July 12, 2013

J-Q of the Ashes


Jardine, Douglas. The England captain who devised bodyline to restrict Bradman in the 1930’s. Bradman still averaged in the mid-50’s. England won the Ashes. Everyone went home happy, except the Australians. 

James Anderson. The England cricket team’s Tom Cruise. Shares a first name with Mr. Bond. Is as devastating as Dale Steyn when the ball is swinging. Used to be just as useless when it is not.  Has saved two Tests for England with his third best skill – batting. One of them was the Ashes Test at Cardiff in 2009, with Monty Panesar at the other end. Australians from that team, please eat your hearts out. 

Jaded. What England's leading spinner Graeme Swann a.k.a never is. Even when a number eleven - albeit one with a back lift uncannily reminiscent of Yuvraj Singh and three first class fifties - lofts him for two sixes. Also what an irrepressible South African-born England right-hander (see (K)) used to feel when the country versus IPL question came up. Now he is sufficiently "reintegrated" into the team, as evident from Andrew Strauss' commentary yesterday.

(Joker. The late Australian actor Heath Ledger's terrifying opposite number to Brit Christian Bale's (American) batman in the appetiser to the 2009 Ashes, The Dark Knight. Batman rose again but the Joker got the Oscar.) 


Let us talk about Kevin (Pietersen). South African by birth. And spelling. England cricketer. Troubled genius. Troublesome thirty-two year old kid. On his day he can be devastating, as he showed in his debut Ashes in 2005 (and has shown many times afterwards). On his day he can leave himself and his team devastated. His brain used to freeze, until recently, when his eyes spotted anyone who carried a ball in his left-hand. Once sent some text messages that almost ruined his international career. Does not have an ugly batting style, but a tolerable one. 

Kryptonite. What Australian bowlers might need to dislodge captain Cook once he gets a start.

Katich, Simon. Former left-handed opening batsman who averaged in the mid-forties in his 56-Test stint for Australia. Well-known for a stance that was part Gary Kirsten, part Chanderpaul and, therefore, fully dangerous for the visual health of watchers. Less known for his solitary Ashes hundred before England escaped at Cardiff in 2009 (see (C) and (J))).  


Lord’s cricket ground, the home (a.k.a 'Mecca') of cricket, the prestigious Marylebone Cricket Club and the Middlesex county (which once fielded the elegant, the locally rapacious, the internationally frustrating, Mark Ramprakash). Hereabouts grey-haired gentlemen in grey suits applaud boundaries and wickets in an 1800's rhythm that makes English rain and a run rate of less than one per over sound more enthusiastic. 

Lonely. How a young cricket fan used to grandstanding (or Virat Kohli), generously foul vocabulary and dancing will feel when he watches the second Ashes Test that starts on July 18 at Lord’s.

Lawry, Bill. Also known as “the man who talks nothing like he batted” (in my mind). And he batted, from what I hear, a little like the Don of death-to-bowlers using the forward defensive, Geoffrey Boycott. Was wrong-handed unlike Boycs who was right-handed. Averaged a Boycott-esque forty seven nonetheless. Aggregated over 5000 Test runs. Seven of Lawry’s thirteen tons came in the Ashes. Which is more than Boycott’s ton-tally against the Australians. (Aside: Lawry also delivers more minutes a word than Boycott does on commentary).


McGrath, Glenn. Could not move the ball an inch or bowl fast on most days. Remains test cricket’s fourth highest wicket-taker. Carries the nickname Pidge. Predicted the drubbing of England in every Ashes series during his playing days, and was right except on one occasion. Directs the MRF Pace Academy in Chennai these days. Probably realises that his chances of making it as a specialist no. 11 batsman in the Australian squad are all but over after Ashon Agar's 98 yesterday. 

Michael Atherton: A Test opener who was all British in grit and grumpiness. Once made 185* to save a Test at Johannesburg against Donald & Co. Nicked off McGrath’s deliveries to slips far too often, his final innings included, like many opening batsmen of his age. Attended Cambridge University and is now in the commentary box

Merv Hughes: Known as ‘big Merv’, one wonders if the avuncular Australian had one big Mac too many during his time. Clearly, the Jesser Ryder of his time - Jarrod Kimber would approve. Hughes is, perhaps, more famous for his mustache than the fact that he played a third of his Test matches against the Englishmen. Was a handy bowler like David Boon was a handy batsman. Ended up with 212 Test wickets, which is more than what Thommo (Jeff Thomson) got.


