Wait until next year

Putting off what could be done tomorrow, today

Tag: australia

Sleeping with Geoffrey Boycott

Sydney, Ashes series in Australia, 2011So, England win the Ashes! In Australia! Winning by an innings on three separate occasions! This is indeed English cricketing heaven. If you want a great overview of England’s dominance of Australia, then do read blogoholic Tim’s fine Ashes in Numbers post. If, after that, you want to read me rambling on about it, then read on! Read the rest of this entry »

Kevin Howells: An unlikely and unheralded Ashes hero

The AshesSo, the good people of England are very excited that their cricket team is actually doing really rather well. For English cricket fans, it doesn’t get a whole lot better than trouncing the Australians in their own backyard. After two games of a five game series, England are 1-0 up (the first Test was a draw), and *whisper it* look like they just might be strong enough to win their first Ashes series in Australia since 1986/7. Read the rest of this entry »

Why being in the World Cup Group of Death need not be a bad thing

Incredibly out-of-date post shocker! Last Friday saw the draw for next summer’s World Cup. I won’t go into a group-by-group preview just yet, although I will say England got off with an awfully easy draw. No disrespect to the USA, Algeria and Slovenia, but if England fail to qualify for the second phase I’ll eat my hat.

However, not every nation got off so likely. As in every major international football tournament draw, talk inevitably fell to that old reliable subject, “What group is the Group of Death?”. What was the toughest group, with the strongest sides and the best chance to see a contender knocked out in the first round?

This World Cup we have two contenders. Group D pits Germany against Australia, Ghana and Serbia, while Group G sees Brazil face Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea. Whatever way you look at it, those groups are tough. But is it the end of world? Far from it.

I’d like to say that I’ve undertaken a rigorous statistical exercise, but I can’t lie to you folks. I just looked up Group of Death on Wikipedia (since edited, sadly), and unearthed (or is that over-egging the pudding?) something interesting. Should a country survive the so-called Group of Death, they stand a pretty good chance of progressing well in the competition, if not winning it all.

In 2006 Italy had to get past Ghana, the Czech Republic and the United States. That they did, and then they went on to win the World Cup. In years gone by Argentina in 1978, Brazil in 1970, England in 1966 and Brazil in 1958 all negotiated incredibly difficult groups on their way to winning the World Cup. So, for every major side that has failed to survive (Argentina in 2002, Spain in 1998), there is a side that has gone on and prospered.

I’d suggest that this is perhaps the footballing equivalent of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. If a team qualifies from a tough group it is already primed and ready for truly competitive football. Playing against other strong sides is a much better preparation for knock-out football than playing a minnow. What better way to build momentum?

And so, and boy am I going out on a limb here, don’t be surprised if Brazil do well next summer. And Germany too. Hah! You don’t get insight like that anywhere else, eh?

Sunday in the garden, listening to the Ashes

It’s a beautiful day today. It could get a whole lot better as the Ashes edges towards its conclusion. It could also get pretty tense. Today I’ll be sat in my garden, enjoying the sun and trying to enjoy the cricket, listening to Test Match Special. For such an important day’s play you need the BBC to guide you, reassure you. Maybe if the game swings England’s way I’ll feel safe enough to indulge Sky’s images and flashy gadgets, but not just yet.

Australia have been set a world-record chase – they would essentially have to put in the best fourth innings batting performance ever to win. This should be a cause for optimism, but makes the inner English pessimist in me even more worried. It’s one thing to lose the Ashes, it’s quite another to lose to a record-breaking (read: heart-breaking) effort. And one of the first things any England supporter learns is to never count out the Aussies. Two days to win the Ashes. Two days to see them agonisingly slip away. This is what sport is all about. I can’t wait.

Test Match Special

I’m off work, but can’t really justify, from a waistline and financial point-of-view, five whole days in a pub watching the Ashes. However, my trusty freeview box does offer the ‘red button’ option to listen to the BBC Test Match Special commentary, with an accompanying scorecard.

There’s part of me that thinks this is how cricket should be followed anyway. For such a lenghty and thoughtful game, radio seems the perfect medium, allowing the commentators time to ruminate not just about the action at hand, but paint pictures of the whole scene and articulate the ebb and flow of a five-day event. It also allows the listener to dip in and out of the game, and to carry on with ‘real life’ while the game progresses in the background.

I’ll no doubt dip into pubs now and again over the next five days and catch the odd session, but I’ll be relying on the radio, the internet, my phone and overheard conversations in order to keep up-to-date. A strange variety of media to keep up on a sporting event, but over five days anyone following the Ashes needs to be pretty inventive, resourceful and adaptable to keep up. And that is half the fun.

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