Tortoise vs Bazball hare was pure joy


Tortoise vs Bazball hare was pure joy

The Ashes series was a timely reminder of the joy of proper Test cricket — and a modern Tortoise and Hare lesson, writes LOUIS DE VILLIERS.


“Hasie, hasie, Vaaljapie / Die olifant speel kitaar / Die slakkie speel die slaksofoon / En die skilpad sê net POi Poi (click of the tongue) POi Poi (click of the tongue)", was one of the first songs my mother taught me to sing; a bright memory of early childhood.

Three captivating stories

Speaking of hares: three stories about this species have captivated me since I first heard them; one of these being Richard Adams' fairly hardcore masterpiece Watership Down.

It's honestly worth your while, rabbits and all.

The second is probably my Favourite Joke Ever. Namely:

The rabbit escapes from a laboratory, soon finds itself stuck in the green fields outside and meets a strange creature. Long, floppy ears; woolly, round tail. Big teeth, chewing an elongated piece of fresh orange vegetable.

Hello, what are you? And what is that?

Long story short, the other rabbit informs him they are both rabbits. And this is a carrot. Bewildered that the lab rabbit neither knows what it is nor what carrots are, the wild rabbit correctly guesses that our protagonist probably doesn't know anything about sex either.

Hop hop hop, bounce bounce bounce, it follows the wild rabbit to its family's hole. And a wonderful day of sex and games later, the lab rabbit thanks them for all the carrots and orgiastic hospitality and says it's heading back home.

Jeez, ask the wild rabbits, why would you want to go back to that hell hole?

Lab rabbit tunes them: Guys, wow, carrots are delicious and sex is even better, but now I'm really dying for a cigarette!

And now that we're getting to the “sports" part of sport, let's talk athletics. And the first rabbit story to make an impression on most of us, the almost three-millennia-old Aesop fable of that much-vaunted race between hare and tortoise.

We all know how that one turned out, but some things simply stay the same:

Gatting, Brian May at the Oval

All this is a detour to express my joy about the course of the Ashes cricket series between England and Australia; *Hare Versus Tortoise!!!* *Daily on TV!!! *

The day before yesterday, while I was watching on TV, I saw Queen's Brian May, my favourite guitarist as a young teenager, deep in conversation with Mike Gatting at The Oval and wondered what they were talking about.

May looks the same as ever, but with snow white hair, and Gatting looks the same as ever, except that nowadays his face is a deeper shade of purplish pink than your average strip of breakfast bacon.

This is another excuse to play you my favourite cricket song once again. About a perfect leg ball, some seven weeks more than 30 years ago, from Gatting's point of view:

Hurrah for Test cricket

You see, the Ashes series is also phenomenal fun for cricket heads who don't have much of an appetite for either England or Australia.

Granted, someone wins, and the triumph is therefore slightly annoyingly loud afterwards, but the pain of the loser provides us with more than enough schadenfreude to make up for it.

The latest series was the perfect illustration of why no other cricketing type of game will ever be able to hold a candle to the true Jacques of multi-day cricket.

Yes, T20 is great fun, the one-day version is dying, and the aggression with which England play Test cricket these days deserves a round of applause.

Smug Barmy Army

As a child, Eddie Barlow was our local cricket captain; I love any sporting declaration that doesn't include leather jackets (read: Hansie Cronjé's bribery saga). I rather like the England cricket team, but as is the case with most sports teams, music groups and religions, the supporters don't live up to what they support.

The English cricket fans are so smug about it that even those of us who like the aggression of the so-called English Bazball started deriving a perverse joy when players such as Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne batted so painfully slowly and efficiently that the poor old English losers implied that this was an abomination in the eyes of the New Cricket Gods.

They have clearly forgotten what happened to the hasty hare in ancient Greece.

Of course, the more it irritates the Barmy Army, the more enjoyable Khawaja's slow play becomes. When this was written, the fourth day's cricket at the Oval had been rained out with the Aussies on 135/0 after 38 overs.

A decade or two ago this would have been regarded as extremely efficient batting, but under Brendan McCullum as coach, Ben Stokes and his team have established a totally new batting tempo standard in real cricket.

Scoreboard has the final say

Andy Bull of The Guardian is a great, reasonable cricket writer, but last Friday this was part of his argument:

“In 150 years of cricket, and 250 series, no team has ever scored at more than four runs an over against Australia, not Michael Vaughan’s England, who went at 3.87, not Graeme Smith’s South Africa, who went at 3.66, not Sourav Ganguly’s India, who went 3.09, or Arjuna Ranatunga’s Sri Lanka, Imran Khan’s Pakistan, Viv Richards’ West Indies, Ali Bacher’s South Africa, or any of the rest.

“Until this summer. Stokes’ England have rattled along at 4.74 against them, which is almost an entire run per over more than anyone else. And, for scale, is twice as fast as Colin Cowdrey’s England scored in the 1968 Ashes, when Geoff Boycott and John Edrich were opening the batting."

What Bull and the English are obviously not taking into account in all their excitement about a batting rate of 4.74/over is that the teams of Vaughan, Smith, Ganguly, Richards and Bacher won their respective Test series and Stokes' nippy Bazball team did not.

When you bat that fast yourself, I wonder if the result isn't often that your opponents get more time?

In any case, the Ashes trophy is going back to Australia and it breaks my heart that South Africa has seemingly thrown in the towel about the possibility of remaining a multi-day superpower.

This series was nevertheless a timely reminder of the joy that proper Test cricket has to offer.

A rabbit in every hit

A rabbit-related trio of tracks for a cheerful Friday afternoon is surely in order?

I've always thought if one awakened on Sunday morning at Woodstock, 1969, no kind of hangover could have detracted from the goddess Grace Slick's memories of Wonderland:

Speaking about drugs and songs, this all-time hit from a pretty brilliant South African pop group is supposed to be about a woman or a dog or something innocent, but after someone told me it's actually about cocaine, it's hard to ignore the lyrics.

“I buzz each night on you” is about a dog? Yeah, right.

And, of course, “Hasie". “‘Hasie' A Bad Moon Rising":


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