The boys are all having a rest day with some of the parents and supporters today. Many are at the Atlantis on the Palm checking out the waterpark there. Tim Roberts and I have a tee time booked for a quiet round of golf later this afternoon but this leaves me a few moments just to try to work out why I Iove Dubai. And the start of this is that I do love being in Dubai and the UAE. The problem I have is I don’t really know why….
I have been here three times now, always at the end of March and beginning of April. And so obviously the first thing that is great is the weather. For readers of this not from the UK, February/March in England can be pretty grim, cold days, flooded pitches, dark mornings… None of these things are nice, so to come here for 10 days to bright sunshine, 30 degrees and blue skies always lifts my mood.
I am a pretty simple creature really and good food also makes me happy. I always seem to eat well in Dubai and once again I fear the bathroom scales will be taking a battering when I get back this time. Another “false dawn” exercise programme must start when the summer begins….
Dubai has some beautiful architecture. I love modern buildings (I stop off in Slough sometimes to look at the architecture of the Slough Trading Estate but please don’t tell anyone…..) and I love the focus on innovative design in Dubai and indeed Abu Dhabi. The Burj-al-Arab and Burj Khaleifa are two iconic buildings, only rivalled in my mind by the Taj Mahal. I love the twisted skyscraper at the Dubai Marina and love the thinking behind making a building like this. “We can do it so why not?” This culture of innovation, progress and looking ahead is very appealing to me. I find it energising to be in a place that seems like things are happening here. I love the mix of peoples, cultures and backgrounds in Dubai – to be honest I like it in the UK too – but here there is a real feeling of different people all buying into a common aim.
And last but not least, I love cricket. The tape ball cricket matches we played with some of the guys from the hotel the other day were awesome. On the next door piece of ground to our match, there was a group of men, all of whom looked to be of Pakistani extraction, running what I call a middle practice on a building site. They warmed up with a jog around the “outfield”, they then got some players padded up and then for a couple of hours, they trained. There was a mixture of ages from young adult to late middle age. The standard was variable and the outfield had construction trenches cut into it in places (as did ours but don’t tell the H&S committee at school)
I woke up early on the first morning here, around 6am and there was a proper tape ball match going on that I could watch from the hotel window. This had two teams, 8 a side perhaps, and although the standard was best described as rustic, they were clearly playing a serious league match. At 6am, on a building site. I love that! One fielder was sitting on a chair at gully but there was some big hitting, two demon run outs and everyone seemed to be having fun. I watched for half an hour until at 7.30am until both teams lined up, shook hands and presumably went off to work.
One thing Dubai has got to sort out is their addiction to the car. I have been three times over three years but the traffic gets worse and worse, the congestion is becoming horrible and the standard of driving is poor (that is being complimentary) Dubai’s government seems so progressive in many other areas so I hope that in next few years they can look to increase the number of electric/hybrid vehicles (all taxis perhaps?), reduce air pollution, introduce congestion charging. These things would make Dubai an even better place to visit. And would make our journeys on the roads slightly less traumatic.
I am in Dubai at the moment on cricket tour and so Biology posts may be a little thin on the ground until April 6th. But I hope the 106 blog posts already visible will give all my students plenty to be working on for the next ten days or so. Do play my Zondle revision games as well – it is good for learning, I promise….
If you are feeling jealous of my trip to Dubai, it took us over two and a half hours to get through immigration at Abu Dhabi airport this morning (that is a lot of queuing and rivalled JFK for the least pleasant airport experience of my life…) and then this afternoon at cricket training, it rained…..
After a season in which many school cricket matches were lost to the weather, it seemed strangely appropriate that the Berkshire cup final was played this afternoon on a beautiful sunny afternoon on Dutchmans 1. There are few better places to spend a few hours in late June and after a disappointing batting performance yesterday at Harrow, the Eton boys had the chance today to show that they could construct the partnerships necessary to post a winning total. We were fortunate to have two excellent umpires, a virgin strip on which to bat and in spite of losing the toss, the chance to bat first seemed to offer us a big advantage.
