Friday, March 25, 2011

Adrienne Jansen’s NZ cricket poem

Last week, I came across the following poem by Wellington writer Adrienne Jansen. It was in her first collection published by Linzy Forbes’s Inkweed in 2001.
In A Tingling Catch, I have a whole section of poems about kids playing cricket called ‘Boys’ Songs’. I struggled with the section title ‘boys’ at the time as most people are aware that girls play Junior cricket too. My nephew plays against some mixed teams in his Year Two Milo Kiwi grade in Wellington. Yet, in the course of constructing the anthology, there weren’t any poems about girls playing cricket that I found. I didn’t have time to go through all the school annuals around the country. Perhaps a more detailed search would’ve unearthed some poems about girls playing cricket. So in the end, I only had a section of boys’ poems.
The following poem by Adrienne Jansen is also about a boy playing cricket, this time in his family home. Often it’s how kids learn early ball skills by practicing wherever they can, sometimes inside the house as the poem humorously observes. Or perhaps just in their imagination. Backyard cricket is probably more common. I love the ending. Presumably it's referring to the "World Series Cricket" ODI of 3 January 1988, when Border was lbw to Hadlee for 3. New Zealand went on to win the exciting match by 1 run at the WACA ground in Perth. I don’t think I’ve seen Australian great Allan Border mentioned before in a New Zealand poem. Hadlee, of course, takes the honours:


Sunday morning, 1988

Ben is bowling at the Australians
having hit a brilliant century
right down the hall.
Paul is riding his yellow bike
straight down the pitch
and over all the spectators.
Murray is lying in bed reading Jung.
I am trying to listen to
Spanish dances, played on guitar
by a Cuban called barrueco.
According to the cover
he has a curved black beard
and eyes which say
he lives through doors
of brilliant red and long deep shadow,
and perhaps, for just one moment,
I could join him there.

But Ben is back, to show exactly
how Hadlee bowled out Border.

Poem © Adrienne Jansen 2001

(From a stone seat and a shadow tree by Adrienne Jansen, Inkweed, 2001)

Adrienne Jansen is a Wellington writer. She teaches on the Whitireia Creative Writing Programme and also works at Te Papa as a writer.

Thanks Linzy and Adrienne for permission to use.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Tingling Catch on Sky Sport

A Tingling Catch: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009 edited by Mark Pirie (published by HeadworX) will appear on "National Bank Cricket Company", Sky Sport 1 (New Zealand channel), Thursday 24 March 2011, tonight, at 7.30pm.
I was interviewed for the show at the NZ Cricket Museum, Basin Reserve, along with cricket historian Don Neely (who wrote the foreword) and Radio NZ National's Jack Perkins reading poem excerpts from the book and talking about the poems that were read. It's a short segment so not all of the material recorded will be used.
The show will be shown several times and is replayed on Sky Sport channels. Go to and check the Sky TV guide for more details.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Carol Don Ercolano’s NZ cricket poem

The following cricket-related poem appeared in Valley Micropress (January/February 2011), edited by Tony Chad:


Summer Distraction

Somehow, between the cricket and tennis
I clean the house
feed the fowls
walk the dog
cook the meals

Always eager to return to the screen
I hang the wash
pull some weeds
race to the shops
paint some planks

Back in my chair I’m captured again
by the racket and bat
the roar of the crowd
the dramas unfolding
the joy and despair

by youthful grace
athletic strength
and the flashing white
and yellow balls

Poem © Carol Don Ercolano 2011

(First published in Valley Micropress ed. Tony Chad, Vol. 14, Issue 1, January/February 2011)

Carol is an ex teacher, engraver and business woman. Now enjoying retirement with her husband, Keith, she has more time for her garden, animals, art, music and writing. She is a founding member of a Nelson writing group “The Boulder Writers”  and has had many poems published in magazines and anthologies, including Poetry Pudding, poems for Kiwi kids, edited by Jenny Argante, published by Reed 2007.

Thanks Tony and Carol for permission to use.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wellingtonian – Mark Pirie’s Martin Crowe poem

Prior to the Earthquake Relief Cricket Match at the Basin, my poem on Martin Crowe’s dismissal for 299 appeared in The Wellingtonian (10 March 2011), the community newspaper edited by Joseph Romanos in Wellington. The poem was first published by Tony Chad in his poetry mag Valley Micropress (April 2009) and also appears in the anthologies ESAW Christmas Surprise 2009 and A Tingling Catch:


The Record

When Crowe neared a triple,
cans flew in celebration.
He wouldn’t do it, said one.
The board read 299,
The hush implied a triple.

