Category Archives: Non-Tennis

Family Fun Day at the Galpharm: Giants 46-26 Hull KR

There’s always something magical about returning home. When the Beatles returned to Liverpool, they were given a royal reception. When England returned to the new Wembley there was a sense of relief from the country as their national side stopped their tour of club stadiums… well, there wasn’t, but the FA will make you believe it so.

 

The most recent major return home – which of course has been widely publicised in the national media for weeks – is Huddersfield Giants’ homecoming. After being forced to play at Halifax’s Shay Stadium as the turf got relayed for an apparently more important football season, the Giants returned to the Galpharm Stadium with a bang.

 

The PR and marketing boys were up for this one, with a family fun day not seen since the Chuckle Brothers hosted the 1994 Rotherham harvest festival.

 

The massive inflatables were up outside the stadium, offering fans the chance to kick a ball at a canvas. Kids got in free. There was even a flutter of red and gold balloons as the players came out. Serious stuff.

 

The best gimmick however was when a chubby fan officially kicked off the ‘homecoming game’, which basically involved a rotund account manager in a replica shirt scuffing a mock conversion six yards wide of the sticks.

 

The festivities continued at half time, with Giants chairman Ken Davy sweeping onto the pitch, microphone in hand, to confirm slashed ticket prices. This was greeted with delirious cheers from the stands. Nothing says Yorkshire like a heavy discount.

 

The players seemed infatuated by the festivities too. KR had brought a decent number of fans from Humberside, giving the Galpharm an atmosphere livelier than most weeks.

"Blue Shirt! Blue Shirt! Carry the water Blue Shirt. Over"

KR really pulled their finger out, bringing a full team of staff including a keen-looking water boy. Now, Playitlong isn’t sure why a water boy needs a headphone set, maybe so the opposition water boy doesn’t steal his tactics?

 

Both sides appeared determined to prove they were having the most fun; fumbling, kicking, prancing, dancing, shouting, gobbing, arguing, running. The one thing neither side bothered with was defending.

 

The game was fairly even – although it finished 46-26 to the Giants – with some spectacular tries that made you think wherever the opposition was even attempting a tackle.

 

Hudersfield’s Scott Grix scored what was the most entertaining try, latching on to a Jermaine McGillvary kick over the last defender to finish off a rapid counter attack – to be honest, what kind of counter attack isn’t rapid? It’s just an attack otherwise.

 

Jake Webster for KR had earlier managed to score with the age-old tactic of “run round ‘em!” Webster picked the ball up fairly centrally, and left the Giants men for dead as he trotted round the right side of the line, in a looping run a high jumper would be proud of.

 

More things happened. The crowd shouted ‘forward!’ every few minutes. The boos rang out when the referee gave successive TV replay decisions for Giants touchdowns – both dismissed. But what was most interesting was that even Eorl Crabtree managed a try.

 

Quite literally a giant, many teams put three or four players on Crabtree when he gets the ball. His try proved just how lacklustre the KR defence had become as the clock ticked down: big Eorl lunging through to score easily.

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Live for the moment: Yorkshire v Lancashire, day 4

“This will probably go down as one of the great Roses matches ever” was a statement made in the press box of Headingley Stadium five minutes before the first bowl.

Yorkshire are playing Lancashire in what the majority of the world would consider a completely meaningless county fixture.

It’s day four and Carnegie need to chase a 140-run deficit with just four wickets to spare.

County cricket is slowly descending into a training exercise to pad out the week before more entertaining variations of the game go on show.

The game is well in the balance. After Lancashire surged to a first innings total of 328, knocking their Pennine opponents back for just 239, it seemed as though the Lightning would get their first win at Headingley since 2007 (another press box stat there, so don’t pull me up on it!).

Well, a poor second innings performance left YCCC with around 300 to claw back over half of the third day, going into the fourth. It looked to be going well until a fourth wicket collapse saw the home side start the final day surely too far out of reach.

So, regardless of result, this game is apparently going into the history books, and yet maybe 600 people will remember it, or at least remember next week they were present at all.

And this is the problem with county cricket, especially the four-day game. True county cricket is a retirement spectator activity for those who have backs too bad to play golf.

The game becomes a stat rather than an experience. You don’t remember that amazing fourth day catch at second slip against your rivals (Sidebottom c Smith for 16), quite like you remember the emotion of a goal being scored against a hated opponent (David Wetherall header, five yards out, Leeds Utd 1-0 Man Utd, 1997).

