Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More acual reporting: Colchester blues

I went to Colchester this weekend. A surprisingly nice place. It has a “Dutch Quarter”. Although, this isn’t as interesting as it sounds. But full of charming cottages nevertheless. So if you fancy a weekend of Dutch cottaging, then Colchester is your place.

The first thing you do when you go to watch a game in Colchester is realise that it’s not Chelmsford. Actually, it’s quite important that, when you set out on your car, you don’t just assume that they’re playing in Essex’s quite good county ground, but in a middle-of-nowhere backwater that you’ve never been to.

Obviously, the ground wasn’t sign posted. But, fortunately, Banana World was, so we had plenty of cultural alternatives.

So, we drove around Colchester a bit. Decided it wasn’t terrible. Eventually, I too a picture of a plastic map provided by the Council mounted on to the side of the road to help guide our meandering navigation.


The red dot signifies our position. The green at the top shows where we should have been. Interesting that.

So, for the perfectly reasonable price of £15 we entered the ground that offered the same views as we would have had had we stayed from the safety of our car.

At least in the car, I wouldn’t have got slightly sun-burnt when the eight minutes of mild sunshine bore into my pasty skin.

The great thing about small grounds is the opportunity it affords for mid-interval pitch gawping.

I wandered out with the rest of the bearded pot-bellies that populate county grounds and CAMRA festivals alike and pontificated knowledgeable on the pitch.


“Bit dry” someone said. “No bounce” another divined.

We then took up position at the umpire’s post, to stare thoughtlessly into the abyss.


When the action resumed, Essex’s strong position was ebbed away. Which was surprising, given that their attack was led by Grant Flower.

Then Graeme Hick came on. Everyone loves Graeme Hick. He’s old and tries to hit the ball far. He nearly lost his wicket on the long-leg boundary on his first ball.

Look at Graeme Hick. Look at Graeme Hick in all his majesty.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

England follow the path of foreignness

By winning. England are winning. They actually played a game of cricket and won it. By winning.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. Usually, I have some pretty strong feelings on this issue. But, today, I feel confused.

England is led by a Saffer. We have foreign keepers. We have foreign players. There is a pretty strong correlation between their foreignness and their success. Which is a surprisingly deep reflection of the British economy in the post-war period.

But, I don’t really care about losing. An international sport is essentially a tribal activity. We jeer at those over there; and celebrate those over here. Regardless how amazing They are and how totally rubbish We are, we fill the room with hate and love in equal measure.

I enjoy the ownership I feel over the team. The irrational companionship I feel with those holding similar accents when we watch a group of other similarly accented people go and try to do something.

Look at the Scottish football team. Their supporters pride themselves on a fanatic, ceaseless following of a relentlessly awful team. It’s almost stubborn. Would they trade this for the relative success an all-Britain football team could offer? Would they buggery.

So, it’s with England’s crushing, impressive yet strangely unstirring win over South Africa rather confuses me.

Notwithstanding the Saffers’ obvious fatigue after a committed test series effort, the Englanders performance was hearty.

But it was inspired by some geezer who wears ear-rings and is generally regarded by those who don’t know him best, as a twat. He is does not sound like me.

So, was this my England winning?

I don’t know.

I know I might feel happier if Twickenham won the World Cup. But would I feel so elated if we drafted in a load of three armed mega-aliens to do the job?

Yeah. Probably. That would wipe the smile of those evil Teddington folk.

Bastards.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wisden about town

I have been recently informed that The Wisden Cricketer has published another piece of mine. This was the first I'd heard of it, so acquired the latest edition first thing in the morning.


I was feeling generous. So, I offered a temporary work experience position to the magazine. It could shadow for the day, and learn the ropes of being me.


Here we are at the start of the journey. Angry at the morning commute.

The magazine's getting into the swing of things - just look at those eyes.

8 o'clock. On the District Line. And sure enough: there's my piece. I forgot I wrote that. Happy days.


I wonder whose shoe that is?

