All Hales, no Gayles

On a day when the English weather held off long enough to allow a full game to finish of this forgettable West Indies tour, there were no Gayles but plenty of Hales.

England opener Alex Hales made the highest ever score by an Englishman in an international t20 to guide his side to victory, chasing 173 to win at Trent Bridge.

His superb innings was cut painfully short on 99, enough for a team victory, but not enough for Hales, who was obviously devastated to fall one short of a century when bowled by Rampaul.

His second wicket partnership with Ravi Bopara of 159 was also the highest partnership in a t20 for England, but neither of the batsmen could quite see it through to the tense finish. England needed just four from six balls when Hales was bowled, and Bopara (59) fell three balls later. It was left to Morgan (2*) and Buttler (0*) to see England home with two balls to spare.

Earlier in the day, West Indies captain Darren Sammy had won the toss and elected to bat. After his nifty fifty in the ODI at the Oval last week, the crowds were no doubt relishing their final chance to see Chris Gayle with bat in hand, in the format created for his flamboyant style of cricket. But it was not to be; the former West Indies captain out for 2, caught by Bairstow at fine leg off Finn.

The West Indies quickly found themselves 30 for 3, but were revived by a smashing 70 from Smith, who looked to have ensured a defendable total of 172 off their 20 overs. 107 of their runs came off the last eight overs, with Dwayne Bravo (54*) and Kieron Pollard (23*) demonstrating the strength of the West Indies middle order in this format.

But England, and in particular Hales and Bopara, were just too good for them. The West Indies were sloppy in the field at times, perhaps with one foot, and their brains, already on the plane that takes them to Florida tomorrow for a two match t20 series against New Zealand.

Their tour of England has been a cold and wet affair, and void of victory in any format against the host country. This t20 has perhaps been the best match of the tour, certainly the closest. Both teams can take heart from great performances with the bat in the countdown to the World t20 which starts September in Sri Lanka.

 

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Is there a time and place for twitter?

The premature death of anyone taken before their time is often shocking and always devastating to those left behind. It prompts sympathy and sadness from people that had never met the deceased, and an overwhelming reminder to appreciate your loved ones.

It also creates a whole other dimension to the grieving process. I can personally vouch for the power of the sucker punch that the loss of possibility delivers. The ‘what could’ve been?’ question will torture the mourner, particularly if that question has a focus, for example, with the loss of a partner, ‘what would our future together have been like?’

In the case of promising Surrey cricketer Tom Maynard, who died early on Monday morning after being hit by a London Underground train near Wimbledon, that question is, ‘how far could he have gone in his career?’ Pegged to follow in the footsteps of his father Matthew Maynard into an England shirt,
it’s a question likely to be asked whenever his tragic death is discussed in the future. But it’s a pointless question with only fantasy providing any answer, and just another form of self-torture for those who are mourning his loss.

Twitter exploded with messages of shock and sympathy as the news spread. But as I read the sad words of the who’s who of the cricketing world I felt slightly uncomfortable. I can understand people wanting to express their feelings at what had occurred, grief is a bewildering and comprehensive emotion, and to find common sentiment is reassuring. But something about everyone pouring their heart out on a social networking site seemed a little disingenuous. I’m sure the words were not cheap to those who wrote them, but the vehicle used for their delivery felt somehow inappropriate.

I do not mean to sound critical of those in mourning; everyone reacts in their own way to the bewildering and distressing feeling. I can understand the need to talk about it, to know that you are not alone in the sadness that you are experiencing. But I was very surprised to read in the paper this morning that Maynard’s girlfriend had tweeted about her loss last night. Does tweeting your sadness to the world provide some comfort? I hope for Carly Baker it did. All I can say is that it didn’t for me when I lost someone that I loved; in fact, I avoided social media for many months. It felt like such a trivial distraction that to partake in it would shrink the enormity of what had happened. Accepting the normality of using twitter and Facebook seemed, in turn, to indicate accepting the loss, perhaps the hardest part of moving on.

But grief is such a personal and selfish beast that who am I to comment on anyone else’s methods of dealing with it? I send my best wishes to all of Tom Maynard’s friends and families in the struggle that is to come.