Nineties. The decade which saw the clash of the Australian titan Brendon Julian, who bowled left-arm fast medium, with English demi-god Philip Tufnell, who bowled quick-ish left-arm spin. Tuffers got a seven-for in a Test (against New Zealand). Julian made 56* in only his second Test, against England. The match was drawn. 

Also the ten-run sequence that makes batsmen nervous (unless the batsman responds to the name Virendar Sehwag). Michael Slater and Australia's Captain Tough (see (W)) managed nineteen score between 90 and 99 between them in Tests.

Naught: The number of Ashes series the Australians have won this decade. Also, the number of Ashes that England won between 1990 and 2005. Also the number of people who will not watch the Ashes on illegal streams in countries where cricket is not on the telly. Also the percentage of trust Mickey Arthur will feel towards Cricket Australia after his sacking. 

No love lost: An idiom allegedly coined to describe the relationship between Australian and England cricketers as well as the fans of the two cricket teams. Also one of a few possible descriptions of the twitter hashtag #Pontingface and the face behind it (see (P)).


(The) Oval, short for Kia Oval (formerly Kennington Oval). Name of the cricket ground in London which will host the last Test of the ongoing Ashes series. As good a batting track as you can hope to see in England. Not to be confused with Kensington Oval in Barbados, which is far from the best batting track you will hope to find in the West Indies. Even without Holding, Ambrose, Walsh and Garner around. 

October. The tenth month of the year. A period when England and Australia’s domestic cricket calendars are sparsely populated. A period when the team that loses the ongoing Ashes in England will begin to plan for the return campaign when the oldest cricket show hits Downunder in December. That team may well be England or Australia.   

Owl. A nocturnal bird which is carnivorous. Also Ashes aficionados in England and Australia who stay up late to follow ‘away’ Ashes Test matches. 

(O: Not the sound used to refer to zero in cricket. 'Blob', 'duck', 'naught', 'no score' and 'without troubling the scorers' are preferred. That last one is a Shastri-ism, so we will not be hearing it at the Ashes. Thankfully).


Ricky Ponting. Him the world loves to hate and hates to love (even more than his look-alike George W. Bush). Former cricket captain of Australia. Arguably the second best batsman in Australia's cricketing history. Only gent, well, bloke, in world cricket to have been part of a hundred Test victories. Set up many of them with his ferocious pulls and hooks. Still had the technical skill to grind out a match-saving Ashes ton at Old Trafford in 2005. Still lost that Ashes and two more. In between, whitewashed England 5-0 with the help of McGrath and a blonde leg-spin legend (see (W)) in their final series. People remember him as a decent captain who presided over some great teams. Or for the cheekiest grin in the business. It was a punter's grin all right.

Pretty: Not the adjective you would use to describe the batting of the current England top three (Cook, Root and Trott) or the previous top three (Cook, Compton and Trott) or the one before (Cook, Strauss and Trott). Not the adjective you would use to describe (m)any Australian left-handers. Or the trio of Gary Kirsten, Graeme Smith and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Not the complexion of Ponting’s palm after all the spittle that has gone into it. Not the word you would use to describe the (leg side stroke play of the) Michelangelo of Australian batting, Mark Edward Waugh who debuted in the 1991 Ashes with a ton because elegant is more like it.

Peter Roebuck. The late British writer whose cricket- writing was all poetry, compassion, sunshine humour and life. Found issue with the attitude of the all-conquering Australian teams of the last decade, particularly their captain Ponting. Piscean, and need it be said, with the-foot-in-the-mouth syndrome. Defied a visiting Australian team to score a first-class ton for Somerset. Could not, sadly, manage the same defiance in life. 


Quiney, Rob.  Included here because he is an Australian, has a surname that starts with Q and is not in the Ashes squad currently playing in England. Also because he has a scarcely believable Test average of 3.00 and a highest score of 9 as a proper batsman. Admittedly, after two Tests.

Quit. It is what losers do (according to those who think they are not losers), and the mighty Australian team of the late 1990’s and the noughties seldom did. 

Quizzical. An understated description of the look on England bowler Stuart Broad’s face when he is denied a leg before appeal: only because the ball was pitching out side the left-hander’s leg stump, might have just clipped said jump if it had not bounced so much. 

Quiet The Australian crowd before Ashton Agar’s rearguard yesterday. The England crowd and team during the course of Ashton Agar’s 98  yesterday. Phil Hughes’ critics after this Ashes if he bats the way he did in the first innings.(And me, in the face of the brickbats I will receive for this post.)


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