Play has been abandoned for the day
“Having seen Viv’s 56-ball century and Lara’s 375 eight years later, I put Viv ahead,” says Adam Roberts. “But I have a blind spot where IVA Richards is concerned. I was pleased to see Gary Naylor’s email about OT in 1981 as I thought as Botham walked off that the light looked terrible (see how bright the lights on the scoreboard were). Two other thoughts – we are so spoiled these days with TV coverage, and nice to see the old pavilion before it was desecrated.”
“Headingley does have an on-site hotel, called Headingley Lodge, but it’s only got 36 rooms and no restaurant,” says Romeo. “They do a room service breakfast. It’s what you see at midwicket when the bowling’s from the Rugby Stand end, so opposite the Western Terrace.”
“The dirty little secret of those of us were there on the Saturday of the Old Trafford Test in 1981 is that we barely saw it,” says Gary Naylor. “The ground was never the easiest at which to sight the ball and the clouds were so Caspar David Friedrich dark that the ball was impossible to follow as His Royal Beefness hooked and drove. ‘Where’s that gone?’ is always nice to hear when your side is batting.”
Unless you’re talking about the off stump.
In defence of Tav
“I am having the occasional glance here from Melbourne to see if there is any play,” writes Rocket Rocket. “And I have seen people having a go at Chris Tavare. Right then.
“I remember in the famous 1982/83 Ashes series that he played a very slow innings opening in Perth (just checked – 89 in 466 minutes facing 337 deliveries, 9 boundaries). I can remember an Australian commentator on radio or TV (can’t remember for sure who it was so don’t want to out them) saying something like, ‘I cannot imagine what possible enjoyment Chris Tavare could be getting from batting this way.’ I was still playing cricket and immediately thought, ‘I think I would quite enjoy opening for my country and making useful runs.’
“Anyway certain elements in the press seemed to have it in for him. So when he came in at No3 after an early wicket at the MCG in the fourth Test my family were sort of hoping he’d do well (but obviously not well enough to win the game for England!). He started pretty brightly and I can still remember that the crowd in the ‘outer’ gave him very generous applause – I think everyone knew he was being somewhat unfairly scapegoated by the media. He ended up making 89 in 247 minutes from 165 deliveries and 15 boundaries, just about exactly twice as fast as the Perth effort. Without his innings England would have struggled to make 200 rather than 284 in a game they ended up winning by three runs. I wish he’d made 100 that day just to annoy that supercilious commentator. From Melbourne 37 years later we say, ‘Well done Tav.’
“And though we have had some better news today in locked-down Melbourne regarding Covid-19, we realise that our position is nothing like most places in the world, and our hearts go out to everyone especially in the countries that make up the ‘cricket world’. May we all get through this, and get to a time again where our main concern is people complaining about slow batting!”
Well, Mr Rocket Rocket, your enjoyment of that 89 at Melbourne was shared by the world’s greatest cricket writer.
“Hi Rob, are you ever not doing an MBM?” says Yas. “I’m fairly sure Headingley has an on-site hotel, though it could be adjacent.”
Ah yes, you’re right. In lieu of a clue, I must refer you all to the ECB’s independent Host Venue Panel (HVP).
Ian Botham, Old Trafford, 1981
“Yeah,” says Adrian Riley (see 2.56pm), “we got to see his first-innings golden duck.”
It’s still raining in Manchester. I don’t think I’m betraying state secrets to suggest there will be no play today. We’re just waiting for a play to be officially abandoned for the day.
“King Viv and The Prince of Port of Spain?” muses Gary Naylor. “It’s hard to separate them. Viv was psychologically more dominant, 21 players and millions of spectators bent to his will; Brian was more pure batting genius, each ball a mere invitation for him to hit it where he pleased.”
It’s also hard to compare them because of the teams in which they played. Would Viv’s dominant strut have survived a decade in a crap team? What would Lara have averaged in the 1980s West Indies side? That said, based on everything I’ve seen and read, I’d put Viv ahead by a Mike Gatting nose.
“I saw Chris Tavare bat almost all of the first day of the Old Trafford Test v Australia in 1981,” writes Adrian Riley. “He got 69 off 193 balls. The biggest cheer of the day was when he was out just before the close. Disappointed to have missed his second innings effort, 78 off 289. But England won so I guess it was worth it.”
His second innings was definitely worth watching – it included a free Lord Beefy masterpiece.
Sky are filling some time by replaying an old interview/masterclass with Brian Lara. There are so many brilliant attacking batsmen these days that it’s easy to forget how special Lara was; I just missed peak Viv, so he is the greatest batting genius I’ve seen.
