Posted tagged ‘Sport’

Not in Wisden #10: Little Nippers

October 9, 2013

There’s a sports centre not far from where I live. When my youngest son was small I would take him there and have a kick about at the side of the full size football pitch. He also loved to play in the long jump sand. He’d kick the sand and roll about in it. On one occasion when he was destroying the sand pit I took my eyes off him for a few seconds and he disappeared. A cold sweat broke over me only eased when I heard a good natured shout of “Hey, ref. They’ve got twelve players on.”

My son had wandered onto the football pitch and took up a position in the six yard box just as a corner was about to be taken. The players were all smiles as this small being stood beside giant centre-halves and forwards. I ran onto the pitch, apologising profusely, and lifted my son off the park. The referee smiled at us then blew his whistle. The corner was swung in and a forward headed it into the goal. The investigation began between the defending side players into who was to blame. Accusations and recriminations were shouted ending with a claim that the boy had disrupted their concentration. I had anticipated this result and as the goal went in I moved far from the madding crowd.

Border-Collie-11This scene reminded me of an even longer ago incident that occurred in the GDCCC (Glasgow and District County Cricket Championship). It was a fixture early in the season between local rivals, Riddrieshire and Carntyneshire. One of the regular Riddrieshire supporters, Wally Ewing, had turned up with his new pet dog: a border collie called Nipper. Both sets of players went over to clap the dog and friendly banter ensued.

Carntyneshire’s all-rounder Alan Gilchrist said to Wally. “That’s ironic that your dog is a border collie considering your house straddles the border of both of the counties playing today.”

Wally was in no mood for sledges and he angrily retorted. “ I’m a Riddrieshire man, born and bred, there’s no Carntyne in my blood.” The other players calmed Wally down and the match got under way. It was watched by a handful of spectators and the obligatory man with his dog; in this case, Wally and Nipper.

The match was a close run affair and it went right to the wire. With one ball remaining Carntyneshire were three runs in front. Provanmillshire’s number eleven, Soggy, had to hit a boundary to take the spoils. Carntyneshire’s captain had a meeting with the bowler, Alan Gilchrist, and they discussed where the last delivery should be bowled. It was agreed that Gilchrist should take a bit of pace off his bowling and concentrate on line and length. This would negate the possibility of the batsman using the speed of the bowling to hit a lucky strike. The last man in would have to use his own skills to win the match and poor Soggy had all the attributes of a rabbit.

Gilchrist ran in and bowled a good length ball outside of off stump. Unconventionally, Soggy moved to the off side and swished his bat but he connected a tad early. The ball ran dismally to the vacant mid wicket area and a man in the deep ran towards it. Clearly the most Riddrieshire could make out of this hit would be one run.

On the sidelines Wally Ewing was heard to say “Fetch”. Nipper was off like a shot. The collie got there before the fielder and picked the ball up in his mouth. It was now all over bar the scoring. The border Collie sprinted over the boundary line. The umpire waved his arms signalling four runs.

Celebrations by the jubilant Riddrieshire team were interrupted by protests from the Carntyneshire players and officials. The cry of cheating was dismissed by a rules book expert who declared there’s nothing in the rules that says an animal can’t intrude in play. Animals can’t distinguish between borders. The spirit of the game was brought into disrepute said a Carntyneshire player until Soggy’s words of wisdom left everyone speechless.

“You can’t blame Nipper for your loss. There’s no difference between what he did and say…a colony of ants picked the ball up in the out field and carried it over the boundary. It’s still four runs.”

With this the players and spectators drifted away.


Not in Wisden #9: Hawkeye

May 22, 2013

tumblr_mlrzp6xkbg1qllztgo1_500The Millerstounshire cricketer Thomas Carr believed that he was always unlucky. He backed up his theory by citing the phrase lies, damned lies and statistics. The stats were definitely against him. Poor Carr had one of the worst batting averages in the GDCCC. But he was adamant that he had the best eyesight in the league.

At the start of his career he recorded low scores and he didn’t improve much. He was so bad that rumours abounded that Thomas Carr was partially blind. They were probably wide of the mark, club players making up mischief, in all probability Thomas had terrible hand to eye or ball to bat co-ordination. In his defence, Carr insisted he just kept getting unplayable deliveries.

