Category Archives: Cricket

Back from the alps, back to the running (and the little matter of the cricket World Cup)

The lacets (‘laces’) du Montvernier, Garmin style

The cycling in the alps was as good as ever, even if I was rather off the pace after a few months concentrating on running. Telegraphe and Galibier were the big climb highlights but the lacets du Montvernier were such fun.

Having got back late Sunday, it was up to London on Monday for supper with one son, followed by supper with the other on Tuesday. Tuesday also featured a rather annoying trip back to Oxfordshire once I realised that I had not checked the chickens before we left on Monday – annoying but necessary as I found them with almost no food or water!

Wednesday was my 64th birthday which we celebrated at Nathan Outlaw’s new restaurant venture at a London hotel. I’ve no idea whether he is known outside the UK but his big expertise is fish and the meal was excellent.

Back to Oxfordshire again later on Wednesday and down to Bournemouth Saturday to set up the house for one of my wife’s goddaughters who is using it next week.

Sunday morning I had a gentle run with my wife – my first run since 25th May when I tore my calf muscle. The muscle is fine, of course, but while the Achilles tendons are better, they are still not right. Friends over for supper so it will be into next week with good intentions of doing more running and cycling.

The cricket World Cup has reached its climax. After good performances against New Zealand and India to get into the semi-finals, England handed out a bit of a beating to Australia and went on the meet New Zealand in the final.

New Zealand batted first and scored a decent but beatable 241 from their 50 overs. Their opening bowlers in particular were excellent but England just about stuck in there and needed 2 to win off the final ball (of 300) but scored just one and tied the match. That meant it went to a ‘super over’ – six balls each side to decide the World Cup.

As Oasis might have said, a ‘champagne super over’.

Crazy and rather cruel.

We managed 15 from our six balls. New Zealand also managed 15 runs off theirs. In that case the result is decided, first, on boundaries hit in the match. England hit 26 and New Zealand 17.

So, in perhaps the most dramatic circumstances possible, England defied all of my doubts and actually justified their status as favourites by winning (just)!

That makes England the first country to win the Football, Rugby and Cricket World Cups.

Admittedly, not that many countries compete at the top level in all three sports!

… and perhaps we might add Le Tour de France too?

Turbo, gym, pink pigeons, a terrific women’s cycle race, Chris Froome (and some more cricket)

Women’s Tour of Britain coming through Faringdon. It was ultimately won by Lizzie Deignan, 9 months after having a daughter. Magnificent.

An almost decent week of getting back into some sort of training rhythm.

On Monday it was the turbo for 22.2 km in 45 minutes @ 29.6kph (13.8 miles @ 18.4mph) and on Tuesday an hour in the gym (various weights machines for the legs, front and side planks, 110 sit-ups, some chest presses, bicep curls and a lot of stretching).

Wednesday saw the Women’s Tour of Britain cycle race come through Faringdon, our nearest town so I went to support that – and the incredible efforts of some of the cycle group to decorate the town pink. Pink pigeons is a Faringdon ‘thing’ after Lord Berners – Faringdon’s eccentric aristocrat – used to have the pigeons at his house in the town dyed pastel colours in the middle of the last century. There were about 50 bikes put about the town, all pimped pink.

A second hour in the gym on Thursday before heading off to Southampton to stay with one of my brothers-in-law in order to go to the cricket on Friday. I was lucky that I was going with my brother-in-law as otherwise my absence on our 32nd wedding anniversary would have been rather frowned upon.

In keeping with my life’s work of bringing cricket to the corners of the world that hasn’t yet reached, after I watched them win their first world cup game, England batted and bowled reasonably in their second match – but fielded poorly and managed to lose to Pakistan (who they had just beaten 4-0 in a pre-tournament series). Back to winning ways in match three against Bangladesh and then (the match I was at in Southampton) winning surprisingly easily against the West Indies. Whisper it, but qualification for the semi-finals looks possible, with New Zealand, Australia and India also looking good so far.

I stayed over on Friday night too and then back home via Bournemouth (still managing to resist a run while I rest the Achilles’ and torn calf) to collect the bed linen and towels used by the friends who had used the house the previous week. Yet more glitz and glamour to my lifestyle.

Turbo again on Saturday evening – 15.64km in 30 minutes (19.4mph average). Hard, hard, hard.

…. and above everything else, my very best wishes to Chris Froome for a swift and full recovery from the severe injuries (a fracture to his neck, a fractured right femur, elbow and ribs, plus a broken hip) he suffered as a result of his terrible crash on Wednesday.

