2012 CB40 Fashion Awards

The Clydesdale Bank 40, England’s domestic limited overs tournament, is more than well under way.  Most teams involved have already played at least three matches, and some squads have already played as many as five.

Of the three major domestic tournaments in England, the CB-40 is definitely a distant third in popularity behind the County Championship and the Friends Life Twenty20. (I have no idea if that is true or not, but it seems right.)

However, like all one day cricket, the CB40 allows counties to use colored kits, and therefore they can make a little money selling shirts than aren’t all white. And while I prefer my cricketers in white, I still like to look through what the counties have to offer each season.

And so without further ado, here’s the first annual Limited Overs Fashion Awards, CB40 Division. (The FLT20 Division will follow later in the year).

First off: let’s take a look at all of the kits from the 18 participating squads this season:

The Dutch:

Like in previous years, the Netherlands have been invited to play in this season’s CB40. I had a hard time finding a good picture of their current one-day kit, but it usually looks just like the above. High points for the instantly recognizable shade of orange, but it gets dinged for its lack of originality.


A classic blue and a not too intrusive sponsor – I hate it when teams have really lame sponsors, like this. I also like the fact that the color is a different shade of blue than the rest of the shirt. And I prefer proper buttons.


I like this kit. Good green against black, though I don’t like what appear to be giant horns. Also, nice touch with oval sponsor logo.


Great looking shirt, though I don’t care for the v-neck/collar combination. Classy and understated sponsor.


Awful, just awful. The less said about this shirt, the better.


Essex was absolutely HAMMERED by the Dutch today, and I am quite sure it has at least something to do with how utterly awful their kit is. Who could concentrate on batting when wearing that?

However, I must say, I enjoy the collar. Proper buttons, no v-neck.


I had a hard time finding Leicestershire’s online store. And I think it must because they know that no one in their right mind would ever want to buy their shirts. Nice wolf, nerds.


Meh. This kit is neither good nor bad. It just kind of sits there, trying not to be noticed.


Another simply god-awful shirt. I hate the crew-neck/collar combination – and KIA is such a gaudy sponsor. Surrey is a classy London club, they should do better.


It took me FOREVER to track this down, and I am still not sure if it is the right one or not. It’s really awful looking, whosever kit it is. You are hosting a test match this year, Durham, get your act together.


Again, I am not sure this is right not. Nice looking kit, though.


Another one that was difficult to find. The shirt is far too loud for my tastes. Nice sponsor thought: PARAMOUNT!


I assumed this shirt would be red, to match Nottingham Forest, but instead it is an ugly green and yellow combo and the collar is just too much. Also, that elk on their logo needs to go. What’s in your wallet?


I honestly could not find a reliable image of Somerset’s 2012 CB40 shirt. Seriously. They automatically finish dead last.


Yes, this was the best image on Sussex’s official website. While their t20 shirt is actually quite nice looking, this is is rather ugly, mostly thanks to the sponsor’s logo.


This their T20 shirt, but the only CB40 merch they had on their site was a baseball cap. I posted this picture anyway, not sure why.


Not a bad looking shirt, overall. Though I could do without the yellow striping. I like that they took the picture right in the store, probably with the Marketing Assistant’s iPhone.


Another no-show, another last place finish.


This is last year’s shirt, their site only had the County Championship and FLT20 shirts. I decided to post it anyway, because it is one more example of how a terrible sponsorship logo can ruin an otherwise okay shirt. And I like Old Speckled Hen.


Ugh. Who designs these things? (I am talking about the shirt).


And another one I could not find. Though I am sure it is another maroon monstrosity, just like last year.


And that’s it. What a collection of terrible, terrible shirts. And what a collection of god-awful websites.

The winner of the 2012 CB40 Fashion Show? Gloucestershire, with Lancashire a close second. Honorable mention goes to the Netherlands.

The losers? Us fans, and me for having to wade my way through those seriously nightmarish websites.

I understand that these clubs operate on shoestring budgets, but web design is one thing they should be spending money on, as far as I am concerned.

In American sports, all the teams in the big leagues have cookie-cutter websites: they all the look the same. The Minnesota Twins’ looks just like the Cincinnati Reds’, for instance. And while I normally would smile on the ECB for allowing their teams to develop their own unique brands, sometimes you have to err on the side of convenience and just make all the sites look the same. You would probably sell more shirts, at the very least.

Also, geez, for crying out loud, is it that difficult to design a decent looking one-day shirt?

The answer is a resounding YES, from what I can tell.

I am excited about the FLT20 division, however. Look for that in June.


There has been a lot of talk today about how next month’s European Football Championships are going to be held in countries well known for having racist football fan groups: Poland and Ukraine.

