Sunday, July 26, 2015

#31DaysOfScotch #Day26

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Cricket Takes Hold for Josh

Josh asked me to play cricket with him this morning, which was the first time in some time. Most afternoons he likes to go out the front himself, and bowl away at the stumps, commentating on the game as he goes. He has also spent six months running around the house, constantly doing his bowling action, never able to be still.
Anyway, it was great to see how much he has improved in everything since the last time he asked me to play with him. His batting is good. He is trying to watch the ball and wait for the ball before he plays his shot. He is trying to get forward, but will also wait to go back if he needs to. His bowling is quite amazing. His action has smoothed out even more than it had before, and he likes to try and throw in a leggie action on occasions. Most impressive is his catching. He isn't afraid of the ball anymore, and catches about four in every five I throw back to him. At seven and a half years old he is going great.
He asked Helen the other day if he had to play Milo cricket this year, and was disappointed that he couldn't play "real" cricket. I explained to him today that it will be a good way to improve his sills before he plays that "real" cricket, which he will still qualify for Under 10's for two seasons after his year of Milo cricket. It's great to see his enthusiasm and his skills.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

#31DaysOfScotch #Day25

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Review: A Scanner Darkly

A Scanner Darkly A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a long time to get around to finding and reading this book by Philip K. Dick. Now that I have done so, I am happy I got the chance. There's no doubt that it isn't easy to follow, and you have to be in your best frame of mind to get through it. Once you get through the introduction however, and understand the flow of the story, it becomes very enjoyable, and more interesting than you may initially imagine.
Is it predictable? In some ways yes, the story that plays out on the pages does at times follow a well worn path, but the battle that is taking place within Bob Arcter and his alter-ego Fred becomes more interesting as the story progresses.
When it comes to illicit and psychedelic drugs, this novel is most intriguing in that the author was renown for indulging himself. If you can set yourself to wade through the complex layers that Dick has written this in, then it is well worth the effort.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 24, 2015

#31DaysOfScotch #Day24

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Ash vs Evil Dead - Could This Be Any More Awesome?!

Ash is back - Bruce Campbell brings us more awesome-ness.
The trailer looks just brilliant. Can't wait for it to start!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

#31DaysOfScotch #Day21

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The Ashes: The (Aussie) Empire Strike Back

The startling turnaround in result from 1st Test to 2nd Test will no doubt be the result of jaw gnashing in both the England selectors room and for their supporters. Barely a week after they had completed a demolition job on Australia at Cardiff, with celebrations on a grand scale, as well as plenty of comments from the players in the media and from the media themselves, the tide has turned 180 degrees after England's shambolic performance at Lord's. Australia's calm response to their defeat, and England's frenzied obliteration has reopened wounds that the Poms would rather have seen untouched.

The benign flat wicket that was served up at Lord's was an obvious statement with the home team having gone 1-0 up - blunt Australia's bowlers, rack up big totals, and a high scoring draw leaves England in front in the series. Had England won the toss it would have been a ruse worth adhering to. Once Australia had won the toss and taken advantage of it with the bat, the pitch may have played its part in dullening Australia's pace trio, but their skill, perseverance and fitness was enough that it didn't matter, and they were able to dismantle the English batting line up despite the odds against them. The fact that this match lasted less than four days on this type of pitch is a major source of worry for the home team. Not just the fact that their own bowling line-up was completely ineffective due to the nature of the pitch, but that their batsmen were incapable of making a significant score on the same wicket.

Chris Rogers and Steve Smith both thumbed their noses at recent media speculation and again proved their worth at different ends of the spectrum of their careers. Rogers was flawless apart from the chance given to the slips cordon off the third ball of the match - oh how England must look back on that and moan. His value to this Australian team over the past two years must never be forgotten. He came in when the team has a revolving door of opening batsmen and was crying out for someone to be the anchor, and could get the team off to solid starts every innings. In this respect he has been almost flawless, and his fifth Test century was most fitting given his time as a Middlesex player was what earned him his Test recall five years after his lone Test match. When he retires after this series concludes he will be within days of his 38th birthday. Ultimately his Test career may be comparatively short, but the part he has played from turning around the rabble that finished in India in 2013 to now is as much his legacy as anyone else.
At the other end of the scale, Steve Smith continues to pile on the runs. The consistent diatribe from some of those in the England set up that they don't rate Steve's batting, and that his technique won't hold up under English conditions, is beginning to sound even more puerile the further into the series we go. His innings of 215 and 58 were only ended when he decided to chase faster runs in both innings, and gave up his wicket in doing so. If not for that, the England bowlers could well have still been out on that Lord's wicket, bowling to Smith on 1000 not out. As I posted elsewhere at one stage during the game, it's a good thing that the England bowlers have 'worked out' Steve Smith, as they claimed after the 1st Test - otherwise, just how many runs would he have gotten?

