Q & A: Points about the javelin . . . and Agassi the batsman

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What is the origin of the tiddlywinks term 'nurdled'?

The word 'nurdled' has a mixed pedigree. The Longman Register of New Words records its usage in cricket as meaning 'to score runs with small pushes and deflections', usually implying a rather boring accumulation of runs, generally used in alliterative tandem with words like 'nick' and 'nudge'. I have also seen it used in snooker reports, especially in relation to Steve Davis and the meticulous percentage game in which he still excels, and in rugby union, when a team plays a very tight game in order to capitalise on opponents' errors. - Harry Smyth, Newcastle upon Tyne.

If the football kit of national teams reflects the colours of their countries' flags, why are England's shorts navy blue?

There seems only an approximate correlation between national flag colours and shorts/shirts/socks, etc. Spain play in red and blue (their national colours are red and yellow), Brazil in yellow and blue (national colours yellow and green), and Italy (the Azurri) play in blue and white. Navy shorts seem a minor deviation. - Steve Kibble, London E8.

England are not alone in this. Germany's colours of white and black seem to reflect the older flag colours of the German empire and Weimar Republic while the Dutch colours of orange and white would seem to be a mark of respect to the royal house of Orange and its importance in the history of the Netherlands since the 16th century.

I suspect that England's navy blue shorts are a reflection of the availability of a limited number of colours in the historical period when national colours became fixed. - George Sugrue, London N10.

Why are the English and Scottish FA Cup finals played simultaneously so that no one can enjoy them both live?

So that the rest of us can have the pleasure of missing them both at the same time: Footy 0 Discerning Persons 2 (usually after extra time). - T A Loizou, Cambridge.

Why is a shot over the boundary in cricket worth six runs and not eight?

Law 19 confirms that the number of runs allowed for boundaries during a match is a matter of discretion between the two opposing captains before the start. Four and six are conventional values, but the only strict definition under the laws is of the two different types of boundary. - Hugh Trevor, Winchester.

In the second Test at Lord's, England fielded a side which consisted of 11 players all from different counties. Has this ever happened before?

Yes, twice. The first time was when England played South Africa at Durban in the third Test of the 1930-31 series. The team was:

R E S Wyatt (Warwickshire)

W R Hammond (Gloucestershire)

M Leyland (Yorkshire)

E H Hendren (Middlesex)

M J L Turnbull (Glamorgan)

A P F Chapman (Kent)

J C White (Somerset)

M J C Allom (Surrey)

M W Tate (Sussex)

W Voce (Nottinghamshire)

G Duckworth (Lancashire).

The other occasion was in the third Test of 1950 between England and the West Indies at Trent Bridge. The team was:

R T Simpson (Nottinghamshire)

C Washbrook (Lancashire)

W G A Parkhouse (Glamorgan)

J G Dewes (Middlesex)

N W D Yardley (Yorkshire)

D J Insole (Essex)

T G Evans (Kent)

D Shackleton (Hampshire)

R O Jenkins (Worcestershire)

A V Bedser (Surrey)

W E Hollies (Warwickshire).

Martyn Smith, BBC TV, London.

Have any of the officials who wander around the infield at athletics meetings with such apparent nonchalance ever met a sticky end at the point of a javelin?

The problem of the dangerous javelin is as old as Western civilisation itself. In the fifth century BC the Athenian orator Antiphon wrote speeches for both prosecution and defence in a case in which a spectator was accidentally killed by a javelin thrown by an athlete.

The speeches, which try to assign responsibility, still survive. While the arguments are theoretical they were obviously based on a genuine sense of the danger in javelin hurling, and possibly derive from a real incident. - Prof T F Buttrey FSA, Cambridge.

If the world record continues to spiral ever upwards, it won't be the officials who are in danger of being skewered but the spectators sitting in the stadium. - Mike Stoneholm, Sheffield.