It’s not exactly breaking news, of course, but a special report on BBC this evening reignited the discussion. Former Arsenal defender, Sol Campbell, made the most newsworthy comments in an interview for the documentary: saying that fans of African descent that travel to the tournament could come back in coffins.

Britain’s Foreign Office had already issued a warning to those traveling to the tournament to take extra care. And Arsenal players Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin and Theo Walcott will not be bringing their families along, out of fear for their safety.

Reading all of the tweets and the articles today got me thinking, or rather, rethinking, my post from a few days ago about politics and sport.

In the original post, I derided the mixing of politics and sport, that it led too often to Munich ’72 or boycotts like Los Angeles ’84 that do nothing but punish the athletes. That, sometimes, yes, sport can heal and teach and transcend (Jesse Owens, for example) but we as sports fans were all better off if the two segments of modern society were kept separate from each other, that world leaders should not use sport as a weapon, and that sporting bodies should not preach from the football pitch.

And, it seems, in this case, unfortunately, UEFA agreed with me. Instead of telling Poland and Ukraine to get their houses in order if they want to host a major tournament, they are simply handing them the tournament, hoping that the spotlight will create discussion around the problems.

Which, when you think about it, is utter bullshit. Sport is one of the most powerful weapons on the planet, and it should be wielded as such. FIFA should tell the governments of the offending nations that countries accused of racist chanting in the terraces will be banned from hosting international tournaments. In this case, FIFA needs to get involved with politics, for not doing so is a gross misuse of their power.

Unfortunately, they didn’t and a week from Friday the tournament will open despite all the outcries from around the globe.

The only other realistic options are for the fans to stay home, or for the athletes to stay home. Neither of those are fair, honestly, when you think about it, as you would be punishing the wrong people; and we are too late anyway. The tournament is going to go on.

The point of this post is that I was wrong. Well, half wrong. Sporting bodies need to involve themselves in local politics. However, at the same time, keeping political bodies out of sport is imperative to the health of sport and athletics. It is not a two-way street, in other words.

And so what does all of this have to do with cricket? Well, not a great deal, but cricket has its racist past well: the rebel tours of South Africa, and Andrew Symonds, and the USACA, but I am not going to dive into that deep of the pool. It’s a post for another day. The point of this post was the correction above, and the reversal of my earlier stance. Thanks to the original commentors for sowing the seeds.


Also, in another bit of backtracking, I updated my post from this morning about cricketers killed in wars. I had kinda phoned it in, and they deserved better than that.


England beat the West Indies in Nottingham today; and in doing so won the test series 2-0; and will remain the number one test side in the world.

It was professional and it was efficient. When firing on all cylinders, and when they are playing at home, this English test side is a machine.

The biggest positive for England, in my opinion, was Andrew Strauss getting back into the runs. Cricket, like most sports, needs a leader on the field; and when that leader is struggling, I think it affects the entire side. But dropping him was not the answer either, as captains need to be long term fixtures in the side; and England have a long term problem when it comes to captain turnover:

Since they first started playing test cricket in 1877, England have had 79 different test captains. That works out to a new captain once every 20 months or so. In comparison, Australia, who has been playing test cricket just as long, have only had 43 different test captains.

Australia’s test winning percentage since 1877: 43.6%

England’s test winning percentage since 1877: 35.63%

And so the point here is: what’s good for Andrew Strauss is also good for England. They are going to need him playing confidently later this summer against South Africa as well as when they travel to India this fall.

I firmly believe that those two test series will define this team’s legacy.


Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It was originally known as Decoration Day to honor Union soldiers killed during the American Civil War – but in the 20th century the holiday was extended to cover those killed in all American conflicts.

I talk a lot about war and conflict here on LimitedOvers, mostly because the countries involved in cricket have bloody pasts. But I have never really talked about all of the cricketers killed in wars, mostly the Great War and World War II. And while none of them are American, this is a cricket blog, and so I thought I would take the time to honor the test cricket playing soldiers that lost their lives fighting for their country:

In the Great War, 12 cricketers with test caps were killed:

Colin Blythe, England, died on 8 November, 1917, near Passchendaele, Belgium

Major Booth, England, died on 1 July 1916, near La Signy Farm, France

Frederick Cook, South Africa, died on 30 November 1915, Cape Helles, Gallipoli Peninsula, Ottoman Empire

Tibby Cotter, Australia, died on 31 October 1917, near Beersheba, Palestine

Reginald Hands, South Africa, died on 20 April 1918, Boulogne France

Kenneth Hutchings, England, died on 3 September 1916, Ginchy France

Bill Lundie, South Africa, died on 12 September 1917, near Passchendaele, Belgium

Leonard Moon, England, died on 23 November 1916, near Karasouli, Salonica, Greece

