Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tunnel vision

Five Cowboys and a Cowgirl rode way out west to Pembrokeshire to play at a cricket tournament near Narberth and to return a trophy won last year. There was a bit of a delay rounding up the horses and saddling up early on a sunny Sunday morning and after hours of cantering through the Brecon Beacons they arrived late, five minutes after the cricket had been abandoned due to rain.

No matter, they were well stocked up and there was generous hospitality and a barbecue back at a farmhouse, set amidst a lush garden of surprises, with outbuildings and polytunnels to explore as the unrelenting drizzle continued. It rains so much around here that it's not unheard of to use a polytunnel as a cricket net.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

KK Kicks

Whitchurch C.C. 3rd XI v Easton Cowboys C.C, Saturday XI

The Saturday XI played away against Whitchurch 3rd XI but neither went to Whitchurch nor recognized the team as being their 3rd XI. Arriving in good time at Peasedown St John with a bowler-heavy side, Joe won the toss and elected to bowl.

He and RobT opened the attack, both often beating the bat, the former tightly economical, the latter having the batsmen plum LBW, although unfortunately the umpire didn't concur. The following ball possibly wasn't LBW, but with Gordon Guilt sitting on his shoulder, the umpire raised his finger.

After shortened spells, Ev replaced Joe and last week's most successful bowler replaced Rob, but the Whitchurch top order fought back, finding the short boundary and accelerating the run rate to around four an over. In fact, your correspondent returned his worst ever bowling figures for the Cowboys, just a week after his best, but such is the beauty and balance of cricket. Innit?

Joe eventually broke the partnership off Ev's bowling by taking a great Cider Moment over-the-shoulder diving catch at mid-off and after Rog had had no luck with the ball, Kalu had a go, immediately causing problems and creating chances: He dismissed the No.3 & 4 batsmen both for 32, one to a good steady catch by Ev at long-off, the other to a sharp caught and bowled.

The ground fielding was at times a bit patchy given the good surface of the outfield: Later there were fines for unnecessary and sometimes unsuccessful use of feet and absent or less than well-timed dives. Still, Kalu tied the opposition down and compensated for runs lost elsewhere and the best was yet to come.

The last tool in the box, seventh bowler Garnier ceased his green woodpecker watching and whirred into action. In common with the straight hitting frequent in the innings, after a while the ball was bashed back into the nonchalant waiting hand of the bowler, exposing the tail.

It should be noted that not all bash-backs were successfully held; Justin being hit around the waistband at near point blank range, foolishly / wisely averting his eyes for a crucial second.

Kalu got his third wicket by bowling the batsman with a yorker / full toss, finishing with 3-17 from his eight overs, Angelo was rewarded for his safe keeping all afternoon with a snick off Garnier and the opposition weren't looking like they'd last the full 40 overs with seven wickets down and less than 150 on the board.

Garnier then took two wickets in two balls, one to an LBW appeal and one to Ev's safe hands, thereby presenting a hat-trick scenario. In what could be considered jug evasion the bowler then spewed the ball wide down the leg side, the anti-climax worthy of a Cider Moment nomination or two.

Ev mopped up the No.11 to restrict Whitchurch to a final 154 all out on the first ball of the 39th over, Garnier finishing with figures of 4-20 from six overs.

Tea was had, in a clubhouse now populated by refugees from another sport who had been giving vociferous support to the home side.

The volume increased as Justin and Grover opened the batting, getting louder still as Justin was soon out LBW, Grover toed a wide one for a catch first ball, Angelo succumbed LBW and Iggy - despite taking the attack to the bowlers and scoring three quick boundaries - was caught near the boundary. In terms of Cowboy collapses, 19-4 was pretty dire, fuelling the home supporters' glee.

Ev and Kalu were now at the wicket, both steadying the ship, patching the damage to prevent submersion or submission. The bowling didn't look anything special and it was vital not to lose another wicket to a bad ball.

Better bowling did come, but the pair slipped into their roles superbly and after early circumspection Kalu lashed out as Ev supported, defended and nudged. It was possibly the partnership of the season to date, cruising past fifty, always up with the run rate, taking the total towards and beyond a hundred as, not for the first time this season, home supporters were silenced and started to leave.