Towards the end of the journey, I realise there's a large piece on my favourite topic: Matthew Hoggard. Look at the handsome fellah.


It's lunchtime. I decide to take Hoggy with me. We head down the King's Road.


We go to look for sandwiches. The Hoggler spots some nice shoes.

And pants.



After a honest day's work is complete, it's time to rush home.

And reward ourself with a lovely cup of tea.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cricketers and their train stations

Many people have noticed the stark resemblance between certain members of the England cricket team and stations on the London Underground. At long last, here is a reference for those seeking confirmation of suspected similarities.

Richmond - Alastair Cook
Nearest tube stop to Twickenham. Nearing perfection, but not quite there.

Mansion House – James Anderson
Although it’s in a poncey area, you can’t help but look at this station and think “why does this exist?”


Paddington Station – KP

A bit too flashy at times, especially with its dubious high-level refurbishment, but with its impressive and far-ranging reach it is undoubtedly on of the best stations in the city. Although, it’s foreign connections are a bit suspicious.


High Barnet – Ryan Hairybottom
A bit scruffy around the edges, but generally does the trick. However, it’s a bit too Northern for my liking.

Clapham Common – Andrew Flintoff
With its exotic residents, generous park and fruity nightlife, this deprived gem offers an old round experience to those tempted to slum it. Although, wandering around, you can see why the locals take to so much drink.

Pudding Mill Lane – Monty
Promises more than it serves. Doesn’t deliver you to a great areas and needs to do more to distinguish itself.

Fenchurch Street Station – The Hoggler
An excellent deliverer, with a superb track record. A bit old, a bit boring, but always gets you there in the end. Although, it is irritatingly and inexplicably not connected to the broader London Underground Network.

Gare du Nord – Darren Pattinson
Many commentators have noted how much this station looks like Robocop.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cricket: It’s still happening (just about)

There have been some various matches going on. Not like a hip hottie on the other side of the bar, more like it’s happening, but not in a very happening way.

Using 1960s slang to describe cricket matches may not be especially germane. But, the world seems to be taking a little step back from cricket for the moment.

Sure, there are soggy games in the sub-continent. A smattering of domestic matches here and there. But between the tests ‘n Lord’s final and the up-and-coming South African one-dayers, there isn’t a great deal to say.

You could mention the rain. The rain in The North. The rain in Scotland. Or the rain for Wednesday’s twenty-bloody-20. You could do all of those things. In stead, though, I will talk about myself.

Besides, is alluding to Northern dampess especially enlightening?

Today was fun. A client come up to me and said, you must be from ____ no one here would wear a shirt like that. A shirt like what exactly? One like this? With a tie? With buttons? WHAT'S WRONG WITH MY SHIRT?

On which note, I’m going to start a new game: guess who sacked me. It has it going on.

The rules run as follows: occasionally, I’ll drop hints about the firm that fired my behind. Using these clues, you have to fire bomb likely offices in London. Whoever guesses right, and hits the right building, will be awarded pretty paintbrush picture, or something.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Name That Bum #14: Answer

Oh whoops! I forgot to award the Name That Bum winner.

The answer to latest conundrum was, of course, Robert Key, hero to millions.

Congratulations to House Monkey, who is awarded a real, actual picture taken of Robert Key by yours truly.

Now. I spent some time, at the Kent match I recently attended, conducting a study of Robert Key’s bum.

The bum, in itself, not particularly interesting. It is much like all the other bums in this world. Yet, it is holds an absorbing, fascinating draw. It’s not its healthy plumpness nor masculine firmness that compels the eye, but its relative proximity to the ground. Much like that of a Basset Hound.

Whether Key simply has stumpy legs, or a weirdly extended torso, seems rather irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that his bum, either through design or accidental downward droop, lowers Key’s centre of gravity.

This might, one supposes, heighten his leverage enabling superior stroke-play. It might simply be a frivolous gift to the crowd to enhance our amusement at the site of his running. The reasons for its vertical unambitiousness are unclear.