Claude Newberry, South Africa, died on 1 August 1916, France

Arthur Edward Ochse, South Africa, died on 11 April 1918, Middle Farm, Petit Puits, Messines Ridges, France

Reggie Schwarz, South Africa, died on 18 November 1918, Etaples, France

Gordon White, South Africa, died on 17 October, Gaza, Palestine

In World War 2, nine test playing cricketers were killed:

Dooley Briscoe, South Africa, died on 22 April 1941, Kombolcha, Ethiopia, Italian East Africa

Ken Farnes, England, died on 20 October 1941, Chipping Warden, Oxfordshire, England

Ross Gregory, Australia, died on 10 June 1942, near Gaffargaon, Bengal, India

Arthur Langton, South Africa, died on 27 November 1942, near Maiduguri, Nigeria

Geoffrey Legge, England, died on 21 November 1940, Brampford Speke, Devon, England

George Macaulay, England, died on 13 December 1940, Sullom Voe, Shetland Islands, Scotland

Sonny Moloney, New Zealand, died on 15 July 1942, Ruweisat Ridge, El Alamein, Egypt

Maurice Turnbull, England, died on 5 August 1944, near Montchamp, France

Hedley Verity, Englands, died on 31 July 1942, Caserta, Italy

Each of the links goes to their Cricinfo entry. Each one is worth your time.

Ken Farnes of England was arguably the most famous cricketer killed in war. He was born in 1911 and played in 15 tests, taking 60 wickets for an average of 28.65. He was Wisden’s Cricketer of the Year in 1939.

In 1940, he joined the Royal Air Force. He was killed when his plane crashed in Oxfordshire during a training exercise.

Update: thanks to Martin of Very Silly Point for pointing out that Hedley Verity has a better case for being the most famous cricketer killed during wartime.

Test cricketers are not even the tip of the iceberg, of course, and unfortunately, as countless first class cricketers were killed in both wars. Cheers, boys. Hopefully, wherever you are, the pitches are lively and the beer cold.

Enjoy your day off, America.


A Tour of West Bridgford

One of my favorite things to do when I have a bit of spare time is Google Streetview the neighborhoods around cricket grounds. And since this morning we are in Nottingham, and the pitch is an absolute road and Strauss and KP look to bat all…day…long…I thought I would take a little tour of the streets around Trent Bridge – and since it is Saturday, I thought I would take my readers along with me.

Our big blue ball. There’s the UK, and in there somewhere is Nottingham, Trent Bridge, and drunkards in fancy dress.
Now, of course, we are zoomed on the center of the known universe. There’s the city of Nottingham, about a two hour drive north on the M1 from London.
The city of Nottingham. Founded in 600, gained city status in 1897. Population: a bit over 300,000.
The three stadiums in Nottingham. That’s Meadow Lane, north of the Trent River, home to Notts County Football Club. Across the river is the City Ground, home to Nottingham Forest Football Club. And just south of there is Trent Bridge, the cricket ground. The latter two grounds are technically in the suburb of West Bridgford.
Here we are on Hound Road, the ground is to our right, behind what looks to be a row of professional buildings. Looks also to be one of those lovely Autumn afternoons. Hopefully there is football happening at the City Ground…
Now on Fox Road (I am sensing a theme.) There’s the new stand to our right, looking like a space ship in comparison to the lovely old brick wall that surrounds it. And still the same lovely day.
View of the Trent river from the London Rd bridge. Trent Bridge is to our right.
Looks a bit stale, eh? Not exactly the “proper test ground” Ian Prior spoke of yesterday. Not from this angle anyway.
Mister Pizza, a curry joint is to our left out of the picture. We are on Musters Road looking north toward the ground. There are a lot of phone booths in England still.
Roseberry Avenue, a tiny cul-de-sac smack dab between Trent Bridge and the City Ground. I would like to spend a year living on this street.
From the banks of the Trent River. There’s the London Rd. bridge.

And, hey, that’s Trent Bridge’s neighborhood. Not overly attractive, but nicer looking than the neighborhoods that surround American sport stadia.

I enjoyed this post, expect more like it in the future.


In my post from a few days ago, about England’s short lived reign as the number one test team, a reader gave me a bit of a hiding in the comments for making overly presumptive statements without a point of reference. Maybe his points were justified, or maybe not, hard to tell.

Now, I don’t mind being put in my place, and I freely admit that most of my readers have more cricket knowledge in their pinky toe than I do in my whole body, but that isn’t going to stop me from having opinions, or making bold statements. Otherwise this blog will just be: hey, cricket’s great, right!?