Australia's bowling was superb. Everything that was done wrong in Cardiff has been set to right by the bowlers and their coaching staff. What's more, all three pacemen were quick, noticeably quicker than their England counterparts, and this along with their lines and lengths showed that 20 wickets could be taken on a featherbed. Mitchell Johnson is fast redeeming himself from 2009, his aggression with the ball and not so much from his mouth has been superb. his spells visually shook up the batsmen, and even when he wasn't able to secure a wicket it was his spell that would gain one for the bowlers who came after him. Josh Hazelwood is becoming the bowler the selectors have hoped he would become over the past three years, and while Mitch Starc is hampered by injury he has still done a great job in support, especially in the early overs of the innings. Nathan Lyon again prised out wickets on an unresponsive pitch, and while he never looks a match winner he is at least earning his keep.

The two new boys did themselves proud. Mitch Marsh was a surprise inclusion in front of perennial under achiever Shane Watson, and did everything that could have been expected of him. A relative failure with the bat in the first innings was dwarfed by the three wickets he took in the match - top scorers Cook and Stokes in the first dig, and Ballance in the second. He then blasted Australia to the declaration in the second dig in the perfect riposte. More runs will be the key to his success, but if his bowling output is replicated like this every match no more can be asked of him in that regard. Peter Nevill swift elevation after the unavailability of Brad Haddin has proven to be one of the finest debut performances of a wicket keeper for Australia in memory. A brisk and calm 45 in the first innings, which was only terminated by the search for quick runs, showed poise and skill at the crease. behind the stumps however he was a revelation. Seven catches for the match, including a beauty up to Nathan Lyon, showcased his obvious talent, good footwork and neat glovework. What's more, the delight he showed through the game was refreshing. Even when he was denied a catch off Jos Buttler after being sent to the third umpire (a disgraceful decision that once again favoured the home team) he put it behind him and kept up his good work, culminating in the dismissal of Buttler off Lyon four overs later. A wonderful debut.

England was dreadful, and anyone who didn't see the 1st Test would be left wondering how on earth they won that match. Jimmy Anderson bowled terribly, off line and off length, little movement, and generally looked like a player well past his best. they fact he was so ineffective a week after looking the most dangerous of the English attack is a real concern for them, because they appear toothless without him. Even more concerning was the lack of anything from Mark Wood, who a few weeks ago was being hailed as the next genuine pace bowler for England. At Lord's his pace was mostly stuck in the mid 120kph, and with no movement of the ball in the air or off the wicket. Stuart Broad bowled some good spells in the first innings, and at least looked as though he was putting the batsmen under pressure. his tactics again came under question in the second innings, when he appeared to revert to time wasting and negative lines rather than try and prise out the batsmen at the crease. Moeen Ali was ineffective, with the wickets he took only coming from batsmen trying to up the ante. If he is England's best spin option then they are in serious trouble.
Their batting was completely shown up, and while that may have only been a blip for some, for others they may be approaching a dead end. Cook and Stokes were the best performed. Cook though, in order to prove one again he can be a force, has retreated so far into defensive mode that his strike rate is non-existent, and cannot dominate an attack. Stokes is playing with flair and abandon, but can't expect to continue to succeed if coming in at 4 for bugger all. Root was hollowed out cheaply in this Test, and his output for the remainder of the series will be interesting, to see if he can replicate his Cardiff form, if Australia now have his number again.
The rest of the batting line-up is under enormous pressure, and whether any are left by the end of the series will be a talking point. Lyth looks out of his depth. Ballance, as expected, has been summarily thought out by first the New Zealand attack and now the Australians. His technique is a shambles, and surely he hasn't got long to go before shaking hands with his County captain. Bell is a shadow of his best, and needs a score somewhere to secure his future. Buttler looks a T20 slogger and not up to playing a long match-saving innings when necessary. Ali has gone from opener to number 8, but won't get another ball in his half of the wicket this series after his dismissal on Sunday. The biggest problem they have is that there are no ready-made replacements putting their hand up in County cricket to replace the incumbents. Once again County cricket is being dominated by South Africans and Australians and all manner of washed out players from other countries who then appear like world beaters when they play in this competition.

