Wildlife Park

We visited a local wildlife park about an hour’s drive from home. We definitely did the right thing getting there as soon as it opened!

We got lucky because the polar bears were let out as we were pretty much the only ones walking around, so we saw them running not just lying motionless. The lions were resting but the second time that we walked by the tiger enclosure, they were on the prowl.

There are many other animals including painted dogs which, though I’m in no way a dog fan, I think look quite cool. The one thing that missing was reptiles. I’d love to have seen some crocodiles!

We had a really nice pizza and there are some great play areas. We had a fantastic time in one of the indoor ones.

We were there for almost six hours and unlike some places, we didn’t have to drag it out. It’s not cheap but we’re fortunate to get some discounts. We’ll possibly go again in a few years’ time.

Cricket Captain 2021: Ashes to Ashes

With the Ashes and a T20 World Cup on the horizon, New Zealand first came to town!

5-86 from spinner Mason Crane followed by a partnership of 210 between Dom Sibley (119) and promising young batter Henry Peters (93) paved the way for victory in the first Test. Prodigious Peters would sensationaly follow that up with a mammoth 282 in the second Test. Having been reduced to 21-3, he piled on 264 with Ben Stokes (135). Wickets were shared around though that man Crane (4-32) finished off a an innings and 189-run victory.

We were then obliterated 3-0 in the T20I series. Sam Curran led the side but there was little to cheer though Benny Howell made a career best 43-ball 60 when promoted to three in the final match. We were poor in the ODIs (Ben Foakes at the helm) too, though Ed Barnard claimed 5-28 in the first match to join an elite club of players to have scored ODI centuries and claim a five-wicket haul. Having then gone 2-0 down, we did manage a consolation win with Matt Parkinson (3-32) turning it on having been called out of the international wilderness. Ben Slater struck 72 and Dan Lawrence 42 not out to seal a seven-wicket win.

Then came Australia and despite a hat-trick for Sam Cook (3-52), we were annihilated by 139 runs in the opening ODI! Captain Ben Foakes (108*) and Ben Slater (89) helped put 325 on the board in the second match but we couldn’t even defend that! We then lost the third game by 20 runs despite 86 from Ben Duckett. We turned it on in the T20s however. Ben Stokes (3-24) and in-form Duckett (64) led us to an eight-wicket win in the opener. In the second match, Jos Buttler blasted 81 from only 47 deliveries whilst Sam Curran blitzed 77 from just 37! We won by 44 runs. We lost the dead rubber despite 56 from Joe Root and 5-30 from the emerging talent of left-arm-pacer Olive Taylor. It was then onto the Ashes before the T20 World Cup and the swan song of many experienced players.

There’ve been some amazing Ashes campaigns throughout history and some cracking series during my tenure. Like the last one, this Ashes battle would go right down to the wire…

We lost the first Test by 64 runs, though Oliver Taylor (4-58) reaffirmed his promise in Australia’s second innings. He then hit 48 to combine for 109 with Ollie Pope (126*) for out ninth wicket. That helped lift us from 239-8 to 384 all out and reduce the margins of defeat as well as send a message to the tourists that we wouldn’t just roll over. We responded with a thumping ten-wicket win to level the series. Dom Sibley (122) and world cricket’s need star batsman Henry Peters (210) put on 283 to help us post 578-7 declared. For Peters, it was of course a second double century in the space of just three Tests. Jofra Archer (4-58) and Taylor (4-58) picked up four wickets each in Australia’s second dig. In the third match, captain Joe Root struck 131 whilst poor Rob Yates, recalled for this series after a three year absence, was cruelly dismissed for 99! We declared on 468-5. Taylor then took 5-57 to help us enforce the follow on. Mason Crane claimed four wickets and we would go onto win by seven wickets and take a 2-1 lead in the series. In the fourth match, off-spinner Amar Virdi was sensationally thrust into the side for his international debut. He promptly claimed 4-84 including the wickets of Smith, Labuschagne and Green. Yates (145) bounced back from the despair of falling for 99 to hit a long awaited maiden Test ton. Still only 24, he could have a great future ahead of him. Ben Stokes struck an imperious 157. Australia assumed a narrow lead but Mason Crane claimed 5-141 second time around. Despite 153 from Root and some lower order resistance, we succumbed to a 57-run defeat. Australia had levelled the series at 2-2 and had momentum going into the fifth and final Test