That said, I do hope my readers take my statements with a grain of salt. This is a cricket blog, but it is not meant to be taken too seriously. It is more of a “lifestyle” blog, rather than a serious nuts and bolts site. I write about grounds and history and fashion. When I do actually get into the guts of a day’s play, I realize that I am out of depth every time – and I openly invite all readers to comment and correct me or argue with me when they feel like it. Please don’t shy away from doing so because I am so obviously ignorant of the sport or because this blog normally enjoys the “lighter” side of the game. I enjoy being challenged, and I enjoy being corrected. It’s how we all learn.

(I put lighter in quotes because I do write a lot about war, and nuclear weapons, as well.)

And I stand by my statement from a few days ago: despite what is happening today in Nottingham, this England team has yet to prove to me that they are one of the greats. But Strauss getting back in the runs is a good sign, and they still very much have the potential to be one of the greatest teams in the history of test cricket.  Fact.


Working on another longer post for later in the weekend. Keep an eye out. And cheers to all my new readers, it has been a busy couple of days, traffic-wise, here on the blog. Thanks again to those that retweet and reblog. This blog is a real joy, even when I take a hiding in the comments.

The Legend of Pradeep Mathew, a Book Review

This article originally appeared on The Sight Screen and is republished here with permission.


A few weeks ago, I was asked by Graywolf Press here in Minneapolis to read and review a novel about Sri Lankan cricket that they were releasing. I jumped at the chance, of course.

I read The Legend of Pradeep Mathew by debut author Shehan Karunatilaka, winner of the 2012 DSC Prize for South Asian literature, from four different points of view: that of a fan of great fiction, that of a fan of cricket, that of an American fan of cricket, and that of a world history buff. The book delivered on all four fronts, I am happy to say, and I would highly recommend it to my cricket loving friends as well as to my literature loving friends and my history loving friends – for while the book has cricket as its bones, the novel’s flesh and personality transcend sport to explore the troubled history of Sri Lanka, as well as the themes of love, regret, alcoholism, and fatherhood.

The story, like cricket, is a simple one – on the surface. An aging, failed Sri Lankan sportswriter, Wije, is drinking himself to death, while simultaneously researching and trying to write the biography of his country’s most talented (and fictional) spin bowler, Pradeep Mathew, who only played in a handful of games in the 80s and 90s before disappearing forever.

In search of the Mathew’s ghost, Wije teams up with his best friends to track down and interview Sri Lanka’s cricket coaches, players, commentators, and sportwriters, as well as Mathew’s lovers, friends, and teammates. Along the way he is thwarted by his drinking, and his estranged son, and his suspicious wife. He encounters lunatics, terrorists, and six fingered bowling coaches.

The story, as I said, is a simple one, but the book is brilliantly written, and the characters are all likable and endearing. You will grow to love Jonny, for instance, the homosexual ex-pat whose side story is the heart and soul of the novel. And the author’s descriptions of Colombo make you feel as if you are right there with Wije in the back of a tri-shaw, drunk again, chasing phantoms.

It is heartbreaking, and it is sad, and it is funny. And while it meanders at times, and while it feels a little loose in places, well hey, that’s test cricket, that’s the way it is supposed to be.

And speaking of cricket: the book made me fall in love with the sport all over again. Wije and his friends are positively mad for the game, and reading about people who love something even more than you do is truly a fun experience. Even the most fanatical cricket fan will take something away from the cricket talk in this book.

Further, as an American cricket fan, and therefore new-ish to the sport, I learned a great deal about the intricacies of the game, about spin, about the legends, about what it is to truly be a cricket nut.

And, finally, the author talks a great deal about Sri Lanka’s history, and he is not all that subtle about the fact that the country that he loves is screwed up beyond repair. Sri Lanka has a remarkably sad and violent and interesting history, one that very few outside of Southeast Asia know much about, and so the novel delivers an important lesson in Sri Lankan history to the reader, one which I greatly appreciated.

In the end, the book is about a cricket, about friendship, about ghosts, and about hardship. It is about sport and how it rightfully transcends history; and simultaneously it is about history and how it rightfully transcends sport. It is about God, it is about sadness, and it is about spin bowling. That surely sounds like a lot of balls in the air for the author, but he successfully juggles them all.

It is a book for those that love cricket, for those that love history, or for those that love good books. Thankfully I am lucky enough to be in all three categories.

The book is available in the states via Graywolf Press. Do check it out!

The Cook and The Bell

Yesterday morning, Minneapolis time, England won their first test match of the international summer, thanks to a calm and efficient run chase from Alistair Cook and Ian Bell. Watching them grind down the West Indies was neither fun or sexy, but it accomplished the ultimate goal: it put a check mark in the win column for England.

The combatants now move on to Trent Bridge, in Nottingham, where most pundits are forecasting a comprehensive English victory.  Again.  Just as they did before the Lord’s test, just as they did before the Sri Lanka series, and just as they did before the Pakistan series.

But I don’t see it happening. And sooner or later, cricket writers in England are going to have to come to grips with the fact that this is simply a good team, not a great team, despite their record of the last 18 months.

