Before I start, let me point you in the direction of two excellent pieces I read today.
Andrew Miller’s piece on Alastair Cook (and thanks to SimonH for the heads up) is the sort of writing that the Cricketer misses. It doesn’t tally with all I believe in this saga, but it’s well put together, it comes across as considered, even-handed and evidential, and despite one use of “conspiracy theorist”, I’ll let Andrew off as his description of the “outside cricket” statement nails it. More on that below.
Also, David Oram’s piece on the ostracising of Reds Perreira and Tony Cozier, as well as Kenny Benjamin and Michael Holding, from West Indian commentary puts some of the below piece into perspective. It couldn’t happen here? Well, we had “something must be done” and the reported KP request. Who knows. Ruling bodies seem to think the sport is about them.
So to the meat of the argument.
As per usual I’m going to kick a piece off and not really knowing where it is going to end up. But the very minor events of last night, as a reaction to a post that had a brief shelf-life called “Hardly” was almost amazing, even by the standards of some of the stuff that had been seen in the HDWLIA days. A blog that was going slightly moribund as I tried so hard to get up for the Ashes had a rant laid down before it and I can tell you, by the hit rate, which gets the readers’ juices flowing and what doesn’t. I mentioned on a frank twitter exchange with someone we might know that I wrote what I did last night as a partial experiment. I wanted to see if I could still get the rage going, still see if it’s what the readership react to. It wasn’t contrived AT ALL, but it’s a piece I’ve avoided writing for quite a while now.
The fact is that the whole of the last 18 months has got me in a combative mood towards those that challenge me, and more, the opinions I hold. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a rebel of any kind. I am not some political animal who rages against everything. What does annoy me is being told what to think, told what I am thinking, told something without evidence and treated like an idiot. And yes, I don’t like being misrepresented, and in the case of last night’s post, I believe I misrepresented Lawrence Booth’s position. I certainly did not misrepresent Paul Newman’s.
The problem with the 140 character format is you can leap to your own conclusions and they may be wrong. The problem with the longer reading format is you can leap to your own conclusions on the basis of a couple of sentences. I am particularly touchy when it comes to the inside/outside cricket thing. After all, the blog is named after that phrase. To belittle its significance is, in a small way, belittling the premise of this blog. On that February day, and frankly you can stick all the excuses you want, a professional organisation has no excuses for it, the authorities, having sacked a prominent player, and told the paying public to just accept it, threw in a phrase “outside cricket”. We aren’t a bunch of muppets, we knew full well what they were talking about, and it was one man. But instead of calling him out, they thought they’d be clever. They could have said “certain individuals”, “associates of people involved”, or anything like that. No, they put in the phrase “outside cricket”. It may have meant one man, but it opened the window into their DNA. We’re inside, and if you’re not inside, you’re outside, which means shut the hell up, and butt out.
So many journos are rapid to emphasise the first part – the Piers Morgan part – as if we’re elementary school pupils who need education by constant repetition. No. Increasingly a number, not all, journalists need to have that method applied to the true insight on outside cricket. There is an attitude around that say we are too touchy about it, that it was clumsy, that it wasn’t meant as implied, that it was really all about one person. Well, they knew the storm it caused, and apology there has been none. If there was, I certainly missed it. The ECB acted like all arrogant, out of touch organisations do. It wasn’t going to admit it had made a mistake. Instead, they’d hope us shallow proles would be ameliorated by performances on the field and new fresh brands etc. (note – Andrew Miller says exactly the same in his excellent piece on Alastair Cook) In short, they hoped the team would dig them out and make us forget.
When that didn’t work, we were marginalised. Attempts were made to make us look like idiots. False dawns were (and still are) exaggerated beyond belief. How many pieces do we see about bilious inadequate, the phenomenon of social media and the silent majority codswallop? It’s again, as if we are too stupid to understand. I see our hit rates for a month, and the number of visitors we get. I know this blog is seen by a very small section of the cricket community. Fine by me. While the message can be intemperate, maybe a bit OTT, from my behalf, I didn’t exactly get noticed by being all sweetness and light. Because to do that you become neutered. When an unreasonable party faces someone being aggressive, they tend to blame that party for being unreasonable. To divert attention away from their own failings. I’m really not like that. Nor are many of the readers here.
