It’s usual at this time of year to look back at the last 12 months and contemplate the opportunities and hopes for the next 12; so with the world seemingly in ‘limbo’ after the excesses of Christmas and the arrival of the New Year, here’s my attempt at looking back.
All of the photos in my blogs are all my own work – enhanced (?) this year by the discovery of a snazzy piece of software which can make the ‘run of the mill’ photos into something a bit more interesting and what you wouldn’t necessarily see at first.
Of the thousands of photos I’ve taken in 2022 here are a few of my ‘favourites’ – and it seems, dear reader, that you prefer pictures to words. So, I’ll try fewer (or is it less?) words in 2023 and more photos.
To those of you who follow my ramblings and photos (and there were over 11,000 ‘hits’ this year!) I thank you and wish you happiness and health for 2023 and stand by for views from NZ, Australia and possibly Singapore!
Now that there’s no cricket for a cricket watcher to go and watch (well…not yet), what’s to be done?
I find myself on a glorious autumn day at the Frieze London sculpture exhibition in The Regents Park. So what follows are a few snapshots of the exhibits, some with a bit of ‘magic’ applied and others of autumn in all her glory. Enjoy!
Today is my last day of live cricket watching this season – my 68th! Works out four days in every 10 spent watching cricket live!
There’s only one match in town – Surrey ripping into Yorkshire! A win and Hampshire losing means another (!) championship title for Surrey! But first there’s work to be done! These matches don’t play themselves!
Lunch arrives at 12.36 (an odd time) and I assume with something to do with making up lost time. But it sees Yorkshire reaching 171/6 – losing four wickets in the session but leading for the first time in the match by 17. Hampshire look like self-imploding so an excellent crowd at the Oval could be in for something ‘special’ this afternoon – let’s see!
And within 75 minutes of lunch, it was all over! Hampshire’s loss filtered through but not before a few more Yorkshire wickets fell – you could see their hearts weren’t in it and were all out for 208. Surrey needed 54 which they knocked off in under 6 overs.
Not quite ‘wild’ celebrations started but it was evident that this was THE competition everyone wants to win. The general consensus is that this squad does not know how to lose (and haven’t so far) and even when things looked grim, they stuck to their task.
This championship was won in May with convincing wins against Hampshire and Northamptonshire when things didn’t look great as regular readers of these ramblings will recall.
I’ve seen many things over the last 68 cricketing days – England losing both an ODI and a Test, a tie, impressive batting, bowling and fielding, great company and conversations, as well as days of quiet contemplation and often bewilderment!
And my next live cricket should be in NZ next year unless we’ve all been blown to kingdom come by Vlad the new impaler but there’ll be ramblings on other things until then.
The choice facing me today was either to see what the carnage at the Fortress (more like a mud patch I hear) was all about and be home in time for an early tea or to go back to the Oval as the champions-designate continue to dominate Yorkshire – and at least I get to see a full days play!
Four day cricket watchers tend not to be in the first flush of youth so as the tube decanted at Oval station, one got the sense of what a day out at the care home of the future could look like! Add to that a strong aroma of Fisherman’s Friends and embrocation and the picture in your mind’s eye is complete.
I somewhat startled people undertaking a ‘survey’ before I boarded the tube about how ‘young’ people felt and how ‘young’ I was – only one answer needed – ‘very!’
But back to the main event; an early start, overcast and floodlit saw Surrey succumb to 299/9 before Lawes and Worrall gained the third bonus point and guided Surrey to 333ao just after the new ball.
I would have thought that would have indicated to Yorkshire to keep Surrey batting until the conditions improved but no! Out they came to face Roach and Worrall with the new ball. Finn Bean (regarded as a good prospect?) and Lyth set out.
Batting was not easy and soon Lyth was back in the Pavilion and Mr Bean joined by Hill – not once did they stand for the ideal photo! And with Mr Bean misreading a Lawes straight one on the stroke of lunch goes for 12 and Yorkshire 49/2.
Tea arrives (with a presentation to Micky Stewart on his 90th birthday) with Yorkshire 158/7 – still 175 behind. Kohler-Cadmore made a reasonable 50 but others came and went not with rapid succession but in clumps. Surrey at one stage had no Plan B (but that’s typical of cricket nowadays) and were too erratic with at least one ball every two overs going down the leg side to give Foakes more of a workout than he perhaps had planned!
However, Lawes showed his promise and class – destined for England one day – and got among the wickets. Most dismissals have been bowled or caught behind indicating there’s a bit in this pitch (still) so care is needed.
Elsewhere with Hampshire needing to make a large score to win, Surrey need to keep calm but I suspect the weather on Friday – if the matches last that long – will have the last word (for the moment)?
Half an hour after tea and Yorkshire fall 4 behind the follow on target! Poor shots by the York bats but excellent bowling by Surrey who enforce the follow on!
Mr Bean is an early casualty as Surrey start to swoop like vultures; by the close another goes leaving Yorkshire at 89/2 still 65 behind.
This Surrey side, irrespective of everything else, knows how to win and knows how not to give up. A fine foundation for the future (if only the ECB would do things sensibly!).
It’s been great to watch Surrey all season. Will I be witness to Surrey’s crowning tomorrow? Now that’s a real hill of beans!
