Stokes, Woakes and Foakes could all be playing in the second test

In January 2019, I noted that an England cricket team took to the field which included all three of Stokes, Woakes and Foakes. But that was a mere warm-up game, against something called the West Indies President’s XI, so it hardly counted. However, on Saturday first thing in the morning our time, the second test of the four India v England tests looks like it might feature this same England trio. Wicket keeper Buttler and veteran quick bowler Anderson, both having played so very well in the first test, have both been dropped, as in “rotated”. Foakes is in for Buttler. And instead of Anderson and Broad both playing, Broad is in, plus one other specialist quick. This would have been Archer, but Archer is damaged. So, also included in the England twelve, one or other of them to replace Archer, are quick bowlers Olly Stone and … Woakes.

England’s batting is a worry, despite all the talk about how they scored ten out of ten in the first game. Its greatest current strength, Root, is also its greatest current weakness. What if Root fails to make about two hundred, as has been his habit in the last few games, and instead gets out in the England first innings for a small score, like under fifty? That could cost England the match. So, England will want to give the rest of their batting as much chance as they can to do well. Woakes is a much better batter than Stone. Stone, meanwhile, is a bit of an unknown quantity as a bowler. Woakes is not as quick as Archer, or Stone, but he is a good bowler, and I think he will play. Which means that the Stokes, Woakes, Foakes combination, this time in a real cricket match, is a real possibility.

If so, this will be one of cricket’s better recent joakes.

LATER: Not to be. Stone plays, rather than Woakes. And we’ll soon see if that works, because India have won the toss and, of course, will bat first.

Stone gets Shubman Gill for a duck, with his third ball! India 0-1.

What do I know?

Maybe dressage isn’t so crazy after all

The non-equestrianism-obsessed, which is most people, tend to regard the mostly Olympic sport of “dressage” as ridiculous.

But what this video tells me is that maybe dressage is not persuading horses to be not-horses. Rather is it persuading them to behave as they did when they were kids, or foals, or whatever horses are when they’re kids.

Came across this here. Blog and learn.

The hope of progress

Having recently received a life sentence of quite advanced lung cancer, I find myself noticing reports like this one entitled Ultra-precise lasers remove cancer cells without damaging nearby tissue. Cancer treatment is progressing fast, in all manner of directions, and I am now seeing stories of this sort every few days. Will it progress fast enough to prolong my life in a significant way? Knowing what I do of how long it takes for an innovation to go from a recent observation or discovery to a routine service, my guess now would be: not. But I can’t help hoping that it might.

In another context, I have described this sort of feeling as the torture of hope.

I came upon this above report at the Twitter feed of Steve Stewart-Williams. There being a lot more to that guy than cute animal videos.

The greatest ever sport weekend

Seriously, I can’t remember a weekend when there’s ever been more sport of the sort that I pay attention to. This particular weekend towards the beginning of February is usually pretty good, but this year it really has been remarkable.

It began with the second day of the India v England cricket test match, in the small hours of Saturday morning, and continued on Saturday morning with the final of the Big Bash in Australia. The Vince Sixers defeated the Livingstone Scorchers, teams which I thus name because all I care about in that tournament is how well the Brits do, and Vince did very well indeed. There was Premier League soccer to get excited about, which I do, a bit, both Saturday afternoon and evening and today afternoon and evening.

This was also the first weekend of the Six Nations, which is rugby union. Scotland beat England on Saturday, which was not nice, but this wasn’t because England were rubbish. It was because Scotland were not rubbish, and England were caught by surprise. Scotland being not rubbish made a nice change from the last twenty years or so of Scotland vying with Italy for bottom spot. All the Six Nations needs now is for Italy also to become a serious threat, and this tournament could enter a golden age of total unpredictability. But first up on Saturday, Italy were smashed again, by France. So that doesn’t seem like it’ll be happening any time soon.

Sunday morning. Day three of the India v England test match. England, having batted big, manage to get six Indian wickets. Afternoon, another six Nations, Wales beating Ireland. Soccer, with Spurs winning. Harry Kane back with Spurs and Spurs were accordingly back winning a game, which was nice. Then Man City thrashed Liverpool, and are now favourites, insofar as such a thing can exist in this anyone-can-beat-anyone season. Man City have an England guy called Foden, who everyone says is going to be really good. His goal at the end against Liverpool was quite something.

And now, late on Sunday evening and into Sunday morning, it’s only the Super Bowl. Number 55, or Super Bowl LV as nobody says. Live on British TV. I’m watching the beginning of that now. Brady beating Mahomes 2-0 in touchdowns so far.