No win no KP

The phrase ‘cutting off their nose to spite their face’ has been used in abundance in the last week in relation to the story that Kevin Pietersen has retired from international limited overs cricket. But there’s a reason for that: it fits. And not just for south-African born KP, who has attracted more than his fair share of controversy throughout his career, but also for the England and Wales Cricket Board who have struggled to deal with the turbulent player.

Pietersen took the decision to quit ODI cricket, but was forced to say goodbye to international t20’s as well by the ECB as part of their initiative to build a limited overs squad for both formats. That’s fair enough, they have their plans in place I’m sure, but with the World t20 just four months away, surely a compromise could have been reached? Pietersen was a key part of England’s triumph in the tournament in the Caribbean two years ago – our country’s first limited overs ICC trophy – earning himself the Man of the Series accolade.

KP has been criticised for quitting limited overs cricket for his country in favour of more lucrative prospects such as the IPL, and the Big Bash in Australia. Clearly he wants to make as much dollar as he can whilst he has the ability to play as he does. But he is not the first cricketer to do so, nor the last. And the ECB are hardly in a position to judge. Pietersen’s decision to no longer play ODI’s for England was, I’m sure, influenced to some extent by the prospect of a somewhat pointless five match series against Australia this summer, a series that is purely a moneymaking event for the ECB.

It is likely that Pietersen made the decision to quit one day cricket, was told by the ECB that he couldn’t do so without ruling himself out of t20, and, like a petulant toddler, his response was to quit both instantly rather than wait a few months to take part in the tournament. There is no going back from such an announcement (this is England, not Pakistan) so it is not so much calling the bluff of the ECB, but playing the only power card he had.

But if Kevin Pietersen is the nose being cut off, it only serves to spite everyone involved in England cricket. It will not sit well with KP to see England fail or succeed without him in Sri Lanka in the World t20. The ECB, naturally keen to field the best side possible, will be missing arguably it’s strongest option, and fans of game will certainly miss the sight of KP smashing world class bowlers over the ropes. In fact, said bowlers are the only ones likely to breath a sigh of relief at the stubbornness of both Pietersen and the cricket board that forced him into his untimely decision.

Day 3 in Galle: Trott KP partnership keeps England’s hopes up

England are keeping a thin grasp on the first Test in Galle, thanks to a partnership between Pietersen and Trott that took them to close of play on 111-2.

Earlier in the day, it took England until half an hour before tea to dismiss the Sri Lankan tail. Three wickets went to the spinners in the morning session, Swann achieving his 12th Test five-wicket haul, finishing with figures of 6-82. Monty Panesar took his first and last wickets of the match before and after lunch, leaving two men standing at the crease.

Stuart Broad thought he’d finished the job when Prasanna Jayawardene went for a pull and top edged a catch back to the bowler, but England celebrations were cut short when the umpire Rod Tucker called for a replay, which showed Broad’s front foot well over the line. The subsequent appeal for a run out – Broad had removed the bails after the catch with Jayawardene out of his crease – was denied, the ball deemed already dead.

The score at that point was 168-9, a Sri Lankan lead of 293. The batsmen did not waste the lifeline gifted to them, and Jayawardene brought up the 300 lead in the next over, lofting Panesar over mid-off for four followed by a six back over the bowlers head.

They frustrated England with the addition of 47 runs before Anderson ran out Jayawardene, charging back for a risky second, to finish on 214, a daunting 340 fourth innings total to win. It is a feat that England have never previously achieved. The highest winning fourth innings total against Sri Lanka by any team was achieved by India, 264-3.

The England openers saw out the seven overs to tea, but Cook fell soon after the break, deemed out after a Sri Lankan review for a catch behind. Closer inspection of replays showed slight deviation of the ball from Herath as it whizzed past Cook’s bat, but whether or not there was conclusive evidence to overturn the on field umpire remains debatable.

It once again raises the contentious issue of the UDRS. If used, it should be universal, with all the available technology. If a host nation cannot afford hotspot, the ICC should provide it.

After another disappointing innings for Andrew Strauss (27), whose role as captain appears to be all that is keeping him in the team, Trott and Pietersen came together to prove that England are capable of competent batting in the sub-continent. A scare for Pietersen on 12 – an inside edge put down by leg slip off Randiv – was the only hiccup before close of play.

England still need another 229 to win. Time is not an issue, but England will need this partnership to continue well into day four.