Kalu passed his second fifty of the month - and his Cowboy career - driving the field back with his expansive shots, enabling ones and two into the gaps and further frustrating the fielders, who had failed to take a couple of chances that had come their way. Some took their ire out on umpire Iggy, especially when he adjudged Kalu not run out.

The partnership reached a few runs past Nelson - to which Ev had contributed not much more than a dozen runs - until Kalu got a very audible nick behind for an excellent and very useful 83. Or did Ev go first for 19?

(Time for confession: Your correspondent forgot to take the scorebook out of the safe / picture frame to the match after his performance last week - for which he was naturally fined - and therefore some of the finer details are unclear)

At around 130-6 with just under ten overs to go, it was left to Joe and Garnier to maintain the advantage and steer the Cowboys home, which they did determinedly, with good running between the wickets and shot selection.

It had been a good game, better for the Cowboys than for Whitchurch and largely thanks to Man of the Match Kalu.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Highly favoured

Midsomer Norton 3rd XI v Easton Cowboys Saturday XI

As your correspondent left the house on Saturday morning, Geoff Boycott was on the radio wittering on about how cricketers have their favourite grounds where they always seems to perform well - hokum, hogwash and superstition of course, yet it was hard to forget having scored a maiden fifty at Midsomer Norton last summer, as we crawled along in the traffic jam out of the city on another Mendip jaunt.

Joe won the toss on a muggy, overcast afternoon and opened the bowling, more panther than rabbit in his smooth approach and delivery, yet still wicketless after his opening salvo. RobT hopped in from the other end, on the button from the start, making the opposition work for every run.

Disappointingly, despite good efforts, four catches went down in the first ten overs and although the score was well pegged back, the opening batsmen prevailed until Rob made the breakthrough, trapping one of the openers LBW.

There followed a sixty run partnership for the second wicket and although the run rate seldom got above three an over, with wickets in hand, the opposition had built a foundation for a solid total.

Ev replaced Joe from one end and kept things remarkably tight while RobT bowled out his eight overs and gave the ball to Garner, who finally got the second wicket a few overs after the drinks break by bowling the No.3 batsman. Your correspondent replaced Ev and struggled to stop the runs leaking until a straight one kept low and he bowled the remaining opening batsman.

Shortly afterwards, the captain was heard to tell your correspondent that he was going to pull him off and in the shadow of a double entendre he took the ball for another spell. It was round about now that the batsman smashed the ball hard at Ev, whose hands only served to funnel the ball into his groin. As he regained his composure, the umpire enquired whether there was one ball left and another Cider Moment was born.

In his final over, Garner clean bowled another batsman to have the opposition foundation a bit cracked at 96-4 with eight overs remaining. Your correspondent returned for a spell from the other end and as Midsomer Norton hit out, Ev reached high for the sky and plucked down a ball that was destined for the boundary with his Inspector Gadget, Cider Moment nominated hand. Their skipper was the next to go, bowled by a fuller ball, but then as Ev returned for a spell from the other end and tied the batsmen down, the tail wagged and thrashed a little, taking eleven runs from your correspondent's penultimate over, for which there would be retribution, once Ev had taken a wicket in his final over to put the score on 125-7.

Hands up who likes bowling the last over of an innings? They're usually a bit of a challenge and sometimes quite eventful. The third ball of the over was mishit (if you read the word another way, it's still quite accurate) and Grover, blinded by the sun, miraculously clapped hands when the ball arrived in them: 133-8. The batsmen had crossed, the one now on strike had only previously played one scoring shot, hitting Ev for six. He got a thick ballooning edge on the next ball, which looped in Iggy's proximity at slip and as the bowler barked and beseeched, Ian duly obliged and took a great catch at full stretch.

The guttural bovine celebrations for a five wicket haul were met with both incredulity and congratulations, somewhat overshadowing the arrival of the diminutive last man at the crease and another little matter. The field came in but it hadn't dawned on most, including the bowler, what special opportunity that the next ball presented, but when it passed the bat and hit the stumps someone was alert enough to notice that it was not only the end of the innings but a hat-trick.

Besides the accuracy of all the bowlers and Gretch's blemishless record behind the stumps, the long grass in the outfield had taken the momentum out of the ball and restricted the runs considerably. 134 was an achievable target, but only if a few batsmen were prepared to stick around or go over the top.