And then when that’s done, it’ll straight back to the cricket out in India, also live on British TV. Day 4. Because the BBC is not being allowed to even commentate, let alone show video, of the cricket in India, they are pretty much ignoring it other than at their website, and are instead trying to get excited about tennis. There is apparently a big tennis tournament, going on somewhere on the planet, but I do not know or care where. All of which means that if I want to know how England are doing in that game, I have to get up and watch TV. Which I can do. Piece of piss, and of course it makes sense to combine it with that.

Which is a lot of sport. No wonder, this weekend, I have accomplished nothing. When I was middle aged, wondered if I’d still be paying attention to, and more to the point caring about, sport, when I got old. Turns out I still do. Especially the cricket and the rugby.

I hope you don’t mind the absence of links in this. My thinking is: If you care about any of these contests, you’ll already be linked into them. If you don’t care, then any link to whatever it is you don’t care about won’t add anything to your life.

Cricket lag will now be unavoidable

Oh dear. I’ve just discovered that this is happening, on Channel 4 TV:

You don’t need a jet to screw up your sleep patterns. Interesting television at 4am will do the job just as well.

I was just looking for daily highlights. Instead, I discover the whole thing.

For some reason this bit of computer graphics refused to allow Gadwin, my screen scanner, to scan it. So, I photoed it. “Rating 7”. Bloody cheek.

The game I’m now watching is this one. The very first thing I saw was Stokes getting out. Pujara nearly dropped it, but he didn’t. England now 431-4, with Root approaching his second double century in the space of three test matches.

And Root now has his two hundred, going to it with a six. 440-4. The stadium is empty, but he won’t care.

When classical music doubled up as pugilism: Beethoven knocks out Steibelt

John Suchet first wrote about Ludwig van Beethoven in the form of a three volume fictionalised biography. I recently read the first two volumes, but then switched to reading Suchet’s shorter, unfictionalised biography of Beethoven, which sticks closer to the known facts and cuts back on the flights of fancy.

But you suspect that Suchet still gets somewhat carried away. Here is his description (pp. 106-110) of a famous-at-the-time piano contest that took place between Beethoven and the noted Prussian virtuoso Daniel Steibelt, that took place in Vienna in 1800. Beethoven spent his life establishing himself as a composer, as distinct from relying on being a mere performer, and when his deafness struck he had no choice in the matter. He had to compose, and only to compose. But when he first arrived in Vienna, it was as a keyboard virtuoso and improviser, as well as composer, that Beethoven had first made his name.

Two regular themes at this blog are sport and classical music. In 1800, in Vienna, these two things were a lot closer than they are now:

It was customary at that time in Vienna for aristocrats to stage ‘improvisation contests’ in their salons. The way it would work was that their two virtuosos, with their supporters, would meet in a salon, and display their skills before an audience. This would involve playing their own compositions, possibly with an ensemble, and then setting tasks for each other. One would play a theme he had invented, which the other could not possibly have heard before, and improvise on it. The other would then go to the piano and try to emulate this. Then this second virtuoso would set a theme of his own invention, and the first player would have to copy that. Often it would involve imitation. If one pianist had a particular style, the other would imitate it. It was an evening’s entertainment in aristocratic Vienna.

Very soon after his arrival in Vienna, when aristocrats such as Lichnowsky realised what young Beethoven was capable of, they put him up against the local talent, and one by one he saw them off, at the same time steadily enhancing his reputation. Enter Daniel Steibelt, from Berlin, capital of Prussia, a renowned piano virtuoso with a fearsome reputation. Steibelt had stunned salon audiences in Berlin with his extraordinary virtuosity, enhanced by his trademark flourish, the tremolando. Now on a tour of European capitals, he had arrived in Vienna to conquer that city’s sophisticated musical cognoscenti. He brought with him something of a dashing reputation. He had been forced to join the Prussian army by his father, but had deserted to pursue a musical career.

It seems some of Beethoven’s friends went to hear Steibelt and were stunned at his virtuosity, to such an extent that they feared he might damage Beethoven’s reputation. This is probably why Beethoven, by now sick of these showcase events designed solely for the amusement of aristocrats, agreed to go along to the home of Count von Fries. He decided that he would play his recently published Trio for piano, clarinet and cello, which he had dedicated to Prince Lichnowsky’s mother-in-law. Steibelt brought along four musicians to perform his Piano Quintet.