All that is remembered is a little figure in the bible-thin pages of Wisden for yet another year.

So why am I here?

I haven’t come here to watch one rival team against another – cricket just isn’t tribal enough for that. I haven’t come for the atmosphere in the stands, and there are no cheerleaders to be seen.

A cricket lover's dream

I can’t claim to understand the game much either. Check out this scorecard before play. It took me a good three minutes – that’s 180 seconds – to excavate Yorkshire’s total from the first innings… and I’ve now lost it again.

What I’m here for is to watch some good quality cricket, and this is where the county game differs from all others. I don’t care about remembering it tomorrow, or in a year from now. I just want to enjoy the moment and hopefully watch a good batting performance. The score helps – of course – it makes the skill of the lower orders battling through to the end even more engrossing and appreciated.

“In ten years time this will become a distant blur”. The press box conversation turns to memory, and what seems to be an apparent lack of it. Harking back to some match in 1980, one writer claims how he can hardly fathom what happened. Inevitably the conversation returns to Botham.

It seems this game will go the same way; reduced to the annals of an ageing reporter and cricket enthusiasts.

So where does this leave county cricket? The demographic on the terraces quite literally live in the moment, the moment is all they’ve got now, which is what I came for as well. It seems the four-day game is in a world of its own. Still the mainstay version of the game for players to develop test skills and chess-like discipline, county cricket is slowly descending into a training exercise to pad out the week before more entertaining variations of the game go on show.

And yet, some of us – even if only a very few on a sunny Saturday afternoon – some of us love it.

Incidentally, Lancashire won. A nice 50 partnership from Rashid and Shahzad ended as soon as it arrived, Shahzad edging into the gloves behind him. With 54 runs still needed Pyrah came in and did his bit, reducing the run chase to just 40 before lunch.

Yorkshire’s final pair got the chase down to 24 before Pyrah got his feet mixed up and the umpire raised his finger.

The fact Yorkshire forced their opponents to the break at least showed their commitment to what appeared to be a lost cause. As it is, the effort of remembering this game in a fortnight’s time looks like producing the same outcome.

Not that that matters.

“This game concludes that cricket offers the most exciting conclusions to a game watched by barely anybody”, came the final words of the Botham-era hack.

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Lethargic Yorkshire suffer heavy loss

Another boundary for Notts

There’s something quite intimidating sitting in the quiet press box in Yorkshire Carnegie’s Headingley Stadium. Being an air sealed auditorium, the atmosphere of the crowd never percolates properly into the ears of critical journalists.

You watch a match therefore in relative silence – all senses are muffled through the panoramic glass shield.

The intimidation doesn’t come from the lack of atmosphere however, or even the awkward silences between journalist small talk. No, the intimidation comes during conversation.

Stuff happened as the innings progressed. Other things didn’t.

I’m far from a cricket connoisseur. I know the rules and enjoy watching the game, and that’s about it. Therefore, when a fellow journalist asks me if Ryan Sidebottom should be opening the attack, I have to mumble a convoluted response, pretending to know what I’m talking about.

It’s much the same as when you’re abroad, and are asked by some Frenchman where the train station is. Cue the embarrassing clueless reply from yourself in embarrassed self-loathing English.

The silence of the press box makes it worse. The silence makes it embarrassing. Everyone hears it – there’s no drunken crowd to drown out my own sorrows.

However, when the cricket actually starts, the intimidation dies down as everyone turns their attention to the main attraction. Not that Yorkshire matches have been much of an attraction this season. Swilling around the middle of the t20 North Group, Carnegie are way off the pace of league leaders Notts.

Although, the opening three bowls offered a different perspective. Andrew Gale edged a lazy Darren Pattinson opener for four, which was followed by two wides in succession.

A change was of course in desperate need – Carnegie were romping away with it. In the second over however, Notts showed their magnificence with Joe Sayers swiping hurriedly at a Luke Fletcher delivery. The ball looked to flash past Ricky Wessels at mid off, but he arched left and snatch it out of the air. 10/1 after eight balls.

Well, what a little drama that was. Gale was soon on form, knocking Pattinson for a couple of fours and a six off one over. Quote from the press box: “this is some dreadful bowling”. Of course, I could only pretend to agree by chuckling and nodding my head.