But the fact of the matter is that his bum is uncommonly close to the ground.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Actual reporting of the one-day final

OK – moving away from the repository of self-pity that this site seems to have become, I shall do a little homage to the bestest King Cricket post ever – his photo journal of the first day of the season.

So, it’s Saturday. The day of the Friends Are Pointless Trophy, and it’s time for me to get ready to go to Lords. I prepare the sandwiches. One ham; one cheese. Plus an apple. (And a sneaky cupcake that no one knew I took.)



So the journey in was horrendous. There are no pictures. I was too angry for pictures. The Jubilee Line was down. I spent all week travelling to see a client on that bloody line, hating it, and now it twists the knife by failing me one last, bastardly time.

So, I arrive eventually at Lords. In an unreasonably angry mood, given the dry conditions of the day, but I have been determinedly knarked as late. I ask one of the unnecessary stewards how I go about buying a ticket.

He pointed left.

He shouldn’t have pointed left; he should have pointed right.

But he didn’t. He went and pointed left anyway.

After trekking a right old trek, I find a man that seems to live in a booth carved into the perimeter wall.

“Can I have a ticket please? A ticket for the cricket?” I ask.
“Are you a member?” The chappy asks.”
“Do I look like one?”
“Well, you need to buy a ticket from over there somewhere. I don’t really remember where. All I can recall is its extreme distance.”

I get annoyed at this point. I indicate this state to him by real rolling back my eyes, jabbering and frothing at the ears.

“Er,” he offers. “Uh. Here. Have a ticket. It’ll save you the journey.”
“Um,” I begin to stammer myself, but this time, in a non-jabbery way. “What?”
“Here.” He passes a ticket across to me. “This will get you in.”
“Right.” I think the foaming stopped at this point. “Thanks.”

So. In one of the biggest events of Britain’s sporting summer, the authorities are giving away tickets. Literally. They literally gave me a ticket. For nothing. Apparently, it was worth £42. But the ECB decided a more realistic price was £0 (for you Indians, that's about a million rupees) .

This improved my mood substantially.

So. I cheerily picked my way through the crowd, most of whom had paid more than £0 for their tickets, to settle in to my day’s spot. La:



I arrived just as Kent were beginning their suicidal tumble. They had lost both their openers. Seeing that they were the underdogs and that I was British, I instantly formed a bond with them, and decided that they should win. For the good of losers everywhere.

Wickets continued to tumble. Eventually, Geraint Jones came out.


“Oh good,” thinks I. “Last time I saw this goon bat, he scored a century for England. He must be good.”

Here he is walking back to the pavilion 15 minutes later.




Talking of goons, I was surrounded by a lot of them. “Come on Kent!” some of them would shout. This had little effect.



All but one of these dapper chappies got lost at the interval. The remaining bloke, despite his energetic and thirsty start, slept through most of the second innings. Although, I suspect their dress-sense was a few notches above Kent's. I don't know why they all dressed like robots. Perhaps it's a strategy to get into the England outfit?

So. Lunch. As tradition dictates, I enjoyed my little picnic on the nursery ground. I read the Times. I still haven’t fully adjusted to its new lay-out. Why did they turn it into the Observer? Why?




Much of the remaining day was spent searching for tea. Obviously, I didn’t want to wait 40 minutes in a huge queue. So I opted to spend the next few hours seeking the El Dorado of Lords: the quiet tea shop.

And, you know what. I found it. The joy! The joy of tea!


The £1.85 spent on buying this rather over-strong, but no less refreshing cuppa represented the sole expenditure for the day. This fact brings me great pleasure.

More happiness was brought about by this fellow.


The crowd liked him. And so did I.


After a bit, we applauded a Zimbabwean. Previously, we had clapped for a South African, another South African, sworn undying love to an Antiguan and celebrated the highs and lows of various Pakistanis. A great day for English domestic cricket.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Name That Bum #14

Long time no bum.

Today, I put that right. I've got a real hard one for you today, kiddies. So hard, that I could get arrested.