Back at the main clubhouse, next to the picture perfect wicket, the tea table groaned under the weight of all manner of fayre. Some were too thirsty to wait for the tea to brew for long enough, others got absorbed in the Test match on the telly.

Ev and Grover opened up, safely negotiating half a dozen overs of tidy bowling from left armers until umpire RobT was convinced that Ev had snicked a ball that he hadn't and upheld the hopeful appeal. The score crept along slowly, assisted from the outset by a smattering of wides. The long grass was no help to BenP who often played fine shots for little or no reward. When he eventually tried going over the top of mid-on the fielder made a good backwards tumbling catch: After twenty overs, the score of 53 was identical to the opposition's at the same stage, for the loss of one more wicket.

Alan got his heed down well and tore up and down the wicket, taking Grover along for the ride and making him dive for the line. They both occupied the crease, nudged the score along and sent fielders chasing until Grover was bowled for a valuable 27 and Alan was executed in a similar manner in the bowler's following over: 74-4 in the 28th over, sixty runs to get in twelve overs.

Enter first Iggy, then Kalu. With that much power under the bonnet, would something blow? The pair exercised restraint, surviving a few near misses and initially making do with singles and well run twos. The required run rate still hovered at around five an over, with eight overs to go and five remaining batsmen not at all sure whether they'd be called upon.

On reaching double figures, Kalu had played in the long grass for long enough and went aerial, clearing the boundary ropes for maximum points. Iggy found the boundary too, missed the fielders and struck powerful blows to silence the home supporters. The previously economical opening bowlers returned to have their figures spoilt, Kalu lofting a seemingly effortless six over long-on, which later earned him Cider Moment nominations, scattering the field to make more singles and twos possible.

The 36th over went for ten runs and it was all over, the glory and crowning moment only slightly spoilt by an elderly gentleman driving his car straight through the victorious batsmen and other cricketers as they attempted to leave the field of play.

Kalu rightly received Man of the Match nominations for his accelerated approach, scoring 36 not out from 26 balls and joining Iggy for a sixty run partnership in less than eight overs, but some chancer who got a hat-trick he didn't know about, six wickets and a fine for exceeding four runs per over ran away with the Man of the Match award at Midsomer Norton for the second year in a row. What was Boycott saying?


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

The physics of flying

When I was sixteen, the boy I sat next to at school had a pilot's licence. He was a member of the RAF section of the school's combined cadet force and very good at physics. I was a Royal Navy cadet and could swim.

Our physics teacher, who wore a ridiculous deerstalker hat and smoked a pipe, had no tolerance for boys like me, who didn't understand: He'd fly into rages at our inability to answer his interrogations or produce anything less than perfect homework.

Consequently, to save my skin, I used to copy from the exercise book of the boy next to me, without his knowledge, after he'd placed it in the teacher's pigeonhole. He wouldn't have let me copy it if I'd asked, out of both principle and fear of the teacher's wrath. I took every precaution to avoid being caught by either.

It was an alphabetical friendship, borne out of being made to sit in order of surname most of the time. Outside of the classroom we didn't talk much and when he was off learning to fly I was messing around in boats. When it was no longer compulsory I left the cadet force but he stayed on, intent on a career in the RAF. Naturally I gave up physics and he carried on with it. We left school on different paths and never saw each other again.

In 1995 I saw a photograph of him in the TV section of a newspaper. I'd been out of the country for several years and was unaware of what had happened in June 1994. It was no surprise that he'd become an experienced, well trusted RAF pilot, but to hear of the accident and loss of so many lives was shocking.

The posthumous charge of gross negligence didn't seem right, even before I'd heard the facts. I'd never known him to be negligent of anything, unless you count allowing sneaky cheats like me to copy his homework when he wasn't looking.

Finally, this week, after all these years, an independent review has overturned the MoD verdict, after previously suppressed evidence - which has long been public - concerning malfunctioning Chinook software which the pilots had expressed concerns about, was allowed to be considered.

I'm left pondering the consequences of unswerving obedience and why I didn't have the courage to tell the physics teacher that I just didn't get it.

the guardian
the independent

military pilots' forum

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Spuds up

First of the new potatoes - late this year - and runner beans.

