A Ramble on Women's Cricket
And A Quiz Question
Sent in by one of my viewers (and now I'm sounding like the BBC!). When two County Teams meet next season, both might have reason to consider they are playing a home fixture. Who are they? [Answer later - you'll just have to keep reading!].
A Look Back at 2015 - Part One
Let me start by saying that this is not going to be even a half-hearted attempt to cover the year - I'm not sure, apart from anything else, my typing fingers would take it. This is just a backward glimpse at a few things, as one comedian always used to start his radio programme, "in no particular order".
But let's start at the beginning anyway, I had always wanted to visit New Zealand. It was perhaps among the last two or three places left on my 'bucket list', and at the top of that list. It did not disappoint, and I could only have wished that the holiday had been extended. I was fortunate to have the best possible company with which to share both the cricket and the country.
Although I had stood on the rim of a smoking volcano before I had never experienced anything quite like the bubbling mud pools - very strange. I can never understand those who choose not to travel to such places - this planet has so many different sights to offer and wonder at.
But if New Zealand is a land of anything it seemed to be of waterfalls which we met at every turn. The locals had found interesting uses for them. They were somewhat braver than me!
But what of the cricket? I am not sure I had any particular expectations of how the series might go. The fact that it proved hard fought made it exciting as did the fact I had accepted the task of providing a number of pictures of each match to the ECB, and that very shortly (very shortly!) after the close of play. This added to the adrenaline rush on match days!
I would like to return someday but it would be very useful if someone could move it a bit closer - those flights take the toll on one's patience.
Since my trip, New Zealand have appointed a new coach, and they could hardly have made a more appropriate and suitable choice. Haidee Tiffen, one of Sussex WCA's few (3) lifetime honorary members. When with Sussex she was always able to impress in all she did, especially in looking after the youngsters.
If Haidee's attire in the above picture puzzles you it's because she joined a group of pre-teens who were having a cricket match near the boundary. After keeping wicket comfortably on the chair she was hit on the head by a tennis ball travelling at the kind of speed that wouldn't have damaged a fly. The result - well the helmet had to be worn.
New Zealand cricket have made a wise choice.
It's been an interesting summer and you will have seen in the last eight pages in the blog this year that I have found much to grumble about. That could well be partly my age as I can now (and perhaps for the past few years) consider myself a grumpy old man without thinking "not so much of the 'old'"! If there is one thing that has particularly driven me mad it's the poor framing of competition rules! I still can't get my head around the fact that anyone thinks NRR (or net run rate) is anything but a crazy idea and a blight on cricket, and also that teams are handed a free pass to avoid playing matches if there's a chance they'll be beaten is actually a good idea.
No thoughts of the above, however, infect me on match days when I can find a game on the other side of that boundary rope and I can watch and photograph this sport. To that end I upgraded both my camera and my telephoto lens early in the UK season having had excellent reports of some new kit while in New Zealand. While I would say the previous combination gave equally good results, I have certainly found the extra pixels and, rather more importantly the lightning quick focussing, have improved my hit rate. I must add my thanks to the photographer who lent me one of those so-called "dinner plates"; the huge lenses you see at men's and increasingly at women's internationals. While it was fun to use the best kit going, I found the weight of the lens on my monopod quite difficult to deal with. Just a few degrees off the vertical and you're grabbing with both hands! Hence I have settled for the best quality in the smaller and lighter range of lenses. When you can read a tiny logo on a set of pads from 70 yards or more I'm not sure what else I need. The dinner-plates come into their own under lights especially, and also in throwing the background more out of focus.
One item I have mentioned before and praised was the large shirt numbers repeated on the trousers of the Irish players. Sadly these have disappeared! One of the Getty photographers complained to me this season that the girls bat in far too orthodox a manner making his life difficult. For a second I was puzzled until seeing my expression he added "they keep their head down when driving - you can't make out the face - makes for a disappointing image and difficulty identifying them". He's right, of course. Women do, as we all know, play in a more orthodox fashion than the men as a rule. To me it's always been one of the joys of watching this sport. He's also right in that identifying players is that bit trickier. However, while Ireland have decided to make my job that bit harder, Berkshire have moved in the opposite direction - well see if you can spot the help in the picture below.
Well that was easy! Even if the hair style had not made it simple anyway, the initials A.R. show it's Alex Rogers. Would that all counties had done the same. It is possible to be too trusting. For instance, who's this?
You can have just one clue - it's not, as you'll know, Georgia Elwiss, whose generosity in lending her kit to someone else could have thrown me had I not know and photographed 'G' many a time. If you spot I've been misled at any time do let me know! And sadly, I can't answer the question - I don't know who it is - do you?
It would seem the experiment with white ball/coloured clothing has been a success in all regards except possibly one.
And that is?...well at least Lancashire took the 'coloured' seriously. It was rather disappointing to see the lack of colour in others' choices. Black predominated everywhere (except it seems in the White Ferns latest kit) and while you can argue whether or not black is a colour at all (some say it's a lack of colour) what you can say is that county kit is largely as uniform now as when it was all in whites. The WBBL does seem to have taken coloured seriously though and if you are going to get out of whites you might as well do it in some style.
A Highlight of the Year
Often around the boundary, and perhaps especially at England games, you run into old friends - not that the friends are old you understand. In fact far from it. This year I met Arran Brindle's latest addition to the family - sound asleep and not to be disturbed and earlier in the season, at Taunton, I came across...
... ex-Sussex and England players Rosalie Birch (left) and Caroline Atkins. It was great to see them again and meet the new family members. Checking this picture later someone, looking over my shoulder, suggested it would make a good candidate for a caption competition! What is Caroline's youngster thinking my snooper asked me?
I must also offer my thanks to these two in helping out with a young girl I was sat next to during the Ashes match at Bristol. I had only met her and her dad that day. The youngster was bitterly disappointed at not being able to get near any England players in her hunt for autographs. The fact she claimed two ex-England players and was even able to chat with them, shy as she was, really made her day! She couldn't stop smiling during the England innings later, in spite of the final match result.
And the Answer to the Question at the head of this page
Warwickshire v Staffordshire
Reason : Warwickshire are to play all their games at the Warwickshire men’s 2nd team ground which is in Smethwick.
Smethwick, before being ‘relocated’ into a newly created county of West Midlands was part of Staffordshire (and had been for donkey’s years).
I understand the logic of this answer only too well as I have never, and will never, get used to the idea that there's a West Sussex and an East Sussex. To me they'll always be just - Sussex!