Although, the last ten times I claimed impossibility, the first guesser hit home.


Right, usual rules apply. First one with the answer gets some amazing thing.


Good luck and good bumming.

Clue The One

Clue The Two


Clue The Three


Can you....NAME THAT BUM?

Monday, August 11, 2008

England victory overshadowed by beach volley ball on the telly

As you no doubt have been informed countless times before, it’s hard to be an England cricket fan. This is mostly because the team you follow is useless. Useless, and yet it talks itself up constantly.

It’s rather like the cocky kid at school despite his money-bags father, is still retarded in the brain and many other places.

England’s retardation is mainly focused on the balls. But the comparison is valid.

I have been struggling with the television remote as late. No the batteries aren’t running out (thank god I have been spared that hell) but the finger is hovering quite purposefully over the “Watch a Bit of Olympics Now” button.

I watched a bit of women’s beach volley ball the other day. A hitherto sadly neglected sport in the AYALAC household. But watching bikinied women leap around helplessly on sand has charmed me unrepentantly as late.

Of course, the Chinese won. But, the culture of the “sport” seemed so remarkable. In between each rally, brief opening bars of American pop music would blast the stadium. The play list ranged from the Beach Boys to Gary Glitter. It was a very inclusive event. Even convicted paedophiles were celebrated.

That a fun, playful, ridiculous sport can be identified by the Chinese authorities for a medal is an astonishing indication of China’s peculiar seriousness and single-mindedness in its ambition to win everything.

You know these barely clothed girls have been taken away from their families at the age of two, selected for a life of gruelling beach volley ball training. Spending 18 hours each day beach volleyball. Then learning how to dismantle a T-72 tank for the remainder of the evening.

These guys are going to crush the cricket world. Compare this twisted, indefatigable determination with the English county circuit. It’s like comparing Hungry, Hungry Hippos with Hannibal Lector.

However, what they lack is a sympathetic, if a bit frightened, blogger to help them on their way. HERE I AM.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

England look strong, but only they care

Sorry for the long delay in posting, my life has sort of been turned upside down. Not like that of my mate, whose dad he thought was dead for the passed twenty years, popped over for tea one day. Mine's more of a “oh my god, I’ve not got a job” scenario.

Anyway, on to the important things. Kevin Pietersen is still England captain. Oddly enough, the ECB apparatchiks did not see the glaring idiocy of their ways. Now he’s making a total pig’s ear of it by winning a match.

Very un-English.

Hopefully, things seems to be preparing themselves nicely for a feeble collapse on the last day. I can’t wait.

Although he’s still GOD in my eyes, it looks like England have quietly forgotten Ryan Hairybottom. Now that Steve Harmison has decided that he’s no longer a flailing lank-a-tonk, the services of the left-arm seamer are no longer required.

That’s life in England cricket, toast of the table one day, and burnt toast in the bin the next. It’s good that we have departed from the bad old days. The days when players were handed single caps. The day’s where selectors had favourites, and kept picking them, no matter how many long-hops they bowled. We have come so far.

Tim Ambrose looks like he’s for the chop. I don’t really see why. His keeping still seems competent enough, but the fact that he’s no longer playing New Zealand has wrecked havoc with his average.

Who is going to replace him and does it really matter?

AYALAC says: no.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Hoggy for Cappy

England’s knee-jerk efficiency is far too difficult to keep up with these days. They have already appointed their best twat to lead the team in both formats.

KP, the Greg Rusedski of the England team, was shockingly elected ahead of Matthew Hoggard.

Pre-empting Englishers' Sunday apathy, they tried to prevent a national Hoggard For Captain movement, by imposing a foreigner as king. It’s rather like the Glorious Revolution, only with less style.

Although bringing back the ruff for England’s ODI kit wouldn’t be a bad thing. They'd probably look more normal than in their whites.

So, seeing as the ECB are being a pack of right old bastards, I have no qualms in retrospectively re-launching a Hoggard For Captain campaign.