Whilst events of the past few days have been underlined by the history of the UK from its Protestant days, events at the Oval showed a better class of Pope!
The penultimate round of Championship matches pitches Surrey against Yorkshire and Hampshire against Kent as Surrey and Hampshire battle it out for the supreme prize of the summer. Eight points separate them so each of the last two matches are vital not least in terms of bonus points.
Surrey are inserted on a cloudy and cool September morning as Yorkshire feel this is their chance since their batting last week left a lot to be desired.
With Burns back in the Pavilion for 4, Amla for not very many it looked tense for Surrey but at #4 strides out Pope – these ramblings and the media as a whole has sung his praises before and today was to be another long singing session. Reaching 82/3 at lunch (should have been 82/2) from 4/1 suggested an even morning but it was clear that Pope was in no mood to hang back.
Dancing down the pitch, the occasional lofted drive but so many sublime strokes exquisitely positioned and timed meant no one was going to tame him.
This was an innings to savour.
Some support from Foakes but later from Clark saw the score progress from 136/5 to 246/5 at tea. Over 160 runs in the session with Pope on fire! He passed his fifty in the blink of an eye and before you knew it, he was into the 90s!
Very rarely – if at all – have I taken two consecutive photos of consecutive balls when a bat goes from 90 to 100; so here they are!
The pace continued after tea, Clark goes to a fine fifty but once he and Pope had added 142, Pope tried to cut and goes for 136…almost 50% of the runs scored! Clouds start to roll over but even with the lights on (Will clubs be able to afford them next season?), things got gloomier and play was abandoned at 292/6.
But the talk of the day was the sheer better class of Pope!
There’s a phrase in cricket of ‘one brings two’ – in other words, once one wicket falls a second follows almost straight after.
But today at Lord’s one Root brings two!
A truncated and ‘on/off’ day sees Middlesex progress from 132/4 to 261/5 by tea but two hours play lost to rain means there’s little to gain from today.
Stoneman gets his head down for a classy century – accelerating to make up time after the first rain break – and goes for 128 trying to force the pace, second ball against the Welsh spinner. Simpson – another fiddler/twitcher but more subtle than most – grinds his was to 62no at tea – or rather when the rain returned.
A valiant attempt after tea to restart saw the new ball taken before the rain returned and the umpires put us out of our misery and called it a day at 286/5.
All to play for still, but my last trip to Lord’s this season.
Whilst the nation is in turmoil as it seeks a new ‘normal’, the ‘old normal’ of poor batting displays is never far away!
After the crash-banging, ‘allegedly’ new, style of test cricket and the thrash and bash of the one day stuff, ‘proper’ cricket returns to Lord’s with Middlesex hosting Glamorgan after a hiatus of 52 days in Division Two of the County Championship.
No one is supposedly watching this competition (according to A Strauss – head of the performance review of English cricket) but the numbers at Lord’s today belie that! The Pavilion is humming and rammed with spectators enjoying late summer sunshine and warmth and Middlesex among the wickets.
In commemoration, the Long Room has a portrait of the late Queen surrounded by Aussie test players from a recent tour. All I’ll say is that you can tell it’s the Queen!
Losing your first two with 9 on the board within 15 minutes was not a good start for Glamorgan but with a mix of grit, determination and more loose shots than you can shake a stick at, they reach 109/5 at lunch. Better than it looked at 70/5 when the ball was doing things off the pitch but the wiser heads of Murtagh and Roland-Jones knew exactly what to do and did it better than the others!
The afternoon promises more of the same especially if, true to form, it starts reversing in the next 10/15 overs. But we’ve seen Cooke in these ramblings before grind Surrey into the ground but I think this pitch is a bit different. Who knows what’s in store?
Two hours later and they’re walking off with Glamorgan 214ao. Cooke made a promising 50, Patel threw his bat for a quick 30-odd but the rest was just awful batting, shot selection and ‘ring rusty’! Glamorgan are supposed to be the second best side in the Division!
From where I sat I couldn’t tell if the ball reversed but the odd one did keep low so there’s the possibility that the pitch will deteriorate and you don’t want to have to chase too many in innings #4. No spin but five catches behind suggests good bowling but poor selection.
Sense prevails and tea is taken so let’s see what the Middle can do!
One thing Glamorgan did was set off like an express train and so do Middlesex (4 plus an over). Batting seems to be easier as the pitch dries under an increasingly warm late summer sun – so much so that the areas of exposed flesh among the spectators increased as did the application of sunscreen in some parts of the ground!
Or it could be that the Glamorgan attack is not as good? However, poor shot selection and/or lack of footwork (seen regularly in the Glamorgan innings) seems to have been transferred to the Middle’s men as they succumb to 92/4 from 90/1.
Harris (formerly of this parish) did the damage but missed out on a hat trick! Stoneman provided the steady undercurrent of support (72no) as stumps are drawn at 132/4.
I suppose Middlesex are the happier side and will be looking for a lead in excess of 100 but they’ll need to persevere – you need to get your head down and graft if you’re going to succeed on this pitch!
So the ‘new’ normal of hard work for rewards will be very much like the ‘old’ normal and life moves on.