We posted 528-6 in the first innings. Pope (134*) and wicketkeeper Jos Buttler (117) put on exactly 200 for the sixth wicket. Root made 112 and Stokes, who like Buttler and Root was playing his final Test, contributed 55. Australia were the bowled out for 476. Sam Curran, gutted to have been left out of the fourth Test ripped through Australia with figures of 5-60. We then made 278-6 with Zak Crawley (60), ruthlessly recalled at the expense of Sibley, compiled an opening stand of 117 with Yates (61). Piper (57*) and Curran (47*) crucially boosted our total to allow us to declare. Rain and bad light then rescued Australia as our rampant bowlers decimated their batting line-up. Archer claimed 4-18 from ten overs and Australia lost a batsman to injury but with victory and the Ashes almost in our grasp, clouded English skies rescued Australia.

I’d like to congratulate both sides on a truly outstanding Ashes campaign that captivated a huge audience. Special mention goes to captain Joe Root, all-rounder Ben Stokes and wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, all of whom bow out of Test cricket after serving their country so well. We’ll see them all at the T20 World Cup though!

Solar Powered Oxygenator

I’m sorry to say that it’s too late for one of my fish but hopefully this oxygenator will prolong the life of the remaining two.

I’d noticed that my goldfish were discoloured and gasping for breath. It’s a small pond with no running water. There clearly wasn’t enough oxygen for four (Originally!) fish. Frogs and newts have long thrived in my other larger pond and these fish lived in my parents’ garden in the smaller pond for years… but there they had a pump!

The two remaining fish seem healthy at present, seemingly benefitting from the increased oxygen levels. I won’t go into detail regarding how the oxygenator works. The clue is kind of in the name!

Oh! It cost about £30 from the South American rainforest. There are cheaper options on the electronic bay!

Jigsaws

I picked up the two jigsaws pictured above for £1.50 each at a car boot sale. The sellers assured me that all the pieces are in the box!

Quite when and where I’ll be able to complete them, unless I manage to do them in one sitting whilst my daughters are at nursery/school, I’ve no idea! The likelihood of me leaving them semi-complete and being able to return to them without them having being tampered with/thrown all over the place is… minimal!

I’ll let you know how I get on, which probably won’t be any time soon!

Do you like to do jigsaw puzzles?

Bird of Prey Centre

We went to a bird of prey centre and I was amazed by how many large birds were there! The white-tailed eagle, pictured above (And below) can even be found wild in the UK. During the display, it flew out of sight!

Part of me feels sorry for the birds there. A caracara, which the staff advised was an intelligent bird, did appear to be going a bit crazy (Constantly walking from side to side) in its cage. The same can be said for a smaller bird, an owl I think, (With a funny name that I forget) that kept hurling itself at the front of the cage.

It wasn’t a big place and if you don’t time it right for a show then you (Or children) could possibly get a bit bored. It was fascinating to see the variety of large birds though.

FIFA 20: Rios Rich in Form!

Picking up where we left off, we came from behind to draw 1-1 with Chicago Fire. Andres Rios bagged his fifth goal of the season. We then won 3-0 in Toronto, in what was one of our most satisfying performances so far. Siad Haji had already had a couple of great chances to score but eventually put us ahead. That man Rios scored again before his replacement, sixteen-year-old Irish striker Cathal Gallagher, bagged his first senior goal on only his second appearance. The goal came at the end of a surging run from Thato Mokeke, who made the most of a rare brief opportunity. As well as Gallagher, another young Irishman in the form of right-back Ronan O’Brien excelled on debut. These were promising signs for our youth scouting network!