Most recently: they drew 1-1 with a weakened Sri Lankan side and were whitewashed by Pakistan in the UAE.

Sure, last summer they beat India 4-0, but I think it was pretty clear that the Indian players had given up after the defeat at Lord’s. Before that, England limped to a 1-0 series defeat of (again) Sri Lanka – thanks only to a tremendous collapse by their opponents in Cardiff.

And so since the end of the 2011 Ashes, England have played 13 tests, wnning seven, drawing two, and losing four. A winning percentage of .538 and a win/draw versus losing percentage of .692. Over that same period, they averaged 39.41 runs per wicket and 3.48 runs per over.

To compare, between January 1st 2000 and the end of the 2011 Ashes series, England played in 155 test matches, winning 70, drawing 41, and losing 44. A winning percentage of .451 and win/draw versus losing percentage of .716 – the latter only marginally better than the same stat since the 2011 Ashes. During the same time period, they averaged 35.95 runs per wicket and 3.25 runs per over.

And what does all of this tell us? That England have learned how to turn draws into wins.

Now that is nothing to sneeze at, teams that turn draws into wins are the teams that win championships, no matter the sport.

And it seems they have accomplished this by scoring a few more runs per over, and a few more runs per wicket.

Efficient run accumulation. Just ask the West Indies if a few more runs an innings makes a difference.

But that’s all that it is: efficient. Cook, Bell, Trott: all of them will remorselessly accumulate runs in an efficient manner. But at the end of the day, the team has no heart, no soul. And it will surely grate on the nerves of the saber-heads to read this: but it’s the heart and the soul that turns losses into wins, not just draws into wins, but losses into wins.

And that’s what England are lacking.

I do very little actually analyzation of play here on the site. But I have watched a great deal of England cricket over the years, and while this is a good team, it is by no means a great team. That is just my opinion, of course, but great teams pull a win out of the hat in the UAE, great teams don’t let the West Indies bully them at Lord’s, and great teams don’t have a captain that can’t score runs.

It might sound as if I am being overly critical here, and that is probably true, but you have to ask yourself: if the 2005 Ashes squad played the current squad, who would you back in a five test series?

The former, every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

If this current incarnation of England cricketers want to be considered great, if they want to be talked about a generation from now when old men gather to discuss the greatest squads of all time, then they need to go to India this fall and WIN. That will make them one of the greats.


My review of The Legend of Pradeep Mathew is finished and will be live on The SightScreen later tonight. Keep an eye out for it.

I will repost it here in the next few days, as well.

The Night’s Watch

When it comes to European sport, there are many intricacies that American sports fans simply do not get: draws, added time…etc.  And surely the nightwatchman would be on that list, as well.

Today, in London, with England already a man down and the light fading, Strauss and Flower sent out Jimmy Anderson, a bowler, to bat instead of Jonathon Trott – he of 48 test match innings, and a test average of over 50 runs. The theory being that if you lose Anderson due to bad light, it is better than losing a Trott due to bad light.

Now, I guess, it makes sense, on paper, but it is also a terrible strategy, if you ask me.  If you can’t rely on Jonathon Trott to survive a few tricky overs at the end of the day, then when can you rely on him? Only on sunny days in perfect conditions on flat tracks? Poppycock. He is one on the most reliable batsman in the world, don’t doubt his abilities by sending a bowler out there to do his job.

Batting, like everything else, is about momentum and confidence, and putting in Anderson to bat robs Trott of both – and to wit we saw Roach nearly get Trott out LBW with the first delivery he saw. If you don’t think Strauss’s decision was on Trott’s mind that first ball, than you are sadly mistaken.

Of course, the nightwatchman strategy had already backfired on Strauss the ball before, as Anderson had nicked to Ramdin, and England were 10-2 and had to expose Trott anyway.

Back to Americans, however, and there are similar such strategies in American sports: sacrifice bunts come to mind, as does the intentional walk. In gridiron football, there is taking a knee, the prevent defense, and heck even punting shows a lack of confidence in your offense. But, personally, the nightwatchman takes the cake when it comes to silly, aggravating sporting decisions, and it is just one more reason Americans will never truly embrace cricket.

ALL OF THAT SAID: I love the nightwatchman. Because I like to say nightwatchman. I think it is my favorite sports term ever.

I know you all agree.


I have been reading the Game of Thrones series (stop laughing). In the books, there is a group of men called the Night’s Watch that stand guard on a 700 foot wall of ice, protecting the realm against the Wildings and “Others” and giants that live beyond the Wall. It is a really fun part of the book, and I think the storyline that the author enjoys writing about the most.