Backing up Carr’s comments that he could see as well as anyone were in evidence whenever he was in the fielding team. He wasn’t a great fielder or slip catcher, it was something else that the doubters couldn’t counter. Thomas would find money in various parts of the field; loose change fallen from pocket holes in trousers, coins dropped from yawning magpies mouths, scrambled coins thrown by Olympian brides at the nearby church. He accumulated quite a bundle of silver insisting no one else could have found the half-buried bounty. Week on week Carr would be out cheaply with the bat in one innings then be a few quid richer in the next.

It was one of those mornings when I rose early and couldn’t get back to sleep. With nothing better to do I headed the short distance to the cricket ground. There was a slight frost in the air but a day’s play looked promising. I passed the small stand and saw a figure in the outfield lingering at Long Off planting something in the ground. It was Thomas Carr. Thinking he must have a bit of insomnia like myself I wandered over.

“Hi TC.” I greeted him affably. Carr looked at me guiltily. From the corner of my eye I spotted something shiny on the grass beside him. In the vernacular of the game- Carr had been caught.


July 9, 2012

The hot sand was forming sand castles in Long Hair’s engine as he powered along the desert floor. Not eco-friendly in any way the hirsute leather-clad driver barked that the whole world should be concrete. He was probably angry because he had just drowned the last drop of Jamesons. Ten empty bottles lay at his feet. Still, he could pick up the transmission of the Metal Chainsaw Show on his radio. The last three songs played were-

Iron Maiden- Powerslave
Slipknot- The Blister Exists
Killswitch Engage- Reckoning

Long Hair drove over a large dune becoming airborne in the process. When he fell back to earth he found himself and vehicle on concrete. The first thing he saw was blue flags being waved furiously in front of him. Stewards were swearing at him.

“Get out of the way, slow coach.”

Just then a couple of super-charged machines went hurtling past Long Hair at breakneck speed. This was the first time Long Hair had been overtaken and he wasn’t happy.

“A bloody race, is it? If they want blood, they’ve got it.” He shrieked.

The sand in the carburettor was burning up as Long Hair gained on the leaders. All warning symbols flashed violently on his dashboard as he cut through the air. He passed a car and moved into second place just behind the champion: a driver called Skid Solo.

Skid was fast, honest and a clean driver. Apart from being very fast Long Hair wasn’t any of the other things. Long Hair reined in Skid and only a few seconds were between them as they reached the last corner.

Skid had the racing line and danced around the bend like a skimming pebble. From his mirrors he saw Long Hair on the dirty side of the track grinding the track into submission. Something had to give and it did. A large boulder broke free from the road under the force of Long hair’s car and catapulted at Skid. Skid ducked and the boulder missed him but he had lost valuable time and Long Hair passed the chequered flag in first place.

On the winner’s podium Long Hair drank like a dynamo and refused to splatter the crowd with his victory drinks. Jamesons is too good to waste. Skid was despondently deflated, especially after it was revealed that Long hair was driving with four flat tyres. The F1 mechanics fixed the car up good and Long Hair sped into the desert night with a trunk full of Jamesons. He had no need for the trophy so he gave it to Skid.

Not in Wisden #8: Boomer’s Drooper

June 18, 2011

In the days of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle there was a bowler named Spedegue. Spedegue was famed for his brilliant Dropper delivery. He propelled the cherry like quoits into the air to a height of at least thirty feet. From this great elevation, gravitational force helped it fall straight and true on to the top of the bails.

There was a bowler in the GDCCC that had a novel stock technique in the style of Spedegue. Batsman struggled to deal with the unusually floated lob ball that was named a “Drooper”. The Drooper was a lofted spinning ball that suspended in mid air and came on to the bat in slow motion.

The bowler’s nickname was “Boomer”. An ironical reference to a sonic boom. It was beyond reasonable doubt that Boomer’s yawning balls didn’t travel at the speed of sound. His missiles didn’t emit shock waves either but Boomer it was.

Batsman soon worked out they could run two runs (byes) while waiting for the Drooper to drop. Running one run would be illegal as a different batsman would be at the crease. Boomer then changed the tempo of his pitch depending on the running power of the batter. The slower batsman, failing to make his ground, would lose his wicket and be out. The scorer was unsure to log in the scorecard run out or bowled.

Variations of play abounded of this unique battle between bat and ball. One batsman dummied to run before returning to his wicket and had a chat with the keeper while he waited on the ball. The fastest guy in the school could run four runs before facing the Drooper. Imaginative batsman practised umbrella shots. The Boomer years were a time of gold dust for the game.