We were then held 0-0 in the capital. Young Gallagher struck the post from a tight angle with the last kick of the game. Next up were Dallas and Haji continued to step up in place of the injured Eriksson to put us a goal to the good. Sadly, we switched off and conceded an equaliser to once again draw a game that we really should’ve won.

At this stage of the season our stats read: Pos7th Pld15 W5 D5 L5 GF17 GA12 Pts20

Argentine attacker Andres Rios led the way with six goals and compatriot Christian Espinoza topped the assists chart with four. Espinoza was second top scorer with three whilst Rios had the second most assists also with three. The only downside to all this was the attention that the two were getting from European clubs!

Andes Camping Table

I’ve bought yet more camping equipment! This time… a table!

This isn’t a backpacking table. It’s too big for that. It’s a low, aluminium table and cost £19.99. It’s dimensions are 60x40cm then a height of 27cm when the legs are in place.. It’s a bit bigger and more solid than my current table as well as potentially being able to handle a double stove… or both my solo cooking units.

The above photo displays how the legs fold in. I haven’t used it yet, only set it up but my first impressions were extremely positive.

Here’s to actually using it as well as all my other camping gear in the future!

Cricket Captain 2021: South… West…

We were resoundly beaten by Pakistan in the first home Test but a partnership of 259 between Jos Buttler (148) and Ollie Pope (144) set us on our way to ro parity in the second Test. Sam Curran (84*) also batted well in the first innings meanwhile David Payne claimed match figures of 9-90. In the third Test, we stumbled to 276 before Pakistan replied with 425. We hit back thoug by posting 498-6 declared (Crawley 122, Pope 110*, Buttler 85) then rolled over the visitors for 240 to win by 109 runs! Captain Joe Root (165) and Dom Sibley (136) set the tone in the fourth Test to help us post a healthy 515. Late bloomer Payne claimed a career best 6-71 to help dismiss the beleaguered tourists for 226. We made Pakistan follow on and went onto win by eight wickets and seal a series victory. In the fifth (Dead rubber) match, stand-in skipper Rory Burns (Who had a poor series with the bat: 202r @ 20.20) maintained his unbeaten record as captain… but not winning record. Zak Crawley hit 143 and Ollie Robinson picked up 4-52 in the first dig. Robinson’s fellow right-arm medium-fast bowler Ben Coad, claimed 3-55 on a long awaited Test debut. Liam Livingstone scored 101 not out in our second innings but allowing him time to score a second Test ton cost us! Michael Dyson struck 70 on debut to go with a couple of wickets. Ultimately though, Pakistan held out for a draw. However, we’d done superbly to bounce back from 1-0 down to win the series 3-1.

It was then onto South Africa for five more Tests. It didn’t go well!

In the opening encounter, David Payne claimed 6-49 before Jos Buttler (108), Ollie Pope (83) and a career best 61 not out from Mason Crane provided us with a 60-run first innings lead. Somehow we contrived to lose by 61 runs though! We then lost the second match by 134 runs. Jannemann Malan hit 182, despite Crane claiming 7-111. The leg-spinner added four more wickets in the second innings before Ben Stokes (92) and Pope (51) were our only batsmen to pass 13. We kept the series alive with a stunning win in the third match after posting 554 first up. Debutante Stevie Eskinazi hit 156 up top on debut. Stokes made 124 having been promoted to number three and Joe Root contributed 113. We declared our second innings before in-form Crane (4-9!) took us to a 287-run victory. However, we lost the fourth match to concede the series. This was despite opener Dom Sibley being last man out for 120 when we batted first. Robinson claimed 4-48 but despite 83 from Pope in the second dig, South Africa would ease to an eight-wicket win. We made wholesale changes for the final match and Sam Curran led us to victory on his captaincy debut. Ollie Sale (4-56), unfortunate to miss out until this point, demonstrated his ability. He added 3-61 second time around before the recalled Zak Crawley (83*) carried his bat and his team to victory. South Africa thoroughly deserved their 3-2 series win. We weren’t consistent with the bat and made the wrong selections when it came to our bowling attack. That said, with 28 wickets at 22.64, Mason Crane didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.

