Monday, May 12, 2014

Brendon McCullum triple ton poem

This year after being a spectator at the Basin Test, I wrote the following tribute to New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum. What a summer it was for New Zealand's cricketers and fans.


Triple Glory

And there it goes, racing from the bat …
passes point … then runs all the way to the fence,
the joy and future of New Zealand cricket
rising with it. Baz does what no Kiwi could before,

the triple. Now he moves in to the elite of
Test cricket’s triple hundred club. On TV, Crowe
expresses relief that the record has been wrested.
Hogan remembers his snick, and Baz delivers.

Doubters may be stunned, but loyal fans
knew Brendon’s heart was always in the job.
Baz may inspire a new generation like Crowe
and Hadlee before him. The Indian summer

has arrived for cricketers and fans alike.
Just one innings, one moment, is all it takes
to etch a name in history. Baz is there now,
a true captain, and no one can take it from him.

NZ v India, Second Test, Basin Reserve, 18 February 2014

Poem © Mark Pirie 2014

(Published in Valley Micropress, March 2014)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Michael Walker’s NZ cricket sonnets

The New Zealand poet Michael Walker was a popular contributor to this blog in 2013. It seems fitting this year after a brief blog hiatus to post his two recent cricket sonnets that I encouraged him to write.
Walker’s poems use longer lines than most and are more in line with North American poets like Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg and C K Williams than formal writers in the English sonnet tradition.
The longer lines allow Walker to pack detail in to his cricket writing, an added bonus for cricket lovers.
The two sonnets concern England v. New Zealand Test matches (1983/84 season and the 1986 England tour). Both were famous victories. One match is at Lancaster Park, Christchurch, and the other at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.
Readers will enjoy casting their minds back to these Tests, and remembering the likes of Lance Cairns, Geoff Howarth, Sir Richard Hadlee, Stephen Boock, Ewen Chatfield, Evan Gray, John Wright and Jeremy Coney – fine New Zealand players of the 1980s.
The Lancaster Park victory is similar to the recent New Zealand win over the West Indies at the Basin Reserve, with Trent Boult doing most of the damage in a good bowling unit comprising Boult, Southee, Sodhi, Anderson and Wagner.
At Lancaster Park in February 1984 it was Hadlee, Cairns, Boock and Chatfield. Those were the days.


Three days in Christchurch

In those less elitist days you could watch a Test on TV One and that is how
I saw some of the 2nd Test against England from 3 February, 1984.
Geoff Howarth chose to bat first on a mosaic Lancaster Park pitch and
New Zealand lost wickets in the morning to the quick Norman Cowans, but
J.J. Crowe and J.V. Coney sailed into the 40s to fight back. However, it was
Richard Hadlee who took heavy toll of the short-pitched bowling – including
Tony Pigott on loan from Wellington – caught behind for 99 off 81 balls.
New Zealand had made 307 in 328 minutes but was that enough at all?

England were 7-1 overnight and play only started at 4.30pm on Saturday,
after drizzle; but by the close they were 53-7, Hadlee taking 3 wickets,
Chatfield and Cairns took 3 wickets too; England were all out for 82.
Following on, they made 93 that afternoon, losing by an innings and 132 runs,
with more than two days to spare, blaming the pitch, but also undone by
Boock’s drifting spin, sure catching, and Hadlee’s pace, making the ball fly.

Trent Bridge Test

Trent Bridge, Nottingham, was my favourite of the grounds I visited in 1975;
Its imposing pavilion, stands and embankment were quite a spectacle,
making me think of the great Notts bowlers, Harold Larwood and Bill Voce.
I watched the 2nd Test, in early August 1986, and saw Jeremy Coney gamble,
inserting England, on a slow, whitish pitch, with cloud cover hovering about,
which suited Hadlee’s swing perfectly on his way to 6-80, four bowled or lbw,
two caught by Smith in England’s 256; Willie Watson, a fast-medium bowler
with oh-so-straight run-up and delivery took 2-51, moving the ball in the air.

In New Zealand’s reply, John Wright scored a fast 58; Gray a long, crucial 50,
Hadlee 68, while in the deck that day, John Bracewell, an off-spinner, swept,
hooked, pulled and drove on to 110, taking his side to 413 – a vital lead.
England totalled 230 in their 2nd innings, Hadlee taking 4-60, Bracewell 3-29,
and D. Stirling, the forgotten fast-medium bowler, 2-48; needing just 74,
M.D. Crowe 48 and J.V. Coney 20 won the Test by 8 wickets on the final day.

