Links on Friday

Asterix and Obelix taught me wild boars were something you chased for a little while, then magically transformed into a roast. Asterix and Obelix lied.

If you’ve watched Kane’s cover drives and Guppy’s lofted straight drives and thought you could do that, you are wrong. It’s a bit bloody different when you’re out there with an actual bat facing an actual ball, even in sportreview.net.nz’s old-man’s T20 league – real life tends a bit more… agricultural. Pete Langman on the shots we *actually* play.

Game Of Life is for losers.

Links on Friday

Lord’s with lights looks amazing. And they’re only bloody telescopic.

Hunter took at least another two minutes lining up his putt, then struck it quickly. He missed the putt by about a foot and, charging after it, let out a howl as he winged his putter into the pond. The geese started honking and Hunter ran back to the cart, pulled the 12-gauge from his golf bag and fired over the geese, and they lifted off the pond like a sparkling cloud of gray and white feathers.

This is what it’s like to play golf with Hunter S. Thompson on acid.

When your centre forward suffers a horrible injury, there’s nothing more reassuring than a tweet of them thumbs aloft in a hospital bed, enjoying the food – and so: a brief history of sportsmen in hospital beds.

The pigs are all like ‘this kind of shit happens all the time – oh look, lunch is here!’:

Links on Friday

The new face of international diplomacy. Euro wrecker Boris Johnson drops his shoulder into the middle of an opponent’s gentleman’s area, while playing football. Best comedy foreign minister since Winston.

Long read – Premier League rivalries unraveled.
Includes Arsenal’s underhand and wholly immoral inclusion in top flight football then and forever more, and ones that spring up then fade, like Liverpool and Chelsea in the late 2000s. Some rivalries you don’t want, like when Spurs depressingly played Wimbledon something like 16 times in a week in 1999, and some are just weird, like our ‘title rivalry with Leicester City in 2016’. Tremendous pics and layout here too.

Turns out Bradley Cooper is an uber-Tennis fan, turning up all over the world to watch @PseudoFed, looking impossibly yet casually cool.

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The name of this article, “These Incredibly Shit Euro 2016 Flags Will Make You Lose All Hope For Humanity” does said flags a disservice, because they are brilliant.

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Links on Friday

“What do you think we come here for, silver? Stuff the silver, we came for the gold!” If you ever coached a rank outsider to an Olympic gold medal, this is the entirely appropriate response.

“We got on the podium and done the River Dance.” Simon Hattenstone meets the chancers who blagged their way into the Man U team photo, hit balls at Wimbledon, walked out to bat in the Ashes and more.

sportreview.net.nz is firmly Team Macca – it turns out that when you’re a universally beloved moptopped genius, all you really want is a Nets tee-shirt.

Arsenal set the standard for bleak fan comedy – here, a man tries to incinerate his shirt, fails:

It’s the end of the World T20 as we know it

The semi final was lost in the last five of our innings and the first five of theirs. There’s a fair amount of luck involved in T20 – another day, those full tosses we hit down fielders’ throats would have cleared the rope and Roy would have been caught first over, chipping Anderson to short third man. That didn’t happen and there’s not a lot of time to come back in twenty overs, even if Sodhi’s two wickets teased that a good old fashioned England collapse was just around the corner. They were better on the day – and have done a fair old reinvention job on themselves. Cuss it all.

The painful bit is that going into today’s match it felt like only our second major international trophy was there for the taking but there’s a lot to be proud of – Sodhi and Santner top the wicket taking table, we look supremely organised and Kane Williamson has slipped into the captaincy with aplomb. We probably needed a few more batsmen to be in really good form going into the finals to be fair, but we weren’t far away.

This was a tough tournament to play, with more time spent in airport travel lounges than the nets, and surfaces more reminiscent of early 70s football penalty areas than cricket pitches, but we handled it well, until today. From the couch the team culture looks as strong as ever, and a challenging trip like this will bring the group together.

So are we a proper T20 side now? During the great BLACKCAPS revolution of the last three years, we’ve climbed the rankings in Tests and ODIs, but been nowhere in the shits and giggles format (but then we’d hardly played it lately until this summer).  It felt like we SHOULD be better at it – half the team is playing the IPLs etc and we’ve got no shortage of big hitters and crafty bowlers. It looks like we get it at last but now we probably won’t play too much of this format until the six months before the next WT20.