Stuff happened as the innings progressed. Other things didn’t. Confusion leading to wickets. Poor bowls leading to boundaries. Only a short conversation in the press box between two stalwarts of the typewriter kept it interesting:

“What’s Gale’s highest score of the season?”
“67 I think,” was the reply.
“Well he’s on 62 now: looks good so far.”

The next delivery, Gale was bowled.

Yorkshire finished on 152/5, a reasonable total considering the slow middle overs. Gale’s half century and a 45-run partnership between final pair Jonathan Bairstow and Ajmal Shazad bunked up the score to something it really shouldn’t have been. Occasional sixes pleased the 4,900 strong crowd, but it was a slow innings.

Oh the inconsistency

Their runs per over said it all: a rollercoaster of a graph resembling a jump jockey’s gum line rather than a solid, consistent innings.

Notts on the other hand appeared to have no trouble with the bat, blasting off to a superb start of 17/0 off the first two overs, which was increased to 31/0 after four.

The first ever over of 26-year-old Iain Wardlaw suggested a decent acquisition for Carnegie. The right-hander hardly looked out of place in the bowling attack, conceding just 13 off his first three overs. Indeed, so soon has Wardlaw come into the side to replace Sidebottom, he still hasn’t been assigned a shirt number.

An important Adam Lyth catch from an arching Wessels effort gave YCCC vital hope as their opponents passed the century mark, and with eight overs remaining it seemed Notts would continue their purple patch that saw too many sixes in too few deliveries.

However, it was Wardlaw again who was to provide a stopper to the Outlaws push, forcing Tamim Iqbal to drive over the bowler’s head and into the hands of boundary-lurking Lyth, Iqbal out for 47.

The two wickets in quick succession was followed by Rafiq smashing the bails off Adam Voges’ wickets – and suddenly victory was in sight! With 14 balls remaining, Notts needed just 13 to win, it was all in the balance. However, two Richard Pyrah deliveries later sorted that out: a pair of massive Scott Elstone sixes smashed any chance of a Carnegie win there and then.

Indeed, Notts finished on a final boundary, 156/4: Elstone 26 of 15 balls. Despite Wardlaw’s strong debut, the lack of a bowling threat in the opening overs was truly Yorkshire’s undoing.

Of course, I didn’t mention this to any of the other journalists. They know what they’re talking about.

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LS heads back to Headingley

Streamline view from Headingley Stadium press area

Many Leeds University students will be well familiarised with Headingley Carnegie Stadium, home of rugby league club Leeds Rhinos.

Not that many will have attended more than one game however, what with the Super League season kicking off in summer exam time. However, most of us will have stood in the south terrace to watch the annual Varsity union game between Uni and Leeds Met.

Well, as popular as the growing Varsity showdown is becoming, the attendance in the compact Headingley is no match for a local derby. Welcome Bradford Bulls, arguably the Rhinos’ biggest rivals and on a relative slump for the past few seasons. A sturdy and vocal following can always be expected.

Leeds are no strangers to success either, but again are another team that have struggled to find form this season. Fifth place meets tenth, with everything to play for considering a route to the playoff stage of the season needs just a lowly eighth position.

There’s no need to attach a brand to pies

So, how to start such an important derby match? Get your mascot to abseil off the stadium roof and drop onto the pitch, as Ronnie the Rhino did to great effect. A fluffy, giant headed rhino plummeting down from the rainy heavens is sure to whet the appetite of a raucous rugby league crowd.

The game itself proved as entertaining as Ronnie’s dancing with the Leeds cheerleaders. Olivier Elima pulled the Bulls back to within a try of the Rhinos, much to the disgust of the home crowd, after Ryan Hall had opened the scoring. With no Sky cameras in the ground, controversial tries cannot be replayed for the benefit of all watching. Referee Steve Ganson therefore had no option but to give the touchdown.

Leeds responded well, but another Elima effort cancelled out Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s try. At half time the Rhinos led 12-10, but looked shaky.

Craving for a pie after this eye catcher

Half time at any sports event is often the dull purgatory of sitting in silence, staring into space or pretending to appreciate the Under-5 local cheerleading squadron. This inevitability arose, and so I took to inspecting the décor of this wonderful little ground. Well, you can tell you’re up north when a section of the advertising boards simply reads ‘Pies’. There’s no need to attach a brand to pies; it’s a communal advert for the good of the local economy.