The company assembled, including no doubt Prince Lichnowsky and his family. Beethoven and his musicians played first. His Trio was perhaps a slightly odd choice, since the piano part does not call for a particularly high degree of virtuosity. The work is in three movements, is fairly straightforward, and the critics welcomed it as being more easily comprehensible than the earlier published Op. l Piano Trios. The final movement is a set of variations on a well-known theme from a comic opera which had recently played successfully in Vienna.

There was polite applause from the salon audience, including Steibelt, who had listened ‘with a certain condescension’, and made a show of complimenting Beethoven. He took his position, with his musicians, in front of the audience, confident his Quintet would put Beethoven’s Trio in the shade and win the day. To make sure, he added some impressive (no doubt prepared) improvisation, and drew gasps from the audience with his audacious tremolandos.

At the end there was no doubt in anyone’s mind who had put on the more impressive display. All eyes turned to Beethoven, who as was usual at these events had the ‘right of reply’. Beethoven remained stubbornly in his seat and refused to play again. Steibelt had carried the day.

A week later it was decided to repeat the event, to stage a ‘rematch’. Given that Beethoven had been reluctant to attend the earlier evening, we can only assume his blood was up. Steibelt’s condescending behaviour, not to mention his ridiculously showy playing, had got under Beethoven’s skin. He was out for revenge.

There must have been an air of tension and anticipation in Count Fries’s salon on this second evening. Beethoven’s unpredictable temperament was well known. Everybody knew he had been bested a week earlier, and they would have seen the flare in his eyes and the set of his jaw. This spelled trouble.

Steibelt went first this time. He performed another of his quintets, which again met with great approval. Then he once again improvised on the piano, in a way that put his previous performance in the shade. It was brilliant. But he made a mistake, a serious mistake. There were gasps from the audience as they realised he had chosen the theme from the final movement of Beethoven’s own Trio, performed at the previous meeting, on which to improvise.

If the audience was shocked, Beethoven’s friends were appalled. That was nothing to how Beethoven felt. This time he needed no encouragement. He got out of his seat, stormed to the front, and as he passed the music stands snatched up the cello part of Steibelt’s Quintet. He sat roughly on the stool, all thoughts of salon etiquette gone, and made a show of putting the cello part on the piano stand upside-down.

He glared at the music, playing now to the audience, knowing he had everyone’s attention, aware that the decisive moment in the ‘Contest Beethoven v. Steibelt’ had come. With one finger he hammered out a series of notes from the first bar of Steibelt’s music. He made it sound exactly what it was: crude and unsophisticated. He then began to improvise. And boy, did he improvise. He imitated Steibelt’s playing, he unpicked it and put it back together again, he played some tremolandos, emphasising their absurdity. He played in a way no salon audience had heard before, and that Steibelt could not have believed was humanly possible.

It is easy to picture that powerful head, hair untamed, clothes inappropriate, fingers moving in a blur, no doubt singing, shouting, quite possibly hurling insults at the Prussian, who was probably sitting, back erect, powdered wig in place, clothes perfectly fitting, fingers curling tighter and tighter, as he realised he was not just being outplayed, he was being humiliated – in front of the most sophisticated musical gathering in the most sophisticated musical city in Europe.

Steibelt did not sit that way for long. With Beethoven still playing, he rose from his chair and strode out of the salon. He made it clear he never wanted to meet Beethoven again, and that if ever he was invited to perform again in Vienna, he would do so only if Beethoven was not present. In fact he took even more drastic action than that. He abandoned his tour and returned to Berlin to nurse his wounds. Some years later he went to St Petersburg and remained there for the rest of his life. He never returned to Vienna, and never met Beethoven again.

As for Beethoven, he was now – if there was any doubt before – the undisputed master of the keyboard in Vienna, if not Europe. Even Hummel, greatly admired, could not touch him. And following the drubbing of Steibelt, Beethoven was never again asked to take part in an improvisation contest. His position as Vienna’s supreme piano virtuoso was established once and for all.

Sheff U beat Man U

Because of my fondness for 6k and his bloggage, and his fondness for my bloggage, my second favourite team in the football Premiership is now Sheffield United.

Who are now bottom of the table, but who this evening defeated Manchester United, now second to top of the table. I didn’t follow the game. I merely kept half an eye on the score. I was sad when Man U equalised, thinking: oh dear, that’s it then. But then Sheff U went ahead, again. Hurrah! But oh dear, they’ll still lose. Except that they didn’t. The blue 1-2 never turned into a blue 2-2 and then a blue 3-2. Instead the blue 1-2 turned into a yellow 1-2, and Sheff U had won. Anyone can now beat anyone, it would seem. And in particular Sheffield United can now beat anyone.

And so it begins. The torture of hope.