This is rare from me, but I do apologise to Lawrence, having considered my position overnight, for perhaps reacting in the wrong way to his tweets. If the first paragraph of “Hardly” had been more clear, maybe he could see why, but that’s not enough from me to justify my jumping the gun. I have to recognise when I’ve over-stepped the mark and over-reacted. Lawrence has been someone prepared to break bread with me, and I think using his tweet to post that item was not the brightest thing I’ve ever done. I can still see why I reacted to it the way I did, but I needed to stop and think. We should all learn along the way. I am not one who will let that Piers Morgan / Outside Cricket thing pass, but also Lawrence’s Wisden notes, his comments, and what he says to me along the way, I should have taken into account. My mistake.
There comes a point when you blog, and 18 months full on is pretty hard work, where you evaluate where you are. In terms of quality of writing, this blog is better than ever. TLG is a brilliant addition (thanks jofo), I love the panel stuff, I’ve enjoyed the memories work and others seem to enjoy it too, and at times it has been fun. But the mood that made this blog what it was is changing, and I’m wrestling with myself over whether we can have the success and feedback (struggling for the right word) in an environment like this. There is a “fear” (if that’s the right word) that this blog is a “bad times” blog and when success comes to this England team, as it will, can it function and survive?
This is not a blog that is negative for the sake of it. Seriously, believe it or not, it isn’t. It’s just that negativity brings the best out of me, and many of you. By negativity, of course, I mean critiquing bad results, bad administration, bad reporting not just being doom and gloom merchants. We enjoyed the ODI series that just went by (how could you not watching England bat like that) but instead of many of the print and TV journos who only jumped on the “we are out of date” bandwagon once the World Cup got underway, we’d been banging on about it for ages. Yet we are pilloried by insinuation if we are “not reconnecting with the team” or “falling in love with it”. I’m not. Nowhere near it. I’m pleased we played well. I’m effing livid we blew a World Cup and no-one did anything to change it beforehand. That’s in the past now. Doesn’t matter etc. Because if you think it did, you’d be aiming your laser missile at the ECB, who made Downton carry the can, and then his greatest coach of a generation.
From where I sit, I see much journalism determined by access. It was one of Brian Carpenter’s criticism of HDWLIA in Wisden (don’t get me wrong, I thought it was an incredibly fair article) that I maybe didn’t have an understanding of their pressures. Fine. I probably don’t know the realpolitk of modern sports reporting. That’s because I’m not a journalist. But what I see from the outside is not the stenographer that some of the commenters on here are seeing (and they may be right), but more reporting by access. Benny, I think, on here says that much of the press coverage now in newspapers is out of date by the time you read it, because bloggers get there first, or the internet has it all up. Yes, to a degree, but I was always one who wanted to read what others thought. Half the fun of a Newman column is reading his opinions, and then getting angry about them. The same with Selvey. But remembering that those people have vastly larger
audiences than us and are writing to be read by the fanatics and the casual fan. They have vastly more influence on shaping views than we ever will.
I’ve banged on about the Tyers Twitter Tendency – the inside knowledge what I can’t tell you plebs approach – for ages, but it grates. I wrestle with the fact I talk to a couple of journalists behind the scenes and do not report it here. Am I being a hypocrite? Probably, but this is because I’ve actually not been expressly asked to keep this stuff quiet, and I treat it as a relatively private conversation (I’ve shared a couple of things with my co-writer to be fair). These guys are dealing with the decision makers, and in some cases, are consulted by those decision makers (Downton freely admitted it). That’s where there’s a lack of trust, so that when we see the Outside Cricket line is about Piers Morgan, I get tetchy. That’s the ECB line. You are reporting the ECB line, because they don’t want to admit that’s how they think about cricket, and their public. My touchiness on this is my problem. You wouldn’t have read the stuff on this blog for
the time you have if you didn’t at least respect where it came from.
I will release the Hardly post without the bit referring to the Outside Cricket exchange which will make the comments look slightly odd. Apologies for the long-winded nature of this post, and it’s only touched the surface of what I would wish to say, but it needed clarifying.