Here’s Dave Rogers on the all important subject of Dom Sibley.
There was a young cricketer called Sibley
Who inspired lots of lyrics quite glibly.
They just rolled off the tongue
Like the words of a song
Words written in haste, far too quickly.
For when Dom came to bat it was early,
And his task was to sell wicket dearly.
He got on with the job.
He did not make a blob.
So to knock his performance is surly.
“I remember being livid that they should EVER play Test matches at Old Trafford after the rain-interrupted Ashes Test in 2005,” says Niall Mullen. “Funnily, I didn’t feel the same way about Cardiff four years later.”
You’re still claiming the 2005 Ashes actually happened, then?
“Hi Rob,” says Romeo. “The whole thing is possible only because of the on-site hotels. Pakistan play two matches at the Bowl and one at OT, so they each get three, which seems fair enough.”
Yep, agreed. I’m pretty sure those are the only two Test grounds in England with hotels.
“I’m catching up with the day’s OBO from here in the USA,” says Brian. “I have to say that it seems a little unfair of Wisden to have the one list for slow scoring which apparently combines the batsmen who were playing an innings under ‘normal’ circumstances with those who were just trying to stay there to save a match. Surely an enormous difference?”
An enormous difference, yes, but also a subjective one. I’m not sure you can or should make that distinction in a factual list.
“To compare Sibley with his slow-scoring counterparts, can we find out how many balls each faced, how many were dots and therefore how many scoring strokes were made to reach 100?” asks John Bains. “Sibley faced 372 balls, but probably scored his runs from around 70 strokes (he only hit five fours).”
Alas, CricViz was not around in the days of Bailey and Boycott. That said, I do like the idea of a boundary-laden, 372-ball hundred.
“I’ve spent the last two days in my garden in Kent in near 30-degrees sunshine, perplexed by the weather situation in Manchester,” says Ross. “Given that no fans can attend anyway, would it not have made sense to host all the games in the south to limit the weather risk? And I was raised further north than Manchester before I get accused of southern bias…”
I failed my biosecurity GCSE, so don’t quote me on this, but I think they wanted to play the Tests at grounds that had hotels on site. I assume it would have been impossible to prepare three different pitches at the Ageas Bowl (I failed my chemistry GCSE, so don’t quote me on that either). And I’m not sure the weather is that different up north, is it? Only 17.4 overs were possible on the first day of the first Test.
“Was that sausage Cummings fined and warned about his future conduct for his hill-based eye-test?” asks Ian Copestake. “Of course not. I hope Beefy brings that up in the other Lords.”
We all know what Beefy thinks about the system.
If you’re in urgent need of live sport, Brentford could be two games away from the Premier League.
“During rain delays in the 1980s we played indoor cricket in the tiny, narrow hall in our wee council house,” says Paul McGrory. “ Size 2 bat, tennis ball and the Yellow Pages for stumps. Four runs for hitting the radiator, on the stairs for six. My brother – seven at the time – and myself (five) still have to listen to my Dad crow about his unbeaten 300 one long, long afternoon.”
“Waking up (in Utah) to the news that it’s raining at Old Trafford was pure joy,” says David Farrelly. “Things feel normal for the first time in ages. Probably this feeling will not last, but the whiff of times past was rather pleasant. Nostalgia, who dares speak thy name!”
“‘Botham will be at home wearing ermine and spouting the same reactionary guff as those around him,’” begins Paul Roome, quoting Max Harrison’s email at 12.28pm. “Exhibit A your honour…”
The weather forecast is better for later, but only from about 9pm. Sunset is 9.26pm, it says here, so there’s no reason we can’t squeeze a few overs in.
Here’s more from Ali Martin on that Jofra story
Our old friend, and father of the OBO, has discovered what looks like the great lost episode of Coronation Street
Thanks Tim, afternoon everyone. There’s no prospect of play in the next few hours, but at least YouTube is weatherproof. Dennis Lillee is 71 today, and here he is taking 8 for 29 against a World XI.
There’s no news, which is bad news. It’s still raining, raining in my heart. Time for me to take a break and let Rob Smyth entertain you. See you later, when there may yet be some action. In the meantime, thanks for your company and your views on Lord Botham of Brexit and the future Sir Dom Sibley, the 21st century’s answer to Sir Geoffrey Boycott. If you weren’t with us at 11:49, do check out the limerick about Sibley from the pen of Anonymous.