Poems © Michael Walker 2014

Books used: Men in White, by Don Neely; The First Fifty, by Lynn McConnell; Victorious `80s, by Peter Devlin; and A Fans’ Guide to World Cricket, by D. Ford and A. Hathaway (a survey of world test grounds).

Previous posts featuring Michael Walker:

Michael Walkers NZ-England poem

Michael Walker’s new Richard Hadlee poem

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Robert J Pope's King Willow reissued

This month I reissued Wellington, New Zealand, cricketer/poet/songwriter Robert J Pope's poetry collection, King Willow: Selected Poems, as a free ebook pdf download from my website:

King Willow was originally produced as a small run archival limited edition in the HeadworX Publishers Classic Poetry Series in 2012.

Here's the link to access the free version of the book:

Reviews of this book appeared in a previous blog post.

Keith Westwater’s NZ cricket poem

Occasionally poems are submitted to me for this blog. I try to include as many poets as possible who have written on cricket.
A poet I was in contact with recently had written a poem that was cricket related. He submitted it to me, and here it is.
Keith Westwater uses cricket and the idea of a batting run out in relation to a possible road accident. The hesitations and confusions of cricketers running between the wickets are vivid in Keith’s poem, and make for a powerful ending.


Road Cricket

Driving through town
listening to the cricket
I saw a man
in the road’s grassy middle
about to thread a three-lane needle
with his body

glass, metal, flesh, blood

He danced ahead
like a batsman at the bowler’s end
just before the leather leaves
the bowler’s hand
then scuttled back
to bide another chance

walk, run, dive, swallow

You fool, I thought
you bloody bunny
as my own life’s risky runs
replayed for me right then
though I knew on his far crease
there was no-one looking out to call

YES! NO! WAIT! …sorry

Poem © Keith Westwater

Keith Westwater lives in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. His debut collection Tongues of Ash (IP, 2011) was awarded ‘Best First Book’ in the publisher’s IP Picks competition. More of his poetry can be found on his blog ‘Some place else’ at

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Reviews of Robert J Pope’s King Willow

Last December I launched/published a book of poems, King Willow, by the late, forgotten Wellington poet, cricketer and songwriter Robert J Pope (1865-1949).
Pope’s neglect is common enough for New Zealand poets. Their reputations exist during their lifetimes and very few are enduring. However, more increasingly digital texts of these early poets are available online. I am now working on making a digital ebook pdf of Robert J Pope’s poems for distribution online.
In the meantime, watch this space. Here are two excellent reviews received on publication of Pope’s book this year, showing he still has plenty of relevance as a poet to today’s readers:


Review of King Willow: Selected Poems by Robert J Pope, edited by Mark Pirie, HeadworX Publishers.

Robert J Pope’s poem ‘King Willow’ appeared in Mark Pirie’s book A Tingling Catch: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009 (HeadworX, 2010). It talked of the opening of the 1932 cricket season.
Pope was a well-known Wellington poet, cricketer and songwriter. He was born in 1865 and died in 1949. Pope wrote the famous school song ‘New Zealand, My Homeland’. Pirie has put together many of his poems. This selection gives a picture of the man and his times and restores a significant New Zealand poet.
These poems are not old, dusty stuff. King Willow traces a time when Pope began writing and publishing during the Edwardian era and spans two world wars. He put together sporting verse on the 1924-25 All Blacks Tour of Great Britain and France.
Growing up in Dunedin, Pope says in ‘Memories’:

…Twas there by the fireside my father sat
And I upon his knee,
Enthralled by the wondrous tale he told
Of the Old, Old Man of the Sea.

There my mother plied her needle oft—
Sure toll our rents supplied:
And yonder the spot where my sister fell—
She was the first that died…

King Willow is fascinating, even with the rather mannered quality to some of these poems.
(Otago Daily Times, 16 February 2013, p. 49)


Review of King Willow: Selected Poems by Robert J Pope, edited by Mark Pirie, HeadworX Publishers.