 

Day two in Galle: England bowlers keep the game alive

A dramatic second day of the first Test between Sri Lanka and England saw 17 wickets tumble for 306 runs. England demonstrated little improvement to their batting against spin in the subcontinent, as they were bowled out for 193 in under 50 overs, gifting the home side a lead of 125. Graeme Swann then chose the perfect moment to rediscover his mojo, taking 4 for 28 to leave Sri Lanka teetering on 84-5 overnight.

Sri Lanka had resumed the day on 289-8. It took James Anderson just 11 balls to dismiss Welegedara, bowling the right-hander for 19 with a slower ball. The wicket took Anderson to fifth in the tally of English Test wicket takers, taking him past Brian Statham, legendary Lancashire and England bowler of the 50’s and 60’s.

It was Anderson who finally ended Mahela Jayawardene’s mammoth innings, the Sri Lankan captain edging behind to leave Sri Lanka a modest total of 318. Jaywardene scored 180, the rest of his team (plus extras) totalled138. The wicket heralded Anderson’s 12th five-for in Test cricket, in tough conditions. Interestingly, neither of England’s frontline spinners took any wickets in the first innings.

England then had a point to prove with the bat. Unfortunately, they proved the wrong one. Their performance against spin was once again dismal. Alistair Cook, usually the rock on which England build any innings, was first to go, Lakmal getting the ball to swing back in, trapping the opener lbw. Cook wanted the review, Strauss rightly send him on his way: replays showing the ball would’ve clipped off stump.

Trott made a promising start, looking in good touch through the covers and mid wicket, before falling foul to Herath in a bizarre fashion. Coming down the pitch, completely missing the full toss, he was stumped by the keeper Prasanna Jayawardene, who then ran into the batsmen as he fruitlessly attempted to get back. Trott was temporarily floored before accepting his fate and trudging back to the pavillion.

Herath continued on his path of destruction, taking a career best 6-74. Strauss, Prior, Patel and Broad fell victim to the spinner, four of the six lbw wickets in the England innings.

Bell was the shining light in the England innings, superbly playing the orthodox spin. His 52 came from 87 balls, with eight fours, and a six. However, he was eventually bowled by a beauty from Herath; the ball spinning past the outside edge and taking out the off bail.

Once again it was left to the bowlers to rescue England, this time with bat in hand. Cameos from Swann (28), Broad (24) and Anderson (23) only proved to further embarrass the top order batsmen, who had to watch their peers demonstrate how good a batting pitch this really was.

Back to the day job then for the bowlers, Broad striking early to remove Dilshan for 0. The Graeme Swann so dearly missed by England in recent months then made a magically timed appearance. His first wicket of the session Thirimanne (6), a beauty of a ball that pitched between middle and leg before turning away to take out the off stump. Mahela Jayawardene (5) and Sangakarra (14) were next, caught at gully and first slip respectively.

Samarweera was the final wicket just before the close, mysteriously coming down the pitch to play a defensive shot to Swann, he was euphorically stumped by Matt Prior. Sri Lanka will begin day three with a lead of 209. Even if the England bowlers can rescue their side once again, and restrict the Sri Lankan lead, it will be down to the batsmen to step up and finally contribute something to their 2012 Test campaign.

In end of day interviews, Ian Bell claimed that they had taken a positive attitude with the bat but overdone it somewhat. Whatever their excuses, the South African 1-0 Test series win in New Zealand means that England need to win or draw this series to remain the number one ranked Test team in the world.

Day one in Galle: England v Mahela

It was England versus Mahela Jayawardene on day one of the first Test in Sri Lanka. Having lost what looked to be a crucial toss, Strauss and his men faced a long hot day in the field. However, Anderson struck early, twice in two balls of his second over, to remove Thirimanne (3) and Sangakarra for a golden duck. Broad chipped in soon after to leave the home side reeling on 15 for 3.

Sri Lankan captain Jayawardene then took it upon himself to prove his decision at the toss the right one, anchoring his teams inning with his 168 not out, with Sri Lanka on 289 for 8 at stumps. It was a classy innings, his triple figures taking him past Sir Don Bradman in the tally of Test centuries, and joint eighth with Matthew Hayden on 30.

England were not without opportunity to end this fine innings however, Jayawardene was dropped four times throughout the day. England did well in the field for the majority of the day, with two run outs included amongst the wickets, but they let themselves down in the final session.  Monty Panesar was notably the worst, dropping two potential catches off the bowling of Broad.

