Roebuck v Swanson – for real

The other day I ran a little comparison of the writing styles of Peter Roebuck and Will Swanton. The Herald has gone one better. They’ve got them head to head in a debate on the referral system.

“Batsmen growling about referrals ought to be taken as seriously as bankers complaining about bankruptcy. Now, suddenly, the poor dears fear they might occasionally be given out leg before wicket. Not the least attraction of referrals is that it will reduce the blight of pad play, a negative tactic introduced by Poms incapable of reading Sonny Ramadhin. For decades pads have been used as a second line of defence. Gentlemen, the game is up. Now these blokes will have to use their bats.” – Roebuck

Day three had howlers everywhere. By the players, mostly. South African captain Graeme Smith and wicketkeeper Mark Boucher did not have the faintest clue what they were doing. Boucher kept crossing his arms in front of his face – let’s go to the video – but he kept getting it wrong. He ended up looking like an A-grade, card-carrying twit. Rules that make great players look like A-grade, card-carrying twits should be avoided. The players are the game, not the ICC. – Swanton

Roebuck v Swanton

The SMH’s two best cricket columnists go head to head today with accounts from the first test in South Africa. I’ve always been a fan of Roebuck – but I think Swanton is gaining the ascendancy as the Herald’s best cricket scribe. 

Sportswriting remains the one place in the English language where a penchant for wordplay, particularly for cliche, simile, metaphor and analogy delivered without apology – is not a curse but a blessing. 

Here are some examples from today:
Swanton:

“The overnight total was sneakily strong on a ground where you could bowl an apple and get swing and seam.”

“Michael Clarke came in, full of pep. Then again, Clarke could be stabbed in a dark Johannesburg alley and remain full of pep.”

Roebuck

“Despite encountering the daunting combination of Dale Steyn in full flight, a shaky score on the board and the sort of light featured in the more disreputable discos, North looked confident as he took guard. “

“From the outset the new man’s work on the leg-side was efficient. Anything heading towards his pads was neatly tucked with a bat as straight as a Roman road.”

“Given the chance to drive through the covers, he does so with an unexpected flash. Bending, he pushes his hands at the ball and dispatches with a bat as loose as a drunkard’s tie. It’s the only shot he does not control and the ball hurries away, sometimes off the meat, sometimes off the grizzle.”