King Willow, Selected Poems, Robert J Pope, edited Mark Pirie, is a scholarly piece of research - a timely and substantial publication.
It presents much of the work of Robert J Pope (1865-1949) who had largely dropped out of sight and might otherwise have remained so, as have many other poets who preceded Allen Curnow's 1945 A Book of New Zealand Verse and became overwhelmed by the latter's new orthodoxy.
In this respect, Mark Pirie has done stupendous work in rediscovering him (as he has many other writers) and bringing him back into notice. Pope certainly deserves such discovery and recognition.
A long term and substantial writer, he 'deserves' as Pirie says, 'recognition ... as a significant precursor to the urban 1950s Wellington Group'. This is an enlightening and extremely worthwhile publication. (Poetry NZ 47 (August 2013))

The Journal of the Cricket Society also reviewed it:

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Anonymous 1902 England Ashes poem

The first Ashes test between Australia and England got off to a cracking start. Australia stormed back with a comprehensive victory over England at the Gabba in Brisbane.
This defeat by England reminded me of this anonymous 1902 Ashes poem. The England team in the poem also defeated. They lost the Ashes 4-1 after registering a resounding victory in the opening match of that series in Sydney. The Australian side included Warwick Armstrong and Victor Trumper.
The writer of the poem obviously thought A C MacLaren and Co. were better off taking up a different sport altogether.
Could there be a similar turnaround for England in the 2013/14 series as there was for the Australians in the 1901/02 series?


Thus the London Globe to MacLaren and Co. (with apologies to Rudyard Kipling)

A New Ditty

And ye flaunted your glory at cricket,
And your power to shoot at the goal;
And ye went to a younger nation,
Who have taught you to bat and to bowl.

But when you return to your muttons,
And hope to make trial at Lord’s
Of the skill the Australians taught you
On Sydney and Melbourne swards,

Ye will find it a fond delusion
You will find you’ve been wasting your fame,
For in England we’ve promised to practise
Another and nobler game.

It is foolish to field and “deliver,”
To stand at the wickets or slips
It is idle to strive with Australia
In mutual annual trips.

But, obey the behest of the season,
And know that your past is all wrong
And surrender your football and cricket,
To challenge the world at ping pong.

(Manawatu Standard, 5 March 1902, page 2; and in Wairarapa Times, 8 March 1902, page 4)

(Sources: Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand)

Article © Mark Pirie 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Riccarton Russell’s 1896 NZ cricket song

In late 1896, an Australian cricket team visited New Zealand, and were greeted with a song composed by George Warren “Riccarton” Russell, M.H.R, (1854-1937). Parts of it appeared in The Bruce Herald (Otago) during the match between Australia and Otago in November.
Russell had published his sheet music with a photo of the Australian team on the cover.
Newspaper reports stated that there was a huge attendance of 4,000 persons for the match between Otago and the visitors in Dunedin on the first day. The Government had granted all civil servants a half-day to go to the cricket. Otago fielded 15 players to Australia’s 11.
“The Australians batted first, and totalled 130, Iredale (34), Hill (34), [Harry] Trott (31), being top scorers. Four members of the team failed to score. The bowling of Fisher and Downes for Otago was much admired. A number of members of the local club went down to see the match, and I noticed one Milton enthusiast hard at work before the match started bowling to Iredale, Darling and Co. Locally the game is rather quiet, every one being too busy with other things to play at present [Bruce Herald report].”
The visit of the Australians had coincided with election week in New Zealand.
The game was extremely close: Australia making 130 and 95 and Otago 144 and 64 to lose the game by 17 runs. There had been rain overnight for the final day’s play and with Otago requiring 70 runs to win, the dampness worked in the Australians favour. The Australian bowler McKibbin developed a tremendous “break” on both sides of the wicket and his partner Trumble took 9 of the Otago wickets to fall.
Russell was a well-known Christchurch politician, then representing Riccarton for the Independent Liberal Party. He was defeated in the 1896 election so his cricket song didn’t help him. At the time, he was an advocate for women’s rights introducing a woman’s disabilities bill into the House of Representatives, then was re-elected in 1899 but became controversial falling out of favour with local voters in 1902. He later became a Minister of Internal Affairs and Public Health in the Mackenzie Government. He represented Riccarton and Avon for 17 years. He died at Eastbourne, Wellington, in 1937 at age 82.
Russell’s cricket song was called ‘Hurrah for the Bat and Ball,’ and had “a good swinging melody as well as vigorous words”.
It’s odd that there’s no copy of the song in the National Library of New Zealand’s sheet music archive.
Here’s the text of Russell’s song, four verses, a semi-chorus and chorus:


Hurrah for the Bat and Ball

On England’s smiling sward,
Or ’neath Australian skies,
Where’er the British tongue is heard,
Or proud our standard flies,
There’s heard, with loud acclaim,
As sounds a trumpet call,
The glorious fame of the grandest game,
The Battle of the Ball.

