It’s just not cricket


Can you imagine Manchester United playing Chelsea in a home game at The Emirates, or West Ham playing Everton at Anfield?  It simply would not happen unless there was a blooming good reason such as some ground redevelopment going on.  Well those crazy marketing people at the Twenty20 just keep the silly season going a bit longer.  We’ve had players wearing microphones when they have been batting or fielding, we’ve had the “lets win a seat in a jacuzzi on the boundary” and this year we have seen the introduction of the dancing “girls”.  So why now do we have the equivalent of the Premier League’s game 39?  The “not at home, home game”.

Step forward Kent Spitfires.  County Ground – Canterbury.  Lovely cathedral city in the garden of England, some 60 miles from London.  And therein lies the issue.  It is too bloody far away from London.  The ideal market for Twenty20 are lads, wanting a few beers after work.  Unless you take a half day you are not going to get down to Canterbury for a 5.30pm start unless you take a half day.  So here is the solution – play the game in London!

Not that I am really complaining of course.  With the chosen venue, the Oval just a beamer away from the office I was guaranteed to be there for the toss.  Twenty20 transcends across all types of people and so CMF’s office had also decided to travel UP from Kent to watch the game.  Who was I to argue – I would get to go out with suitable chums (Mr Grumble of course being one and a guest appearance from Barnet John) for a few beers, whilst being able to lovingly gaze into the eyes of my wife.  Or more likely she would be frowning back at me for being “embarrassing”…Lets just see shall we once that pint of Pimms has been finished! Continue reading

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A double dose of disappointment


England woke up on Saturday 19th June to a dark cloud hanging over most areas.  The events the previous evening in Cape Town had taken the wind out of the sails of those horrible car window flags and the press had sharpened their knives in preparation to cut down another promising tournament.  I had taken Friday off, a rare break from the stresses of work.  So what did I end up doing?  Of course, working and then watching sport – a typical TBIR day off really.

Don’t feel too sorry for me though (no please really – I don’t want medals, or even money for such dedication).  The joys of the World Cup meant that by 12.30pm I was watching the Germany v Serbia game in the pub with a cold glass of Fuller’s Honey Dew beer.  A great game thanks to some bizarre refereeing but made even bizarre by the commentary on the TV being at least 10 seconds behind the picture.  It would have been rude not to have stayed for one more and of course the first half of the Slovenia v USA game, which as you will know USA won again (don’t believe me? Look here) before I headed down to the Oval. Continue reading

Sussex by the sea


Sussex Sharks 155-7 beat Somerset Sabres 103 all out by 52 runs – County Ground Hove – Tuesday 1st June 2010 – Friend Provident Twenty20 Cup
Arise Sir Twenty20.  However thought of the concept deserves a ruddy medal.  It is not everyone’s cup of tea.  The sight of Bumble last night watching a rather buxom cheerleader jog behind the bowlers arm in tight hotpants and little else will testify to that, but for sheer bloody entertainment you cannot beat it.

Let the Razzmatazz begin

Last night saw the 2010 season kick off, with a repeat of the final from August last year when the Sussex Sharks beat the Somerset Sabres.  Sharks I just get, being close to the sea and all that, but the Sabres?  What has a curved single bladed back sword have to do with the home of Cider and Cheddar cheese I will never know – but then again apart from having the same letter to start their names, Are Durham electric generators (Dynamos),  Yorkshire Carnegie – isn’t that just cheating and selling out as sponsorship and where are the ghosts in Derbyshire?

Anyway, the TBIR team headed down to enjoy some typical Summer evening weather – cold and wet.  Miraculously the game started on time with Sussex being asked to have a slog first.  The teams walked out to a fireworks style opening and indulged in the football tradition of the hand shake line up – how very inclusive. Continue reading

Beckenham Palace


You may remember dear reader that last Sunday on Father’s Day I was absent from the Fuller household, enjoying the sunshine and “local” sights in Oslo.  Instead of simply dismissing this US-created excuse for the card industry for another year, the little Fullers wanted to treat Daddy and so we postponed it a week.  So queue a lie in, breakfast in bed, some very pleasing presents and an offer to attend the cricket at Beckenham was forthcoming – which of course it would have been rude to have turned down.