Monty’s poor performance in the field may not upset his fellow spinner Graeme Swann too much. For a while now Swann has been a shadow of the bowler he has proved he can be, and his previous performances will only keep him as first choice spinner in the team for so long. However, with Monty offering little with the bat and demonstrating butter fingers in the field, Swann’s all round performance will help his cause to remain top of the spinners pile.

Earlier in the day, Samit Patel was handed his first Test cap, having won the all rounder spot. His most likely competition was Ravi Bopara, but a side strain picked up in the first warm up match meant that Bopara will not be able to bowl on this tour. Patel’s skill with the ball, and ability to play spin with the bat – something severely lacking in the England line up in their last Test series – won him his place.  He picked up the two wickets on day one.

James Anderson’s first wicket of three today took his Test match tally to 250, the first England bowler to pass that total since Ian Botham in 1982. But in trend with the current England mindset, it’s all about the team, and the current challenge, rather than the personal landmarks. “The records are very nice,” Anderson said. “But…at the moment I’m just looking at getting another two wickets tomorrow and another ten in the second innings.”

Anderson will be keen to dispose of those two wickets early on day two and restrict the mighty Mahela, as he is more than aware of the challenge that awaits the England batsmen.

“You can’t judge a pitch until both teams have batted on it,” Anderson said at the close of play on day one. After the performance of his team mates against spin in the UAE, he couldn’t be more right.

Girl Walk // All Day

My blog is normally about cricket. It’s pretty self explanatory from the name, the picture, and the clue in my bio that states that I am a cricket writer. But this blog has nothing to do with cricket. Hey, it’s my blog, I can write about whatever I want!

This blog in fact combines two of my other great passions (NOT chocolate and coffee – that’s a mocha); music and film. Last Friday night I went along for my first experience of the Magic Lantern Film Club in Bristol (further explained below). So blown away was I by the film that we saw, set to my all time favourite album, that I wanted to write about it.

BUT THEN… My good friend Adman got there first. And seeing as he writes about film, I thought it best to use his words! Who knows, one day when Adman gets bowled over (!!) by a cricketing experience, he will rely on me to pen his innermost thoughts on the experience. Maybe.

Adman and his trusty partner (in writing only) are launching: www.rustyshark.com, an awesome new film and game review site, going live in March. Bookmark it now, because once it’s available, you’ll be far too lost in the fascinating words of the Adman to remember. In the meantime you can catch snippets of his brain on twitter: @that_skinny_guy.

So here are his thoughts on what was one of the most entertaining and inspiring pieces of film making that I have seen in a very long time. Thanks Adman.

 

Girl Walk // All Day 

Unreleased (available online/check website for screenings)

Unrated,  73 mins approx..

Musical/Dance

Dir. Jacob Krupnick

Starring: Anne Marsen, Dai Omiya, John Doyle, New York City and its inhabitants

Definition: Hyperbole

Hy-per-bo-le [hahy-pur-buh-lee]

noun Rhetoric.

1. obvious and intentional exaggeration.

2. an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, as “to wait an eternity.”

 

It’s funny how some things happen.

I happened to be in the city of Bristol. I happened to be going to Magic Lantern, a secret-cinema-style night out, for which everyone meets at a pre-arranged location before being led to an undisclosed screening location, to watch a surprise film chosen by the organisers. I happened to have just eaten my first ever burrito (although that isn’t particularly relevant, it was just bloody delicious). I happened to have a bottle of fizz to consume during the screening (this is not only allowed at these events, but practically encouraged – it’s all about the funzies, see?). And after being guided to the disused floor of an office building and given a brief introduction by the host – and some humorous mishaps with starting up the projector – ‘Girl Walk // All Day’ happened.

And it happened to be one of, if not the, happiest film-watching experiences I’ve ever had.

It begins with a wonderful bait-and-switch that I admit, I totally fell for. All we’d been told about it beforehand was that it was a dance movie (with neon headbands given out to every audience member), and as the film began in lo-fi black and white in a ballerina studio, we watch our protagonist ‘The Girl’ (Anne Marsen) struggle to keep up with the routine of her classmates, and sense her growing frustration. At this point, I have to admit, I had an “Oh. Uh, OK…” moment, feeling a little disappointed after all the fun of the lead-up to be faced with what appeared to be a dour drama. I needn’t have worried. This lasted for around two minutes before the classical soundtrack suddenly burst into a crossbreed of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ and vocals from Ludacris’ ‘Move Bitch (Get Out The Way)’, the palette exploded into colour, The Girl started throwing shapes like a woman possessed, and this film jumped feet first into my heart.

