Posts Tagged ‘Gideon Haigh’

Following the Ashes

4 December 2010

The arrival of a new Ashes series always sends me in search of Gideon Haigh, who is probably the best cricket journalist currently writing in English: informative, insightful, illuminating, measured, and with a keen sense of the game’s history and wider context. As in 2009, he’s covering the series for the Australian Business Spectator (free but needs registration). So far he’s hit his usual heights. Here are some extracts from the first two days play at Adelaide.

From Day One, which started a few hours after the FIFA World Cup debacle in Zurich:

Misery loves company, and there is something consoling about tradition too: no matter how many brown paper bags change hands at FIFA, Australia and England will always have each other. So there was something rather warming and reassuring about the preparatory rites of the Second Test: all rise for the national anthem, and let’s salute the red, white, blue and green, the last provided by the Milo munchkins, lined up to mix their corporate message with the patriotic ones.

Day One again, with Ponting coming in at 0-1 with Katich run out in the first over without facing a ball:

Early losses are one thing; self-inflicted wounds another. Katich’s was the sort of death by misadventure that rocks a dressing room, still to seat itself comfortably, still to obtain itself the first cups of tea, maybe still straining to detect early movement on television. Passing a batsman yet to face a ball was certainly not the manner in which Ponting would have imagined batting in his 150th Test.

From Day Two, on Andrew Strauss’ early dismissal after leaving the ball:

Because it is necessarily exploratory, opening the batting is full of such infinitesimal judgements. Strauss could even claim that his non-shot selection was vindicated by Hawk-Eye, which mysteriously pronounced that the delivery would barely have grazed the target. But leaving on length – as Strauss also did to the first ball of the second innings in Brisbane – is frankly better left until a proper evaluation of bounce is made, particularly when one is unfamiliar with the bowler, as Strauss is with Bollinger.

And on Trott’s narrow escape from being run out early in his innings:

Cook turned his partner sternly back, and the fielder at mid-wicket was a left-hander, Doherty, who had to run around the ball before collecting it, and his necessarily hurried throw missed the stumps. When the ball is new and hard, and the ball is likelier to travel square than straight, mid-wicket should really be right-handed: Trott the fielder would have comfortably run Trott the batsman out.

When you read the columns for extracts such as these, you notice two things. The first is how well written they are, with considered sentences and carefully structured syntax. The second is that I could have picked four or five, each as interesting as those above: on Cook’s batting style, on Pietersen playing spinners, on Ponting’s vulnerabilities early in his innings. There is depth along with the richness. Enjoy.

The portrait of Gideon Haigh at the top of this post is from Melbourne Cricket Club, and is used with thanks.

Long distance cricket

2 October 2009

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I followed most of the Ashes, the one-dayers against Australia, and the Champions Trophy games via the ball by ball coverage on cricinfo, so I was amused to read an account of the so-called ‘synthetic broadcasts’ constructed by the Australian broadcaster ABC to cover the Ashes in Australia in 1934 and 1938. (I’m indebted to Gideon Haigh’s excellent book Inside Out for this).

A panel of broadcasters convened in the studios in Sydney and reported more or less as live the ball-by-ball information sent by means of coded telegrams by Eric Scholl at the Test match grounds. Sound effects were provided by a pencil and a block of wood; crowd noises came from a gramophone record. The listening public was enthralled, staying up to listen until the small hours of the morning. Employers complained.

And how unlike the coverage on cricinfo, much as I depend on it in the absence of a Sky Sports subscription. Reading between the lines of some of the summer coverage, they have a team of writers based in Melbourne, who watch the television coverage and transcribe it into ball by ball updates. In 70 years we’ve updated the technology but the method seems all but identical. Cricinfo, it should be said, does have a journalist at the ground. He (almost invariably he) feeds colour into the ball-by-ball commentary from time, but his main role is to write the Bulletin, the analysis pieces at the end of each session of play. To describe the action, it doesn’t really matter where you are; to understand it, well, you still have to be there.

Gideon Haigh on the Ashes

10 July 2009

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The Australian journalist Gideon Haigh is probably the best living cricket writer, certainly in English, and during 2005 we had the luxury in England of having him write a column in The Guardian – later edited, quickly, into one of the best books on that epic series.

Sadly, the advertising downturn means that there’s not a repeat performance for this year’s series. Happily, though, the internet means that we can still access his coverage is Australia’s Business Spectator (and if that seems strange, it’s worth noting that Haigh also wrote, pre-crash, one of the best books on the dizzying corporate greed of the last 20 years).

Here’s a couple of good moments from his coverage so fa, three days into the first Test of the five-match series:

From his preview (which also includes a characteristic flourish about Churchill and the Dardanelles):

The five-test series was for a century the standard unit of international cricket rivalry.  Now it is only played by the format’s pioneers over the course of Ashes.  Late last year, England played West Indies in a Twenty20 match that lasted less than three hours for a grubstake of $US20 million.  For England to now spend seven weeks playing Australia mainly for honour and glory seems almost unpardonably decadent.

On Pietersen’s dismissal by the Australian  spinner Hauritz in England’s first innings:

The beneficiary of Pietersen’s largesse was a deserving one: Nathan Hauritz, said so often not to be Shane Warne that he must sometimes feel like issuing a pre-emptive public apology.  Hauritz would have been an onlooker had Brett Lee maintained fitness, and still seems to lack the variation necessary to prosper at the top level.  But the delivery in question could hardly have been improved on, drifting away toward slip and dragging Pietersen so wide that he almost ended up on the neighbouring pitch.

And on Hughes’ dismissal by Flintoff in Australia’s first innings:

Taller, stronger, Flintoff’s first over to Hughes almost justified his selection on its own, five deliveries from round the wicket bouncing sternum-high, a sixth veering past the outside edge, bowler following through down the pitch with his jolly jacktar’s swagger.  The ball hit Prior’s gloves with a satisfying whack rather than the clang that sometimes emanates from them.  Hughes was in Year 10 when Flintoff made the Ashes of 2005 his own: this must have been like living out a still-fresh schoolboy fantasy.

More daily at the Business Spectator.

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