I had actually managed to sneak another quick Twenty20 game in on Thursday night, watching Surrey get absolutely stuffed by the Essex Eagles at the Oval.  Surrey had been the team to beat for nearly five years but their team had grown old and the way that Alastair Cook destroyed their attack at the Oval was a sign of the new order.  Cook went on to get 100 not out in an innings of power and control, not giving one single chance away in his 57 ball innings.

So Surrey were already eliminated from the competition, and Kent’s successive wins over Surrey and Hampshire meant that they were guaranteed a Quarter Final berth anyway. So it appeared to be a “dead rubber”, but as the game was being played at Beckenham, it was  too much of a draw to miss.  Beckenham is our closest “county ground” and I use that in the loosest sense of the word as although it is only 5.2 miles from Chez Fuller it is certainly not in Kent!  It sits almost on the South Circular in the shadow of the huge TV ariels of Crystal Palace in South London.  The ground, which Kent use once a year for two matches sits on the old Lloyds Bank Sports Ground.

It was here that in 1989 I completed a unique treble.  At the time I worked for the bank and played for them in three different sports.  In early May 1989 I hit 102 not out on the very square that Kent Spitfires would be using.  My innings was not quite in the same league as Mr Cook’s as it look me over 3 hours and I believe from memory I faced nearly 150 balls, but it still remains one of my two only centuries.  The following day I played for Lloyds Bank Park Lane versus Lloyds Bank Mayfair in a real grudge match.  I had the type of game that newspapers would have a field day over.  A hatrick by halftime, including a 25 yard free kick and a very very rare Fuller header (only three in my whole career) had set me up nicely, and when I back heeled a fourth in after an hour it was all rosey….and then I got Sent Off.  I rose to the bait of a young whipper snapper from the machine room (banking sounded so exciting back then) and smacked him one.  Right in front of the referee who happened to be our Area Manager as well…Ouch.

Three days later I was back, making my debut for the bank at Hockey and I managed to score a goal, although the four I had chalked off still riles with me today – after all what sort of game has rules where you can’t “turn” or use the outside of your stick to dribble!

Those were the days and today the Bank’s sports ground is no more – sold off to finance an Exec’s pension fund or something.  I would like to think that the small plaque that was put up on the wall to commemorate my century still sits with some historian somewhere, although I doubt it very much.

Kent Spitfires 184-7 beat Surrey Brown Caps 168-9 by fifteen runs – Beckenham – Sunday 28th June

Robert Key's right at home here!

Robert Key's right at home here!

 London was in the grips of a heatwave and after a morning in the garden with our new Teepee fully erected and the fire pit ready and stoked, we headed over to Beckenham.  We prepped Littlest Fuller to say, if asked, that she was five and thus avoided paying for her entry, although CMF did put a ban on my idea of putting both girls in the boot so we wouldn’t have to pay for either.  The crowds had come out in force early, enticed by the fact there was absolutely no other sport on anywhere in England apart from the bore that is Wimbledon.

Kent won the toss and elected to bat first, on a track that I know only too well did not play spin.  Unlike Essex on Thursday night, Kent made heavy work of the Powerplay, with Key more interested in the food stands it seemed that attacking the poor Surrey bowlers.  With the score at 53-2 after 7 overs, Geriant Jones was joined by the run machine Martin van Jaarsveld.  These two demolished all comers and put on 96 in double quick time with Jones plundering 47 off 30 balls (including two huge sixes) and MVJ as he is known to his fans scoring another half century, eventually departing after forty balls for 64.  184 in the end was a disappointment and it was only some excellent bowling by Spreigel with 4 for 33 that kept the score under 200.

Surrey had only honour to play for and whilst wickets fell regularly the first six batsmen all made over 20 and all scored at over a run a ball.  But they simply ran out of decent batsmen and fell fifteen runs short in the end as the storm clouds gathered all around us. 

We got home for CMF to cook roast beef, a quick Super Mario competition and the Little Fuller’s first bowling lessons in the garden, using our new Teepee as the wicket…what a spiffing Fathers Day!

White shoes, white ball…let’s all have a disco!