That he cannot get into the side is an irrelevance. Look at Michael Vaughan. He should be brought in as a specialist captain, and perhaps promoted to number three to sure-up the upper order.

So I urge you all, with every ounce of your misdirected energies, with all the distracted motivation that you can muster, to send the following letter to the ECB.

Dear England,

Please can you sack Kevin Pietersen and install Matthew Hoggard to his rightful position as England captain. It is not too late to change your mind. Big men admit when they’re wrong. Look at Darrell Hair.

You wouldn’t want to be like him now, would you?

There are numerous reasons why you should select the Yorkshire Destroyer as captain. He is one of the most capped men in the country. His cricketing head is truly unparalleled. His ability to play a captain's innings has been proven time and time again.

Another advantage is that he’s English. One more might be that he’s not Kevin Pietersen.

Please comply with my wishes. The ECB is funded by the Government through MY tax money (although, for tax reasons, I actually live in Greenland) so it is only my democratic right to issue authoritarian decrees to the national cricket team.

Yours in hope,

NAME (YOURS)

Send that to feedback@ecb.co.uk. Let me know if you get any responses.

News just in: Pietersen has promised to mould the England team in his own image.

God help us all.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Michael Vaughan hits the fan

It’s all kicking off.

Michael Vaughan has resigned from the England test captaincy, and indefinitely stepped down from the squad. In a “me too” mood, Paul Collingwood has quit the ODI job.

In selfless move, in a way, as England probably would have guaranteed his place until Christmas, but a tacit acknowledgement that England need to think about re-building the side for the Ashes. It is unlikely that Vaughan will ever field for England again.

It also keeps England pathetic lose against the South Africans off the back pages. Handy, that.

But, given Collingwood’s oddly timed departure, you might suspect that the management are clearing a path for the Big KP. Who currently stands as the only man who can get into both teams. Perhaps Peter Moores is beginning to throw his weight around?

Although I doubt it. He’s dead fit. Hardly any weight on that string bean.

So, it’s an end to the Michael Vaughan era. Statistically, one of the most successful patches in England’s history. But you would never have guessed it if you were listen to the bloggers. Miserable moaners that complain about nothing. Not like the happy-go-lucky AYALAC. I’ve always given my undivided and fanatical support to our Michael.

A lasting legacy of Vaughan’s stay hopefully might a sane selection policy. I policy where random goons from Victoria aren’t picked for one match.

We will mainly remember him for winning the Ashes. Which he did in 2005. With some others. He may be remembered for his golden year in 2003, where he averaged over 70 and pounded all that stood against him.

He will be remembered for his grace at the crease and wonderfully flowing drives. He litters countless scorecards with pretty 30s and 40s. And a few 190s.

Michael Vaughan was an excellent England captain, that used modest resources to produce a period of dominance for England cricket that they unlikely to see again for many years.

Top work.

Cheerio Mr Captain Sir.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Collingwood annoys and delights Englanders in equal measure

I have been very busy working recently. To the point where I bought a new weekly travel card this morning. It was only £85.10. As old card was being replaced with old, there was some sleepy confusion.

Resulting in one pass being flung into a large dustbin on Fenchurch Street. As I got onto a bus into work, I realised I was left with an expired travel card.

If I was a bigger man, I would have killed the nearest stranger.

But, in any case, such was my busyness, I haven’t had opportunity to keep up with the third test between England and South Africa. Apparently, Andrew Flintoff has been bowling well.

Worse still, I heard this morning that Paul Collingwood has scored a century. The Ginger Scratcher was put down as “A Drop” in AYALAC HQ. “We need to bring in another South African” thought I.

Now, he’s only gone and blown the “new era” of England cricket. What are we going to do now?

It ruins everything.

Jacques Rudolph, Dale Benkenstein, Brian McMillan, all those players than people are calling to be brought into the England set-up, will now have to wait that extra bit longer.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Collingwood. He’s one of my favourites. I just think England’s test team would be better off without him. Now it’ll be another five months until I can say that without sounding like a total bastard.