New season kale - early this year.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Fool on the hill

On a hillside amongst the patchwork Mendips, in view of the Iron Age hillfort Maes Knoll, the sweet smell of mown grass and clover in the air, the Cowboys took on Stanton Drew. The covers hadn't been on the night before, apparently for fear of them blowing away, but despite the earlier deluge the pitch was playable,

As the Cowboys got it together, almost all of them showing some enthusiasm for warming up and fielding practice, the opposition captain rode up and down the wicket on a heavy roller, then over-egged the pudding a bit by trying to suggest to Budge that it was a batting wicket. Having won the toss, Joe was having none of it and gave the new ball to his bowlers - well, himself, downhill, with the wind behind him. Garner was left to take off uphill.

The combination of a left and right-handed opening pair kept the Cowboys on their toes in the field and tested the bowlers' line. The score crept along at around three an over but when the breakthrough hadn't come by the eighth over, Budge replaced himself with Evan who promptly got a wicket with his first ball when the batsman drove and Kalu took a smart catch. The following ball, the incoming batsman did exactly the same as his predecessor but Kalu was unable to take an almost identical chance. He went some way to atoning for that by coming on to bowl a maiden with his first over and getting the batsman a short while later, thanks to a good catch from Joe.

An even better, Cider Moment catch eventually came, when BenP dived and clung on and rolled and came up celebrating close to the boundary, where the batsman had tried to loft Kalu.

The score crept along, never too threatening but persistent, aided at times by some deficiency of due care in the field and not helped by the refusal of all LBW appeals. The bowlers - your correspondent included - continued to be tested by the left/right-hand partnership, gradient and stiff breeze. In a return spell, Joe removed the middle order, via catches from Kalu and Angelo, and finally the left-hander for sixty, thanks again to a good catch from Garner after Roger's return to bowling hadn't borne fruit.

The return of your correspondent up the hill prevented the tail from wagging, but after all forty overs, the score had crept marginally above four an over to end on 162 for 8.

A fine tea, including giant baguettes, kept the Cowboys quiet during the break, after which Angelo created an extra quiet zone in the dressing room for some kip while Iggy and Paul went out to bat and solitary spectator Duncan got his binoculars out.

While the bowler from one end bowled consecutive maidens, the one from the other bowled first Iggy, then Paul and in his sixth over Ben: Within a dozen overs the Cowboys were 26 for 3, then 37 for 4 when Alan's resistance ended and he was bowled by the change bowler from the top end.

For the next ten overs, Ev's reliability and stout defence partnered by Kalu's intent and stroke play lifted the run rate above five an over and put the innings back on track. When Ev was the fifth consecutive Cowboy to be bowled with the score on 96 for 5, Angelo's alarm clock went off and he found himself at the wicket but his feet were still asleep and he was LBW for a duck.

Your correspondent had been in the duck pond on his last outing and had no wish to return. Kalu, who'd earlier flicked a ball over the rope behind square for a perfectly timed six, was playing one of his finest innings and in between the well-run singles and twos he cleared the ropes again on his way to his first half century for the Cowboys. The opposition captain barked his orders incessantly and a few got shirty about wides. A new bowler came into the attack and without advancing his score, Kalu mistimed a pull and was caught: Fifty runs to get, ten overs and three wickets left.

Joe came in and was bowled for a single, Roger was caught behind off the returning opening bowler without scoring and now the Cowboys needed a run a ball for seven overs, the opposition, one wicket. Garner helped keep the dream alive and in the process hit the ball high in the air and hurt a child underneath, as the last pair scurried between the stumps. The required run rate crept up, but only just, until with two overs to go and fifteen runs to get, very regrettably your correspondent misjudged an on drive and was caught and bowled, stranding Garner not out at the other end.

Most from both teams then adjourned to the Druid's Arms and garden behind, as the sun hit the Cove of standing stones and Kalu was voted Man of the Match for another great all round performance.


Thursday, July 07, 2011

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Bath plugged

Easton Cowboys C.C. Saturday XI v Bath C.C. 4th XI

Mixed fortunes on the field for the three Cowboy league teams this weekend, with a crushing defeat, a last ball thriller and a wobbly victory. The Saturday XI travelled to Winford for their home (?) game against Bath 4th XI, some preparing for the match by lying under the trees in the shade while the Bath contingent took over the square and performed their well-drilled exercise routines.