Anyway, when a man decides to join the Night’s Watch, he is said to have “taken the black” because all those in the Night’s Watch wear all black, every stitch. So I think two things: in cricket they should make the nightwatchman wear all black; or, failing that, the TV commentators should at least use the phrase figuratively: “Anderson has taken the black.”

Forgive me, I have a bit of a hangover and I am watching Italian football.


Even England fans must have enjoyed seeing a reinvigorated West Indies on the pitch at Lords again. Watching Roach and Edwards steam in over and over again was like being transported back in time. And Strauss’s decision to bring in Anderson over Trott after edging to gully is evidence of his respect for the Windies new ball attack. Tomorrow will be fun. It would be a remarkable and famous win for the visitors if they can pull it off.


Speaking of ghosts: Here’s this I found:


This is my 200th post on Limited Overs. Huzzah.

Six Hours On

Just a quick post tonight, for I need to get to bed early, as test cricket returns tomorrow, with England v West Indies at Lord’s. First ball is in less than six and a half hours.

Although, I must say that since I have been reading a flawed yet lovely book about Sri Lankan cricket (look for a review in the next day or so), I find myself more in the mood for some Southern Hemisphere swashbuckling cricket than I am for St. John’s Wood and a watered down West Indies.

But Sri Lanka v Pakistan at the Galle International stadium is still over a month away, and tomorrow’s match is still test cricket, and England are still the number one test team on earth, and so I will wake early, and I will work from home so I can watch, and I will enjoy every moment.

As I mentioned on Twitter, I see the series ending 1-1. Expect a weather affected draw at Lord’s, double centuries from Cook and Trott and an England win at Trent Bridge, and a thrilling and famous win for the West Indies in Birmingham.

You heard it hear first.

The English summer begins tomorrow. Huzzah!

Blood Sport Summer

(The following post was inspired by this video. Hat tip to Ducking Beamers for passing it along.)

On the 6th of July, 2005, the city of London was awarded the 2012 Summer Olympics by the International Olympic committee.

The very next day, four Islamist terrorist detonated four homemade peroxide bombs, three on the London tube, and a fourth on a double decker bus. 52 people were killed, another 700 were injured.

Two weeks later, at Lord’s Cricket Grounds in the heart of the London, a coin was tossed, and thus began the 2005 Ashes.

In my last post, I railed against politics and sport, but at the same time, nothing, and I mean nothing, can heal a community like sport can.

Full stop.

England needed cricket, and cricket delivered.

Not at Lord’s of course, as Australia dismantled the hosts; winning by 239 runs, but I digress.

The 7/7 bombings were not the only terrorist attacks in what was a bloody summer around the globe: on the 4th of May, an insurgent exploded a bomb at Kurdish police center in northern Iraq, killing 60; and in Israel on July the 12th five people were killed and another 90 injured in a suicide attack on a shopping mall.

And of course, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were raging. And I mean raging. 19 US soldiers were killed on the 28th of June in a failed mission in the Kunar province of Afghanistan. In Iraq, in July, August, and September, the three months that contained the Ashes series, 195 coalition troops were killed, including six Brits: Leon Spicer (26 years old), Phillip Hewett (21), and Richard Shearer (26) on the 16th of July in Al Amarah; Donal Anthony Meade (20) and Stephen Robert Manning (22) on the 5th of September near Basra; and Matthew Bacon (36) on the 11th of Septemer also near Basra.

Australia lost two soldiers in the Iraq War, the first was on the 11th of June, 2005: David Russell Nary. He was killed in a vehicle accident in Kuwait. He was 42 years old and had served in Australia’s military for 25 years.

The world will long remember Flintoff, Pietersen, Ponting, and Warne, but the world has already forgotten Leon, and Richard, and Matthew. That’s a stupid thing to say, I know, but I think it is emblematic of how modern society overvalues sport while simultaneously undervaluing life (says the guy who devotes hours of his time to a cricket blog) but I don’t think that’s entirely correct: we overvalue sport in order to escape from that we cannot change, to escape from the dark places. If we did not do this, we would all go mad. There is just too much tragedy in this world…

And with the backdrop of bloodshed, Australia won the coin toss under cloudy English skies at Lord’s, and chose to have a bat.

Harmison took five wickets, Flintoff and Jones each took took two, and Australia were restricted to a paltry 190 all out. Unfortunately, for England, their first four batsmen scored only 15 runs between them, Glenn McGrath took five wickets, and England’s first innings were over for only 155.

Australia then piled up 385 runs in their second innings in a well balanced offensive display, the stand out score being Michael Clarke’s 91. England were chasing 420 runs, and they didn’t even come close, losing by 239. The match began on July the 21st, a Thursday, and ended on July the 24th, a Sunday.

On July the 22nd, Metro Police shot and killed Jean Charles de Menezens, a misidentified suspect in the 7/7 bombings. His story is both tragic and important. Read it.