Ah well. It’s kind of the beauty of this tournament that it’s over fast and we can flush the dunny and move on, as a great man once said. Now there’s a long break until August, when we play South Africa there in two Tests and we’ll get to see what a Kane Williamson BLACKCAPS Test team looks like. Can’t wait.

Plenty of room on the WT20 bandwagon

In the WT20, things happen faster than John Key binning his Lockwood flag pin. The ICC are usually renowned for spreading tournaments out over several decades, but for this one a fast game’s a good game and you can be on the plane home before your phone has finished charging. Just ask South Africa or Bangladesh. This year is a bit special too, a WT20 in India, home of the DLF Maximum and whatever’s happening here, is cricket’s New World Order in  its lair.

Pre-tournament, the BLACKCAPS were talking their chances down as meticulously as they work out a bowling plan. A T20 tournament on the low sub continent wickets in a group with three Asian sides and Australia and without the really recently-retired skipper / talisman and the best T20 batsmen ever? Piss off.

The were wrong. Inspirational team selection, young spinners taking it to the opposition, batsmen sticking to plans on tough wickets… going into the opening match with three spinners was a master stroke that took  the hosts’ pants down. I’ve checked and we were the only team to play the opening match without their traditional two spearhead bowling attack – and this is how it’s going to be, gang. When one of the world’s deepest cricket thinkers takes the reigns alongside the smartest coach in the business, you know things are about to get really, really pragmatic.

It’s turned out OK though. When your senior bowler has spent the tournament in hi-vis but is still happy to make a video for the folks back home, that’s some serious team culture. Could you imagine McGrath doing the same?

We’ve traditionally struggled on these pitches, but this time we have a plan. The batsmen have been doing whatever it takes to get us a total, cashing in with the hard new ball before knuckling down when it turns into a cushion with a seam later on. The young spinners have looked like world beaters, while the seamers have played with intelligence and some fire, mastering one of my favourite aspects of T20, bowlers playing their overs like a hand of 500, all slower balls, cutters, slow bouncers and effort balls.

The win in the opener, playing the hosts in one of their strongholds in the format they’ve invested so much cash and emotion in, was one of our most remarkable wins ever in sportreview.net.nz’s opinion, and we made it look easy. We strangled the Aussies in the Himalayas before taking down traditional Bogey Team Pakistan (are we over 92 yet?) comfortably. All three wins have been exemplary examples of Not Panicking and sticking to your plans.

We should keep the momentum up against Bangladesh, before most people go home and we’re left with (hopefully) two big games. With the sub continent teams struggling, this is an open tournament – we’re as organised as anyone and should be confident taking anyone on. We’re well capable of winning a Big World Trophy and do it in such foreign conditions, even in the purists’ least favourite format, would be quite an achievement.

Pretty much every game from here is crucial to the tournament’s outcome, so dream big NZ – get on board the woeful viewing times and get excited (but not so excited as to wake the rest of the house). We’re in with a great shout of winning this, especially because sportreview.net.nz is predicting a NZ v Aus final and sportreview.net.nz’s prediction track record is shithouse, bluntly.

MD Crowe – The Spinoff tribute

The fine crew at The Spinoff let me write about Martin Crowe on their website, alongside a few people I am in awe of. Behold:

As a cricket-berserk youngster, never happier than when cleaning a thigh pad or something equally unnecessary, many of my best early memories were formed sitting on a couch and watching Martin Crowe bat. All his peers made the most of their homespun techniques (think Jeremy Coney’s elbow-y drives or Andrew Jones’ leaping, leaning backfoot play), but Crowe was the real deal. Endless summer days were spent happily indoors, obsessing over his old-school bat-on-the-ground stance, dead still until the last minute before leaning on a straight drive, or crashing it over the Basin’s outfield practice wickets, or manhandling a pull over Eden Park’s short boundary with those gargantuan forearms.

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Here’s the great man hitting balls into the crowd during the 2014 NZ v India Test at the Basin along with the ’92 team as part of a World Cup promo. You could tell he was delighted by the simple act of putting bat to ball and you’d better believe he middled them, hitting balls further than anyone up on the bank. And look at the way he walks, like a dancer or big cat. That’s how proper athletes walk.

He started out as a boy in that streetwise, mustachioed 80s team, before becoming the team captain; an old gun in the young guns. I drove to Eden Park with some mates to see the team play South Africa in the 1992 World Cup, where his wonderful dobber-attack restricted the mysterious visitors to just 190, before prototype pinch hitters Greatbach and Latham pummeled 114 at a then-unheard-of run a ball. He and Warren Lees out-thought the world that summer, and he out-batted them too.