The series lies at 1-1, and while it certainly isn't over for either team, the Australians will enjoy the break between Test more than the English. Barring any unforeseen injuries the only change for Australia will likely be Haddin to return for Nevill. England appears to be stuck with who they have, and can only hope that somehow the shattered batsmen and under performing bowlers can somehow pull themselves together in a week and rediscover what they need in order to compete in this series.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Farewell Tom Watson

#31DaysOfScotch #Day18

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

#31DaysOfScotch #Day16

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Is This Finally The End?

Is it really the end? After all these years of mocking and taunting and anger and disbelief, and every other emotion one could describe... is this really the end?!

The boom fell mockingly during the World Cup when Shane Watson was dropped for Australia's match against Afghanistan in Perth when Rod Marsh was on duty, and no doubt after the selectors read my open letter that I sent to them. However, for the very next game, he had re-emerged thanks to Mark Waugh's take on the all-rounder position in the team, and despite getting worked over by Wahab Riaz in Adelaide in the quarter final (and if he had been held at fine leg early in that innings... well... maybe he would still not be here...) he remained in the team that eventually won the title. So his being dropped was a false dawn, and once again he was a part of the furniture. His returns in the two Tests in the West Indies were average, and despite being outplayed by Mitch Marsh in the two warm up games in England, he was chosen for the 1st Test which was completed in Cardiff last week.

So what has changed in a week? Watson's output in that 1st Test - 30 in the first innings (out LBW, referred, upheld, lose a referral) and 19 in the second innings (out LBW, referred, upheld, lose a referral) and 13 wicketless and impenetrative overs - is pretty much what he has dished up for the past two years, and apart from a few rare moments, for the most part of the past five years. This isn't a new phenomenon. In my angriest moments I have written about it in this blog here and here and here and here and here... and so on... and then there are the other fifty times where I just explode on social media. In essence, he put up the same figures last week as he has done for years, and now, almost suddenly, the selectors finally decide to drop him. It all makes perfect sense, because we've all thought it should have happened any number of times, but it also makes no sense at all. Why now? Why not in the West Indies? Why not against India at home, after he'd missed the Pakistan series with injury and Mitch Marsh had made such a good start there? Why not against South Africa? On and on, the opportunity to drop Watson has been available, on similar evidence. Why do it now, when not only has Australia lost the 1st Test when only Chris Rogers could have said to have succeeded well with the bat, but the team has lost the experience of Brad Haddin for the 2nd Test for family reasons? I'll be honest, as soon as Haddin's announcement was made, there didn't seem to be any way the selectors would lose any more 'experience', one of the final planks of Watson's resume that was often used as a reason NOT to drop him in the past.

The truth of the matter is that the Australians must believe that the English have Watson's number. They target that front pad, and are successful. They are not threatened by his bowling, and simply milk him around the field without any trouble. He can't field anywhere except first slip, and he is often saved there by Haddin's diving or Clarke's diving. Mitch Marsh may not do any better with either the bat or ball than Watson has in recent times, but the feeling is he certainly won't do worse. His form with the bat shows hope that he can succeed where Watson has not, and that his bowling is only there to hold up an end to give the four front liners a rest. If he takes wickets it's a bonus. He is also young in an exceptionally old team, and he will be enthusiastic. The reasons for keeping Watson in the team in front of anyone had grow tired and old and almost nonsensical. There was simply no reasons left, no matter how trivial, to keep him.

Is it really the end? Never say never. Losses at Lords and/or Edgbaston will open the door slightly for him, especially if Voges or Marsh cannot put a score on the board. Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers have been supposedly killed so many times they should be shredded mince meat, and yet they keep coming back and coming back. Shane Watson may not be a fictional movie villain, he may not have a mask, and he may wield willow rather than a cleaver, but I'll believe it's over when he announces he is joining Kevin Pietersen on his world tour of T20 domestic tournaments. Maybe then, and only then, we can rest easy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New Horizons Does Fly-By of Pluto

One of the great photos that have come from New Horizons of Pluto, when it flew past last night our time (July 14)

Which sparked a few other amusing photos, this one in particular.

