It’s well known that, over the last five or six years, notwithstanding the recent victory in Budapest, the Ferrari Formula 1 team has been unable to produce a truly competitive car, relying mostly on the genius of Fernando Alonso to save face.
The problem – or at least a major part of the problem – was the Ferrari wind tunnel at Maranello: the data produced during testing bore little resemblance to the real-world data collected on the track.
Yet there was always an obvious solution to this problem. Ferrari should simply have taken their chassis to Eaton Park and put it on the hill at long-on, for no stronger wind exists than that which blew during our double-header last weekend against CIYMS and CSNI.
Sightscreens laden with sandbags went flying, top edges and toe-ends carried into the Braid, and at least one of our seamers who was running into the wind is still trying to reach the crease. On television there was an Ashes Test at Lord’s, an Open at St Andrew’s, and the start of the Rugby Championship, but there we were, getting flayed both by nature and by man.
It was not terribly enjoyable batting against Thompson, Jones, and Coulter on a seaming pitch under leaden skies. It was even less enjoyable to see them off, to get into the 20s, and then to give it away on both days. My shoelaces were confiscated as I came back to the changing room.
The same atmosphere of doom pervaded the ground as we collapsed almightily against North Down, plummeting from a winning position to a comfortable defeat. Only a decent return catch redeemed my day: I went for more runs than I have ever done at Eaton Park, and possibly more than I have conceded in ten overs on any ground. They still won’t return the shoelaces.
These defeats, coupled with Carrick’s victory over CIYMS, means that relegation remains eminently possible. As written before, we approach such things with equanimity: que sera sera. Perhaps it is inevitable, for the loss of seven ‘starrable’ 1st XI players over three years would hurt any club, and especially one without the financial means of replacing them immediately.
There is quite a contrast, then, between the vintage of 2015 and that of 1998, when Ballymena won the NCU league title and reached the final of the Irish Cup. (Incidentally, another myth is that Ballymena achieved this success by sneaking in victories on Fridays. That is nonsense: we won only 50% of Friday matches against 86% of Saturday matches, so go figure…)
The fact that Ballymena did so without an overseas professional while using a squad of whom all but one came from the town is remarkable. It’s almost as remarkable as the fact that the former footballer Michael Owen has watched no more than eight movies in his life. I can only imagine that he went through a Bergman box-set, presumed that everything else would be worthless trash, and so left ‘the whole cinema thing’ well alone.
I mention 1998 because on Friday night we held a reunion dinner to celebrate the achievement and its seventeenth(!) anniversary. Compered by Jackie and Jimmy Fullerton, it was an exceptional evening, many of the highlights of which are unsuitable for a pre-watershed audience. One of the better and family-friendly lines was this:
Jimmy: Someone the other day, Jackie, said you were looking a bit fat on TV.
Jackie: Ah now, you should know, being in front of a camera always adds ten pounds.
Jimmy: How many cameras were there?
The rest of their evening was spent subjecting a host of dignitaries – Caldwell, Walsh, Torrens, Johnson – to a barrage of remorseless and hilarious abuse. I came in for some stick too. “Hail to thee, blithe spirit”, Jimmy began to recite. “Who wrote that, young Taylor?” demanded Jackie. “Coleridge?” I guessed (wrongly). “No”, replied Jimmy, “I did. Look, it’s in my hand-writing.”
The dinner also served to commemorate the contributions that David and Robert Kennedy had made to the club over so many years. I miss playing with them; besides being fine players, they were a major part of what made our team spirit so formidable.
The rains have come, sent onto the just and the unjust alike, and there may be little cricket this week. I therefore have some choices to make. I could spend a week watching movies. Journey to Italy has been delivered by LoveFilm, but I don’t think I’ll enjoy it: anything that inspired Le Mépris will surely deserve contempt. (That one’s for you, Niall M.)
I could spend a week listening to music. Since we bonded over a shared fondness for jangling guitars and West Coast harmonies during an ICC tournament in 2013, the umpire Alex Adams and I have been swapping CDs of esoteric Jackson Browne covers and unknown troubadours from the Deep South, and a new disc has arrived in the post. I thought of complaining that such exchanges have not yet yielded any more lbws, but then Alex is an honourable man and – in any case – I never bowl straight enough.
Or I could diversify my journalistic output and resurrect a career as a multi-sport hack. I may therefore spend the week filming some video clips for the Northern Ireland Open, which begins on 6 August at Galgorm Castle. Part-intros, part-interviews, and part-guides to the key holes at Galgorm, these could be interesting little vignettes. Think ‘Ken on the Course’, but with a moderate handicapper instead of a former Ryder Cup player.
While Mr Brown might have examined the difficulty of cutting the corner at the first, or the risk of driving the green at the second, or the need for position on the fourth, I will be asking the truly important questions. ‘Which are the easier trees from which to extricate oneself?’ ‘Just how deep is the lake to the right of the tenth?’ ‘That can’t be out of bounds as well, can it?”