It’s a good reminder that this cycling lark can be dangerous – stay safe folks.

Fowl play in the chicken run



In a rare outbreak of common sense I’ve decided to tone down the running until I start my 20 weeks preparation for the Rotterdam Marathon. That meant quite a gentle start to the week, but livened up by having to catch chickens.

I’m not sure that can go down as official exercise for my marathon preparation, I’ve found programmes with fast runs, long runs, intervals and slow runs – perhaps chicken catching comes under ‘cross-training’.

I’ve continued to cycle and did 45.8km (28.5 miles) in an hour on the turbo on Monday while Mrs O was up in London for an event early on Tuesday morning. Taking advantage of her absence, and in spite of a very strong wind, I got out on the bike on Tuesday afternoon – only the fourth time out on the roads since my trip to the alps in July.

I had planned a gentle dawdle but (surprise, surprise) once I got going I pushed a bit harder than intended and finished up with a very windy 37.35km @ 28.4kph (23 miles @ 17.6mph). It was too windy to be a complete delight – foolishly I’d gone out with the wind behind me, leaving a real slog on the way back – but it reminded me that it’s the turbo for the ‘duty’ miles and the road for pleasure, fresh air and bad road surfaces.

Mrs O stayed in London Tuesday night as well as, on Wednesday, I went up for one of the sportsman’s lunches my brother-in-law very kindly invites me to on a generously regular basis. This one was at Lord’s again, the home of cricket and was superb. We drove back together on Wednesday evening.

…… anyway, back to the chickens. We  first got chickens about 15 years ago – they are surprisingly entertaining creatures with (even more surprisingly) distinct characters.

Probably 80% of the chickens we get are ‘rescue chickens’ – saved from the normal ‘block change’ at commercial egg production units which see all the chickens disposed of after as little as 12 months of laying because productivity starts to reduce. Terribly wasteful as chickens may live for about 6 years and can continue to lay (in non-commercial environments) for three years.

Some friends went to Australia for a few weeks so, rather than going to their place daily to look after their chickens, we took them in, rather like short term fostering. Catching them to bring them over here wasn’t too hard – our friends’ run isn’t too large and has several nooks and crannies where I could corner them.

The friends rode L’Eroica with us in 2015, and David was also with me for the Cinglé du Mont-Ventoux. He’s the friend who broke his hip in a crash on a Pyrenean descent back in July – so I was chicken-catcher-in-chief. He is quite a chap – I’m not sure I’d have wanted to travel to Australia with an only partially mended hip.

Having guest chickens was fascinating – the ‘pecking order’ is well named as I watched the initial battles for chicken supremacy – sadly the victory went to one of the guests. I must toughen up our chickens if we take in guest in the future.

Our run is bigger so catching them after our friend’s return was rather more entertaining. Typically chickens are either ‘squatters’ or runners when approached. These were all runners.

All has now returned to normal except that one of our chickens – who I had regarded as a pensioner as she had apparently come to the end of her laying life – has started laying again.

Perhaps it was the feeling of increased competition. We all benefit from that.


Making an ass of myself?


Thinking about it, to compare myself to any type of horse is unfair to horses. This is closer.

If I were a racehorse I would be a ‘one-paced stayer’. Running the London Marathon in 1998 and 1999, I was lucky that my one pace was enough (just) to get me round in under 4 hours. The subsequent 20 years do not appear to have been kind in that respect.

As I remember it, running the required 9min 9sec per mile (6min 38sec per km) was OK – it never felt very fast and the real challenge then was running it for 26 miles 385 yards. Almost the whole focus then was on endurance.

Now the required pace feels very quick to me – my two 10 km runs on a sensible flattish route (running up the alp last week doesn’t qualify) have both been under an hour but have both been a little outside the required pace. Sadly, if I am going to run sub 4 hours next year, both pace and endurance are going to need to be addressed. I could easily end up looking very foolish.


On the plus side, I’ll be going into proper training fitter than I was when I started 20 years ago – and half a stone lighter than I was when I actually ran. It’s just those 20 years that are going to be the problem.

I made the mistake of looking at the time I would have to achieve in order to enter the London marathon as ‘good for age’. It is 3 hours 45 minutes for the 60-64 category. If that is the target for regular, good standard runners, it suggests that my aim of breaking the 4 hour barrier is very optimistic, rather foolish and probably doomed already! Still, there are 7 months before the run so surprising things might happen.