On July the 23rd, Bedouin militants detonated bombs in resorts throughout the Sharm el-Sheikh region of Egypt; killing 80 and injuring 200.

On July the 28th, after 3,527 deaths, including over 1,800 civilians, the Provisional IRA declared an end to its campaign, effectively ending the Irish “Troubles.”

On August the 2nd, an Air France flight skidded off a runway in Toronto and burst into flames. Fatalities: Zero.

And on August the 4th, 22 cricketers regathered in Birmingham, England for the 2nd test of the 2005 Ashes.

Australia won the toss again, but this time chose to have a bowl, despite the fact that McGrath had pulled up lame in training and was dropped from the starting eleven.

Trescothick, Pietersen, and Flintoff put up scores of 90, 71, and 68, respectively, to lead their team to 407 all out in their first innings. In Australia’s half of the first innings Flintoff and Giles each took three wickets and Australia were all out for only 308.

For England: hope.

Unfortunately, despite a magical 73 off of 133 for Flintoff, Australia dismissed England for just 182 in the second innings, setting a target of 282 runs. Achievable for Australia’s batsmen, surely.

But then, in the 13th over, Freddie Flintoff delivered what some have called the greatest over ever bowled, taking the wickets of Ponting and Langer.

It was a very nervy finish for England, but finally, Harmison got Kasprowicv to edge to Geraint Jones, and the match was won. The series was tied at one a piece. It was a Sunday afternoon, August the 7th.

On August the 6th, Robin Cook passed away. The UK politician famously resigned as Leader of the House of Commons to protest the UK’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq. His epitaph reads: “I may not have succeeded in halting the war, but I did secure the right of parliament to decide on war.”

On August the 9th, the Space Shuttle Discovery safely returned to earth – successfully completing the first shuttle mission since the Columbia was lost, 29 months earlier.

And, in the city of Manchester, on August the 10th, our 22 cricketers were at it again, at Old Trafford, for the third Ashes Test…and the enthusiasm for the series, and for cricket in general, was spreading, and building, as England looked for something to collectively believe in again, after those bombs had ripped through their sense of security one month prior.

England won the toss this time and chose to have a bat, with McGrath and Lee both in the side, but both still recovering from injuries. The hosts went on to score 444, thanks in part to Vaughn’s lucky 166 (he was dropped on 41, and 45, and 141). Australia were held to 302, as Simon Jones took six wickets whilst allowing less than three runs an over. Giles, too, had a good innings in England’s attack, taking the wickets of three of the Aussies’s four opening batsmen.

In the second innings, Strauss scored a century and England declared near the end of day four, a target of 423 set for Australia.

Day five dawned with hordes of England supporters trying to get into Old Trafford to see their country take a 2-1 lead in the Ashes. So many so that over 10,000 had to be turned away at the gates. Test cricket was alive and well that summer in England, thanks to Flintoff and Pietersen, but also thanks to Hassib Hussain, Mohammed Sidique Khan, Germaine Lindsay, and Shehzad Tanweek, surely.

But Australia received a heroic captain’s innings from Ricky Ponting (156 runs, nearly seven hours, 275 balls) and the visitors hung on for a draw. The Ashes were still tied at 1-1.

The match had begun on August the 11th, a Thursday; and ended on a Monday afternoon, August the 15th.

On August the 14th, Helios Airways Flight 522 crashed in Greece, killing 121 people.

On August the 16th, West Caribbean Airways Flight 708 crashed in Venezuela, killing 152 people.

And on August the 25th, the coin was tossed at Trent Bridge in Nottingham to begin the fourth test of the 2005 Ashes series.

Just as in Manchester, England won the toss and chose to have a bat. And just as in Manchester, they put up a huge score: amassing 477 runs, though the hero this time was of course none other than Freddie Flintof, whose 102 off of 132 led the team. Shane Warne took four wickets for Australia to limit the damage, but it was not enough.

England then went on to bowl out Australia for a mere 218, their highest scoring batsman was Brett Lee, a tail ender, and England forced the follow on. The second innings saw a better balanced batting performance from Australia, but they were still only able to score 387, leaving England only 129 runs to chase down, and almost two full days to do it in.

And that they did, by the skin of their teeth, but they did it nonetheless. England was now ahead in the series two matches to one, and a draw at the Kennington Oval away from winning the Ashes for the first time in 17 years.

It was August the 28th 2005, a Sunday.

On August the 29th, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Southeast Louisiana. The storm, and its aftermath, would claim almost 2,000 lives.

Two days later, in Baghad, on the Al-Aaimmah bridge, a stampede killed 953 civilians.

One week after that, the Australian and English cricket teams were back in London, to decide the Ashes.