Here’s to grand old Cricket,
Great England’s greatest game;
O’er the wide, wide world, where the Flag’s unfurled,
They sing its lasting fame.
We’ll fight for home and duty,
But let what may befall,
This song we’ll sing, while the echoes ring,
“Hurrah for the Bat and Ball !”

Hurrah for the Bat and Ball
For the grandest game of all
O’er the wide, wide world,
Where the flag’s unfurled,
“Hurrah for the Bat and Ball !”

With eye so clear and bright,
And strong and sinewy hand,
The Batsman to the wicket steps,
And boldly takes his stand.
No sickly youth is he,
No fears his mind appal,
He’s there to fight with skill and might
The Battle of the Ball.


And now the field outspreads,
The Bowler takes his aim,
A drive for four goes o’er their heads,
And cheers the runs proclaim.
With stroke, and cut, and slip,
And caution with it all,
He fights with skill and real good will
The Battle of the Ball.


But if you’re not in luck,
If down your wickets go,
If all your score is but a duck,
Why, take that duck and go.
And when you’re in the field,
Whatever may befall,
Be brave and fight with skill and might
The Battle of the Ball.

(Full text with sheet music is in the National Library of Australia collection and is online at:

An Obituary appeared for Russell in The Evening Post, 28 June 1937, page 11:


The death occurred at Eastbourne this morning of the Hon. G. W. Russell, a former Minister of the Crown, at the age of 82. Mr. Russell, who had been ill for some months, had been living in retirement at Eastbourne for the past seven or eight years.
The late Mr. Russell, who was born in London, was educated at the Launceston Grammar School, Tasmania, and privately in New Zealand. Selecting journalism as his profession, he served his apprenticeship with the “Evening Post,” Wellington. Afterwards, for three years, he was a probationer for the Wesleyan Ministry, but he resigned, and again decided to devote his energies to journalism. In 1878 he became sub-editor of the Wellington “Chronicle,” but retired to establish the Herald.” Subsequently he owned the “Manawatu Times,” and established the “Waikato News.”
During his residence in the North Island he took a lively interest in politics and municipal affairs, but his efforts to enter the House of Representatives were unsuccessful. In 1889 Mr. Russell removed to Christchurch, and for some time was a contributor to the “Lyttelton Times.” Later he established the firm of Russell and Willis, printers, and was publisher of the “Spectator.” In 1890 he was a candidate for the Heathcote seat in the Liberal interest. The Labour Party nominated Mr. W.W. Tanner, and the Conservative nominee was Mr. R. H. (later Sir Heaton) Rhodes. After conducting a vigorous campaign, Mr. Russell, in order that the Conservatives should not win the seat, withdrew in favour of Mr. Tanner, who was returned with a majority of 212 votes. Three years later Mr. Russell was Liberal candidate for Riccarton, his Conservative opponent being Mr. W. Boag. Mr. Russell won the seat with over a hundred votes to spare. In the House he quickly established a reputation as an incisive speaker and a keen critic. The Hon. William Rolleston opposed Mr. Russell in 1896, and defeated him by 391 votes. When another election came round Mr. Russell threw down a challenge to the ex-superintendent, whom he defeated by a single vote in one of the keenest contests ever fought. In the 1899-1902 Parliament Mr. Russell showed much independence in his criticism of the Government, and this caused dissatisfaction among his constituents, with the result that at the 1902 election the Liberals of the district brought out Mr. George Witty to oppose him, and Mr. Russell was defeated by 285 votes. Mr. Witty again defeated him in 1905. In 1908 Mr. Russell stood for Avon against Mr. Tanner, in whose interests he had retired from Heathcote eighteen years before. Two other candidates were also in the field. Mr. Russell won at the second ballot by 542 votes. At the 1911 election he defeated three other candidates, his principal opponent being Mr. James McCombs. It was then that he took Ministerial rank, in the Mackenzie Cabinet, and during the war he held the portfolios of Internal Affairs, Marine, and Health. He left the House of Representatives in 1919, when he was defeated by Mr. D. G. Sullivan. Though Mr. Russell is best known as a politician, particularly, in his administration of the Health Department, his most lasting work was probably done in other fields, education and authorship. As a member of the Board of Governors of Canterbury College he sacrificed his own private affairs to set those of the university in order, discovering forgotten endowments that meant much in money to the institution.
“A New Heaven,” which he wrote at the turn of the century, but did not publish till 1917, is a remarkable exposition of the ideal ethical life. His other published works are “A Manual of the Duties of Life,” “New Zealand Today” (1919), and “Citizenship” (1922).

(Sources: Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand; The Trove, National Library of Australia)

Article © Mark Pirie 2013