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October 17, 2013


But the team delivered when it mattered most, during the time when all those little balls were popping up in the group draw.

Seriously. England struggled to get points in a group with Montenegro, Poland, Moldova, and San Marino.

Shame on you, NYTimes. With shameless England fan service like that I mistook you for the Daily Mail.

Meanwhile, go Iceland!

You can hardly accuse the UK press of unbridled optimism:
How far will England go?
PH: Can progress beyond the group but not much further
JW: Another of those quarter-final exits
JB: Quarter-finals. Where else? Not everything can change at once!
AS: Quarter-final exit, unless we can finally master the penalty shoot out

There was a glorious twenty minutes or so a few years ago when they were actually a goal down to San Marino.

Quarter-finals does seem a bit overly optimistic for England. Without a seed, they could very well draw into a group in which they'd likely finish second. Then they could be looking at a round of 16 matchup with a Brazil, Spain or Germany (again).

OK, we may not have the best football team (and I have to confess that I remain resolutely unobsessed by the sport*), but our newspapers do still run the best obituaries...

Sakai was one of the so-called “marathon monks” who for 1,300 years have worshipped on Mount Hiei, just north of the ancient city of Kyoto. Unlike most Buddhists, who believe that enlightenment is a process which can be achieved only over several lifetimes through the process of reincarnation, Tendai Buddhists, like the monks of Mt Hiei, consider enlightenment possible in one lifetime.
Not that the process is easy. Enlightenment, they believe, is attained through acts of ascetic devotion to Buddha. The most extreme of these is the Sennichi Kaihogyo, an epic trek through the mountains surrounding their temple, Enryaku. It involves walking increasing distances over 1,000 days, divided into 100-day chunks, during a period of seven years. The distances gradually increase so that, in the seventh and final year, devotees are walking 51 miles (two marathons) each day. If for any reason – from blister to boar attack – they should fail to complete a day, the traditional requirement is suicide...

*Cricket is quite another matter.

Cricket is a lovely game, I think.

Sort of a primitive version of the One True Sport of Baseball, as I gather.

Go Sox!

A bit of a downer and way off-topic, but I'll use this as an open thread. There's yet another Iraq mortality survey just out. The results are lower than the second Johns Hopkins survey (if you focus on violent deaths, much lower), but they conclude that around 500,000 excess deaths occurred from 2003-2011, though their 95 percent confidence interval is huge. (Going down into the tens of thousands at the low end, and over 700,000 at the high end). Coalition forces accounted for about a third of the violent deaths. They criticize their own methodology as likely to produce an undercount.

plosmedicine link

I agree, Nigel, that the English press is not always optimistic, probably more like bipolar where 'The Lads' are concerned. What always gets me, however, is that, whatever the current side's form or the year, a substantial proportion of English footie fans will insist that England is, by birthright, the center of the footballing world and that the lack of World Cup success is more down to sempiternal team failure than it is to failing to measure up on a tactical and organizational level. At least that's how the online fans talk when they are with their own tribe.

Eh...who knows? They could surprise. Good luck with that. They don't need me to kick them when they have been down this long.

Think the usual suspects are favorites again, but the side I hope lives up to promise on current form is Belgium. They are young and talented and entertaining to watch. And the US has been looking halfway respectable under Klinsmann, like we are starting to understand the feel of the game at last.

Cricket is a lovely game, I think.
Sort of a primitive version of the One True Sport of Baseball, as I gather.

Had I not known what a civilised place this is, I'd have taken that as a piece of well targeted trolling.

As it is, I'll have to politely request your patience, as I'm a little too busy right now to explain why cricket is indeed a lovely game, but surpasses (the aptly named ?) baseball in just about every respect.

Nigel, a guest post is always available. I admit, my interest in cricket shades more to sledging, but I would love to have a more informed view.

I'd be happy to chime in on cricket if Nigel leads the way. Mostly as a spectator (did I mention I saw Sobers hit a century at Lords?), but also as the father of a onetime schoolboy cricketer. I also, in a pick-up game, was once part of a game-winning partnership, scoring an impressive 0 n.o.!

If someone is going to explain th eglories of cricket, might I request that they include a link to somewhere which gives the basic overview of the game and what the rules are? I actually have tried looking (not, admittedly, in a couple of years), and was massively unsuccessful at finding something which could impart actual understanding of how the game works.

Thank you.

"...finding something which could impart actual understanding of how the game works."

If you could, it wouldn't be cricket. :)

That's a running gag since at least 1946 (and A Matter of Life and Death).

The key thing to remember, I found, as an American trying to appreciate cricket, is that although much of the same skill set is required (striking a ball; throwing and catching a ball; etc.) and even some of the terminology is same (e.g., inning[s]) as baseball, it is generally not useful to see it as a variant of baseball (or vice-versa).

In particular, the balance between offense and defense is reversed, so that in cricket the bowlers (pitchers) are considered "attacking" players, since outs are relatively rare, and it's normally worth giving up several runs to get an out, whereas in baseball the batters (batsmen) are the attackers, and it's often worth giving up an out (e.g., sacrifice bunt) or even two to get just one run. A top baseball batter will expect to be out one out of three trips to the plate; a top batsman may average more than forty runs for every out he makes, and that's not counting the hundreds (literally) of other deliveries he ignores, blocks (bunts) or chooses not to run on. So even when you've mastered the basic rules of cricket, if baseball strategy/tactics are still embedded in your subconscious as the "right way" to play the game, you'll be constantly frustrated and confused.

I'm talking regular (3-5 day) cricket here, not the "one-day" variation or the "20-20" abomination. These represent not just the equivalent of "arena football," but radical shifts in the strategy/tactics alluded to above, using the same skill set as real cricket to play what is in effect a completely different game.

I am unduly busy for the next week, so can't give this subject the attention it so clearly deserves >right now<, but...

Here's the best simple explanation of the rules of cricket I can find for now:
(& yes, it's a bit boring, but explanations of rules just are.)

And, pace dr ngo, limited overs cricket (whether 'one day' or 20-20), is not an abomination.
It lacks some of the subtleties of the longer form, but in my opinion it does retain the essential aspects which give the game its appeal...

...the tension between the caution required to preserve a batter's wicket and the need to score runs (a need sharpened by the limited number of overs); that between the bowler's desire to take a wicket and the fielding side's (of which he is a part) need to limit the numbers of runs scored; the way in which the game is shaped by the physical conditions of the field; the need too fit a number of specialist players within the cramped confines of a team of eleven (all may be required to bat; all must field; the team will need four or five specialist bowlers; one of the team must keep wicket - a position more crucial than that of the catcher in baseball...), when those possessing the finest skills at a particular discipline (say bowling) might be quite useless at another (batting or, less likely, fielding); the calculation of what a winning total might be (an ongoing calculation depending upon your opponents and the conditions) and how to achieve it...

...all are present to some extent even in the limited overs version of the game.

I can't remember if I mentioned this book previously, but Playing Hard Ball is a look at baseball by a first class cricket player, Ed Smith. Unfortunately, he injured his ankle and had to retire prematurely.

This disscussion makes me think of this from Fantastic Mr. Fox. (Not the best video, but only the first 30 seconds or so is needed, though there's some reasonably amusing dialogue throughout.)

BTW, is there a tripod shortage I'm unaware of?

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