Ambushed by a striking apophthegm

I’d intended writing a deeply meaningful essay on… oh, I don’t know, any number of deeply meaningful thoughts I’ve had on writing, when I read an article by Barney Ronay on South Africa’s thrashing of Sri Lanka in the Champions Trophy tournament.

Barney Ronay is a senior sports writer on The Guardian, an Oxford graduate with an acerbic pen and what appears to be a love of the eccentric and the exuberant.

South Africa won thanks to the batting of Hashim Amla, who scored his twenty fifth hundred in ODIs, and Imran Tahir, who took four for twenty seven, and, says Ronay, “bowled with accuracy and aggressive variation.”

But what struck me about the report, in fact, what had me guffaw out loud (although I’m not certain what a silent guffaw is) were two observations of Tahir’s response to success with a ball.

Here’s the first: Tahir, writes Ronay, “greets every wicket… with a wildly joyful sprint, like a man fleeing a burning building while simultaneously hearing news of a million-pound jackpot win.”

His second bon mot comes towards the end of the report, when he describes the point at which the match turned in South Africa’s favour. The Sri Lankan batsman, Tharanga, he writes, “… had completed a fluent half-century but he was caught… sparking further excitement from (Tahir) who could probably produce a competitive time at the world indoor 60m heats if the starter’s gun could be synchronised with a successful lbw appeal.”

So what I urge you all to consider, at the very least, when you’re describing something: look for the colourful, or at least the striking image; don’t be satisfied with the first simile or metaphor that springs to mind but dig deeper; seek the original thought, the unexpected turn of phrase, the memorable aphorism.

Not easy, you say? Well, maybe not. But let me quote (as I’m sure I have before,) Robert Browning: Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?

Happy writing

Richard Beynon

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