Just like in Manchester, and just like in Nottingham, England won the toss and chose to have a bat. And just like in Manchester, and just like in Nottingham, they put up a decent score, thanks in most part to one batsman. This time, it was Andrew Strauss’s 129 off of 210.

Australia batted well, too, with their openers Langer and Hayden scoring a combined 243 to lead their team to within six runs of England’s score, despite five wickets from Flintoff.

In the second innings, the hero was Kevin Pietersen with 158 off of 187, giving Australia a target of 342 runs.

Unfortunately, for the Australians, it was well into day five when Shane Warne finally took Shane Harmison’s wicket, and there just wasn’t enough time for a result. The match ended in a draw, and on September the 12th, 2005, a Monday afternoon, England regained the Ashes.

It was a bloody, violent, and destructive summer. Like so many summers before it and so many summers after, the summer of 2005 is looked back on by millions as a dark and awful and tragic time. But for cricket fans throughout England, young and old alike, it is remembered as a time of glorious victory, and I think that is okay.

Sports at is best is escapist, but unlike other escapist activities, it provides a real sense of black and white, it provides clear winners and clear losers, it provides pure heroes, and pure moments, and pure relief, and pure joy.  And the England cricketers provided all of the above in spades to their fellow countrymen that summer, when they needed it the most.

Blood on the front pages, glory on the back pages. A balance between light and dark. Keeping the universe level. A remarkable summer.

Ayatollah’s in Iran, (English) in Afghanistan

On September the 21st of this year, 11 men from England, and 11 men from Afghanistan, will gather on a field in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for a spot of cricket.

Of course, this isn’t just any cricket match. It is a group stage match in the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 Cup. It’s a marquee match in a marquee event.

Like most countries that will be competing in Sri Lanka this fall, Afghanistan’s history is linked to Britain in a myriad of different ways. In fact, most of the time, when England is playing an international cricket match, it is against a former colony: it is conquerer versus conquered, prisoner versus jailor, revolutionary versus oppressor.

In the case of Afghanistan, the country was seen as the dividing line between the British Empire and the Russian Empire, and therefore saw invading force after invading force for centuries. Furthermore, unlike England’s other former dominions, there are currently British boots on the ground in Afghanistan. Around 9,500, give or take.

412 British soldiers have died in the fighting since 2001, including 18 just this year, and the number of Afghani civilians that have died in the conflict since 2001 is incalculable, though conservative estimates put it in the tens of thousands.

England and Afghanistan will of course not be the first two nations involved in an armed conflict to compete against each other in an international sporting event, but I think it will add an interesting subtext to the tournament. Especially since, technically, Britain is not at war with the government of Afghanistan, they are at war with the Taliban. They are not invading, they are liberating. Or vice versa. Depends on who you ask. Like I said: subtext.

Hopefully, for all concerned parties, it will be a friendly little cricket match, one which sees the minnows Afghanistan make their country proud and give the English a good scrap.

Personally, I would rather keep politics completely out of sport. Yeah, sure, there are moments when it heals, when it transcends. Jesse Owens at the Berlin Olympics comes to mind. So does Sean Avery. Jackie Robinson, too. As does South Africa winning the Rugby World Cup

But too often it is Munich ’72, or Le Guerra de Futbol, or the USA boycotting Moscow ’80, or the Soviets boycotting Los Angeles ’84, or Tommie Smith and John Carlos* . Or even, more recently, the deadly football riots in Egypt which really had absolutely nothing to do with football.

And on a more subtle level, events such as the Olympics, the European Championships, and, truthfully, most international cricket matches, are gross exercises in nationalism: You live on that side of this imaginary line in the sand, and therefore we are enemies.

Sure most of the time it is harmless fun, I guess, and maybe I am making too big of a deal out of it, but what it comes down to is that I don’t think we should be mixing sports and politics at all, or sports and nationalism. Or politics and music, for that matter. Politics are the opposite of sport, they are the death of sport. If the ICC wants to talk about the “spirit of the game” then they should stop allowing it to be politicized. (You, too, US State Department.)

And because of that, the Indian Premiere League, despite being a big steaming pile of cricket killing ebola to some, is actually what might save it in the end, because it removes all those imaginary boundaries. Players from New Zealand line up alongside players from Holland, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. It’s utopian, even.

To bring it all back home: there will be an interesting subtext to the England v Afghanistan match on September the 21st of this year, but I really do wish that that subtext did not exist. That it was simply a cricket match for us all to enjoy with a pint and a friend.

*I was quite hesitant to include that one. At the end of the day, it was a divisive gesture, and against the spirit of the games – it politicized a pure moment. I am interested to hear readers’ comments however. Also: the 1984 Miracle on Ice: patriotic hallmark for the USA? Or a globally divisive victory that set back Soviet-US relations? You make the call.