He was intense, and very Auckland in that brash, 80s fashion. Ex-Grammar, all headbands, necklaces and immaculate hair that disappeared on him too soon. He wanted things to be better, whether it was the New Zealand cricket team or the way we watched it on TV, and worked hard to make it so. He got a fearful dose of tall poppy treatment and you could tell it stung. I’m glad he appeared laid back and at peace strolling through the 2015 World Cup as the virtual guest of honour, with everyone wanting to just shake hands and say hi. His ICC Hall of Fame speech was as graceful as his back foot drive.

Martin Crowe was a world-class New Zealand Test batsman and we haven’t had many of them, really. He was a top man too. Like a mate said on Twitter today, if you’re too young to remember Hogan, make sure you watch Kane Williamson all you can. Guys like this don’t play for us too often.

Links on Friday – Martin Crowe

Gideon Haigh: “The second thing that struck me was how completely alive he was, how dedicated to getting the most and best out of every encounter, his utter humility and insatiable curiosity. Some cricketers never cease being cricketers. Even after retirement they are still at the crease; they can’t stop taking guard.”

Paul Ford in All Out Cricket: “…I think Crowe’s eccentricity made him a complicated and therefore compelling character. He wasn’t a cardboard cut-out, devoid of personality, delivering rote-learned comments to anyone who asked.” See also – Raw book launch.”

Sportsfreak: “He had this new found infatuation with short form cricket yet he attempted to incorporate it with his purist inclinations. The Max Zone was a brilliant innovation; even now commentators applaud the loft over the bowler’s head.  The four stumps idea; short lived as it was, also had purist origins. It was probably ahead of itself in terms of public demand, and was too innovative.”

Jarrod Kimber: “Martin Crowe was like a beautifully illustrated coaching manual come to life. He managed to play forward, and still late. He rotated the strike right up until the moment there was a ball he could hit for four, and then it went. His batting was calm and complete. There was no histrionics. He wasn’t a man who got sucked in to conflicts, he just batted, perfectly.”

Toby Manhire: “I was there with my friend Andrew in the Vance Stand at the Basin in 1991, to watch him fall a run short of a test 300 on the third to last ball of the game. Crowe’s howls of frustration leaked up from the dressing room beneath. You could feel his Duncan Fearnley bat bounce off the walls.”

Martin Guptill post-scoring 237 in the World Cup (from 2’20”)

Me, on The Spinoff: Endless summer days were spent happily indoors, obsessing over his old-school bat-on-the-ground stance, dead still until the last minute before leaning on a straight drive, or crashing it over the Basin’s outfield practice wickets, or manhandling a pull over Eden Park’s short boundary with those gargantuan forearms.

Taking down Wasim Akram, playing without a helmet.

Spell binding interview at the NZC cricket awards 2015 that appropriately made the show run way over time.

Scoring 50 in a charity match in 2011. Still had it.

Dream Baz New Zealand

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Striding out to knock off that triple.

If the price of dreaming big, cricket wise, is all those bank ads, it’s one I’m prepared to pay. We’ve been very spoiled under Brendon McCullum.

Up the rankings, actual depth, some stunning individual and team performances and the elimination of those games where we just never showed up. The skipper never bogged himself down in boring old survival or arse protection. He took on the job with many ups and downs as a professional cricketer under his belt and with his head up and eyes open and a clear idea of how we should play – positive, attacking and prepared to have a punt.

He’s one of cricket’s elder statesmen now – when he talks, people listen whether it’s about the state of those Kookaburra balls or the upcoming spirit of cricket speech. He held the world’s press in the palm of his hand before the world cup final, going over his team’s story and how they planned to play, while his opposite number squeaked out his plans to retire in the equivalent time slot. The tour of England that followed was like Captain Cook in reverse, with the colony bringing heady abandon to the motherland, producing that bonkers series, the high point of the throw-everything-at-it, attack from everywhere approach.

Showtime the day before the final.
Showtime the day before the final.

I loved watching him in the nets, those cuts and smashes back past the bowler would make either a fearful sonic boom or a thick, woody click that meant he’d really, really found the middle. There were days he’d face a ridiculous number of balls, leaning on the bat and having chats with his players in between. On other days it was like BYC, with all the trick shots and banter with the bowlers, to help get his team in the positive mindset he wanted.