Captain Budge nonchalantly shrugged off losing the toss, possibly because the opposition chose to bat first on a warm and muggy afternoon with a lot of cloud cover. Still, those short boundaries at Winford do look appetising.

The leporine captain sprang down the hill and found most of the things that a bowler likes to find, like pace and bounce and swing, but despite keeping it tight, a wicket eluded him. RobT came up the hill from the flightpath end and kept the pressure on, once the autopilot was engaged, but the breakthrough wouldn't come.

The 2G combination of Grove and Gibbons struck first, if memory serves, but it doesn't and it's all a bit of a blur (others promised to help tell the story) but suffice to say, all-rounder on fire Ev's introduction into the attack tugged the zip up further on the Bath innings until something was going to burst.

And if that bowling change worked a treat, then Kalu's first over piled up the jelly and ice-cream, flighting and tempting and ripping the ball until a beguiled batsman walked out of his crease and Gretch behind the stumps made no mistake. Later in the over, the pair served up a plate of deja vu and the opposition innings suffered indigestion.

It was hard work in the field mind and both Grover and RobT had close encounters with boundary fences and hedging, edges occasionally flew and Iggy and Gretch dived but returned with no pearls. At one point, Kalu nearly pulled off a remarkable caught and bowled, but was just unable to grab the rebound, earning him both a Cider Moment award and a fine for the drop. Ev showed off his throwing arm to all on numerous occasions but the batsman must have been looking the other way, as after a while, he attempted a ridiculous second run when Ev had almost gathered the ball, and was run out by miles.

Four or five wickets down and the score was still below fifty, the run rate below three. The batting became more obstinate, stylish and coached but still the boundaries were few and far between. The captain took a remarkable catch, or made a simple one look so, deep and straight, off the bowling of Kalu, and later returned for another spell with the ball and dislodged the eventual top scorer, Beth Howe, LBW for 17.

A young tail wagged and resisted a while, but the innings crumpled, then ended with another run out in the 32nd over, with the score on 105. Behind the feeling of pleasant surprise was the possibility that it could have been even less, sitting next to the thought that perhaps the bowling attack would be deadly.

And so to tea, to enjoy Iggy's excellent provisions, eat melon in the sunshine and make passengers on incoming FlyBe jets sigh at the vision of pastoral bliss a few hundred feet below them.

Iggy and the returning Grover opened the batting to face another new ball that had been agreed upon at the start of the match. Unsurprisingly, it behaved nastily in capable hands and scoring opportunities were very limited. The score crept along until first Iggy, then Ben was bowled from the top end, the latter with a corker.

The as-yet-uneaten jelly and ice-cream had started to wobble a bit. Enter Alan, to partner Grover's stable left hand and create a solidifying toffee coating: All very sweet until Grover went LBW for 25 and Ev came in to face bowling changes.

Bath had responded to pressure and become more vociferous in the field, although the underlying bleat always evoked fear and desperation rather than confidence and certainty. But then Ev was bowled cheaply, Justin went to a good catch and Kalu went out to join anchorman Alan.

Together, on occasions, they threaded and launched the ball around the ground, Kalu scoring a six over long on to scatter the worried fielders and stir a stagnant run rate. When he was caught a few boundaries later, the Cowboys were six wickets down with about thirty runs to get in more than a dozen overs.

As a parent, your correspondent has got into the habit of not smacking a ball bowled by a small child as hard as possible to the boundary, (a la Simon Day's 'Competitive Dad') but rather spooning it up for one of his/her chums to catch in a manner that even granny would be ashamed of. So he did and the toffee coating cracked and the melted cream came out. There were more enthusiastic squeaks from the bottom field when Gretch was run out, also for a duck, but long distance, Man of the Match Alan was still there.

The Cowboys' cause was greatly bolstered by a a large number of wides that agitated and angered a few of the opposition although there was no doubt that the balls were out of reach. With many overs still to go, RobT went out to join Alan in looking in control of the situation, pulling it off with aplomb, hitting the winning runs of a two wicket victory to secure a third win in a row


Friday, July 01, 2011

July Skies

Also the name of a fine, wistful, ambient guitar based band from the West Midlands :

Last FM