Apologies for being off topic, but… check out SuperBrendon at Brummagem tonight! Ashes, shmashes… let’s get the Kiwis back here now. That’s what you do with a cricket ball. I had tickets for New Road next Friday but had to part with them. D’oh!
Hehe, though I agree, you might want to fix this:
‘In terms of quality of writing, this blog is better than ever. TLG is a brilliant edition…’
Anyway, thought the Miller piece was a great read. So refreshing to read a sympathetic article that (tentatively) presents the case for Cook without simply attacking his detractors. However, having read through the lot of it, the overwhelming impression you get (or at least I got), is that it is litany of things that just happened to Alastair Cook (while he was busy making other runs). Perhaps, judging by that opening vignette of the press conference, that’s the implied subtext of the piece.
And that, for me, is the most damning criticism of his leadership you could advance. I’m of the camp that he’s a great batsman, one to be cherished, but a deadweight captain. What other captain – or even ‘senior player’ – of England or any other country, would have been so totally passive to all these issues swirling around him, not saying – let alone doing – anything? They may have been right or spectacularly wrong but they would have had their head. I can’t be bothered, of course, but I think an interesting grammatical analysis could be done on that article regarding the use of the passive as opposed to the active. Killed with kindness perhaps.
Maybe I’m wrong and he is a malicious, manipulative man who would keep KP out for his personal agenda – but this just creates the (very life-like) impression that he was and is going along with the prevailing winds.
Also, I wasn’t going to pick holes in the piece, because I think it’s generally very balanced, but I couldn’t let this pass without comment:
‘Cook’s first real experience of leadership came, at the age of 25, on England’s tour to Bangladesh in 2010 – a total hospital pass of a tour…’
… Poor thing! They should’ve eased him in by giving him a few games against the Dulwich College Under 15s. Seriously, is there a tour that could described as less of a hospital pass? It’s just an annoying glimpse of that common excuse/entitlement thing that the media – not necessarily Cook himself – seem to push so often.
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Cheers JoFo – changed that little typo!!!!
I think there’s a lot in your analysis of the piece on Cook. It was welcome to see someone try to go through some analytical process on it while not feeling the need to be rampant in their criticism, nor be fawning and feeling that adulation is the only way to approach him.
Cheers for the comment….
Great comment Jofo – I agree that the passivity portrayed here is a real spotlight on the issue. Think of those times when the bowlers were just bowling the wrong length, bowling to defeat and Cook didn’t even try to alter things. That’s the key to the problem with making him captain.
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“…I didn’t exactly get noticed by being all sweetness and light. Because to do that you become neutered.”
What a laughably false dichotomy. At any rate, if your goal is to be noticed, I imagine I can dispense with your insights, no? I’d rather read something real.
“This is rare from me, but I do apologise to Lawrence, having considered my position overnight, for perhaps reacting in the wrong way to his tweets.”
I’m betting you can yet be bigger and more responsible than that. No matter, though. Keep writing, keep talking, keep thinking.
That “outside cricket” thing was a revelationary [sic] slur from Downton. Yes, of course he meant Morgan but he was too much of a slithering coward to name him. But it certainly revealed the essence of the ECB’s attitude: Any journalist who isn’t in the boat is outside; any fan who isn’t mindlessly applauding and perhaps volunteering to clean up the champagne corks from the field at Lord’s, is outside. And in fact the game of cricket itself — with all its unpredictability and quirky variables and inability to follow the sponsors’ wishes — is probably outside cricket too.
Above all sport needn’t be taken so seriously — it doesn’t (shouldn’t) matter who was captain or whatever, but communication, honesty and integrity matter a lot and are worth getting angry about.
I hated the way I was treated at the Guardian. I hated the way journalists wrote about KP. I hate being bullshitted. It’s just a friggin game for heaven’s sake. Don’t pull all this smoke and mirrors and character assassination. If you have financial interests or career motives, declare them and don’t pretend you’re writing objective journalism if you’re really just pushing the agreed ECB line. It makes you look like a fool who doesn’t understand the game — so don’t complain if you do it and then get laughed at. And don’t tell people they’re not good enough as fans.