Buggering on

According to GodDaughter2’s Dad in one of his recent emails, Churchill once said something about how we just have to keep buggering on. Either that or GD2D made this up. Anyway, that’s what I am now doing, as best I can.

Today started going to hell last night when the Royal Marsden rang to say that the telephone-appointment they had been saying for about a fortnight would be at 3.30pm might actually be at more like 11am! Which meant that cricket lag (which it turns out I am suffering from) came into play. Instead of sleeping during the small and then not-so-small hours of this morning, I instead had a succession of coughing fits, all made worse by the thought that, come the telephone-appointment, I would be struggling to stay awake. The only way to stop the coughing during the night was to get fully up, sandals, sweater, the lot, and sit for an hour or two in front of my computer like it was the day. Being vertical being the only way to stop the coughing. Maybe it’s just because I now have words for what is wrong with me, but my lungs, while I was coughing, seemed truly about to give up on me, if not now, then some time rather soon.

But at least, having got me up at the crack of 10.30am, the appointment was indeed at just after 11am, so there was that. So, back to bed for the afternoon, including a bit of sleep, and then an early evening during which various further details were sorted, to do with who would live my life for me in the event that I became incapable of living it myself. Once again my Senior Designated Friend was driving all that along. Without her, I’d not yet be dead but I’d probably be wishing I was.

Now, I am trying to avoid eating or drinking anything that might keep me awake for yet another night. Quite easy because today I consumed a massive fish pie at lunchtime. But will I sleep tonight? Weird how I can sleep through great chunks of one of the great fourth innings run chases of all time, but could not, last night, just sleep. So maybe it’ll be the same this coming night, with, again, no cricket to relax me.

Tomorrow, at a genuinely early time in the morning, I am off again to the Marsden, for a Covid jab and for research tests associated with that (they want to know how lung cancer sufferers react to the Covid jab), and I’ll also hope to be picking up an inhaler, to stop me coughing being the idea of that. We shall see. At least I’m finally getting the jab.

Just taken another daily magic anti-cancer pill. Will it ever have any effect on the cough? Like: end it. That would really be something.

On cricket and sleep

Last night India beat Australia, in Australia, and I listened to it on the radio. That is to say, I listened to a lot of it.

But, I didn’t listen to all of it. I know I didn’t listen to all of it because there were big jumps in the score. Shubman Gill went from being about fifty not out, to having been out quite a while ago for nearly a hundred. Pant did another huge jump and a couple of Indian wickets fell, in a similar memory-hole fashion, later in the “day”.

This is not a posting trying to make you like cricket. But, one very interesting feature of cricket is how statistically detailed the unfolding of the story is, and always has been. Football can go from 1-0 with an early goal, to 1-0 with no further goals, to 1-0 as in the early scoring team wins it. You could be listening to the radio commentary and nod off a bit, and not even really be sure that you had nodded off.

But cricket scoring never stops dead like that. Runs are continuously scored, wickets keep falling. Miss out on an hour of that, and you immediately realise that you missed a huge chunk.

So it is that I absolutely know for sure that I didn’t listen to all of the India v Australia cricket last night. I listened to India making a solid start, in their chase for over three hundred in the day. I definitely caught the end, when India won it. But for big bits in between, I was … asleep.

With sleep, the difference between a bit and none can be all the difference. For cricket lag, the cricket version of jet lag, to set in thoroughly, you need to be wide awake exactly when you shouldn’t be. In my recent experience, a bursting bladder, by requiring you to be physically active, is surer way to doing that then merely dozing in a bed, listening to cricket in foreign parts, parts of it.

Will I get a good night’s sleep tonight? At the regular time? Because of the above, I do not rule out the possibility.

Nova again – and from a distance

Back in October 2017, I was at the top of Westminster Cathedral. I was also there in even further back, January 2016, when I photoed this photo, of Nova, while it was under construction:

I had photoed Nova quite a few times before then, and have photoed it many times since, especially since they awarded it the Carbuncle Cup. This being a fairly typical example of the genre:

What do you reckon on this photo?:

Photoed by me later on the very same day, in August 2016. Not good? Well, I was about fifteen miles away, so I reckon it’s not bad either.

I mean, here’s the place I was photoing from:

That stuff in between and above the trees is … central London. Nova is to be seen in among that, if you have a zoom lens. What you see there is a walk up from Epsom Race Course.

But you’re right, we probably need something in between close-up and too far. Like this:

That was photoed just before I came across these silly signs. From the same direction, but a bit nearer.

I like Nova. Not least because it adds a dash of colour to the London Skyline. Not may Big Things do that.