Spectator Sport: Roger Alton

By Alton, Roger | The Spectator, June 13, 2015 | Go to article overview

Spectator Sport: Roger Alton


Alton, Roger, The Spectator


A rather desultory Test series is taking place in the Caribbean where Australia are marmalising the West Indies, with a one-time Bournemouth club cricketer called Adam Voges scoring his maiden Test century at the near-pensionable age of 35 (the oldest ever as it happens: bodes well for the Ashes, doesn't it?). During lunch the other day Sky showed clips of the 2003 Test in St John's, Antigua, between the same sides. That was when Sarwan and Chanderpaul both scored centuries in the second innings to steer the West Indies to their historic winning fourth innings total of 418-7.

At one point Glenn McGrath, yes the great McGrath, advances on little Sarwan, who barely comes up to his midriff, and bends down to give him a torrent of abuse. Their faces are inches apart. McGrath wheels away, then Matthew Hayden joins in. The umpire, portly David Shepherd, does absolutely nothing. It is a really shocking display of the worst of sport, graceless, disgraceful and demeaning. We moan about footballers surrounding the ref; this was much worse. And it wasn't that long ago (2013 in fact) since Michael Clarke the Australian skipper could be heard telling Jimmy Anderson, 'Get ready for a broken fucking arm.'

Just items from the scrapbook, really, but they make it all the more essential to celebrate the utter brilliance of Brendon McCullum's touring New Zealanders. They were majestic in every way, and played the truly beautiful game with a smile on their face and rocket fuel in their bats. Batting for a draw at Lord's in the first test, the No. 11 holed out to third man. It's pretty difficult to do that if you're trying to blast your way to a win. Crazy, beautiful. In the field, the Kiwis hunted in packs: at one point there were four fielders hurling themselves after a ball that was clearly going to cross the rope. In the Test Match Special box, Jonathan Agnew wondered, 'Why wear out four pairs of legs when only one needs to get tired? …

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