Friday, 3 May 2013

Ben Hollioake gave me his England shirts...and other stories

Just sat down with Warwickshire Director of Cricket Dougie Brown on the top tier of this media stand to chew the cud under the gorgeous warm spring sunshine.

It was an unusually wide ranging discussion starting with the state of the Hove pitch, which he described as 'plasticine'!! He reckons it was prepared to order because Sussex were so intimidated by the Warwickshire pace attack! It was 100% true, Dougie said, but really....does that sound plausible?? Why would a line up of Matt Prior, Ed Joyce, Chris Nash, Luke Wells and RHB be intimidated...especially with their attack not featuring Rikki Clarke and Keith Barker who are injured.

Hmmmm posturing....don't you just love it!!

And then we talked about the England A tour to Sri Lanka in 1997-1998. Sounds a bit bizarre eh but it was my first England A tour and a bit of an eye opener......managed by Mike Gatting and Graham Gooch with Freddie Flintoff, Ben Hollioake, Nick Knight, Ashley Giles, Jimmy Ormond and Chris Read...and Dougie,   along with some exotic journos in David Hopps, Geoffrey Dean, Charles Randall, Simon Wilde and a few sundry others.

Freddy has large legs

It was hard work but very good fun. I remember Ashley Giles coming into dinner one night wearing a sombrero and strumming a guitar. I can't remember if he actually played and sang or whether he was just mucking about but the entire restaurant dissolved into a ripple of raucous tittering!! I also remember sitting in Fred's room interviewing him and coming over all funny due to the skimpiness of his shorts!! He has laaaaaaaaarge legs! The Freddie feature I wrote was garbage if I remember rightly.  And I remember Hollioake coming to my door at the end of the tour carrying two of his England shirts which he handed over with that lovely smouldering grin he was famous for. No idea why he wanted me to have them. But I still have one would know they were his because there are no names on them. But I know.

Ben Hollioake gave me his shirts

And then Dougie told me he knows the Kiwi Jono MacBeth, a big name on the international sailing circuit, currently attached to the America's Cup team Oracle in San Francisco. Dougie's wife is good friends with the MacBeths....small world eh!!

Beefy Jono Macbeth

And then I told him he needs to find some better looking players at Warwickshire... and left!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Remembering Greigy and CMJ at Hove

Chris Woakes and young Tom Milnes have now put on 60 for the eighth wicket and playing with increasing confidence and authority....running briskly, picking the gaps and steering Warwickshire towards 400 ...only nine to go now ....make that five Woakes has just cut Andrew Miller for four. Fabulous shot. No max points because we are in over number 136.

Museum - or Sussex Cricket World as it is known - was a real treat. Exhibits date back to 1890s though Les Lenham denies he is that old...Tony Greig is given a good shout. I had forgotten what an attractive man he was in his 20s. A long lanky streak of gleaming blond glamour....

There is a memorial lunch here on Monday (I think) for Greigy and Christopher Martin-Jenkins, both of them special to Sussex.

When they died in December and January, within a few days of each other, we felt sad and talked about their contributions to the game, especially in Sussex. Now I'm at Hove, at the heart of Sussex cricket, that sadness is greater because I am hearing CMJ huffing and puffing in the seat next to me in the press box and I am talking to Greigy at the bottom of the steps in the pavilion.

There are big physical spaces down here that they once filled and I can't be in those spaces without thinking of them. Their deaths really affected me but being at the ground is strangely comforting and we celebrate their remarkable lives and careers under a lovely warm Sussex sun.

Monty Panesar and Ed Joyce have just had a long argument mid-over. Lord knows what that was all about but Monty's fielding has been shockingly bad so maybe he was getting a ticking off from his skipper. Will obviously find out later but there was some brilliant remonstrating going on.

Chris Jordan - shirker or worker??

Telegraph blog isn't working so I'm dragging this old tool out the box for ad hoc commentary on the Sussex v Warwickshire game at Hove. Hoorah, I can hear you say!

The sun is shining again and the ground looks absolutely glorious. The strip is right in front of the press box this week so we have a great view.....not sure it gets any better than this (if you are a Sussex supporter that is!!). Chris Jordan and Matt Prior have had a bumper morning giving Sussex the right to claim the session....334 for seven with 45 minutes to go to lunch.

Jordan is a great example of what can go wrong when a player ends up at the wrong county - as he did with Surrey. Apparently he arrived at Sussex with a tag - as a shirker, as someone who didn't try that hard, with limited ability.

But so far in this match, he has been wearing a completely different tag. Workhorse...and possible match winner. He spoke of Surrey as not being a place where he felt at home - and one gets the impression that Rory Hamilton-Brown felt the same way last summer - but he certainly looks like his Martlet slippers have been placed just across the boundary rope here in Hove...along with a mug of cocoa!

Only in the last few of his 28 overs has his line strayed but apart from that, he has been fantastic - lots of pace and each ball tailored to the batter and the moment! Helps that he has the country's best keeper behind the stumps.

He now has 4-73 while Matty P has five catches so far with three opportunities still up for grabs. Warwickshire might want to forget this morning...haven't covered themselves in glory and on this pitch....flat flat flat...they probably should have fared a bit better.

Lunch approaching and I'm heading off to the Sussex Museum where they are launching a new Australian Ashes exhibition. Am so excited - pathetic really.