Yer average park cricketer could never imagine playing an elegant billiard ball drive like Fleming, but everyone can relate to giving it a go like Brendon – swinging hard, dancing down the wicket or playing beach cricket scoops. He just happened to do it against the world’s best and fastest.

While we’re all a bit flat after the Australian series, we still have a young, skillful team with more depth than we know what to do with. The coach, manager and support staff are all still there and we’re about to have the very-recent world’s number one batsman take over as skipper. We could be much worse off.

It will be interesting to see where Brendon pops up next, I hope he finds time to give the battered body he was always so happy to fling at an advertising hoarding a rest for a while. I’d love to hear his thoughts from a commentary booth every now and again but I’m not sure that’s his style. No doubt whatever he does, he’ll do it his own way and be pretty comfortable with it.

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A proud moment let down by poor footwear selection.

sportreview.net.nz best Baz bits

  • The partnership with Craig McMillan to win the Chappell Hadlee in Hamilton in ’07. Two of our most outrageous hitters ever putting it together to make a  crazy run chase
  • The golden helmet IPL debut. Here was this new world of cash and megastar v megastar we were all a bit unsure of, and there was our guy from Dunedin dominating it from the start
  • The 302, obviously. Digging in when we were really in the shit and winning a war of attrition with what was a pretty formidable Indian team at the time before getting over the physical and mental hurdles, not to mention the weight of the nation to nail it. Best gloomy Tuesday morning ever and the double ton in the first Test wasn’t bad either
  • Beating England in Chittagong in a biblical storm in the 2014 WT20. He’d worked out the D/L and hit two sixes and a four in from six balls to ensure we got in front for a vital win
  • The Sharjah Test. Another double ton but more importantly leading the BLACKCAPS and pretty much the cricketing world in paying respect to Phil Hughes
  • Grant Elliott and Luke Ronchi’s 267 run stand. OK, it’s not *technically* Brendon but I couldn’t imagine this fightback happening under any other captain
  • Taking down Dale Steyn and setting us on our way to the final at Eden Park. See also the pool match v England
  • The final folk hero moment, the world’s fastest Test ton. Individually, hard to think of a more appropriate way to go out

Bloody Aussies – in pictures

So, having attended the Basin Tests in the last three years including Brendon’s 302 and Kane’s 242 with NZC, I was lucky enough to get a couple of days away to see The Big One v Australia and Baz’s 100th.

So, the cricket didn’t turn out so well. Many things have to come into place for an enthralling Test match to happen, not least of which is two teams adapting to conditions to play their best, but also umpire’s calls and the pitch. And the toss! Ahem.

Fair play to Wellington’s cricket fans though, this was a magnificent Test to attend. This ground is unofficial HQ for NZ Test cricket fans, and people from all over make an effort to get here and everyone had a great time from what I saw. It’s a relaxing place to watch, even when it’s a sell out, and you can get on the ground at lunch and see the players wandering off for a net through the crowd during the day. Sifting around outside the Cambridge Hotel after close of play on Saturday, the entire Australian support staff sashayed past us, making their way to the hotel. Darren Lehmann was invited in for a pint, but politely declined while looking pretty tempted.

Like I say, the result didn’t go our way this time but I had a ball catching up with Graeme, Moog, Paul, Jess, Toby, Jamie, Peter and everyone else I’ve forgotten. Recommended, A+, hope to trade again next year.

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Day one – around 9.30am, the crowd at the gate for a sold out match. Not bad.

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@sportsfreakconz called this the most Wellington band ever and I agree. Beards – check. Flat caps – check. Waist coats – check. Bit early for a beer with twigs in it, but the sun’s not bothering the yardarm just yet.

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Having a look at the pitch at lunchtime, day one. Goddammit.

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These guys were all class.

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Possible ND mafia origins on display at the New Zealand Cricket Museum, who had a stormer this Test, hosting the BYC pod and the Scott family, among probably heaps more. Get along.

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Watched my two days mostly from the seats in front of the Museum Stand. Have to hand it to the capital, weather wise.

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The crowd making their own fun on day two.

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Surreal moments – Saturday night I was lucky enough to join Paul @BeigeBrigade and friends and family for BYC under lights at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park (an ideal spot for a day-nighter just FYI), when…

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…we were joined by these overgrown, multi coloured Wilberforces, part of The Lucid Dreambike. They were fantastic.

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Home again.