From my side, Dmitri, I can only say keep coming off your long run when the mood takes you. If you’re worried about missing the positive side of things, you haven’t. It’s there. At least I’ve learned a lot from the posts and the comments. Letting off steam and criticising those who deserve it is a necessary part of it. If journalists want you to be more positive, they should stop writing things that deserve to be pilloried.
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Absolutely, DVYK. Dmitri, for perspective, this is a blog – not a political mandate, not a professional (as in paid for) journalist column, it’s not a sermon from the mount. It’s just a sincere guy putting out his honest and passionate feelings on social media and, funnily enough, finding many people who agree. Sounds like Free Speech to me.
You know what I think of the modern, twisted, inadequate Press. I won’t pay money for some hack’s generally dishonest comments. Don’t agree with everything you say (and I know that’s not a problem) but I agree with most.
Don’t care if some clown has come up with the catchphrase “outside cricket” – don’t they love their catchphrases. I’m what I’ve been for 50 years – man in the street, who loves cricket, loves some of what I see and hates some. Oh yes, for Selvey, Newman etc, I’m quite intelligent and experienced enough to form my own opinions about KP, Cook etc. Don’t give a shit what you think.
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Absolutely on point DVYK, “outside cricket” resonated so much because it put words around the way a whole section of the cricketing establishment were treating the fans. And what seems to mystify the journalists is that we don’t buy their self-image. We see them as part of the establishment. (My exchanges with John Etheridge BTL here and at TFT seem full of this misunderstanding. He thinks he is being independent, I see him, with all the “if you knew what I knew” as fully embedded on the “inside.”)
“There is a “fear” (if that’s the right word) that this blog is a “bad times” blog and when success comes to this England team, as it will, can it function and survive?”
Etheridge was on 5 live the other night bleating on about how the media want England to win. The same has been said a million times by almost every English tabloid football writer. It may be true, and they may really sell more copies when England win. But let’s be honest, the English football media have wallowed like a hippopotamus in mud attacking and destroying one England manager after another. Cricket journalists hold no such sway in newspapers. Whatever the result of this years Ashes, whatever they write won’t add a single sale to their papers circulation. Win or lose.
One of the mantras of the English establishment is “never admit wrong, and never apologise.” The ECB will never issue such a statement, however their actions reveal their grovelling admission of their wrong headiness. Downton (GONE) Moores (GONE) the whole ODI philosophy of the last 20 years (GONE) We wanted all of these things, and we have got them. An apology will not be given. That’s too much for the elites. The media as a collective attacked us for wanting these changes. So they are guilty by association. They are left to change the subject and praise Strauss for the changes.
As for the Miller piece I am not that impressed. It is still a Cook puff piece albeit without the malice we find from his cheerleaders. I will never relent on my view that he should never have been made captain. He is not a captain , he is not a leader of men. He is a follower of men. (Perhaps that is why he has been kept in position.)
Cook is the face of the ECB, and it is a face they love. Right type of family, and school. And the right type of face for the sponsors. TINA was always a dishonest defence. Nobody in the England team could have been less effective whatever Brenkley would claim. TINA only surfaced as a defence when his batting form fell of a cliff. They covered for him for about 2 years. And eulogised every 12 or 17 he scored. It was repulsive to watch.
A few years ago there were rumours about David Beckham and the England team. The line was That sponsors demanded his place in the squad, and his selection would add a number of tickets on the gate, particularly at Wembley. Was this true? Who knows? But I always thought it bizarre that a 34/35 year old was flying from one side of the world for a friendly. Beckham may well of been completely committed to the cause, but it was always suspicious. The more the media big up Cook the more suspicious I get. Especially as he has won one series in the last 5.
As to the outside cricket slur, it may well of been aimed at P Morgan. But they decided to go nuclear and fuck the collateral damage it causes. That is why it will for ever be regarded as a cricket war crime in my book.
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Bang on Mark. I remember the ODI series against SL at home in 2014. I was raging at the tactics/strategy/selection. Attitude of the press – “pipe down.” Now things have changed, but no recognition that they were key in propping up the old failings.
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Keep going LCL – I’ve not had time to post recently as been v busy but I check-in here daily for what I consider to be the “voice of reason” and “proper analysis”.
Ps – I would prob be called quasi establishment (I’d disagree but hey-ho) and I love this site.
