The Headingley Test

I listened to the closing moments of the England cricket Test against Australia on Sunday in disbelief.

Ben Stokes had brought off the most remarkable victory in international cricket history. With last man Jack Leach they had to score 73 to win.

And win they did.

But it was the closing moments which were wholly and utterly remarkable. Stokes was first dropped, then with the entire Australian team surrounding the boundary he hit a six which just got over the leaping fielder. He then went for a crazy single with two to win and stopped, only to leave Leach stranded half-way down the pitch. At this point it was surely all over and what a tragedy it would have been. But Nathan Lyons somehow fumbled the incoming throw.

Then the next delivery from a most riled Lyons hit Stokes on the pads, but umpire Watson gives ‘not out’.

The camera clearly showed differently, but the Aussies had used up all their reviews and the last one very rashly.

A single was then hit which cleverly put Stokes on strike in the next over and England now cannot lose. The tension is immense as fast bowler Cummings scorches in to deliver the vital ball to Stokes, who simply battered it through the covers for four and the whole of Headingly and England erupted in jubilation.

This was immense. I had to watch the replays several times later on TV to take it all in.

But imagine being there?

The wonderful commentator Johnathan Agnew said that he had never seen anything like it and I don’t think he ever will again.

Don’t we just love sport in this country? It’s something we are very good at and it is something that this country revolves around. Whether it’s WImbledon or the Boat Race or Ascot or The Open or the rugby. We excel at it. And this Test Match was at the pinnacle of all that.

It’s a shame we don’t have a Johnathan Agnew in golf mind you. For old Aggers is simply sublime. A wonderful commentator on the game. His timing, his knowledge, his sensitivity, his passion. His niceness actually. He does come across as a very decent bloke indeed and you can hear and see everyone responding to this. It’s heart warming and life giving. I really can’t get enough of Aggers.

There is a wonderful anecdote from last summer about someone who had written a letter to him which he read out on air. About how this chap’s father had sublimely drifted away to another world, in the utmost contentment, listening to the kindly and euphonious tones of Aggers on Test Match live.

What a way to close your innings.

But in golf we are bereft of good or even decent commentators. There is no one near the level or pitch of Aggers. Ok, we had Peter Alliss for donkeys and he indeed still pops up from time to time on the feeble Beeb coverage of the Open. But he never did it for me. Rather far too self-obsessed I felt and always annoyingly trying to be funny. But wasn’t very in all truth.

And then we have the likes of Ken Brown and Ian Carter and Ewan Murray who are mind-blowingly dull. And then, of course, Sir Nick Faldo over on MNCB of course.

Oh deary, deary me.

He’s about as inspiring as a kick in the head.

Anyone for cricket?

The Open Shop, St Andrews

I have previously written about my disbelief in the renaming of the Old Tom Morris Shop as ‘The Open’ by the Links Trust.

This morning I was wandering down by there and I saw Old Tom’s great, great, grand daughter (sweeping outside the shop as she owns the flat above and indeed the shop). At least I think she’s direct lineage or maybe she is just his great, great niece or whatever.

Anyway, I asked her what she thought of the renaming of their historic shop and she most politely said ‘I really can’t comment. It’s been sub-let to the R&A’.

Well I said. I can comment.

‘It’s an absolute shocker’

And she carried on her sweeping and made no comment.

While I’m on this theme, I may add that we have finally come up with a name for our bistrot in Edinburgh. It’s to be called ‘Leopardo’

This has been a painstaking process. In fact, it’s taken two years to get to Leopardo, via Old Flower Shop, Wild, Gardner and Costa, Leftbank, The Crazy Duck, The White Duck, The Blind Duck, Riverside Cafe, Sika, Idiom, Air Cafe, Ulysses, Velvet, Untitled, Little Sicily, Palermo, Aeolian and many, many more.

I finally settled on Bang, Bang, Bang. But no one was overly enthusiastic, apart from moi of course.

For I thought it was kind of memorable and had some latent, nuanced, obscure, underlying humour, given Alessandro’s Sicilian heritage.

But it was not to be.

We ultimately had a vote and Leopardo won handsomely.

Let’s say a slightly more conservative choice.


on the benefits of sea bathing

I have been swimming in the sea three days this week and it’s been wonderful for body and soul. I am convinced that this is much better for your mental health than a long dose of anti-depressants. Not that I’ve ever had a long dose of anti-depressants, but I’m convinced that GP’s should be advocating regular dips in cold water before prescribing them.

I was inspired to start doing this again by a new buddy Mark Vigil, aka The Wall Street Caddie, who is here for the summer, writing a book on young Tom Morris and caddying at Kingsbarns. A most affable bloke, he sets his day around drinking coffee in Taste, caddying, practicing his golf, dipping in the North Sea, having a few beers in Aikmans and writing his book. I look forward to reading it.

Our bistrot is very nearly there and we are just waiting for the council to give us building control clearance. The only major factor is that we haven’t got a name yet.

Leftbank has been ditched and there are numerous other possibilities being thrown around. I am now of the opinion that a good name is pretty important and we are finding it very hard to come to a consensus on this. Aeolian, Il Gattopardo, Wild, Old Flower Shop, Sika, Untitled all hit a mark and are there or thereabouts but I want something completely different (which I won’t disclose here because it’s rather hot property in my opinion). It’s completely off the wall but is certainly individual and memorable. And that’s what a good name should be I reckon.

If anyone has any immediate and inspired thoughts please send with haste.