Well what a remarkable game of the cricket to get the 2013 Ashes series underway. I’m not sure I can remember many test matches in which the momentum swung so often and so dramatically. The final winning margin of just fourteen runs was proof of a close-fought encounter, but the bare figures don’t do justice to five days of compelling sporting action.
Did England deserve to win? I think they probably did—in James Anderson and Ian Bell, they had the two players who ultimately made the most decisive contributions. Had the Australians sneaked past their target, would they have deserved the victory? Absolutely. Their performance displayed all the determination and fight you’d expect from a touring Ashes side, and to come so close but fall just a few runs short must have been tough to take, especially for Brad Haddin and James Pattinson, whose tenth wicket partnership was simply superb.
From the perspective of the series as a whole, obviously the result does make an overall Australian victory much less likely, but events in Nottingham proved that England are arguably not quite as good as has been publicly perceived, and Michael Clarke’s squad was never going to be the walkover that the media had predicted.
The Trent Bridge test suggests we’re in for a fabulous summer of cricket and I certainly wouldn’t be willing to try and guess the eventual outcome, but I suppose the game will be partly remembered for some controversial moments involving the umpires and DRS(Decision Review System).
The “what ifs” of Ashton Agar’s “stumping” —what a brilliant debut from the young man, by the way—and Jonathan Trott’s first-baller are largely irrelevant now. And as for Stuart Broad standing when given not out for the big nick that ended up in the hands of first slip, I can see both sides of the argument—the “spirit of the game” against the umpire’s decision. I always walked when I was playing (mainly because it’s hard to stand there looking innocent when your off pole has cartwheeled past the keeper), but the stakes are so much higher in the professional arena and let’s be honest, true sportsmen of the calibre of Adam Gilchrist are a dying breed.
On balance, I don’t blame Broad for abiding by the umpire’s decision—however glaringly wrong it was—and although it’s a moot point, I wonder just how many players from either side would have walked in that same situation. That said, if Broad is on the receiving end of a shocker at Lord’s, there’ll be plenty of cameras waiting to record his reaction!
The fact that the result was decided on yet another DRS review—and an overturned umpiring call—was ironic to say the least, but shouldn’t detract from a thrilling match that is further proof (if proof was actually needed) of the profile and appeal of the five-day game.
Here’s to more of the same at Lord’s...
On Sunday morning, Andy Murray was simply a tennis player—albeit a very good tennis player—but after winning the Wimbledon Men’s final, he has essentially become a “brand”. It is a remarkable transformation that resulted from three hours of compelling sporting drama and a quite stunning success.
Yet there are still those who seem to have a perception of Murray simply as a dour Scot—and actually want to see him lose as a result. I find that very hard to understand.
Yes I am English (actually I’m one quarter Scottish), but I am also British—and proudly so—and there is no way I would have wanted to see a fellow Briton lose out in a sporting encounter of such magnitude.
If I’m honest, there have been times when I have expected Murray to lose, but that’s massively different to wanting him to lose. Britain does have a natural affinity with the heroic sporting failure and our media has the ability (some might say “gift”) for building up a winner only to delight in knocking him/her right back down again.
But it does seem a bit harsh to judge someone based on what is evidently a public persona. There is far more to any professional sport than simply those performances in front of the cameras and paying public—there are almost certainly years of constant training and sacrifice in the hope that you can produce your absolute best when it really matters.
In many ways, it was sad that it took the crumbling of Murray’s emotional walls after last year’s Wimbledon final for the public at large to get a glimpse of the person behind the mask—and whatever type of media society we live in, it was not a divine right to see the “real” Andy Murray. Perception changed, Murray’s results changed (viz. an Olympic gold medal and US Open title) and on Sunday, this determined and gifted young man reached the pinnacle of his sport.
In defeat, Novak Djokovic was pure class (as were his parents who took the time to embrace Judy Murray); and for those who felt in some way disappointed at the triumph of a fellow countryman, well they missed out on that brilliant but all-too-rare feeling you can only get from being just the tiniest part of a fantastic moment in sporting history.
Today’s blog is about Wimbledon and women’s tennis, but whilst acknowledging the fantastic achievement of Marion Bartoli, who won yesterday’s ladies singles final in straight sets, I want to concentrate on her opponent, the German Sabine Lisicki.
Before I do though, this year’s women’s competition has been compelling. The top seed and overwhelming favourite lost relatively early in the competition. The loudest grunters succumbed to injury or unexpected defeat and by the time the semi-finals were decided, a first-time Wimbledon champion was guaranteed. It was wonderful to watch.