Form comes and form goes and Boomer’s form burst big time. The Drooper was constantly over-pitched and captain’s had to place three men at third man. Boomer was dropped and tried his hand at lawn bowls. This was a disaster. He couldn’t stop lob bowling and he left a trail of cannon ball craters and destroyed jacks on every bowling green.

Not in Wisden #7: The Natural World of Fagash

December 14, 2010

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An uncle of mine was a regular subscriber to Reader’s Digest and he would buy gifts and books from the advertisers on their pages. A book he gifted to me was The Book of the British Countryside. As I was a concrete jungle loving urbanite maybe he was trying to instil a love of nature in me. I flicked through the book and then placed it in a deep recess of the house. The slideshow features some of the book’s pages.

There was a boy at my school called Ashcroft – I can’t remember his first name though I’m sure it was a surname, Finlay or Scott or something like that- who was not nicknamed Ashy as would be the common informal way of doing these things or better still, Ashes. He was given the soubriquet: Fagash. As appellations go, this was all wrong for Ashy, who didn’t smoke and had a love for nature.

Fagash played for Millerstounshire in the GDCCC and his father practically owned the county. As a non-country person I’m unsure how you measure land, is it acres or hectares? By any measurement Fagash’s dad owned a huge stretch of green fields where rhubarb was grown. We tried to persuade Mr.Fagash to convert a portion of his grassland into an oval but he was a pragmatic old farmer and there was money in rhubarb. Eventually, he sold up to Barrett Developers and where once rhubarb ruled the roost, there now sprouted little nests of ugly duckling houses.

As a cricketer all Fagash was interested in was the gardening aspect. He had an immense knowledge of wildlife, geology and plants; he was a walking Book of the British Countryside. The *tree that sits inside the boundary at Canterbury, he told us, was a lime tree. We were amazed, one tree looks like another, as do flowers. Cricket bats are made from white willow and treated with linseed oil, he said and the clarity of his precise description impressed us.

One day Fagash was in the outfield, disinterested in the events of the game, as usual. I looked over and saw him bending over to pick something up; his eyes were open in wonder. I was thrilled for him, had he found a new breed of caterpillar or a cooked worm that didn’t make his ground? With disgust, Fagash threw away the item and I ran over to inspect. Truly, the suburbs with their wild animals were intruding into the natural habitats of the countryside. For there beside the sweet smelling grass was the stump of a cigarette butt.

* * * * *

The famous Kent Lime Tree was bowled by Gales in January 2005 after an innings that lasted two hundred years. In March 2005 a new Lime Tree was planted on the same spot.

Not in Wisden #6: Sizzling in the slip cordon

December 8, 2010

During the cold war the American pilot Charles Maultsby on a flight to the North Pole to collect air samples lost direction and entered Soviet airspace with his U-2 spyplane. He is soon caught on radar and the Soviets sent a group of MiGs to deal with the intruder. A hot chase ensued and the Americans scrambled a pair of F-102 interceptors armed with nuclear warheads. By providence Maultsby made it back to Alaska and no dogfights between the superpowers occurred. The cold climes of Alaska were almost the trigger for nuclear Armageddon.

The hottest place I’ve visited is Cyprus; I’m not far travelled. Seated at the window I could watch the plane as it arced round the guitar neck that is Turkish held Northern Cyprus. I trusted on the skill of the pilot not to invade the airspace of the occupier. As I’m still here you can gather we landed safely. It’s always a culture shock for less-travelled Scots venturing to warm countries. We have a high degree of flammability and I put it down to the amount of alcohol stored in our bodies.

Now Cyprus was hot, so hot, that for once an original writer like me has to descend into cliché, it was even hot when you wore shades. There were limited areas for respite though I did find one. Shopping in a supermarket I noticed they had large door less freezers. Literally they were big white coffins with no lids. To avoid the heat I plunged my head and upper body into the bags of frozen prawns and chilled myself to the bone. The effect is only temporary as eventually you have to come up for air and the air is still the same choking, stifling air.

Scotland used to have summers and in this tropical weather the GDCCC was in full flow. On hand to record every match was a resident statistician as cricket wouldn’t be cricket without facts and figures. Daring to be different the number cruncher didn’t just detail strike rates and most career ducks he picked on obscure habits and was a master of analysing human behaviour.