I am not aware of any fatalities, but it is precisely because of the increasing dangers that were being presented to both officials and spectators as the distances thrown got further and further that the javelin had to be redesigned a few years ago, and then re-designed again. With each re-design, it seems, the throwers eventually get the javelin to travel as far as it ever did. No doubt another re-design will come along soon. - Bernard Allen, Wrexham.

What is the origin of darts?

The sport has its modern origins in Bury. Darts, or dartes, was first used as a means of self-defence during battles in Ireland in the 16th century, and the Pilgrim Fathers played darts on the Mayflower on their journey to the New World in 1620.

The modern games dates back to 1896, when Brian Gamlin, a Bury man, devised the present numbering system. The National Darts Association was formed in 1924 and the British Darts Organisation was established in 1973. - Eric Wilson, Bury, Lancashire.

What is the thinking behind the use of nightwatchmen in cricket?

Not only is it potentially useful for sides to protect their star batsmen from a hostile attack late in the day when they may be tired after a long hot day in the field, but it also makes sense to protect them from fresh bowlers first thing the following day, particularly if the conditions are moist or cloudy and therefore of assistance to those bowlers. And of course a nightwatchman under no pressure to do well will quite often help his side seize the initiative by frustrating the opposition bowlers.

David Morgan, Cambridge.

The thinking is clear enough, and although it seems typical of the defensiveness of professional cricketers, it does seem to work. Consider how seldom a team needs a second nightwatchman - whereas middle-order collapses are relatively common.

In the memorable second Test at Lord's, it was striking how the nightwatchman Ian Salisbury batted for an hour in England's second innings, while several of Alec Stewart's more gifted partners came and went. It may be that nightwatchmen have a psychological effect on the bowling team, depriving them of that edge which comes from straining to knock over a top batsman. - Hugh Jacques, Uppingham, Leicestershire.

Given that he is a two-handed player who times his shots impeccably, hits the ball extremely hard and manages to combine accuracy with keeping the ball low, would Andre Agassi not make an extremely useful middle-order batsman?

As the best returner in contemporary tennis, he would certainly have no trouble picking up the line and length of the ball. And he has outstanding footwork, which is perhaps the most important quality in a batsman.

But some doubts remain. He might be unnerved by the hardness of the cricket ball. He might not have the patience for a game in which he would not always be centre stage. And bearing in mind what happened to Phil Tufnell in his younger days, he might never get a game on the grounds that his hair was too long. - Suzanne Leonard, Aldworth, Berks.

Yes, and he might even fall into the category that some of your correspondents explored last week of being a right-hander who could bat left- handed, particularly in view of his double-handed backhand. However, he may encounter one problem in that his helmet would require a sizeable gap at the back to accommodate his ponytail. Otherwise his head would be in severe danger of over-heating. - Eric Ian Gavvison, Minehead, Somerset.


Why are steroids, where performance enhancement is marginal, banned, and pain-killers, where enhancement is significant, permitted? - Stanley Dickens, Edinburgh.

Why do some Pakistani cricketers wear light green caps, and others dark green caps? - Corinne May, Saffron Walden.

Would there be any interest in horse racing if there was no betting? - W C F Lambert, Hollywood, Birmingham.

Which was the first football ground to have floodlights? - Graham Porter, Gillingham, Kent.

Has anyone ever been caught cheating during an Open golf championship? - Benjamin James, Barnet, Herts.

Why are golfers not allowed to have more than 14 clubs in their bag? - Millicent Eason, Wolverhampton.

What is the origin of the Olympic symbol of five interlocking rings? - Susan Hughes, Chiswick, London W4.

If the rules of rugby union apply wherever the game is played, why is there so much talk about differing interpretations by southern and northern hemisphere referees? - Mr S Bear, Wareham, Dorset.

Do snooker players ever suffer back problems? The postures required in the game look most unnatural. - Margaret Fisher, Gloucester.

What is Britain's most popular participation sport? Statistical evidence appreciated. - George Williams, Manchester.

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