The drizzling weather came to reflect the second half, which proved to be a misery for the home side, as handling errors and a lack of discipline saw little in possession up the field. The discipline absence continued, Ganson awarding numerous penalties for basic infringements.

These penalties were to be the Rhinos’ downfall, as Bradford’s Patrick Ah Van kicked five goals to boost the winning cushion. With confidence high in the Bradford back line, they knew that punting their way to victory would be easier than wasting time and effort in search of six points.

A 12-18 finish in favour of the Bulls was clearly a fair result. Ronnie looked devastated.

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Leeds Student goes to Headingley

Panorama! Leeds Student's view from the press auditorium

It’s always difficult to gauge the popularity of county cricket, regardless of wherever the game is a four-day snooze-a-thon or a t20 ping session. A Thursday mid-afternoon crowd of 2,700 hardly helps to provide a better insight either.

Nevertheless, here I was at Headingley Stadium for Yorkshire Carnegie’s t20 clash with Worcestershire; a press box of nine balding, strong-accented journalists accompanying me in the YCCC’s new Kirkstal Lane press auditorium.

If you’ve lived in Headingley over the last three years, you will have noticed the YCCC have been slowly docking a monstrous green spaceship between west and east stands. The ship is now complete, and open to VIPs (those with money) and the press (those without money).

A vague memory in the back of my mind assures me that this stand was to be complete before the 2009 Ashes, and it was still a building site when the Aussies arrived, meaning the world’s largest billboard was erected to cover up the fat builders and buckets of cement.

Wickets are always more vigorously celebrated in the second innings.

Well it’s complete now, and is a magnificent facility for the club – even if it looks completely out of place, surrounded as it is by Leeds’ largest collection of red-bricked terrace housing.

Yorkshire went into the game without a win from their opening two t20 games, while Worcestershire were only a point ahead. A solid 40-run partnership from Andrew Gale and Adan Lyth surged Carnegie forward, but in the seventh over Gale chipped into bowler Vikram Solanki’s palms, and from there the innings never really reignited.

Lyth found Moeen Ali on the boundary to get his marching orders. From the high expanse of the press box, it always seems ridiculous how a batsman can find tiny individual 60 yards away on the ropes. And yet, Lyth’s accuracy was of perfection: a slow Shaaiq Choudhry delivery enough to baffle to opener.

The wickets continued to fall, Yorkshire finishing on a disappointing 152/7. The crowd – resolved to polite applause for every boundary – came to life in the Worcestershire innings however.

Really, a home side should always bowl second in t20 cricket. After an hour and a half of batting action, the crowd are by this time alcohol fuelled and bored enough to cheer even a dot ball. Wickets are always more vigorously celebrated in the second innings.

And indeed they were here too. Ryan Sidebottom was on stunning form, acrobatically catching Adil Rashid for one. Richard Pyrah then ruined Shakib Al Sahan’s middle wicket as the Carnegie field took control; the small west stand gathering showing their appreciation with rather overenthusiastic celebrations.

After 13 overs Worcestershire were five down for 70, and were in need of a boost from somewhere. It came thanks to Gareth Andrew, who pinged 16 off three successive David Wainwright deliveries. Suddenly the Royals were 106 for 5 with five overs remaining, and looking mildly threatening.

Yorkshire, who in the 13th over looked in full command, were thrown into the scrap. Sidebottom was called back out, having conceded just six off two overs. The choice was a success: Worcestershire scoring just four off the over. With 24 balls remaining, they needed a massive 45 runs, a figure that would have been far lower had it not been for Sidebottom.

Rashid crucially caught James Cameron with 17 balls to go, effectively ending any sort of rhythm to the Worcestershire tail end. Indeed, regardless of Andrew’s efforts –  60 in total with numerous sixes – it was Yorkshire’s day as they rather nervously limped over the finish line, the Royals finishing short on 150.

Of course Sidebottom was the man given the responsibility of seeing off the last over, Worcestershire needing 4 off the last ball, but a low delivery was enough to secure YCCC victory, and in doing so boost Carnegie off the bottom of the t20 Northern league table.

Yorkshire fixtures are scheduled throughout the summer. Who knows if Leeds Student will cover them…

Final Score: YCCC 152/7 bt Royals by 2 runs

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