A few lines in defence of Chris Tavare. “I must take my guard to defend Tavare who, sadly, will be remembered as one of the great blockers,” says Richard Davies. “It wasn’t always so. At school and for Kent he always batted at number three where he was a splendid hard hitter. I saw him get a ton at Canterbury in a Sunday league game against Gloucestershire. The attack was led by Mike Procter who described Tav’s innings as one of the best he had seen. He only moved to the top of the England order during one of our regular opener crises with instructions, I would guess, to get in and stay there.”
Here’s Geoff Wignall, picking up on Ian Forth’s question (11:38). “I’d suggest that cricket in England was in tune with its times from about 1864 to 1906.” Magisterial. “Those dates represent respectively the legalisation of overarm bowling and the publication of George Beldam’s photographic book on bowling (the one on batting was a year earlier).” Of course it was. “They also coincide almost exactly with WG Grace’s first class career. As a marker of how things have changed, the universally-acclaimed WG had a Test average of 32 + a smidgen and 39 in first class cricket. Admittedly the latter might have been compromised a little by his playing until 60. I suppose better pitches, batting gloves and sightscreens made a difference. As for Lord Ironbottom: only in a world beyond parody. So why be surprised?”
“Making Botham an unelected peer?” says Max Harrison, with a snort. “Perfect ruddy-faced idiocy. Botham will be at home wearing ermine and spouting the same reactionary guff as those around him.” Well yes, some of them, but isn’t that a bit harsh on the Lords? They may be unelected but they seem pretty good at telling the Government what it doesn’t want to hear.
Meanwhile, the clips of kids practising their skills have reached a slightly more promising surface: a lush green back garden belonging to Sir Alastair Cook. One of his kids, in a magnificent act of rebellion, is seen hitting a straight drive in the air.
If you’ve got Sky TV, do switch it on as they’re showing clips of junior cricketers making the best of some less than promising surfaces. One is an off-spinner, who must be about nine, practising on a strip of tarmac which has a more pronounced slope than Lord’s. With two chalk crosses to aim for, he hits one and clips the outside of off stump (umpire’s call, I suspect). Another is a very small batsman, who stands in front of the garage door to face the bowling of his father. He hits the ball on the up, down the street, forcing Dad to go and fetch it. “Shot!” says one of the commentators. That kid is three. Life may never be so good again.
Here’s Ian Copestake again, responding to Phil Withall’s dismissal of Beefy (11:32). “I hope Phil Withall resists the siren call of cancellation when considering Botham’s batting and bowling (though I feel his pain),” says Copestake. “Even as a kid I recall a hot 1980s summer day having the Maxi car radio on, following some now regular Botham miracle and no longer being surprised by it.” Aaahh, the Maxi.
Meanwhile, it’s still raining – steadily, relentlessly, as if the gods are paying their own tribute to Sibley.
Back to that Beef. “At some time in the future,” John Starbuck reckons, “we’ll be looking back to this moment and asking what was going on out there when IT Botham was ennobled. Makes you think the coronavirus pandemic won’t be the only marker for the bad old days.”
Yesterday Dom Sibley inspired some outstanding song lyrics from the OBO Massive. Today he inspires a limerick, sent in by David Griffiths, and written by a friend of his who prefers to remain anonymous.
There was a young batsman called Sibley
Who left any ball that was nibbly.
He only scored off his pad,
Drove the viewers quite mad.
It was worse than The Vicar of Dibley.
Back on slow scoring, here’s Ian Copestake. “That Wisden link was a mixed blessing,” he says, “as it was busier with adverts than the Daily Mail online. I was also saddened not to see Chris Tavare make on the list. Perhaps he just never made a century.”
He made two, but they weren’t all that obdurate by his high standards – his highest score, 149 in Delhi in 1981-82, was made at the frankly frisky strike rate of 49 per hundred balls. Three of Tavare’s four longest innings were not centuries, led by a score of 89 at Perth – usually a fast-scoring surface – which occupied a magnificent seven and three-quarter hours. The true Test tortoise goes so slowly that he doesn’t give himself time to reach a hundred.
Ian Forth has been pondering cricket’s relationship with the zeitgeist. “I was struck that Geoff Boycott was dropped for slow scoring in 1967, the summer of psychedelia, Sergeant Pepper, The Velvet Underground’s first album and so on. There’s a sense in which football is sometimes a barometer of the times – Posh and Spice, fanzines, merchandise, etc. But who was England fielding at the end of the sixties? Cowdrey, Milburn, Edrich, Boycott, Illingworth. Not men who experimented with dropping acid between Test matches, as far as we know. Has there ever been a time when cricket felt in tune with the times, or is its role in fact to remain an obdurate and welcome antidote?” That’s a great question.