There are alot of stereotypes about Essex.  Ford Capri’s, dumb blondes, the birthplace of the Chav, Southend and day tripping Eastenders are all some of the cautionary tale subjects in the past year, but one bright spot in the past year has been form of Essex Eagles.  Last season the team won the Friends Provident Trophy, beating arch rivals Kent, their first trophy in a number of years.  However, the biggest story was in the Twenty20 where the club were almost unbeatable at Chelmsford.  The star in those games was Graham Napier who rose to prominence as an all-rounder par excellence.  Not only did he return figures of 4 for 10 in 4 overs from their Quarter Final versus Northants but more importantly he scored an amazing 152 not out in the game versus Sussex Sharks.  That evening in late June 2008 will be long remembered by all of those few thousand who were in the ground that night.

Napier came to the crease with the score 13-1 in the second over, and proceeded to dominate the strike, breaking records left right and centre.  Not only was his final 152 not out the highest Twenty20 score ever in the UK (only 2nd ever century for Essex in this competition), but the 242-3 was Essex’s highest ever total in the competition (actually 48 more runs than their second biggest score).  Napier and James Foster put on the one and only hundred partnership in Essex’s history (119 as a 3rd wicket partnership) and Napier  scored his final total from just 58 balls and included 10 fours and an amazing 16 sixes (meaning he hit 136 in boundaries from twenty six balls!!!) which equalled the most ever sixes in an innings in a English game…

Essex went on to reach the Finals day for the first time and came up against Kent again although this time the Spitfires came out on top, neutralising the Napier effect by hitting him for 33 off 3 overs and only allowing him to score 3 runs.  Napier’s success had led him to the English World Cup squad, much to the Eagles loss this season although they had recorded wins against the odds versus Kent, Surrey and Sussex prior to this.

Chelmsford is actually easier for me to reach than all other grounds bar the Oval.  It is actually quicker as well – a simple 35 minute drive round the M25 and up the A12.  Whilst the Oval and Lords are nearer, public transport is a hassle and takes the journey times on a bad day to well over an hour.  After parking in one of the side streets I headed into the ground, which was at almost capacity as the first ball was bowled.  The thing that struck me was the mismatch of styles around the ground.  A couple of small double decker stands, a couple of single covered ones (why do you need a cover?  If it rains there wont be any play!), marquee type executive boxes on the pitch side and a strange paddock area in front of the main stand where children played whilst the game went on.  I had my money firmly on a home win, and after seeing some disappointing batting displays I was hoping that the ghost of Napier would rub off on some of his team mates present.

So far this season I had seen eight innings of Twenty20 with an average score of 127.  Overall in the competition this season the average score had been a tad higher at 131 – compare this to the highest average of 2006 when the score was 166!

Essex Eagles 126-7 lost to Sussex Sharks 130-2 by 8 wickets – The County Ground, Chelmsford – Wednesday 3rd June

Lighting the way for the Sharks

Lighting the way for the Sharks

Firstly, please excuse the quality of today’s photos.  I unfortunately left the trusted Fuller camera in the house and so had to fall back on the Blackberry’s camera phone which hasn’t done a bad job actually.

So four Twenty20’s down and an average batting innings of 127 hasn’t really filled me with excitement for the World Twenty20.  Essex Eagles were last year’s big hitters and I expected to see some fireworks in this one, especially as Alaistar Cook started off with a few glorious strikes in the first two overs.  In fact with the score at 30-0 off 3 overs it looked very promising for the Eagles.  But that really was the high point in a disappointing innings as they scored a further 96 runs off 17 overs after Cook departed, bowled by Chad Keegan for 18.  Sussex could certainly be pleased with their contribution both in terms of fielding (restricting the Eagles to just 9 boundaries) and some outstanding bowling by Dwayne Smith whose 3 for 19 was a fabulous return from his four overs.

The ground was pretty full and I had to make do with a “restricted” view from the back of the stands.  What surprised me was the number of groups of blokes standing around the concourse area drinking and having no intention of watching any of the game.  Whilst a few will be on corporate jollies, others will have paid £20+ for the privilage of entry and will have seen nothing of the game.  Yes I appreciate that it wasn’t actually that good a game, but surely they could have at least supported their team?

And support Essex needed.  Hamilton-Brown and Goodwin took to the attack from the first ball, signalling their intent with an attacking opening stand of 74 before Hardinges took two relatively quick wickets.  But with Goodwin scoring the tenth highest Twenty20 score against Essex in 64 not out (including 6 x 4’s and 2 x 6’s) and Yardy anchoring the other end with a steady 19 they easily reached the modest target with ten balls to spare.