Peering into his notebook I read that a Ruchazieshire player called Sizzler was the most red-headed in the league. This was startling information as half of that county is red-headed. I began to watch Sizzler more closely and had to agree with the scorer’s findings.

At drinks Sizzler would thirstily drink ginger. During play on the baking hot grounds Sizzler felt safer in the slips than in the out field. Was the sun hotter out at long leg? Was there camouflage in the slips? Was Sizzler as second slip standing too near first slip and leaving a gap? All these posers were proof there was something not quite right with Sizzler. In an effort to lessen the dangers from the big yellow star, Sizzler would immerse his face in sun block. Somehow, and he’s not alone in this, he would miss a bit of skin and it would toast. Poor Sizzler, he loved the game but I bet he wished he was born in Alaska.

Alaska will be forever associated with Sarah Palin. It was not always so. By adding an r this word was used often in Glasgow usually in the hope of a date.
“Alaskar out tonight.”

(photo)Sarah Palin doing an impersonation of Dickie Bird.

Sizzler’s averages with women were the same as the rest of us and just as whenever you see a big red button you want to press it, Sizzler disobeyed rules. He looked up at the sun with one eye open. Constantly probing the sun’s off stump, tempting it, in that corridor of uncertainty. If he had wings, like Icarus of old he would have flown right into his nemesis.

“Blinded by the light
Mama always told me not to look into the sights of the sun
Oh but mama that’s where the fun is”

Copyright © Bruce Springsteen

Not in Wisden #5: Brian #5

December 3, 2010

The wings of Pegasus must have made him quite difficult to mount. The warrior from Corinth, Bellerophon, mastered the ferocious steed. As you can see by the photograph Bellerophon was left-handed. From this we can deduce he mounted the horse by its right side. Convention dictates that a horse should be scaled by its left side so as not to injure it with your sword that hangs on the left side of a right-hander. With adroit unorthodoxy we must mark Bellerophon down as one of the world’s greatest Equestrians even though he had a glorious failure when he tried to mount Olympus.

“He’s a southpaw. I don’t want you messing with southpaws. They do everything backwards.” – Tony “Duke” Evers, Apollo Creed’s trainer, warning him off fighting Rocky.

An unorthodox tennis player who was a regular on the school circuit was a guy called Brian #5. There were five Brian’s in our school and Brian #5 was called Brian #5 because he was the worst fighter of the quintet; Brian #1 being the best, obviously. Brian #5 was an ambidextrous fellow who hit the ball with whatever forehand the ball was nearest. With no backhand whatsoever his two-sided forehands made him a formidable opponent. Respected neutrals predicted he’d take my tennis crown. He got his shot at the title. Brian ran me Close but he was no Shergar. I wore him down by alternating my returns to either side and winning the rally when he was tardy in “changing hands”.

His undoubted prowess with a racquet was noticed by a host of selectors from schemes in the GDCCC. Brian #5 was a much sought after -beware of spoonerisms- draft pick. As he lived on the border of Carntyne and Dennistounshire, warfare, quite literally, broke out between the sides. The military wings of both counties came to the fore; it was Gaucho v Powery. The Powery could fight like Bellerophon and they won the services of Brian #5. On signing his contract another “double” detail was revealed; his birthday fell on a cusp: August 20th. Brian #5 was either a Leo or a Virgo.

Huge crowds came to watch his debut for Dennistounshire. Brian #5 was chosen to play in the middle order at number five. A few early wickets fell and Brian #5 came to the crease. Playing completely left-handed he was having a fine knock though he was no Brian Lara. It was while on 23 not out Brian #5 tried something extraordinary. As the ball was bowled he jumped from one side to the other and “changed hands”. Now he was facing the delivery right-handed and attempted something he called a “switch hit”. Unfortunately just like his tennis downfall he was too slow in changing and was clean bowled.

He was roundly booed off the pitch and was the recipient of much verbal abuse. The traditionalists were angry with his brave, not a word usually associated with him, attempt at innovation. As well as questioning his parentage other posers were volleyed at him. Hey Bazza, what side of bed did you get out of this morning? And the crushing. What way do you mount a horse, from the left, from the right or from the back?

Cricket’s shot of genius: the Pietersen switch hit, invented by the unknown Brian #5.

“Pioneers are seldom rewarded; ideas don’t pay. The improvements on ideas do and the tinkers are kings.”
Barry Pain-The Octave of Claudius.