England Find Secret Weapon

Those England cricketers who’d had the decency to see out the whole tour received a boost yesterday. Spied amongst the MCG crowd were some of the traveling supporters sporting new {and extremely reasonably priced) garb to cheer on their boys.

“Those shirts definitely made a difference to the way we played to” Said Alastair Cook, a part time estate agent from Rhyl (no relation).

Swanny fvcks off. New T-shirts arrive. England have best day of tour. Coincidence ? You be the judge. Shirts (available in the foyer and from all good stockists.)

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Swann Upping Stumps

Graeme Swann_0With the wit, professionalism & loyalty usually found in Premier League footballers, the timing of an oil tanker and the charm of a panzer division, the once-loved and admired Graeme Swann has quit English cricket, leaving a sorry bunch of former colleagues in the lurch, left to shore-up and salvage what they can from the present disaster that is the Ashes Tour.

“When the going gets tough” — a phrase not remotely applicable here. It has long and often been documented here that the cheeky chappies of the famous English Ashes-winning sides become a less savoury bunch when they aren’t steamrolling the oppo. As Corporal Jones would say “They Don’t Like It Up ‘Em” .

If only he’d had the grace to retire once the tour was over — or preferably before it had begun.

Graeme is survived by the memory of his petulance and the nasty taste in the mouth of his rape “jokes”.

(Appearing soon in a Sky TV commentary booth near you.)

Just Warming Up

I hate training. I always did. All that stretching off, press-ups, squat-thrusts, jogging around the pitch, unopposed drills. Yuk, awful. I suspect my lack of enthusiasm for training sessions was the one and only reason I never got my England cap. Yes, that’s definitely the reason.

Training sessions, in my limited but painful experience, are invariably held on a cold, wet Tuesday night and involve someone shouting at you for an hour and a half while you forward-roll and burpee your way around the pitch until your head thumps, or someone gives you a slap because you were either tackling too hard or not hard enough. Meanwhile all your mates who had to ‘work late’ or are ‘injured’ are in the clubhouse seeing the ‘physio’ or having ‘one’ ‘shandy’.

Actually, I was pretty good at that . There’s no more satisfying pint of beer than the one you have as you look out of the clubhouse bar at those assorted idiots on the training field going through beep tests and star jumps.

This five-minute fad of keeping fit can be quite annoying. The aforementioned lycra nazis mince around with their inexplicable air of superiority. Joggers in the street sweat past you under the impression that they own the pavement, with a self-satisfied “look at me” importance only rivalled by new mothers pushing a buggy into your shins.

That bunch who arrive back in the office at about 1.50 every afternoon, stinking, red-faced and drenched, unable to breath as they complete their lunchtime jog around the block- what’s all that about? If I came out of a pub looking like that I’d never go in one again.  I dunno if they actually expect a round of applause for their efforts but by the way they look at you, iPod in ears and water bottle in hand as they collapse over the office furniture, you’d have thought that they’d just discovered radium. FUCK OFF AND STOP DRIPPING ON MY DESK.

The Incumbent takes herself off to the local gym every morning. I dunno what she’s training for and given that every single morning she announces that it hurt, I haven’t the foggiest idea why she does it to herself. I’m unlikely to announce that I’m taking out for a 10k run at the weekend, so why does she put herself through it? My mate – let’s call him Paul (even though his real name’s Martin)- joined the local fitness club purely to watch women bounce around on the treadmill. Now that I understand, although I did point out there were cheaper ways to look at lithe, young women’s bodies (I’m typing on one now).

Having said all that, I am in preparation for the big event next week. The imminent England vrs Australia cricket series starts next Wednesday, but coverage doesn’t start til 11pm and goes on through the night.  Considering these days I like to be tucked up in bed by no later that 9.30 I need to acclimatise myself to match conditions. As I write, half the England team are in Brisbane, training in tropical conditions in readiness for the five-day match which will test all their physical and mental abilities. Nothing can prepare your body for the shock of playing sport in the extreme heat of the tropics, especially if you come from Manchester, Leeds or Nottingham, so the english bowlers have arrived a week in advance to give themselves half a chance of getting used to the sapping conditions.

My preparations will be no less calculated. My plan for Wednesday is to get myself down to the local pub for about 2pm, armed to the teeth with the daily papers. I shall order a pint and sit by a window and read every sports section available. At some stage I shall order a light lunch: steak and kidney pie or fish n chips. No more than four drinks shall be ordered (unless I have company then a sensible cut-off time will be deemed).

Late afternoon I shall waddle off down the hill to Railway Cuttings to the comfort of my bed or sofa (dependent on Columbo being on tv). Having checked carefully the last delivery time for Dominos Pizza (do they open through the night?) I shall snuggle down and sleep, hopefully for three or four hours. Alarm or no alarm, I hope to wake at around 1030, in plenty of time to enjoy the coverage of the match. Then I’ll simply repeat the above for the next five days.

Of course I will drop off to sleep again eventually, but this is the best plan I can come up with without reverting to chemical help to keep me awake. I’m so excited about the series I may just explode if I was to come within a nostril hair of any stimulants. No jogging kit will be donned, no sweatband worn. No hamstrings will be pulled, and even my dodgy achilles tendons can stand up to rigours of walking to the pub.

I’ll be ready. And so will the English team. Hopefully.

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Taking My Eye Off The Ball

A note from The Ed: This piece was written back in 2010, as it happens, a couple of years before what I thought was my first significant stroke (which I seem to have completely recovered from). It now appears that what I was undergoing in this instance below was my real first stroke, albeit a mini-stroke, as my Doc calls them. I clearly had no idea at the time, and treated it with some mirth. Be warned. The Ed. 2014—


It was 31.7 Degrees Celsius in Gravesend yesterday. That’s 89 in old money. And the infallible BBC weather service informs me that today will be similarly toasty. Frankly I’m a little concerned. No, I’m not planning to go to Gravesend today, as lovely as it is, and I’m not further demonstrating the Great British obsession with the weather. No, I’m worried about me.

