With apologies to Tim Rice, don't cry for young Ben Wheeler. The truth is, in the historical battle for playground bragging rights, the bat owes the ball a few more bruisings before we can call it evens.

In this age of thick-edged sixes and parks the size of an iPad (we used to employ the term postage stamp to describe small grounds but come on, who uses stamps these days), it might seem hard to remember there was a time when fast bowlers ruled the world.

Fuelled by beer, red meat and testosterone, these feared, largely uneducated creatures bowled short and sprayed invective.

Think Lillee and Thomson, think Fire in Babylon, Wasim and Waqar, Allan 'White Lightning' Donald; think Brian Close's battered body, McCosker's shattered jaw, Coney's broken arm, Gatting's rearranged face.


Batsmen were nerds. Wicketkeepers were basically horseless jockeys. Fast bowlers were rock 'n' roll: they got the girls, drove Fords and Holdens and could grow moustaches in minutes.

Their mere presence could make small children cry. I witnessed Hutt Valley's Heath Davis laying waste to Auckland in Whanganui sometime in the mid-80s. He can't have been older than 14.

It was one of those age-group tournaments where three games were played simultaneously on the same park, with overlapping boundaries making life tricky for fielders in the deep, but we all pretty much ignored our own games to watch.

Davis had some idiosyncrasies, including constantly forgetting his run-up which would be followed by admonishing himself in a ludicrously high-pitched voice, but when he got it right he was terrifying. This day he got it right. At least one kid was reduced to tears and the lilywhite Auckland parents were going apoplectic at the Maori man-child's barrage.

Every era and every area had their own version of a Heath Davis – the kid you didn't want to see when you turned up at the ground on a Saturday morning. Fast bowlers had a psychological grip over cricket from a young age and it only rarely relented.

Until T20 cricket came along.

Now the hunters are hunted. Batsmen, armed with railway sleepers for bats and a no-fear attitude, became the playground bullies.

The fast bowler has been reduced to a plaything, their once-robust psyches crushed by moustachioed brutes like Warner and Munro, Kohli and co. They cower in the outfield with rictus grins, a la the unfortunate Wheeler last week, hoping to escape the attention of their captains as he looks for the next sacrificial lamb.

And all this is unfair on bowlers, I often hear.

Ha, pull the other one. This is karma. This is historic redress. This is wonderful.
Batsmen, freed from their chains, have fought back. And all you fast bowlers can just read it and weep.


I can take or mainly leave the Winter Olympics. Different strokes for different folks and all that but I've never had any time for judged sports, whether on land, water or frozen water, so I don't even try to decipher why one flippy-spinny thing is valued higher than another spinny-flippy thing. They all look insanely difficult, but not particularly interesting, to these eyes.

But the biathlon? Now there's an event. The drama of the early hours of this morning, when Germany threw away a massive lead to France on the final leg of the mixed relay, then lost a protest to Italy for bronze, who themselves were just behind Norway, who had come from miles behind over the last two legs to claim silver, was sport at its mesmerising best.


When I quit Twitter a year or so ago I had come to the conclusion it was a desperately sad and quite often bad place. But a reader alerted me to the curious joys of former Everton keeper Neville Southall's feed. Sometimes crass, sometimes funny and often very true, it really is something – just don't venture too much further afield.

Here's a nice read on an improbable basketball hotbed. A modern, black take on Hickory High School of Hoosiers fame. From ESPN.