He needed just the one,
to dab it, play it cool.
It was going to be a spectacle.
Greatbatch watched, ready to run.
But oh he snicked one.

Poem © Mark Pirie 2009

Author’s Note: New Zealand vs Sri Lanka, First Test, Jan 31-Feb 4, 1991. During the match Andrew Jones (186) and Martin Crowe (299) combined for a then World Record partnership of 467 for the Third Wicket. Crowe’s 299 is the Highest Test Score by a New Zealand batsman. The record was later surpassed by K C Sangakarra and Mahela Jayawardene’s partnership of 624 for Sri Lanka against South Africa, Colombo, 27 July 2006. Mark Greatbatch was at the non-striker’s end when Crowe was finally dismissed.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Marc Ellis as a cricketer

Last weekend’s Twenty20 Earthquake Relief Cricket Match at the Basin raised $500,000 for Christchurch. Well done to all those involved in organising the match. A full report was posted on Cricket Wellington’s website.
I was interested to see All Black Marc Ellis back on the cricket field. When I was at Wellington College, he was captain of our First XI (1989-90), a team that in those years was coached by former Wellington player Wilf Haskell and also included future Wellington all-rounder Stephen Mather and future All Whites midfielder Simon Elliott who impressed at last year’s FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Marc Ellis was first coached by his father and cricket lover Chris Ellis ( who played for Kilbirnie Cricket Club and who gave Marc the cricket initials “MCG” Ellis). Marc was a schoolboy all-rounder, could bat and bowl and also kept wickets. At age 10 he played for a local Hutt Valley rep side at Wellesley College in Eastbourne. He was also an U18 Wellington rep. I was looking through my old copies of The Wellingtonian, the annual record of Wellington College, not to be confused with the community paper of the same name. There’s mention of Ellis as a wicket-keeper batsman in the 1988 season highlights: ‘M. Ellis 73 v Hastings’ and a partnership of ‘107 between Ellis (68) and Stephen Mather (49) v New Plymough Boys High School’. In the traditional fixture against Wanganui Collegiate, Ellis blazed 49 in the First Innings. Against Hastings, Ellis batted 'intelligently and with great flair’ in a 5th wicket partnership of 127 with Brian Watson.
The captain’s report by Alex Blades reads: ‘The First XI of 1988 was an impressive side. The team’s strength lay in its depth and diversity of talent: the batting line-up was strong and dependable, the bowling attack versatile and consistent while fielding was generally steady without being exceptional. Of its nineteen matches, the Eleven was unbeaten in all but two.’
I gather from Ellis's biography Crossing the Line that he played some club cricket after Wellington College but then gave up the game for rugby. He continued to play in the Auckland Business House cricket competition after retirement from rugby league and rugby. Ellis states: 'Of all the games I've ever played in my life, cricket is my favourite...I still play cricket now and I just love spending a whole day in the sun with my mates, having a laugh.' Ellis showed something of his batting ability in the earthquake charity Twenty20 making a useful 25 not out off 11 balls, including two fours and two sixes. His bowling was less successful with 41 runs taken from his two overs.
That same year of Ellis's cricket successes, 1988, the Wellington College Cricket Pavilion was opened at on the 15th of October by the then Governor-General of New Zealand Sir Paul Reeves. Those at the ceremony included former New Zealand batsman Johnny Beck who played against South Africa with Sutcliffe and Blair in the famous Second Test at the rugby ground Ellis Park, 1953/54 season. Sir Paul and John were teammates in the Wellington College First XI of the late 1940s.
Here are some of my own Wellington College cricket memories, composed in the form of cricket haiku, though traditionally haiku don’t have titles, I decided they work well nevertheless:


Four Wellington College poems, late 1980s

1 Watching

mid game -
the terraces slowly filling
with disquiet

2 Net Practice

after school–
the small kid
bounced first ball

3 In the covers

big hit down the ground –
the tall boy sweeping
dries his forehead

4 Visiting Government House

jumping the fence
I retrieve the ball –
Sir Paul Reeves smiles

Article and poems © Mark Pirie 2011

(Sources: Wellingtonian 1988, Wellingtonian 1990; Marc Ellis: Crossing the Line, with Kirsten Matthew (Hodder Moa, Auckland, 2006) and Cricket Wellington's website)