The win saw Sussex top the Southern League, albeit having played two more games than anyone else, and Essex slip to second, level on points with Kent with only two guaranteed to go through.  How they wish they had a Napier of June 2008 in their team.  With the floodlights twinkling away in the Essex night sky the crowds headed off to Sam’s, the original home of white shoes and dancing around the handbags to ease away the pain of a home defeat.

 

About the Ford County Ground
The 6,500 capacity County Ground has been the headquarters of Essex since 1967. The ground is notoriously windy but with great drainage following improvements in 1982. It is a compact ground for a county HQ, but nevertheless much use has been made of the space available. The ground has one double-decker seating area, marquees, executive suites and mostly single-tier seating. Its pavilion, built in the 1970s, has recently been extended and contains all sorts of memorabilia.. It is also one of the only four current grounds with permanent floodlights which were installed in 2002. Graham Gooch has scored most of his 40,000 plus first-class runs here and Essex have had their most successful seasons here, too. Surrey will remember one match for a different reason, though: in 1983, they recorded their lowest innings of 14. The crowd are close to the boundary rope in most places and can make for an intimidating atmosphere akin to Upton Park!  A new development of flats to the south of the ground offer some fantastic (and free) views.

Thanks to Cric.info for some of the above info

How to get to the Ford County Ground
If you are coming by car then follow the A12 from the M25 junction 28 eastwards for around 9 miles until you get to junction 15 signposted A414 Chelmsford.  Follow this along the dual carriageway then over two roundabouts.  At the third (follow brown signs for cricket) turn left and the ground is a mile down the road on your left.  There is plenty of car parks in the town centre or street parking for night games or Sundays.  The nearest railway station is Chelmsford which is a 10 minute walk away. 

How to get a ticket for the Ford County Ground
As with most cricket, ticket availability depends on the type of game.  For the one day games against the likes of Surrey, Middlesex and Kent then advance booking is recommended as they can sell out.  General ground admission is £20 with an extra £7 for a reserved seat.  For county games the price is £16.  They can be bought online at http://www.essexcricket.org.uk/tickets.html or by phone on 01245 252420.

Phew, What a Scorcher!


 On the hottest day of the year what better way to spend a family Sunday afternoon than at one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world?  There can be no denying the appeal of Canterbury’s St Lawrence Ground on the harshest of English summer days, but when the sun is out, the temperature rises and the beer is flowing it is a wonderful place.  Bribed with a bit of tobogganing in the morning (yep – hottest day of the year and we went down the UK’s longest toboggan run) the Fuller family were excited to continue down the A2 for a spot of Twenty20 action as Kent faced the Sussex Sharks.

We arrived a full hour before the game started, but already the car park was filling up.  The St Lawrence ground is one of the few that allows you to drive you car right up to the boundary, meaning we had a “tailgate” party so the Americans say.  CMF had laid on all the extras – sausage rolls, cherries, salad cream and of course a few beers – perfect for the sunshine.  Soon it was time for Sussex to try and get their Twenty20 campaign back on track after two wins from their four games.  They won the toss and decided to bat first…..

 Kent Spitfires 133-5 beat Sussex Sharks 132-7 by 5 wickets – St Lawrence Ground – Sunday 31st May

 
I fell out of my chair again

I fell out of my chair again

It is important in Twenty20 to a) start off fast with just two fielders allowed outside the inner circle, and b) not to lose your top order batsmen in the first five or so overs.  Sussex got half of this right – Goodwin monopolised the strike early on and hit over a run a ball in the first few overs, but never received the support his hitting deserved.  Nash, Martin-Jenkins, Ed Smith and Ed Joyce all departed for less than five runs between them, facing just sixteen balls.  44-4 after just eight overs was not a promising start.

The girls had got used to flashing their scorecards in the air whenever the music came on but it was more for the wickets than the boundaries in the first fifteen overs as apart from Goodwin’s quick fire 39, and a dogged 26 from Yardy there was little boundary action (nine in fact in the first fourteen overs).