OK, so technically, it’s more music video than movie. Technically, it’s as much of a showcase for mash-up DJ Girl Talk as it is the actors or director. You know what? I don’t care. This is truly a pleasure unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. We watch The Girl run out of the dance studio, and follow her as she literally dances her way across New York City in the span of a day, to the sounds of the one, long, continuous mix of the soundtrack. We watch as she encounters ‘The Gentleman’ (Dai Omiya) and ‘The Creep’ (John Doyle) and a host of other bizarre characters who all seem as obsessed with dancing as she does. And, importantly, we see the reactions of the unwitting rest of the cast – the people of New York. Shot on the fly with what I can only assume was a single camera in most instances, faces range from confused, to feigned ignorance, to smiles and laughter, and some people even join in as The Girl goes about her mission: to be happy and dance. That’s it. That’s the movie. There’s no further narrative than what I just described, and it’s absolutely wonderful for it.

The no-budget styling and inventive camera work by director Jacob Krupnick, and the charm of the aesthetics very much reminded me of the early work of Spike Jonze and is impossible to resist – daring even. Take for example a scene in which The Girl, sporting a Hepburn-esque make-over and carrying several high-profile department store shopping bags, wanders naively into the Occupy Wall Street protest to the dismay and disgust of the protesters. I was genuinely concerned at what might happen for a moment, particularly when the non-participatory campaigners are clearly booing her, throwing things even. In a film full of ballsy (and, frankly, delightfully shameless) things, I really admired not only the bravery and gameness of the actress, but the confidence of Krupnick that it would work. There are several moments like this – the scene in which The Girl runs amok at a packed baseball stadium during a game is kind of unbelievable – but it never feels like Jackass-style clowning around. It’s much, much too sweet for that, and it’s a credit to cast and crew that they managed to pull it off.

The three leads are all fantastic (and professional dancers, duh) but special credit obviously belongs to Anne Marsen who almost singularly carries the movie on her tiny shoulders. In what is probably the most adorable female lead performance I’ve seen since Amelie, the film would absolutely fail without her. Where she could be annoying, cloying or twee, she’s instead infectiously charming, and so the film is with her. It might not be technically ‘acting’ in the traditional sense, but damn it if you don’t absolutely fall for her. She’s utterly lovely.

Equally wonderful is the aforementioned score. 29 year old mash-up artist Girl Talk (Greg Gillis) has created something here which is downright remarkable in its own right, but when set against the visuals of the film it becomes so much more. Painstakingly crafted from literally hundreds of samples (I’m not kidding; full list here http://illegal-art.net/allday/samples.html), it’s a borderline work of art. There were moments where particular cues virtually had me laughing at either their audacity, or their ingenuity (including one moment featuring Peter Gabriel’s ‘In Your Eyes’ that I was so delighted at, it almost had me in tears), and by combining this sonic masterpiece with the non-stop joy of Krupnick’s vision, the result is something quite unlike you’ve ever seen before.

So stop what you’re doing. Go to http://www.girlwalkallday.com, and watch this marvellous experience for yourself. The whole thing is up there, in chapters. Alternatively, check the site and see if there’ll be a screening near you. Whatever you do, see it on the biggest screen you can, with as many people as possible. Then head on over to http://illegal-art.net/allday/ and get your hands on the soundtrack, absolutely free. Talk about it. Support it. The film as yet has no distribution, but deserves it entirely.

I am gaga for this film. No hyperbole. Completely head over heels. There’s not a moment of cynicism or snark in the entirety of its all-too-brief runtime, and when I was asked for a sound-bite on-camera when it finished, I said without a word of a lie, “My face hurts from smiling”. That’s all it wants to do. Make you smile.

There are three lines of dialogue in the entire film, all subtitled, when The Girl is dancing down a street behind two Hasidic Jewish men. The exchange is as follows.

“Why are you dancing?”

“I’m dancing because I am happy.”

“You should always be happy.”

It’s been four days since I saw this gem. And I absolutely still am.

10/10