“This is not a blog that is negative for the sake of it. Seriously, believe it or not, it isn’t. It’s just that negativity brings the best out of me, and many of you. By negativity, of course, I mean critiquing bad results, bad administration, bad reporting not just being doom and gloom merchants.”
It’s true this blog and the comments below are often very critical. But I don’t assume that’s because the people behind it are bitter, it’s because they are faced with an untenable situation. How could any intelligent perqson not be very critical of the ECB over the last few years? The knowledge and love of the game of the people here shines through so even if it’s hard reading sometimes, I can’t dismiss it. And it’s certainly an antidote to the corporate nonsense served up by the other media.
This is a fantastic blog. Don’t stop doing what you are doing.
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This looks a good format – perhaps someone could ‘borrow’ it 🙂
1) Has six Englishmen in his composite team?
2) Says “I’m not a great fan of Clarke, to be honest. He doesn’t seem to get on that well with his coach or the senior players”?
3) Repeats the myth “We saw with that ageing England side in the last Ashes how quickly the wheels can come off”. (Not the same as the first two – and it’s a myth because England and Australia were actually identical ages in the last series)
Needless to say, sledging and divisions within the camp are discussed as if they only apply to Australia. Needless to say part 2, Headingley isn’t mentioned. There is however a graphic that shows Cook’s poor record in home Ashes, the first acknowledgement of that I’ve seen in any paper, and for that I’ll forgive them a lot.
The only reason Cook gets on well with his players is because anyone who doesn’t obey is removed from the team. Andbody can boast unity in those circumstances.
Much harder, and only done by great captains is to manage people who you don’t agree with.
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Yeah, and England saw how quickly the wheels can come off against an aging Australia side in 2006/07 as well. Somehow I don’t think #3 dared to remember that series.
The ugly stuff from England does not get mentioned. What a surprise.
Former ODI captain Cook’s utterances after the Calamity Cup are strangely ignored as well – and they are not irrelevant after the so called “watershed matches” against New Zealand. Either you are referring to a brilliant loss at Headingley (TM), or you are implying that the ODI side finally joined the current decade. Now, rhyme that ODI side and its captaincy with those utterances of Cook, please …
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I knew the composite side one would result from picking Moeen ahead if Lyon! Strange that everyone has assumed Harris is unfit or past it, because otherwise no-one could possibly leave him out, surely.
I also liked the ‘Can Steve Smith do it on a wet Wednesday in Stoke’ equivalent from Newman. Not as if we have a recent, glaring, obvious precedent in Kane Williamson, is it? When it comes to the NZ series, a man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest.
(Yes, Simon and Garfunkel came up on my iPod yesterday)
I don’t think Nasser’s point was that older teams can’t win. Nor that England lost last time because of their age. Look at the sentence before – it was about starting badly. His point was that England started really badly and as a result it looked like a few players began to feel their age and the number of matches in their legs, making our harder to stages a comeback.
I don’t see any necessary connection between age and the ability to comeback in a series. The England side in 1981 had plenty of players not in the first flush of youth (Brearley, Boycott, Bob Taylor – hope he gets well soon – Willis, Old). Also, England got younger as 13/14 progressed as the likes of Swann dropped out and Stokes came in but it didn’t seem to help.
We need to be careful not to conflate age with matches played. One is a natural process and one isn’t. England may have been ground down by ECB schedules (although England don’t play many more matches than Australia), injury management, resistence to rotation and other factors but these aren’t ‘age’. These are how Flower chose to manage his resources.
The whole one tour too many/they’d achieved all they wanted to in the game explanation of 13/14 really gets my back up. It is the official version of what went wrong on that tour that they give when they have to talk about it – which of course they try to avoid. It’s true perhaps of Swann and Trott but that’s as far as it goes. It’s a comforting myth Flower and the ECB tell themselves that says all they did wrong was show too much loyalty. There was much more that was rotten in that set-up that they don’t want to face.
On positivity – I think if England are playing well, there is plenty to talk about. Many here are actually more interested in good cricket, talking about technique and strategy, etc. than talking about Board politics. If we’ve been cautious about the ODI series, it’s because “one swallow does not a summer make” – we fear to embrace it until we see if it’s actually a long-term change.
