Tag Archive | Steven Smith

Quick single: He came like a king

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Hammond’s walk was the most handsome in all cricket, smooth in the evenness of stride, precise in balance. It was a flow of movement linking stillness to stillness. It was, as much as any feature of athletics, the poetry of motion.

JM Kilburn’s effusive description of Wally Hammond, walking to the crease at Lord’s in 1938, continued: “He came like a king and he looked like a king in his coming.” Kilburn acknowledges that Hammond essentially did not look any different that day than he normally did walking to the crease, although there was “an added quality”. It’s not that real or imagined otherness of the day Hammond went on to score 240 that interests me, but that he could be recognised by his walk.

The cricketers, if in silhouette and without context of match or location, that could be identified from their walk to the crease, is not, I think, great in number. Two immediately come to my mind. There’s Viv Richards, hips swaying, shoulders rolling. And I think I could pick out Alan Border: short steps and head tilted upwards to the sky and turning, like a meerkat looking out for airborne predators.

I am sure that if you watched a team all summer, you could come to recognise each player from his or her non-batting or bowling movements. For those of us following the game at a distance, or seeing a little of a lot of cricketers, there needs to be something very distinctive for the silhouette test to work.

With Jonny Bairstow’s recall to the England Test team, we have two players to view in the Ashes contest with very individual ways of running. Bairstow, in the field, works his limbs like someone unfamiliar with cross-country skis, trying to escape a polar bear over snow. Steve Smith, running between the wickets is a flurry of arms, legs and bat.

In the six months that I have had the picture at the head of this piece on my wall, I have come to enjoy it for an associated reason. In this case, though, it’s not movement that identifies the player, but fixed posture. Each of England’s three slip fielders (and to a lesser extent, the gulley) has a characteristic stance: feet position, bracing of the knees, prominence of backside, tension in the arms and shoulders. I am convinced I could recognise them separately from the context of the opening delivery of the 2005 Ashes. Are there other slip-fielders you find similarly recognisable?

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Quick single: An Australian Partnership – Fidget and Meringue Man

Fidget

I can well imagine going on holiday with Steven Smith. 

Passport, tickets, credit cards, currency.. Passport, tickets, credit cards, currency.. Passport, tickets, credit cards, currency..

Smith pats his trouser pocket, breast pocket, back-pack and bumbag, compulsively and repeatedly. Just checking. Just checking again. Checking again. Again.

Batting, between deliveries, Smith checks: helmet grill, right pad, left pad, box, helmet crown, bat twirl. Twice over. He’s a blur of manual reassurance. Fidget. 

Passport, tickets, credit cards, currency.. 

Taking strike, the bowler about to begin his run up, the batsman settles, steady and still, eyes level, energy conserved, ready to pounce. Not Fidget. He stands at the wicket. His bat wags towards gulley like the tail of a well-behaved dog, hearing his master return home at the end of the day. A dip at the knees, then another. A shuffle to the right, another dip. 

Passport, tickets, credit cards, currency.. 

Non-striker, Fidget rehearses front foot shots. Left foot forward, bat sweeps and his back foot drags, drifts or rotates. Without the ball, he practises his idiosyncratic technique, where most players emulate the text book. A solid base, the coach insists; au point, this twitchy ballerina practices. 

Passport, tickets, credit cards, currency.. 

Running. A forward defensive and Fidget is five yards down the track before bouncing back into his ground. When the ball is directed into open space, Fidget is away, looking for two, three, an all-run four at the very least. His body moves forward, at pace, his limbs scatter. He’s like a junior playing his first game in unfamiliar pads. The bat’s not tucked economically under his arm, but an extra limb, an unneeded crutch, as much in the way as helping him towards the other crease. 

Passport, tickets, credit cards, currency.. 

All this energy and motion, critical to a one-day run-chase, to setting and maintaining a momentum. But this is day one of a Test match. He bats from mid-morning to lunch. Passport, tickets, credit cards, currency.. All afternoon. Passport, tickets, credit cards, currency..  And through to the close of play. Passport, tickets, credit cards, currency.. 

Fidget’s at work, on tour. Batting hard on a pitch he might not take home, but would enjoy on holiday. Passport, tickets, credit cards, currency.. 

Meringue man

The ingredients of a meringue start loose and liquid. 

Rogers is off the mark quickly. A waft over the slips, then smooth punches through the off-side, easy tucks off his pads. Comfortably out-scoring his more heralded opening partner. 

As energy and activity are applied to the meringue mixture, it stiffens.

His fifty up and into the afternoon session, the sun is out and Rogers is trying to accelerate. Driving, the bat turns in his grip and the ball finds his instep, not the boundary. Cuts clatter into the ground beside him, not the sponsor’s boundary advertising. Meringue Man’s batting is becoming viscous. It’s sticky, slow work through the 60s and 70s, relying on the toe end and outside edge of his bat. 

The meringue has a hard, if fragile, surface.

It is the delicate cuts from the slow bowlers that keep Meringue Man’s score accumulating. Just brushing the face of his bat and skittering away to the third man boundary. Fine deflections, not full-on impact, move him into the 90s. 

Finally, a full connection with a straight drive takes Meringue Man to his 100. And now he’s transformed, shattering his crusty shell, middling the ball and speeding to 150.

A meringue crumbled and made fruity. An Australian Eton Mess?