AuthorBrian Penn

I Am My Father’s Son: Nature Versus Nurture

As we grow, our parents assume hero status in an exciting and challenging new life. But how does that dynamic change when our parents are also sporting heroes known to millions across the globe? Cricket has a steady stream of sons who have matched their fathers at test level. Many have exceeded their achievements in the test arena. But what forces are at play here; is it simply a repeating genetic pattern or the hothouse environment stimulated by a talented role model? The nature versus nurture...

Test Status: From Closed Shop to Open House

For a sport drenched in tradition and eccentricity, cricket never fails to disappoint. Awarding Test status is now riddled with inconsistency and a well-meaning but misguided tilt at diversity. This most elite of sporting clubs began by stealth when England played Australia in the first ever Test match in 1877. The Poms and Aussies had joined a club that hadn’t yet been formed but the building blocks had been laid. South Africa joined in 1889 when they played England at Port Elizabeth. The...

South Africa ’76: What Might Have Been?

The long hot summer of 1976 saw the Montreal Olympics, Bjorn Borg win Wimbledon for the first time and Johnny Miller clinch the British Open title. It also witnessed England’s mauling by the West Indies with a rich seam of talented cricketers. A 3-0 series defeat somewhat flattered England as Viv Richards smashed 291 at the Oval. However, what might a South African test side have achieved at this time? The Proteas had already been in exile for six years as the apartheid regime continued to...

The End Of The Tail Ender?

So the sun is shining and all the windows are open. A game of cricket glows from the TV screen as I settle down with a cool beer. Oops, both openers have gone cheaply but we’ve still got the middle order; which slowly begins to crumble, and before you know it the all-rounder is about to be joined by the wicket-keeper. The last two recognised batsman with 5 wickets down would soon expose the tail, a mythical beast that never seemed to wag properly – unless there was a batsman who could...

Warriors At The Crease: Inside The Mind Of An Opener

The redoubtable commentator Henry Blofeld once observed one day cricket is an exhibition; a test match is an examination. If so its keenest students are the opening batsmen. The single minded, tactic driven obsessives who commence the innings. They face the new ball and a bowling attack designed to unsettle and probe for weakness. If the toss is lost there could also be the small matter of a turning wicket favouring the bowlers. An opener may have the full repertoire of shots in their locker;...

Last Of The Great All-Rounders?

Compton, Botham, Neville and Moore … New writer Brian Penn celebrates the elite sportsmen that excelled at both cricket and football. When the world was younger and less troubled, the sporting calendar had an air of glorious simplicity. We played cricket in the summer and football in the winter. The tranquil hum of leather on willow would ultimately give way to the mud and spit of football; it was English sport’s equivalent to the changing of the guard. This neat demarcation in seasons...

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