However, it’s worth noting to my mind that even if this Ashes goes better than I expect (And I’m frankly pessimistic.) there are a pile of issues that I’m not prepared to let go:
– Decline of the grassroots playing base
– Ongoing issue about lack of free to air television coverage
– For me (those who saw the panel will know my heritage) the continued problems in connecting with the grassroots of Asian heritage matter a lot too
– County scheduling remains a complete mess, from the point of view of a fan who has a job and whose child goes to school.
– Prices at international matches, shenanigans around rain refunds, abysmal facilities at most Test grounds (for the price) are big issues for me too.
– Lots of issues remain around “Bluffborough” – young fast bowlers being the most obvious, but we might also understand that we have no Steve Smith (unorthodox batsman – list your own favourite here, oddly mine might be Chanderpaul).
– And don’t get me started on the entire English cricket relationship with spinners.
– Injury management – yet to see if this has improved under Bayliss. But the press are forever giving a free pass on this one.
So I think there’s plenty to talk about on the negative side too. All the more so because even though I can theorise how England might win the Ashes (saving that for a panel question, should it come) it would be a triumph over structural weakness, not a fixing of those weaknesses.
Critical thinking is always required. Critical thinking is not negative thinking. Keep up the good work and write when and what you want to: its your blog.
Ryan Harris forced to retire:
Pat Cummins slightly surprising choice of replacement – not because of any lack of quality but doubts about his five-day fitness.
Be interesting to see if Selvey ,Hughes and the other usual suspects can write something tasteful as a tribute, and not obnoxious and tub thumping.
All his wickets in 13/14:
Scyld Berry’s player ratings:
Which three England players does he rate 8/10 (there are no 9s or 10s)? Clue: Joe Root gets 7/10, his technique picked apart and his record in the last two series against Australia questioned (which might all be fair enough if……you know the rest).
I also like the way Berry puts all the onus to attack Nathan Lyon on to Ian Bell. Not that if Bell attacks Lyon and gets out we’ll be hearing phrases like ‘soft dismissal’ and ‘mentally frail’…..
This is a curious assertion from Berry:
“the captain who makes centuries cannot captain badly”
Berry, from what I’ve seen & understand, isn’t one of the worst offenders and I have read the odd insightful piece from him, but that is the kind of stupidity that English cricket fans are expected to smear their daily bread with. And if you call it ridiculous, you get attacked as a bilious inadequate.
And a thought on the Miller piece. He certtainly gets closer to stating the bleeding obvious than virtually any other English journalist does, but he still stops short. He quotes Cook’s statement about the captaincy having been “taken away” from him, but he stops short of pointing out that this demonstrates that Cook not only has an egotistical sense of entitlement, but clearly understands so little about captaincy and has so little awareness of his own ineptitude, that he genuinely thinks he deserved the ODI captaincy. That was clearly what Miller was hinting at, on my reading at least. Why didn’t he say it clearly?
Berry is, as you say, not one of the worst offenders. But sometime he just seems to march off the reservation. Sometimes he sems to march off his own reservation.
The idea that if you make centries you can’t captain badly is rather simplistic. I know what he means about leading from the front, but if you set crap fields, and make the wrong bowling changes your century may not be enough win the match.
I love this blog. You get a thorough traducing of the corporate bullshit that surrounds big cricket and the consequent hypocrisy about the grass roots. You get a good insight into the machinations and delusions of the press and,interestingly, our delusions too. You also get some pretty decent analysis of the game and technique (that comment from Miller about old steel eyed spam’s one hoick from off to leg was revealing both of Cook’s troubles in OD cricket and why playing the short form stuff might have effected his test technique, but was also revealing of what is so conspicuous by its absence from much cricket reporting. It is the sort of comment you see here a fair bit, though. It is not to say that we get it right all the time — Dobel seems to have been correct about sheep to the slaughter’s relocation of his offstump and his balance, whilst our own Leg Glance was insisting, correctly I thought, the he was still all wobbly on his pins (like a lamb in spring, perhaps). I digress. The only reason I don’t comment so much is that I’ve said it all before.
I also like the fact that all of the commentators from the G that I respected for years are here. I get a little thrill when any of them reply to my comments.