Sobers had declared after only four more runs had been scored. With the series yet to break the deadlock, Sobers had been tempted by his inner gambler, believing that Gibbs and Butcher would be able to exploit England’s supposed weakness to spin.

 

The task was 215 runs in two and three-quarter hours. Though quiet to start proceedings, Cowdrey broke his shackles and took England from 73 to 173 before his wicket fell. 42 runs were needed in 35 minutes, and it surprised all present that it was the dour Geoffrey Boycott who pushed England forward. He had paced his innings of 80 to perfection, hitting the winning runs with three minutes to spare.

 

The fifth and final test ended in a nail-biting draw that saw England’s Jeff Jones survive a fearsome over of spitting off-breaks from the lanky Lance Gibbs, needing only to take his wicket to win. His heroics denied the West Indies a drawn series, going down 1-0. Sobers had hit 545 runs at an average of 90.83, but the series loss was entirely blamed on him. Although he claimed to have consulted with his players and tour manager Everton Weekes about his decision, they denied him ever doing so. The people of the Caribbean reacted angrily and Sobers was forced endure strident criticism for the rest of his days as captain. The West Indies failed to win another test series until Kanhai took the reigns in 1973, though in an ironic twist it was Sobers himself who played the hero, pivotal with both bat and ball.

 

Michael Clarke took a risk in a match that had no consequence, but his attacking intent is not always well directed. Had bad light not extinguished England’s hopes of finishing the series a dominant 4-0, he may have been left red-faced – 21 runs from four overs was all that was needed. Alistair Cook has been attacked from all angles for his often defensive-minded tactics, but there has not been a time where the game was out of his control. He delivered three sterling victories despite not being an aggressive field-setter or taking chances with declarations. Before Clarke is yet again drowned with praise for his ambitious and daring captaincy, do remember that it sometimes goes very wrong.

Aug 26

Perhaps there is a historical exaggeration in the claim that Archie Jackson could have rivaled the runmaking of Sir Donald Bradman had he lived long enough. Bradman was a colossus, a batsman whose eternal innings haunted bowlers and left fans in disbelief each time he raised his bat, but he was never an artist like Jackson was - his silky, free-flowing drives enthralling the memories of those lucky enough to have witnessed them. One concerned himself with numbers, the other with beauty and freedom - a scientist next to a painter.

 

Not only did Jackson’s tragic death from tuberculosis rob the world of a batting genius, it also took an honest, charming and humble young man. His relationship with bodyline villain Harold Larwood best embodied the idealistic English-Australian relationship that is almost non-existent now. The respect he showed to everyone he met endeared him to his teammates, opponents and the public, something that cannot be said of our current batch of cricketers.

 

Described by England and Surrey skipper Percy Fender as “the finest at his age [he had] ever seen”, Jackson burst onto the test scene by becoming the youngest ever Ashes centurion. His innings of 164 at the age of 19 is one of cricket’s enduring legends – writer Denzil Batchelor described “cover drives like shouts of triumph, [in Jackson] there glowed already the bloom of fine craftsmanship in its prime”.

 

Although being peppered with short-pitched deliveries by the express threat of Larwood, with back against wall Jackson drove through the covers to notch this fabled century. So hard did he hit the ball that it was unsighted to the boundary. The spearhead himself declared that very delivery the fastest he had bowled to that day, yet Jackson’s gracious timing made it appear harmless. “It’s only a game,” Jackson chimed up some time later, “but what a grand one we are having today! You’ve hit me almost as many times as I’ve hit you!”.

 

Disease took its toll on his thin body. Forebodingly, he was unable to field after the first two English sessions following his innings due to exhaustion, his fragile frame being sapped of life by his ailment. Not that sickness dampened his love for the game - “Never did he flinch or complain,” marveled Larwood. He never did make another century at test level, English opponents remarking that it was not the same Archie Jackson they knew in the following series. He did not shy away from friendly banter in the middle, always quick to comment on his opponent’s standard of bowling, but also the first to congratulate the bowler and fieldsman on taking his wicket. In times gone by, a handshake was in order – a far cry from the gleeful fist-pumping of today.

 

Legend tells of the firmly working-class Jackson borrowing a towel from teammate Alec Marks and failing to return it. Jackson returned to Marks the next day with a new towel as a replacement. Marks’ mother was appalled at the loss of what was her finest linen, now exchanged for one of far inferior quality. She scolded her son and wondered what had happened to Jackson, who had always seemed a lovely boy to her. Jackson lay dying in hospital three years later and was paid a visit by his old friend. Clearly embarrassed by the matter, Jackson explained that he had known of his affliction and made a point of not sharing towels, but had forgotten that day. “The man at the counter said it was the best towel in the shop,” he said. “I hope your mum liked it.” Marks declared his mother had loved the gift and spent the night weeping into it after digging it out of the cupboard.

 

The 1932/33 “Bodyline” series tore divisions through the cricketing world. So tense was the situation that the friendly relations between the two competing countries were no longer a guarantee. Bradman never reconciled with Larwood afterwards, grudgingly acknowledging his presence but never able to move on from past hostilities. On the final day of the fourth test in which England reclaimed the Ashes, news of Jackson’s death filtered through the ground. Two days earlier, Jackson had telegrammed Larwood from his deathbed: “Congratulations magnificent bowling good luck all matches”. Even inches from death, Jackson recognized the unparalleled achievements of his friend – taming the Don. There were no hard feelings, for he understood Larwood was just doing what he was told. Such was the nature of the man.

 

The era of professionalism has seen the world forget what it was that made cricket so. The current Ashes series has been marred by controversy, players exchanging exchange blows at nightclubs rather than well wishes and even allegedly attempting to cheat technology. Perhaps now would be a good time for a reminder that the sport is steeped in traditions of sportsmanship, good behavior and respect – something a man like Archie Jackson personified, for he played the game both on and off the field.

 

 

Aug 9
The Archie Jackson Way

“Rob can be my engineer, he can be my psychologist, he can be my friend. I know everything about him, he knows everything about me. But he doesn’t see me as an F1 driver like a lot of other people, who might be afraid about what they should do or say to me.”
Felipe Massa’s photo of Rob Smedley for Zoom Auction in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital
Sep 14

“Rob can be my engineer, he can be my psychologist, he can be my friend. I know everything about him, he knows everything about me. But he doesn’t see me as an F1 driver like a lot of other people, who might be afraid about what they should do or say to me.”


Felipe Massa’s photo of Rob Smedley for Zoom Auction in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital

(via forsurescuderiasf1)

Got myself a Felipe Massa wallpaper. Not my favourite driver but I hope he stays at Ferrari!

Sep 12
Sep 12

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Sep 2

(Source: restiamouniti46)