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Pongo announce Emerging Cricket Journalist Award

— 22 September 2009

Pongo Cricket has announced the winner of its inaugural Emerging Cricket Journalist of the Year Award. It has been won by Benjamin Matthews. The site, run by YCCC player Joe Sayers, has been encouraging budding writers to pen quality articles about cricket for the last few months and the Club have been advertising the competition in its matchday programmes.

Pongo Cricket has announced the winner of its inaugural Emerging Cricket Journalist of the Year Award. It has been won by Benjamin Matthews. The site, run by YCCC player Joe Sayers, has been encouraging budding writers to pen quality articles about cricket for the last few months and the Club have been advertising the competition in its matchday programmes.

Joe Sayers said: “The Judges were impressed by the high quality of all the entries but were especially impressed by the consistently excellent standard of Ben’s articles. One standing out in particular was Ben’s article Cricket’s pre-eminent rivalry within the category ‘Is the Ashes’ still the pinnacle of Cricket?’”

The competition was extremely close. The runners up were Steve Pye, Michael Pollitt, Jo Harman, and Jamie Green who deserves a special mention being only 15. Other entrants that made a strong impression were Barnaby Smith, Lucas Atkin, Sam Morshead, Tom Walker, Stuart Anders, Jonathan Medway, Michael Shelton, Chris Cousens, and Frank Hannell.

Deon Kruis, one of the judges said: “Pongo Cricket provides a great opportunity for anyone interested in the game to talk cricket and make their opinions heard. The success of Benjamin Matthews is the perfect example of Pongo Cricket enabling emerging journalists to practise their writing and promote their work to a fast-growing audience.”

James Buttler, another judge, added: “The entries received in the Pongo Cricket Writing Competition 2009 have been massively encouraging – well written, thought provoking and proving there is still a huge interest in cricket writing. This year’s winner, Benjamin Matthews, has shown the qualities required to be a top notch cricket writer. He is informed, balanced, interesting and his writing style is engaging. I congratulate him on winning this year’s competition and hope it sparks a lifelong interest in sports writing, whether that is in a professional capacity or not.”


Benjamin Matthews will pick up his Emerging Cricket Journalist Award on Sunday 14th November at the Carnegie Sporting Words Festival in Harrogate.

Ben Matthew’s winning article

Cricket’s pre-eminent rivalry – Ashes still the pinnacle of cricket?

Reginald Shirley Brooks earned himself a certain immortality with 40 words published in The Sporting Times in 1882. Little did Brooks know that his mocking obituary was to spark more than a century worth of bouncers, beamers, slingers, sledgers and wangers perennially being flung in disdain between two nations with the sole aim of beating each other hollow. Such a fusillade of antagonism is not present in any other series worldwide. The Indian and Pakistani rivalry can undoubtedly be extremely intense, hostile and pressured but its roots stem from political and diplomatic unease. In purely a cricketing sense, a ‘win-at-all-costs’ mentality epitomised by early characters such as Warwick ‘the Big Ship’ Armstrong and Douglas Jardine, echoed more recently by modern greats such as Glenn McGrath help stage these Anglo-Australian stand-offs as incomparable cricketing theatre.

“We have come to beard the kangaroo in his den – and try to recover those Ashes.” Hon. Ivo Bligh, 1882 Bligh was the first to speak of this glorious rivalry in terms of winning the ‘Ashes’ and it is a series which has produced wonderful cricketing quotes and jargon thereafter. Bernard Bosanquet was the first to bowl the ‘googly’, or the ‘wrong ‘un’, for instance. ‘Bodyline’ was coined after Jardine’s infamous tactics to prise out the impeccable Don Bradman and ‘sledging’ is a technique used since the inception of these biannual engagements, refined as an eminent fielding tactic in the 1990s by a poker faced Steve Waugh.

“Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust, if Lillee don’t get ya, Thommo must.” Sydney Telegraph, 1974/75 Ashes series

This grand spectacle can represent two nations colliding with malice aforethought as Bill Voce’s threat to the Australian team of 1932 to “knock their bloody heads off” can highlight. Such contempt provides a player with the necessary inspiration to stake his claim for cricketing immortality and to remould the record books. Evocable performances within Ashes matches can define careers. Jim Laker’s 19 wickets for 90 runs in the 1956 series remains a bowling record to this day, Shane Warne’s ‘Ball of the century’ to Mike Gatting in 1993 created an iconic sporting moment.

Individual rivalries are created that linger in the memory; microcosms of particular series that compound the importance of the continuing competitiveness of the Ashes and more importantly, Test match cricket as a sport. Another record that still stands today is Don Bradman’s aggregate of 974 runs in the 1930 series, surpassing Wally Hammond’s 905 of a year earlier forcing the latter, fine player as he was, into the role of eternal understudy to The Don’s leading batsman. These rivalries have helped to forge standards and inspire players to strive to play in this pinnacle of Test match cricket.

“[the Ashes has] always been the pinnacle of Test match cricket … the only thing I ever wanted to do was to be part of an England Test match or an Ashes series.” Australia’s leading Test match run scorer: Ricky Ponting, 2009

Test match cricket remains the pinnacle of the game despite the emergence of the Indian Premier League, its piles of cash and potential exodus of world-class talent to its temptations. The IPL has an understandably increasing appeal as its profile and investors become larger year-by-year, however its draw is not irresistible for all. Players such as Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Broad have rejected advances from the IPL; decisions that embody a commitment to Test match cricket and highlight the importance of the Ashes. Broad sums up this importance in justifying why he chose not to travel to play in the IPL: “You can make history. People have a passion for the Ashes and I think to the nation it’s the most important thing in the cricketing world. It’s the pinnacle.

These are thoughts echoed by Ricky Ponting who believes that the Ashes remain the pinnacle of the game for any Australian cricketer. As alluded to by such players, the Ashes retains a competitive edge that no other series comes close to. W.G. Grace’s perfidious Albion through the Bradman era, the unrelenting Lillee and Thomson, Beefy’s last stand, ‘The Ball of the Century’, Waugh’s ‘mental disintegration’, right up to the return of the Urn in 2005. These are a few of the many threads of history running through the rich tapestry of the Ashes, instantly recallable for anyone involved with the game.

“The aim of English cricket is, in fact, mainly to beat Australia.” Jim Laker

Laker’s sentiments echo the fact that it is a series that unites a country. Losing to the Poms is unthinkable for any Aussie captain for the backlash he will face back home. For both sides a loss will render any other successes of an Ashes year redundant. An Ashes summer can blind foresight to future series and the ecstasy of a victory can erase any memories of recent team failures. Both England and Australia were knocked out of the Twenty20 World Cup at the beginning of this summer without so much as a whimper, no huge disappointment was evident – minds were already set on the main event of the summer.

Little can equal the public euphoria stoked up by Test match cricket’s most important series. Memories can be conjured from instances ranging from the ludicrous (David Lloyd’s pink sheath), to the brilliant (Bob Willis’ hostile eight for 43 in 1981), from the genuinely unsettling (Bert Oldfield’s head fracture inflicted by a searing Harold Larwood bouncer), to moments of sheer hysteria (John Snow’s ‘come on, then’ gestures to Sydney’s Hill and the ensuing volley of beer cans). Herein lays the magic of the Ashes: an enchanting sporting institution that will forever captivate, exhilarate and provoke.

The Yorkshire County Cricket Club would like to congratulate Ben Matthews.