Harry Ricketts reviews Bert Sutcliffe biography

The latest issue of New Zealand Books (Autumn 2011) features a review of Richard Boock's The Last Everyday Hero: The Bert Sutcliffe Story (Longacre, 2010) by Harry Ricketts.
New Zealand Books ( is a quarterly review journal that specialises in reviewing local books. It's good to see Boock's biography getting a substantial review there. One point of note. Harry says that Boock could've made more of the available material about Sutcliffe. For instance, Harry notes that John Arlott's piece on Bert Sutcliffe in Arlott's 100 Greatest Batsmen doesn't seem to have been referred to at all. Snippets from Arlott could've added to the book no doubt. Here's a quote from Arlott's piece on Sutcliffe: 'Like all the best batsmen, he was strong off the front foot or back - and his forward strokes were quite scholarly in method - his driving was handsome, but his hooking and pulling were equally effective.' I like the idea of Sutcliffe's strokes being 'scholarly in method'.
Other New Zealand batsmen in Arlott's 100 Greatest list (1989 ed.) are Martin Donnelly, Stewart Dempster, John Reid, Martin Crowe, Bevan Congdon and Glenn Turner.

See also my own blog review of Boock's biography (December 2010).

Harry Ricketts’s cricket poem for Bob Woolmer

Recently Harry Ricketts, the New Zealand poet, biographer, writer, editor and cricketer, sent me a poem to look at. The poem remembers his old First XI school mate and lover of cricket Bob Woolmer, the former South Africa and Pakistan coach and England all-rounder. Harry hadn’t intended the tribute to appear on the blog, but seeing as the 18th of March during this year’s World Cup marks the fourth anniversary since Bob Woolmer’s death, I thought it’d be a nice gesture to post Harry’s poem to share with others.
There is another New Zealand connection with Bob Woolmer worth mentioning. In Shane Bond’s recently released autobiography, he discusses the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies and the death of Bob Woolmer, his former county cricket coach at Warwickshire. In 2002, Bond replaced Shaun Pollock briefly during the county cricket season and was under the tutelage of Woolmer:

The biggest personality at the club…was Woolmer. His whole life had, one way or another, been tied up with cricket…his big goal was to set up an international cricket academy. He would tell me about the vision he had, how it would cost a lot of money, but it was his dream to create the greatest cricket facility the world has ever seen. He felt that he had enough knowledge to create the perfect set-up for guys to come from around the world and learn how to play the game from back to front.
His death at the 2007 World Cup was no surprise that he died doing what he loved, coaching. But his sudden loss was felt deeply by those of us who had enjoyed the pleasure of working with him. I’d seen him at the World Cup and stopped for a quick chat. He was always good for a natter – just a personable, relaxed guy, a deep thinker about the game.
                                                             (Shane Bond: Looking Back, p. 167)

The death of Woolmer was certainly the low point of the 2007 World Cup. I was in a bar in Wellington when I heard the news. Talk broke out in the bar about possible corruption and scandal behind Bob’s mysterious death. Could Bob have been murdered? Negative talk continued for days after, people suspecting the worst. Luckily, for cricket, the overseas pathologist’s reports indicated natural causes behind Woolmer’s death and conspiracy theories died away. However, a later Jamaican inquest jury gave an open verdict, so we may never know the full story. It is by all accounts a sad end to Woolmer who devoted his life to cricket. He was 58 when he died. I offer my heartfelt sympathy to Bob’s family and friends. An article by Ivo Tennant marking the four-year anniversary appeared in Cricinfo magazine. I understand that a trust set up in his memory will establish Woolmer’s cricket academy in South Africa.
Here’s Harry’s poem for Bob:


Cricket coach Bob Woolmer, who died mysteriously in a Jamaica hotel room, coached which national side?

Here you are in today’s
five-minute quiz. Pakistan’s
the answer, but what about

South Africa? Which would
also be correct, wouldn’t it,
in the scorebook, plus at least

one other mysterious
death? Well, no more declarations,
no more referrals now.

Who’d have imagined all that
in summer 1961?
Captain of our First XI,

you weren’t popular, not
one of the lads like Danby
or Ussher, but you were kind to me.

At wogger on the playground,
we could never get you out
however fast we bowled.

You never gave a catch (one hand,
two bounces), never hit
our tennis balls over

the gym roof, never seemed
to get bored. Every innings
you were batting for your life.