My impression is that the Sixties did arrive on cricket’s shores, but not till the Seventies. I started watching Tests in 1972, when Dennis Lillee was wearing flared whites and vast sideburns. The revolution finally turned up five years later, in the form of World Series Cricket. This dear old game gets there in the end.
An opinion on Lord Beefy comes in from Phil Withall. “Not overly impressed with IT Botham getting a peerage,” he mutters. “RGD Willis played a far more important role in the 81 win.” Discuss! “In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that Botham once played football for Scunthorpe and was mildly amusing on a speaking tour with Viv Richards in the mid to late 90s, I’d dismiss him from my sporting memory.” Really? “He transformed himself from an affable oddball to a hyperbolic, cut-price Farage. Which is, I assume, how one gets a peerage these days.”
Stat of the day so far comes from Nasser Hussain, who knows a bit about batting ugly. “87 times England played and missed in that innings,” he points out. “And 38 times they edged it.” Those false shots, or air shots, accounted for 13 per cent of the deliveries they received. “One in seven or eight!” says Nasser’s inner nerd. In other words, they had a huge slice of luck. That total of 469 could easily have been another 200 all out.
“It’s a good job,” says Peter Metcalfe, “slow-scoring hero Sibley did not get an unbeaten double ton. Sir Geoffrey did that in 1967 and was promptly dropped, to the selectors’ eternal shame. He then went on to score a double hundred for Yorkshire, adding ‘I have no further comment’. I still have not got over it.” I’m not old enough to remember it, but when I heard about it I thought, what a brave move by the selectors. Different strokes for different folks! And no strokes at all for some folks.
If Sibley is seventh in the list of England’s century-making slowcoaches, who else is up there with him? Mike Atherton, mostly, as this list from Wisden shows.
If you’re joining us for the start, I’m afraid it’s been delayed. The covers are on, steady rain is falling, and Manchester is doing a Manchester. The most realistic hope seems to be that the players might be on and off during the evening session.
An email! From Andrew Brooks, who has worked out what Beefy should call himself as he prepares to put on the ermine. “Lord Botham Wicket-Taker,” he says, “abbreviated to LBW.”
The big talking-point yesterday was Dom Sibley’s tempo, as he compiled the seventh-slowest hundred for England in 143 years of Tests. Was his obduracy just what the doctor ordered, or was he too one-paced, given the need to win and the weather forecast? In today’s Guardian, there’s a lovely piece about Sibley by Andy Bull. In a perfect world, you would go out and buy the paper – the Saturday package, which is superb, is in danger of being dismantled by the cold wind of coronavirus economics. But if you’d rather read it online, it’s here. And if you just want a taste, try this: “In one innings, Sibley faced more deliveries than five of his recent predecessors did in their entire careers as opening batsmen.”
Cricket is the lead story today in The Times – on the front page, not the back. “Botham given peerage,” says the headline, “as reward for Brexit loyalty.” What?! Lord Beefy?! It’s hard to know whether to laugh, cry or raise a watery, socially distanced cheer. Brexit is no longer the will of the people, if it ever was.
Botham was a wonderful cricketer who lit up the sports world from 1977 to 1985. But even some of his many fans may have mixed feelings about this. It’s the wrong reason for giving him another honour to add to the knighthood he collected in 2007. The right reason would be his charity work, which has been phenomenal. He was the Captain Tom of the Eighties.
Even at the best of times, it’s tricky handing out gongs to team sportsmen. Bobby Charlton has had a knighthood since 1994, while his brother Jack has just died without one. Jack was certainly the lesser player of the two, but he was the greater manager, and they both played a vital part in the 1966 World Cup win.
The feats that made Ian Botham a folk hero were achieved under Mike Brearley, who has only an OBE to show for it. On top of being a great captain, Brearley is a respected psychoanalyst and a writer of wisdom and originality. Of the two of them, who would bring more to the House of Lords? It doesn’t feel as if Boris Johnson asked himself that question.
Morning everyone and welcome to the third day of the – uh-oh. It’s raining. And the forecast is grim until at least teatime. This is the first of three consecutive Tests in Manchester, which would not be Manchester if it allowed all three to take place under blue skies.
One of the OBO’s writers, Tanya Aldred, lives about a mile from Old Trafford, so I rang her a few minutes ago for the latest. “It’s definitely raining, I can see it in the puddles in the garden,” she said. “But it’s not sheeting, it’s kind of steady. It doesn’t feel completely set in. The grey has a touch of light to it.” Spoken like a true adopted northerner.
The weather is all the more maddening because this match is a must-win for England, who need to take 19 more wickets to level the series. For West Indies, after that narrow but impressive victory in Southampton, a draw will do just fine, and the rain could come as a welcome breather to their weary XI.