Spectators on the boundary might have felt this early advantage had been lost when the Eton team lost two wickets in the first three overs. Ed Doughty was caught off a leading edge playing round a low full toss and when Matt Pein, the player with the two highest individual scores of the season holed out to mid off with his second ball, a careful approach was needed in the next few overs to stop the early momentum Bradfield had built up. Sam Dawson was batting sensibly at one end until a straight ball from the impressive Brabham skittled through his defences. 23 for 3 was not the start we had wanted. Charlie Lyons was batting well, hitting the ball cleanly much of the time especially to mid on and midwicket, but an unfortunate mix up led to him being run out for the second time in two days. There then followed three impressive partnerships. Harry Thistlethwayte’s batting has improved considerably in recent weeks and from the start of his innings today he looked focused and determined to bat for a long time. Freddie Christian had joined him and they batted well together up to the drinks break at 19 overs. Thistlethwayte was playing his square cut and late cut to any short balls he received and Christian can play exquisite shots when the ball is over pitched and he is given any width outside off stump. Christian’s first 11 balls had been watchfully played for no runs but he was just starting to play his more customary attacking game at the drinks interval. I knew that this break in his concentration was going to pose Freddie a problem and it wasn’t a surprise to see him fall soon after play resumed. By then though he had scored an important 20 runs at a run a ball including three fours and one six. His partnership of 44 runs with Thistlethwayte had almost doubled the score to 93 for 5 but in spite of the wicket, the momentum had turned and the Eton batsmen now started to look more comfortable at the crease.
Josh Britton in only his second start for T1 joined Thistlethwayte and between them they added 45 excellent runs in just 6.3 overs. Both boys were hitting boundaries when offered loose bowling by the Bradfield slower bowlers and Britton was disappointed to eventually be bowled playing round a straight ball. This brought Bertie Duncan to the crease at 138 for 6 and I knew that we didn’t need to get many more runs to be in control of the game. Bertie has played the last two matches in T2 and has returned with increased confidence following two good innings. He played a superb pull shot early in his innings and his 25 runs off 23 balls were absolutely crucial in supporting Thistlethwayte as he approached his individual century. Harry Thistlethwayte’s innings today was most impressive and it was a shame that with a couple of overs to go he was out for 92 off just 81 balls. He scored runs all round the wicket, milking the easy singles offered when the field spread but also punishing the poor balls and showing creativity and confidence in hitting the ball to unguarded areas behind the wicket. Thistlethwayte and Duncan had put on 53 runs off 44 balls, rotating the strike well, running singles aggressively with excellent calling and communication. A couple of cameos from Fred Corbett and Tom Lytle brought the innings to a close on a good total of 203 for 8 after 35 overs.
Chasing over two hundred is a formidable challenge for U14 players even on a beautiful wicket with some short boundaries. The Eton opening attack bowled with reasonable control even though there was minimal swing and when Christian beat the Bradfield opener Khanna for pace in his first over hitting the top of middle stump, Eton had made the positive start they had wished. Brabham had only returned from a family event in Australia late the previous evening but he followed up his impressive opening spell earlier in the afternoon with some confident batting. He survived a couple of chances when outside edges carried to the slips and keeper but it wasn’t a surprise when he finally fell caught behind by Lytle off Christian who was now comfortably into his rhythm and bowling with some pace and venom even on a placid pitch. Bradfield put on their biggest partnership of the innings but were not imposing themselves and were getting further behind on the run rate. Eton’s control increased when our two slower bowlers came on. Charlie Lyons has been a revelation with his bowling in recent weeks and his rather old-fashioned virtues of getting in close to the stumps and bowling with impressive control of length and line have made him a handful for many batsmen this season and the Bradfield boys found him impossible to get away. Lyons finished this innings with impressive figures of 6 overs, 3 maidens, 2 wickets for just 6 runs. Bertie Duncan executed an impressive run out with a strong accurate throw and at the other end Thistlethwayte was probing away. When he forced the left hander opener Patel to nick one to the keeper, it was clear that the result of this game was no longer in doubt. Thistlethwayte then bowled two of the middle order and when Christian came back on to mop up the tail, the only real question was whether he could take the 5 wickets needed for an invitation to the Centurions’ dinner next week. In the end he fell one short but his bowling figures of 6-1-14-4 was a splendid effort and his best bowling display of the season so far.