Poem © Harry Ricketts 2011

Thanks Harry

(Sources: Email from Harry Ricketts; Cricinfo and Shane Bond: Looking Back with Dylan Cleaver (Hodder Moa, Auckland, 2010)

Article © Mark Pirie 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A World Cup epigram for Hiral Patel

Watching 19 year-old Canadian batsman Hiral Patel take to the Australian fast bowlers made me think not of Sachin Tendulkar but of a 2006 Cricinfo article by Gideon Haigh on West Indian batsman Roy Fredericks, later collected in Haigh’s anthology Silent Revolutions: Writings on Cricket History.
Hiral Patel’s sight on the TV news is similar to Haigh’s excellent description of Fredericks: ‘Heavens, he was so small, so unprepossessing: a bantamweight at best.’ Haigh goes on to describe how Fredericks deceptive build asserts the long handle on ‘70s fast bowlers Thomson and Lillee in Australia, and describes how Fredericks hooks Lillee for a memorable six. Patel's innings also included a stunning six.
Although they were clearly different strokes and each player was clearly of a different class, Fredericks’s play was a decisive shot much in the same way as Hiral Patel’s shot against feared paceman Shaun Tait which cleared the cover boundary. Patel’s shot to me was simply impressive as he played the shot off the back foot against a 148.5kph delivery.
In Fredericks's innings, he raced to 169 off 145 balls. His first fifty came off just 33 balls. In a similar way, Hiral Patel’s fifty came off 37 balls. Unfortunately for Patel and Canada, the fun soon ended after reaching his fifty. Patel never went on to make a magical century like Fredericks but instead holed out to third man.
During and after the game some commentators described it as one of the most memorable shots of the 2011 World Cup so far. A good article about Patel’s shot by Sriram Veera appeared afterwards on Cricinfo. Sadly, as the article notes, it is a shot that Patel perhaps won’t repeat if the Associates are kept out of the next World Cup.
I wrote an epigram about Hiral’s shot today:


Top Shot

In an innings maybe he’ll never repeat;
Hiral Patel despatches a Tait thunderbolt.

© Mark Pirie 2011

(Sources: Cricinfo and Silent Revolutions: Writings on Cricket History by Gideon Haigh (Black Inc, Melbourne, 2006)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tony Beyer’s NZ cricket haiku

I wrote earlier on Cyril Childs’s cricket haiku. Two other contributors in A Tingling Catch who write haiku are André Surridge and Tony Beyer.
Tony has several haiku in A Tingling Catch, and he sent me some more to share with you.
Tony writes: ‘My classroom is right next to the main oval at NPBHS [New Plymouth Boys High School] and there have been quite a few home games this season. They also trigger off longer memories (and shadows) of the game -- there can be no other sounds on earth quite like those.’:


loud appeal
boys in the classroom
run to the window


swing and miss
someone shouts advice
from the boundary


no ball
the paceman
revises his run-up


stalled run-up
the batsman adjusts
his wrists


that great season
Crowe Greatbatch and us
in the back yard


dusk on the outfield
still talking
about that catch


beach innings
three driftwood stumps
and a dog at mid on


last over
long shadows
from the fielders’ feet

Poems © Tony Beyer

Thanks Tony

See also my related blog posts: 'Cyril Childs's NZ cricket haiku' (February 2011) and 'André Surridge's new cricket haiku' (October 2010).

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Poetry NZ review of A Tingling Catch

A brief review of A Tingling Catch appeared in Poetry NZ, ‘New Zealand’s foremost poetry magazine’, No. 42, March 2011, p. 106:


Review of ‘A Tinging Catch’: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009 (edited by Mark Pirie with a foreword by Don Neely; HeadworX, 190pp, $34.99)

‘A Tinging Catch’: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009 is an unusual anthology in the present climate on account of its being based on a specific sports theme – cricket – and poetry about it. As such, it’s an impressive achievement, remarkably inclusive, spanning virtually the full period in which cricket has been played and including 125 poems by 75 poets. In cricket terms, it’s not only a tingling catch, but a remarkable and cleanly taken one as well. As Pirie implies, cricket has been here virtually as long as the Pakeha and has almost always been a sinuously seductive part of the New Zealand psyche. William Pember Reeves poeticised it, Thomas Bracken took time off from the national anthem and other work for it as, in this collection, Mark Pirie himself has. This is a book that will delight cricketers and poetry enthusiasts alike.

Review © Alistair Paterson 2011

This issue of Poetry NZ features the Trans-Tasman poet Mark Young and comment by Alistair Paterson on 'Poetry as a survival mechanism'. For more information on Poetry NZ, see their website:

Richard King cricket match cancelled

In October I stated that A Tingling Catch would be on the prize list for the annual Writers v Publishers cricket match, played in memory of the late publisher Richard King and co-author of Men in White with Don Neely and Francis Payne. The game was scheduled for 13 March 2011 in Christchurch but because of the earthquake the game has been cancelled.

See my related October 2010 blog post 'Richard King Writers v Publishers cricket match'.