70 for 6 with just five overs to go brought ex-Kent big hitter Yasir Arafat to the crease and he demonstrated what his ex-employees were missing.  43 runs from a shade over 30 balls was a real Twenty20 innings.  The girls had been waiting patiently for a six all innings, but in their trip to the little girls room which took all of 4 balls they missed two of them from Arafat including one that clear the first two rows of cars in the outfield.  132 for 7 was another low score in the competition and underlines the issues batsmen had had with the early start to the competition this season.  That being said, some fantastic bowling from Mahmood with 3 for 16 from his four overs did help.

So a tad over six an over was required by Kent but they fell into the same trap as the Sharks with three wickets going down very cheaply in the opening few overs.  However if there are two batsmen in England at the moment who are in tip top batting form then it is ex-England wicketkeeper Geraint Jones and Martin Van Jaarsveld.  The South African had already hit four centuries so far this season and looked to another hit innings here with three boundaries in his first four balls.  His 39 from 32 balls was the catalyst for Jones to go onto to hit the first fifty I have seen this season, scoring 56 in less than forty balls including three sixes.  With Jones in his mid-thirties he hit a magnificent strike towards the boundary (as luck would have it the little Fullers had gone on another toilet break) and the Sussex fielding pair of Dwayne Smith and Chris Nash.  Smith palmed the ball up in the air but collided in the process with the on rushing Nash, sending him flying into the advertising hoardings.  It was obvious that Nash was hurt (none of the histrionics from cricketers like footballers) and after fifteen minutes of treatment an ambulance was summoned and Nash was taken away with a suspected broken leg.  Jones fell eventually for 56 with the scores level but three overs to go meant Kent easily coasted home.

It was a great afternoon.  Isabella got to wear all of her make up at various points in the afternoon, Lolly managed to don her best St Tropez scowl and CMF managed to burn her Charlies without actually getting them out.  Great days…

A round one at the Oval


 When Twenty20 Cricket was introduced some six years ago to English cricket.  It is now a worldwide cash cow with competitions being played in most cricketing countries, and a World Cup due to start in early June in England.  In the early days virtually every game was sold out although the number of games played was far less than today.  The introduction of the coloured kits, games played under floodlights, music, pitch side dugouts and pizzas and players with mics so that they could chat to the commentators was revolutionary and certainly upset a number of traditionalists.

However they became a great success with the fans, and with the concept of a finals day with the semi-finals and final being played at one ground on one day was a roaring success (although the Oval final in 2006 with a “live” performance from Girls Aloud was a damp squib).  My favourite incident was back in 2006 when in a televised game one county set up a sofa on the boundary for some lucky fans.  A huge hit from one of the batsmen was heading for the boundary but a fielder raced round to try and make the catch.  He jumped but it was just too high for him, but sofa man had anticipated this, run round the boundary and took a one handed diving catch!  Take a bow son!!!

With the Twenty20 World Cup taking up the normal slots in Mid June this years tournament was in two halves.  The weather in May is always hit and miss so it was with some trepidation that the games kicked (or bowled) off on Monday.  The South group had been dubbed the “Group of Death” as Surrey, Kent and Middlesex had been previous winners, and Essex and Hampshire are two of the best one day teams in the country.  The first two rounds of results had seen wins apiece for all of the teams (bar Essex) so the next set of games would be crucial.

Mr Grumble (Joel) was up for this one.  Mr Grumble has worked for me a couple of times and was always the model professional, but he loves a moan – he is a cross between a Carry on shop steward and a barrister – always smartly dressed andvery dapper but not afraid to go on strike (as his girlfriend Jemma told me once!).  He’s had a hard time recently, suffering from the downturn in the economy so it was my job to cheer him up. 

The weather didn’t look good but we were determined to have a good chat, a few beers andwatch a bit of frenetic cricket.  Surrey had a fantastic reputation in the competition, winning the first ever tournament with stars such as Ali Brown (who still holds the one day record score of 176 in a huge 496 for 4 in 50 overs!), Alec Stewart, Mark Butcher and Mark Ramprakash and runners up the following season to Leicestershire Foxes. 

Surrey Brown Caps 125-8 beat Hampshire Hawks 124-9 by 1 run – The Oval – Wednesday 27th May 2009
The fine weather from the weekend had headed south to the Med during Wednesday and left us with a cold and rain-threatening evening.  With the Champions League final taking place in Rome, and more importantly in most living rooms up and down the country it was hardly surprising that the crowd failed to break the 5,000 mark – very unusual for a Twenty20 game under the lights at the Oval.