Things didn’t get much better in white-ball cricket as we soon found ourselves 2-0 down in the ODIs. Despite a partnership of 223 between Ben Duckett (155) and skipper Liam Livingstone (115), we also lost the third match. Rather absurdly, Sam Curran claimed 5-93!

Fortunately, we got back to winning ways in the shortest format. Jamie Overton (4-27) starred in a 17-run win in match one then Ben Stokes blitzed a 34-ball 67 not out to win the second. South Africa clawed one back in the third but is was good to win at least one series on a tough tour. Onto the Caribbean…

Last time we visited the West Indies, it was thrilling stuff, even if we didn’t come out on top. This Test series continued the thrilling trend!

We hit 312 (Sibley 89) in the first innings of the first Test but the hosts replied with 431. Ollie Robinson (3-58) and debutante Martin Andersson (3-61) claimed the chunk of the wickets. Ollie Pope (117) and Joe Root (97) helped us post 327-9 declared before Ollie Sale (5-71) ripped through West Indies. When he dismissed Carlos Walker to bowl the home side out for 191, West Indies were only seventeen runs from victory but more pertinently, there were only two balls of the Test left!

In the following Test, Zak Crawley (79) and debutante Henry Peters (55) helped put 348 on the board. Robinson (3-28) fired again before Sibley (154*) and Root (144*) produced monstrous knocks. Robinson (4-23) tore through the hosts’ top order to help earn a 195-run win and get us back to winning ways in Tests after defeat in South Africa. We made a couple but not wholesale changes for the third Test. Ollie Pope struck 181 and put on 96 for the last wicket with Sale (51*). We would go onto win the match by ten wickets and therefore the series 3-0. Ollie Robinson picked up 13 wickets at just 17.15 over the three matches. Ollie Sale took 15 at 23.33. It was great to see a number of our batsmen back in the habit of building big innings.

The ODI series that followed would also be thrilling!

West Indies posted 280-9 (Sale 4-36) in match one and despite captain Liam Livingstone’s 119 not out, we fell three agonising runs short. Joe Root chewed up 91 deliveries for 56 and those balls proved costly. We responded with a two wicket win, successfully chasing down 252. Jofra Archer claimed 3-46 then Root redeemed himself, hitting 90 not out from 99 deliveries to steer us home. In the deciding encounter, the home side again only made a middling score, 263-9 (S.Curran 4-52). We seemed set for victory with contributions from Ben Foakes (74) and Root 56 but Lewis Goldsworthy was left 46 not out and the match was tied. Our super over struggles reared their head again as we made only six! Despite Archer striking first ball, we lost a series that we really felt we should’ve won given the positions that we put ourselves in. Our white ball woes continued in the T20s as we threw away matches yet again. Slow-left-armer Prem Sisodiya picked up 3-40 but West Indies posted 220-6 in the opening match. Sisodiya’s performances would fall away horribly as the series played out. Ben Stokes hit 86 not out to get us to a respectable 203-5 in reply. Jofra Archer claimed 4-9 to dismiss West Indies for 154 in game two. Disappointingly, after Sam Curran had blitzed 41 off 26 batting at four, we collapsed to fall short by two runs. Sale (3-20), Overton (3-26) and Livingstone (64) helped us to a consolation win but our form in limited overs cricket needed to pick up fast!

Disclaimer: I’ve noticed that images in my Cricket Captain posts aren’t showing up on all devices. Apologies if all you see are large gaps between paragraphs!

Pedometer Diaries: Where the Story Ends

148 days, 905.88 miles at an average of 6.12 miles per day. That’s where the story ends, for now at least. My pedometer has died!

A few long hikes…

https://planetpaul.blog/category/hiking/

… boosted my numbers and my 2700 steps each way to and from work plus my healthy mileage at work, helped me get to the 6 mile plus per day average. Admittedly things have tailed off a little though!

Maybe I’ll get a new battery or maybe I’ll move on with my life with the piece of plastic absent from my hip. At least I now know what a normal working days equates to.