By Tony Stafford
Driving round the M25 – well driving and then queuing in equal measure – I remarked to my passenger Roy, more of whom later, that I’d got up at 5 a.m. to watch England paralyze New Zealand in the final one-dayer.
Roy’s no cricket man, and he seemed almost astonished that I find India – Australia test matches just as compelling. More so, it would appear, even than getting these jottings out to time. Good job I am, too, or else I would have missed the best morning’s entertainment of my cricket-watching life.
Imagine the moment, Australia 380 all out, India 196-4 with Tendulkar coming out having been dismissed for 81. In comes the captain and wicket keeper, M S Dhoni. Six hours later, at close of play for day three, Dhoni is still there not out 205, the highest score ever by an Indian wicketkeeper, and second only among Indian captains, just seven short of the 212 the great Tendulkar himself managed in one of his 25 Tests captaining his country.
Farming the bowling to protect a very capable number 10 who scored less than 20 but shared in a record and unbroken ninth wicket century stand, Dhoni gave final definition as to why only he has competed with Sachin in his country’s affections. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world, and he’s still there for the morning when India can continue to grind the Aussies’ noses into the dust. You don’t get to see that too often!
Roy had one of those days, backing the first winner, but then succumbing to that most unwelcome of illnesses, seconditis, brought home in savage relief by the odds-on loss of the bumper-race favourite, Beat That, subject of one of the few inept rides I can ever remember from Barry Geraghty. Barry, along with almost the rest of the field, sat and admired front-running Such a Legend, trained by Kim Bailey and ridden with rare enterprise by Ed Cooksley, as he strode 100 yards clear.
Like Roy, everyone else in the stands, and all the other jockeys, Barry waited for Such a Legend to slow, but all in vain as the leader held on with some comfort for a near four-length win which might be hard to reproduce against the runner-up should their paths cross again.
Roy responded with a “Like me to drive?” offer which I wish – and certainly our extra passenger who took up the alternative to the multi-stop service to Waterloo [Editor: I was the extra passenger!] – I hadn’t. Roy it transpired was on a mission which involved a family evening gathering and the need to get back in time to accompany his wife.
A couple of incoming calls as we rounded the motorway induced instant acceleration, one at which I felt compelled to tell “Lewis Hamilton” that maybe he might ease off. “Was it really …? <police watchers are everywhere> This little car always goes faster than I think it is.” We got back to his abode in deepest metropolitan Essex to find the lady had scarpered even though he was very close to the ETA, thanks to some 70 mph manoeuvring down the little local lanes.
Not that he isn’t safe. If he were, he wouldn’t even now well into his eighth decade be sliding down escalators in his role as a stunt man on Skyfall. In his salad days he was stunt co-ordinator, horse trainer and actor-riding teacher for some of the top stars and world’s biggest fields as well as a point-to-point rider.
After all that, I’ll keep my promise, endorsed by the editor to reveal that Roy has a bright red Mercedes waiting for the right owner to come along. Probably 15 years old, he says it goes like a bird, has new tyres, plenty of time left on the MOT and tax, and is available for £500 cash. [Editor: email me if interested, and I will pass your details on].
On the racing front, Fair Trade disappointed me a bit, not finding much from the last whereas Forgotten Voice looked a real class act. Alan King and Choc Thornton believe Fair Trade will be much better on proper fast ground. We’ll wait and see.
If Fair Trade disappointed, Nelson’s Bay on Friday night might as well have stayed at home. One distinction before the “run” was that on one of the coldest nights of the year he managed to sweat. Unlike Roy, Roger - my Friday night driver - seems to favour the 60 mph or thereabouts in the inside lane, but we still got back to Huntingdon for the Le Mans car exchange in fair order.
Not much action in this area for the next few days, so now it’s back to the box to see if Manchester City and Chelsea can share the points before Spurs get stuffed tomorrow by West Ham.