#31DaysOfScotch #Day15

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Diorama Drama

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Hitler Reacts to Shane Watson's Performance in 1st Test

Shane Watson Selection Theories

#31DaysOfScotch #Day14

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Watson or Not, Australia Must Improve

England's victory in the 1st Test has seen the interest jump exponentially in the Old Dart, with visions of grandeur and regaining the old urn now firmly in their sights. Australia meanwhile is licking its wounds and cataloguing the cost of what was a disaster from lunchtime on the first day onwards.
The Australian bowlers just didn't bowl very well at times, and any plans they may have had for the batsmen appeared not to be followed. In Australia the bowlers bowled a full line on or about off stump to Joe Root to draw him forward without footwork. It wasn't always successful but it was more often than not. Root is certainly much improved since that series, but second ball he hit a ball just like that straight to the keeper - who dropped it. It proved to be a difference, numerically if nothing else. Even chasing 300 batting last on that wicket would have been almost impossible, and the start Root was given also protected the lower order from a relatively new ball. At 4/43 a score of over 400 was unlikely. The 87 runs the last three wickets put on was also a concern, though there was a certain amount of luck involved in that as well.
Australia's batting wasn't a loss either, but the method of dismissals probably was. Voges wafting twice outside his off stump, especially in the final moments of Day 2, was a concern. Watson as always, LBW in both innings. Haddin not the force at number seven as he was in 2013/14. Starts were made but not built on. That will happen, and will be rectified. The batsmen will not always succeed. But it was the fact that England's much maligned attack looked far more threatening, and swung the ball a hell of a lot more, than Australia's that will pose the most burning questions. With Ryan Harris now out of the equation, and the possibility of Mitchell Starc also being sidelined, suddenly Australia's attack looks a lot more threadbare and vulnerable than even a week ago. It can be a long time in cricket.
While England will now likely field an unchanged team in the coming matches and hope to cling to this lead, they will be acutely aware that they have had such a lead in their two recent Test series, before losing the advantage and finishing with a 1-1 score line. Questions remain over the top three in the batting line up, and given the conditions favoured their bowlers in Cardiff one wonders if they will do the same at Lords.
Australia's questions are many and varied, but given the recent history of team selections, the only one we are likely to see is Siddle in for Starc is he is unfit to play. Adam Voges will feel under pressure, more for the manner and timing of his dismissals in the 1st Test than anything to do with his form. He deserves an opportunity to rectify that, but as with anyone in his position, his age begins to nullify his chances fairly quickly at this stage of his career.
It is probably useless even bringing up Shane Watson's name at this point, given that no matter what he does or doesn't do, he just keeps being selected. 29 overnight at the start of day 3 and the chance to prove his worth, he was not only dismissed LBW for the addition of only one run, he also burned another referral in doing so. Then, in the second innings... yep, he did it all again. It must be galling and depressing for young cricketers around Australia to see him get so many chances without succeeding, knowing that they will either never get an opportunity at this level, or if they do they will never have as many opportunities to succeed if they put up similar numbers as Watson does. Mitch Marsh, or even Shaun Marsh, would be a better bet at six. No one can see it happening.
The series is now set up nicely, and we will be able to see if England can take on the front running role and win back the Ashes, or whether Australia can regroup and show the kind of form they have since this series two years ago.

Friday, July 10, 2015

#31DaysOfScotch #Day10

This one is for Shane Watson, who again this evening failed to capitalise on a start in the 1st Test, was triggered LBW, once again referred the decision, and once again wasted a review. Thanks for nothing Shane...

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

#31DaysOfScotch #Day1

So there is a new wave happening called Dry July, where people give up alcohol, or chocolate, or anything else I guess, for the month of July, and raise money for cancer. Now that is an admirable thing, and I am not against it in the slightest.
Well, except for all the people on social media who not only push it hard, but then claim to do it themselves. And then don't ACTUALLY go through with it, and have a few drinks or eat chocolate or whatever, and still take money off people who have sponsored them, or still CLAIM they completed their task!!
Anyway, good job you lot.
So I am decreeing that July will be the 31 Days of Scotch. Just because I feel like it.
So here is Day One. let's see how I go.

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