I’m off to play cricket today somewhere north of London and, let’s be honest, 89 degrees is far too hot for someone like me to be running around a field, playing a game like that. A few weeks ago, during one of this summer’s previous heatwaves, I had to excuse myself from the field of play as I suddenly went blind. I’d been ‘charging’ in, doing my thang, trying to knock the batsmen’s heads off, and it was hot work, I can tell you. In between overs, for every bottle of water I drank, two were poured over my head.

After half an hour-or-so of this, I was standing in the outfield, watching my bowling partner toil away in the stifling conditions, and preparing myself to bowl again when things started going all hours-yer-father. With my hands on my knees, sweating audibly, and vainly attempting to get enough air into either lungs to enable me to emit a whimper, I looked towards the batsmen in case the ball was coming in my direction. It was then I had my Donald Pleasence moment: I couldn’t see a bloody thing. My sight was pixelated in my left eye and a complete blur in my right. When you’re standing 20 yards from a man hitting cricket balls around the park, it’s best, I always find, to have both minces in full working order, lest one of the aforementioned missiles hurtles in your direction.

Now I’ve made my leave from a sporting field for many many reasons- broken bones, pulled muscles, drunkenness to name but a few, but going blind was a new one on me. I waved in the vague direction of the skipper, who having suppressed a titter, led me from the arena, like a man leads his 90 year old myopic mum into a nursing home. I was clearly not well. More water was poured over my head, litres of Dioralyte were drunk until, eventually, my sight returned. (It says on the dioralyte packets they should be taken after “each loose bowel movement”, which means I ought to have been drinking it every half hour for the past 30 years.)

Now I’m not a doctor (no, really, I’m not), and I don’t know if my temporary loss of HD was due to the oppressive conditions, the rather convivial week I’d sent in the boozer the night before, or indeed the Chicken Chili Masala I’d devoured just hours before the match. Whatever it was, it rather scared me. And true to form, my preparation for this week’s sporting encounter has followed a similar path. I even ache typing this, so god knows how I’m gonna feel in three hours time when I’m asked to weave my magic with bat and ball. I do know it’s gonna hurt. I can’t make my mind up if this is a post or a last will and testament.

So forgive me if it all goes quiet over here. I don’t have BUPA and I’m not sure what the broadband speed is like at St Albans General Hospital. So I post this in the hope the skipper is reading and takes pity on me. I’d happily stand under the shade of a tree on the boundary, breaking sweat only to clap a wicket or an incoming batsmen. I fear, though, he’ll toss the ball to me and ask me to bustle into the wicket all afternoon until I drop. Perhaps I’ll be saved and the match will be rained off and we can spend all afternoon in the boozer ? The weatherman says it’s gonna be a scorcher, and I’m hoping they are up to their usual, useless accuracy.

So pray for me, pray for rain, or pray I bowl so badly that the captain takes me off after one over. My pride will be dented, but at least I’ll survive to see the match tomorrow.

He Just Couldn’t Quite Get His Leg Over

I can’t better this today. Graeme Swann rules.

From The Times September 24, 2009

India coach encourages sex before matches.
Richard Hobson, Deputy Cricket Correspondent, Johannesburg

It used to be said that sexual intercourse close to a sporting event sapped energy. But India’s players have been advised otherwise in a confidential document written by their coach that effectively tells them to boost their performances on the field by hopping into action off it.

The four-part paper written by Gary Kirsten, who has helped India to become the leading one-day side in the world, became the talk of the Champions Trophy yesterday as a taboo subject was thrust into the open. The relevant chapter is headlined “Does sex increase performance?” and the answer is explicit: “Yes it does, so go ahead and indulge.”

Kirsten’s reasoning is that sex increases levels of testosterone, which leads to greater strength, aggression and competitiveness. “Conversely, not having sex for a period of a few months causes a significant drop in testosterone levels in both males and females, with the corresponding passiveness and decrease in aggression,” he writes.

Andrew Strauss, the England captain, was caught unawares when an Indian television reporter asked him directly about “sexual practices” within the squad. “I don’t think it has come up in any of our dossiers ever,” Strauss, oblivious to his own double entendre, said. “I am not sure it is likely to either.”

Graeme Swann described the idea of more sex as “the kind of forward thinking the game needs”. The England bowler said: “I assume he [Kirsten] does not mean within the team. Wives and partners must be involved. If they [the ICC] want to make the game more exciting, fly in the wives and girlfriends or other parties to improve the standard of cricket.”

Mike Hussey, the Australia batsman, was more rueful. “I have been away from home for four months so I reckon I’ve forgotten how to do it,” he said. Hussey may, then, be interested in the part of the document that reads: “If you want sex but do not have someone to share it with, one option is to go solo whilst imagining you have a partner, or a few partners, who are as beautiful as you wish to imagine. No pillow talk and no hugging required. Just roll over and go to sleep.”

Advice is also that enforced celibacy affects performance. “You may experience that your mind spends more time focusing on the fire in your groin than on good sport practice, preparation and sleep,” the dossier says.

Dispersed to all 15 members of the squad, it quotes Tim Noakes, a professor and sports scientist at the University of Cape Town, as saying: “Sex was not a problem, but being up till 2am, probably having a few drinks at a bar while trying to pick someone up, on the eve of a game, almost always was.”

And it seems like the perfect opportunity to listen to this again: