By Tony Stafford
I hope you don’t mind if I talk about cricket, rather than the World Cup, Tour de France, the July meeting at Newmarket or even Arsenal – we got Sanchez, yeah – but this weekend is really all about Jimmy.
No, not the James Anderson from Burnley – and they’re in the Premier League now –who with 355 Test wickets has only Sir Ian Botham to catch to go top, but his left-handed batting namesake (it’s actually him, too) who has a habit of notching records for the less notable of his cricketing attributes.
Jimmy was the man who collected a pair in the latest losing Test against Sri Lanka. You might not think a number 11 would find that a rare occurrence and Jimmy in his 130 goes at the crease has a total of 15 dismissed zeroes.
But it took a long time for the first of them to occur, at the 54th time of asking. Among all Test cricketers from any country, that was the fifth longest and the best by an Englishman.
The second duck at Lord’s against Sri Lanka was the painful one with only two balls (including the fatal one) to save the Test and was the 55th faced by Jimmy in a valiant stand with the new boy Moeen Ali. That was the second longest Test duck in terms of balls faced, bettered only by New Zealander Nathan Astle (77).
But then on Friday/ Saturday in Nottingham, Jimmy exceeded all his previous achievements, scoring 81 in a last-wicket stand of 198 with that other cussed young man, Yorkshireman Joe Root, 23, who once again showed his tenacity with an unbeaten 154, his fourth century. Jimmy’s previous best Test score was 34, first class only 37. In getting past 50 for the first time in his 130th innings, he set a world record.
The 198 stand easily outstripped the best previous last-wicket stand in Test history, so Jimmy has two current world records – as a batsman.
Meanwhile their skipper Alastair Cook struggles not just with his batting, but his use of English. Anyone who uses the word “desperate” rather than “keen” or “anxious” or even “hopeful” to describe his state of mind before a crucial episode is often going to get the reward his desperation deserves.
Start by being hopeful Cookie, but unfortunately, probably he has used the word best suited to how he sees the position. He better get a few against India today if he wants to keep the respect of his fans even if his job is safe. After all, he got the ringing endorsement of his employers and surely they aren’t like Premier League chairmen’s promises, are they?
The past week has been shocking in many ways. Before I walked across to the Olympic Park on Monday to see a blur of colour go past – “I saw the Tour in Hackney!” – and trudged back seconds later the way I came, Cavendish was already out and that other great Brit, Froome (born in Kenya!), was soon to depart too.
My mate Matt has Nibali to win the Mountains jersey, in the way of things, the Italian’ll collect the main prize and let someone else in for the climbers’ pot. [Ed: that’d be me, and I think Tony has about nailed it there. Sigh.]
Last week’s trip to Deauville had a disappointing ending, Adrakhan rewarding his former owner by saying hello to his new connections by indulging in a long bout of crib biting – “’Ee never deed eet before”, said M Baratte, who doesn’t really talk like that.
Neither did my favourite uncle Dimitri, who sadly died on Saturday night. Transport links to Marseille aren’t the best – Air France requires not just a change of planes in Paris, but also a change of airports – so I’ll be going over to see Auntie Marie-Therese next month rather than get to the Tuesday funeral of my late mum’s brother.
The July Course was hideous on Thursday, rain penetrating every space and the underfoot conditions on this most pastoral of courses in ideal shoe-ruining mode. It serves them right. If the meeting had been kept to the old Tuesday to Thursday format, the first two days would have been staged in excellent July weather.
I still fail to believe the plea that having big races on a Saturday – surely not all the big races? – maximises foreign betting levels. Who cares? And who benefits?
Newmarket’s unilateral action of first moving up one day and then two merely compresses all the big action into a 90-minute scrum. Funnily enough, you could have racing at every track south of the Humber and you’d still get a big crowd at York for the John Smith’s and over at Chester in the generally racing-starved North-West.
Ascot, too, thanks to its excellent marketing, always holds its own, but the big moan for all the tracks and the trainers, is that finding jockeys for a Group 1 sprint at Newmarket; a group 2 at Ascot and the John Smith’s at York is a delicate process. And as for Chester, racegoers were asking themselves “who, he?” when confronted by some of the names on the race card.
Still Newmarket didn’t care, they had just over 12,000 (wow!), a few more than last year. Well done for their biggest day of the summer. There’ll be 19,000 there on Friday night, and the bar takings will be spectacular too.
As for not caring, some bright spark suggested moving the Derby to a Saturday night slot, presumably so that anyone watching the Noel Edmonds show Deal or no Deal may be so far asleep that they forget to turn the channel over, thus improving the viewing figures.
The way to put that right would be to go back to a Wednesday Derby and Saturday Oaks. They watch Cheltenham midweek after all, even on Channel Four.
I suppose I’ll look in on Germany- Argentina tonight, but my only prediction of the day is that Justin Rose will win the Scottish Open. Not quite the Tortoise to Rory’s Hare, but he’s a sound player as his three improving rounds proved once again. Maybe he’ll win the big one next week, too.
But the biggest of big ones, was the signing of Sanchez. If Khedira comes too, I might be asking Darius if he can get me a ticket. By the way all the lads were saying their “leader” in Brazil “never dun nuffink”, well nuffink they wouldn’t have dun.