I’m taking a holistic approach and have resumed the sit-ups, press-ups, lunges and crunches. More importantly, the Achilles tendons felt better so I went running with Mrs O on Sunday morning for 3.85 miles (6.2km).

We were then out for an excellent lunch at The Vineyard, a really good restaurant with a fine wine cellar, as guests at the magnificent 70th birthday celebration of a friend and ex-work colleague.

The only downside was that both my Achilles’ tightened up while I was sitting. I think I hurt them with the weights on Thursday (foolish calf raises with 170kg on the quads machine) rather than with the running – but that has aggravated the problem.

A valuable lesson learned – I am not as young as I was and cannot take too many liberties with my body. The training might turn into an exercise in injury prevention and management as much as anything else.

The Achilles’ eased during Monday so we ran again on Tuesday morning – just 4.5km (2.8miles). Then the turbo in the evening – 40 km in 50.42mins @ 47.3kph (25 miles @ 29.4mph) – hard!

It’s too early for any training schedule (and I hate them anyway as I feel guilty when I, inevitably, fail to keep to them) so for now the aim is just to cycle at least twice and run at least three times a week, body permitting.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Although I’m delighted that the American Football season has started (I’ve been a fan of the game – and the Raiders – ever since I saw Marcus Allen run 74 yards for that touchdown in Super Bowl XVIII), a word on cricketer Alastair Cook. Apologies that most people in the world will not know who he is – and are not interested in cricket (but how could anyone fail to love a game where you can play for 5 days and not end up with a winner?). Happily we did win this one, and the series.

Alastair Cook is a former captain, playing his final game for England – and yesterday scored 147 in his final England innings. He is retiring as the country’s highest run scorer, with a host of other records.

In an era when so many sports people are most notable for their on-pitch (or dare I say it, on-court!) misdemeanours, he has been a real gentleman and a proper role-model. Chapeau Alastair.

Credit too to England’s James Anderson who became the leading wicket taker, for a fast bowler, in Test cricket.

On an altogether sadder note, my very best wishes to Kristina Vogel, the German double Olympic sprint champion in the velodrome, who was involved in a crash in training and looks to be confined to a wheelchair as a result. She was fantastic to watch on the track and I hope that her determination and fighting spirit pull her through this too.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

PS Neil Matthews made a liar out of me and actually finished the Transcontinental Race on Saturday (not Friday) – just the 41 days after he started and just 32 days after the winner, making 157 finishers and 97 scratched.

Rules, ethics, gamesmanship and cheating

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I expect that at least 90% of the world has no interest in cricket but I think it’s a great game – how can you not love a sport where you can play for five days and have a draw at the end of it?

Sadly, cricket has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. The Australian captain, vice captain and one of their batsmen were caught cheating in a test match against South Africa.

The three had hatched a plan to use sandpaper on the ball to make it behave favourably for their bowlers.

They were sent home from the tour, have since been banned for 9 or 12 months – and have lost lucrative contracts both in cricket itself and from commercial endorsements. Although apparently not being part of the plan, the coach has now resigned, accepting responsibility for the culture of the team.

As a cycling fan, it reminds me of the (too) many scandals and rumours that plague pro-cycling.

For me, it all starts out fairly simply – if you break the rules you have cheated and deserve the (appropriate) punishment that’s coming to you.

Take TUEs in cycling. Taking otherwise banned drugs can be within the rules if you need them for medical reasons – if you have the medical need and take them, you are not cheating. If you take them, pretending to have the medical need, you are cheating.

The line can get blurred once we get into the grey area of ethics in sport. If you compete unethically, I think you forfeit respect and moral high-ground and I think sport should be played to the highest standards of integrity – but if you are not breaking the rules, in my book, you are not actually cheating.

Part of the difficulty is that people have different standards when it comes to ethics and who is to say that their interpretation is right? At least the rules should be a clear line in  the sand.

The Australian captain, Steve Smith, was in tears in a press conference saying ‘I will regret this for the rest of my life. I am absolutely gutted. I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness’. Of course, I don’t know him – he might be a great guy who has just made one mistake and on a human level I wish everyone involved all the best.

However, I can’t help wondering what Steve Smith would have been like if they hadn’t got caught. Would he have been sitting in his hotel room, consumed with guilt, because he had done such a terrible thing? I don’t know – but I doubt it.

I’m sure he is really sorry for what he did and I do have some sympathy with the position he finds himself in – but is the difference between satisfaction with a plan that worked, and abject misery for dishonest actions, mainly a question of whether or not you get caught?