Surrey won the toss and decided to make the most of the light by batting first.  However, their plan came undone on the third ball of the evening as Afzaal was out caught and bowled for zero after facing just two balls.  This coming just forty eight hours after he hit a magnificent 98 not out at Lords against Middlesex which included 8 fours and 2 sixes.  Ramprakash came to the wicket but never really got going, eeking out just eight runs including a huge six before he was smartly stumped.

After this everyone contributed double figures to the score, with Walters top scoringwith 30.  The pick of the wickets was undoubtably the two run outs of Elliott and Speigel but a total of just 125 never seemed enough.  Surrey simply did not findthe boundary enough, with just 52 coming in fours and sixes (7 x 4 and 4 x 6).  Each of the Surrey batsman almost hit a run a ball but that is simply not enough in the Twenty20 game and Hampshire must have fancied their chances despite the natural light fading.

The half time entertainment was the ropey (and cold looking) “Surreyettes” who wandered around the edge of the pitch lobbing T-shirts into the crowd.  They certainly could have auditioned for the old Hammerettes with their 10 pairs of American Tan tights to add “volume” to their skinny legs.  Most fans had disappeared at  this point to the warmth of the concourse where the football was on, and the beer flowed, although those on the Fosters were taking it back at regular intervals as it tasted “disgusting”. How can you differentiate what a good pint of Fosters takes like?  It always tastes disgusting!

With Man Utd 1-0 down in Rome, the sparse crowd cheered on Spriegel as he ran in to open the bowling, and with just his 2nd ball Wilson took a neat stumping to put Hampshire 0-1.   This brought Ervine to the crease and he set about the task at hand with a quick fire 25 off 20 balls to put them ahead of the game.  When Lamb went in the third over Chris Benham came to the crease and along with Carberry put on the first (andonly) fifty partnership of the game.  With half their overs to go Hampshire needed just 55 and had 7 wickets in hand and looked odds on for victory.

But Surrey weren’t finished just yet and Carberry, Benham and Dawson were all removed in a space of two overs for just 5 runs.  The incoming batsmen simply could not play themselves in and three more wickets fell in the next four overs for just 15 runs, meaning that Hampshire needed 16 runs to win with just one wicket left and 8 balls to go.  Anyone who had put money on Surrey at the 10 over mark would now be licking their lips at a very nice pay out.  But nobody told Riazuddin that the game was up and with six balls to go andfourteen needed he set about the task wih two boundaries in the last over.  So with one ball to go Hampshire required 4 runs to win.  It was one boundary too far for them as they could only it the ball to deep mid-wicket for two runs and so Surrey had won a nail bitter. 

It was hardly riveting stuff but the end did give the sparse crowd some warmth in the end.  With Man Utd losing two nil Joel and I headed off in our separate ways for differing nights of pleasure.  Always a pleasure on catching up with Mr Grumble, even if he does has the life of woe!

About the Oval
The first ground in Britain to host a Test Match in 1884 has changed significantly to the 23,000 all seater venue you see today.  The latest addition has been huge floodlights that mean day/night games can be held early and late in the season.  The most recent development saw the building of the huge Alec Stewart Conference Centre and the triple tier OCS Stand at the Vauxhall endof the ground.  The ground also hosted the first ever FA Cup final in 1872 when The Wanderers beat the Royal Engineers. 

It is a magnificent venue for watching cricket anddoesn’t have the same stuffiness as Lords.  When the stadium is full for Englandgames or the “local derby” in the Twenty20 games versus Kent the atmosphere is second to none.  The famous landmark on the west side, the Gasometer is due to be demolished in late 2009 andto be replaced witha new stand.

How to get to the Oval
The ground is located close to the centre of London and is well served by local transport.  The nearest tube is Oval on the Northern line which is 200 yards from the main entrance.  Vauxhall, both tube and train is a 5 minute walk to the north.  Buses run past the stadium from Victoria on a regular basis.

How to get a ticket for the Oval
Tickets will depend on the game being played.  For the vast majority of Surrey games you can pay on the door.  Normally a couple of Twenty20 games will sell out in advance (Middlesex and Kent).  Tickets for one day games are £20 and can be purchased from the online store.  Tickets for normal championship games start from £10.  For test matches and One day England games go on sale via ballot in the January before via the website as well although the prices start from £60.