I don’t normally award a man of the match as cricket is much more of a team game than many realise. The strength of the current T1 side is certainly to be found in their spirit, concentration and energy they can put into performances. Yesterday I noticed Harry Livingstone running in from fine leg to back up the keeper and saw some great work from Fred Corbett in between overs running over to encourage bowlers when things were not going so well. These are contributions that can easily go unrecognised yet are absolutely crucial in a successful side. But yesterday was so clearly Thistlethwayte’s match that it would be churlish not to give him the additional accolade of “man of the match” in this final. He scored 92 runs off 81 balls when we were struggling in the first innings and then followed up with three wickets in the second innings to close the game out. My final comment of this report must be to congratulate Charlie Lyons on his captaining of the side. There are difficult decisions to be made as captain but Charlie is getting more and more of these correct and his charismatic leadership of the team has been one of the highlights of the season.
I may be a single, dissenting voice in the “controversy” in the Joss Buttler run out yesterday, certainly from reading some of the utter tosh in the newspapers this morning. Ashley Giles called the dismissal “unsavoury” along with a whole host of rentaquote ex-players (who all work in the media so have to add to the media storm) and I have just read the MailOnline’s report that says that “the run out is legal but it is not something anyone would want to see a youngster repeat”. Well speaking as someone who has coached “youngsters” (what a strange word) for over 20 years and who views the moral code of cricket as one of the bedrocks of the game, I would have no problem with any of my cricketers doing exactly the same.
What I find unsavoury is batsmen backing up way out of the crease before the bowler even approaches his delivery stride. I have a word for this – it’s called cheating. When I am umpiring schoolboys I loudly tell the batsmen that he should know that I will always give him out with no hesitation if he is run out in this way. You see it all the time as an umpire, almost every game and almost always from the better batsmen, those who have played the so called “higher levels” of schoolboy cricket.
For what it’s worth, I think the Sri Lankans deserve tremendous credit for giving him two warnings before running him out. The laws were altered a few years ago to give batsmen more of an advantage (I won’t bore you with details) and so comparisons with the “Mankad” incident are totally erroneous and irrelevant. The idea is that this idea of warning should be removed from the spirit of cricket and of people are cheating, run them out and they might not do it again. Buttler is not guilty of dozily walking out of his crease in some kind of daze as some commentators are insinuating. He is making a totally calculated decision that it is worth the risk to try to gain an unfair advantage, a risk not allowed in the laws of the game, in the hope that he is unlikely to ever get taken up on it. Well now he has, and perhaps he will stop cheating when he is batting and other younger cricketers will follow…… Rant over.
In spite of the best intentions, I have found it hard to keep posting material on my blog during term time. In the holidays I have found it a really useful way of keeping in touch with students, particularly those doing public exams but obviously during term time, this is not quite so relevant. But now the period of exam leave for Year 11 is approaching, I will try to put a few more posts up relating specifically to those topics likely to be tested in IGCSE Biology paper 2. Students who want to revise using Zondle challenges should also keep an eye out for new revision resources.
The reason for the inactivity on the blog is mostly due to one of my passions – cricket. I coach my school’s U14A team, a role in the school that is immensely rewarding both in a sporting and more importantly in a pastoral context. Cricket is a sport that can be damaging to fragile adolescent egos (as well as fragile middle-aged ones) and time spent helping young people cope with adversity and disappointment is sometimes the most valuable work of all.
I have worked out that in a typical summer term week I spend 20 hours on cricket. I work this out as 18 hours of coaching and umpiring, and 2 hours of emails, team planning and communicating with other coaches in my age group. 90% of this time is contact time with the players and this can be tiring as well as exciting and challenging. Of course sometimes the weather means that time is freed up for marking, planning and even perhaps blogging but luckily the sun shines more than one might imagine.
The match we had today featured a remarkable spell of bowling from the young off spinner in the team. We played a 20-20 match against one of the local grammar schools in Slough and one of my boys returned the remarkable figures of 3.5 overs, 1 maiden, 7 runs conceded for 9 wickets. These 9 wickets included two separate hat-tricks. I hope the memories he has made today will last long into his adulthood: it was a remarkable achievement.
The evening was spent taking my Year 10 tutor group out for dinner at a Moroccan restaurant in Windsor as a treat for their hard work so far this term. The boys had been promised belly dancing by one of their housemasters but sadly the restaurant was quiet (although the food was great) and so they might have returned a little disappointed. One of the great parts of my job is the ability to talk frequently to young people out of the classroom and tonight we had a good discussion about UKIP, the European elections, the valuation of Snapchat, Bitcoins and the viability of Chemistry teachers following the change of career shown in Breaking Bad.