Anyway . . . it is a particular British trait to both support an underdog and feel some sort of emotional attachment to what is perceived as a gallant loser. Sabine Lisicki lost yester-day; in fact she was soundly beaten, but the bare scoreline of 6-1, 6-4 only tells part of the story.
In reaching the final, the twenty-three year old twenty-third seed from Troisdorf did something that almost guaranteed instant popularity – she beat Serena Williams. But it wasn’t so much the result, but the manner in which the victory was achieved – recovering from being 3-0 down in the final set after being swept aside 6-1 in the second. We take ability for granted – you wouldn’t be in the competition if you weren’t a very good player – but to show such incredible strength (of mind as well as body) to overturn what looked a decisive deficit and beat one of the most dominant players of any generation was quite remarkable.
For me though, it was what followed that truly endeared her to the crowd – and those watching at home. The smile that never left her face as she stopped to sign autographs (and she signed more than probably any other player) was replaced by tears of joy during the post-match interview, as the enormity of her achievement finally hit home.
That result raised expectation – perhaps unfairly – but despite occasional lapses, Sabine continued to produce brilliant tennis when it really mattered and duly reached her first Grand Slam final.
Yesterday’s occasion clearly affected the young German, she froze and for the first time in the competition, she was unable to summon up the consistency and shots needed to overcome her opponent. The emotion Sabine had displayed off-court momentarily surfaced during the match itself – that will be seen as weakness by some, but to wear your heart so openly on your sleeve will make the majority of the British public warm to you, and so it proved.
After the match, the presentation, the interview and the photographs, Sabine walked off the Centre Court, stopping yet again to sign autographs. As a professional tennis player, this must have been the toughest moment of her career and she was probably desperate for the sanctuary of the locker room where her emotions could be released in more private surroundings. Yet by staying behind, she will have made the day for many an autograph hunter and I noticed that as she finally made to leave the court, she turned round and returned because someone had been missed.
Now that is true class.
Rafael Nadal showed a similar humility after suffering an unprecedented first round defeat, but these people are most definitely the minority – but far more worthy of mention as a consequence.
During the post-match interview Marion Bartoli said she was sure Sabine would reach another Grand Slam final. I’m not sure you it’s possible to say she will, but she most certainly can – and one thing is for sure, Sabine Lisicki will get a wonderful ovation every time she returns to SW19. She is a fantastic tennis player, but more importantly, a genuinely nice person and whilst Marion Bartoli will deservedly grab the headlines, Sabine Lisicki is one runner-up who won’t be forgotten.
Have Saturday evenings really come to this? Your Face Sounds Familiar featured six celebrities (and I use the term advisedly in some cases...) who not only had to sound like a certain singer, but look like them too – to the extent that prosthetics were used... apparently.
The premise was that each celeb would be randomly allocated a particular artiste and then the transformation would get underway...
As for sounding like the singer in question, Bobby Davro certainly did a passable impression of Tom Jones – then again, I suppose he’s made a career out of doing passable impressions. Sadly the make-up department went a little too far with the fake tan and Davro looked more like the back of a Robertson’s jam jar than the Welsh crooner.
For me, Denise Lewis (above) was the best performer on the night. She looked like Tina Turner, moved like Tina Turner and even though she didn’t have her voice, the former Olympic heptathlon gold medallist could certainly belt out a tune.
There was some bizarre judging though: Alexander Armstrong as Johnny Cash was seemingly marked down for not dancing about the stage – even though Johnny Cash was hardly noted for busting too many moves during his career. Yet Cheryl Fergison was complimented on her arm-waving skills even though the rest of her remained essentially static during her rendition of Dusty Springfield’s “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”.
In fairness, she did sing the song well, but it didn’t sound anything like the erstwhile Mary O’Brien. As for looking like her...
Well that aspect of the show was clearly ignored as Ms Fergison scored top marks from the judges. I’m not being funny but when she waited to see her potential choice of singers, I was fully expecting final decision to be a close-run thing between Mama Cass Elliott and Demis Roussos– but seriously, Dusty Springfield?!
Shows how little I know.
All I can say is that I won’t be watching next week – or the week after – and if there’s no other choice on the one hundred and twenty-seven other channels I can watch, then I’ll just have to bring wine o’clock forward an hour or two.
Actually I’m now really hoping the telly’s crap...
All my own work... almost.