Monday, August 9, 2010

I don't love Cricket, I like it

As I write, it’s a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon and I’m on my way to a cricket match. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t know the difference between a googly and a silly mid off, and the nuances of a Seamer or a Yorker are lost on me, but I had won the tickets and I tend not to look gift horses in the mouth. Thank goodness I’m not going to a test match then. A game that lasts five days without a result is not my idea of fun. I have friends that love the slow pace and nothingness of the game, but whenever I ask them what the appeal is the most common reply is that it’s a great day out and a good beer-up.

Despite the strong allure of sitting in the sun drinking lager all day, the idea that I would have to keep an eye out for a ball that weighs the same as a small child and is as hard as a Duckworth-Lewis calculation seems a step too far on the dangerous side. I mean, if I wanted to combine stupid risks and drinking, I would just go for a beer with my Brother-in-law in the Czech Republic.

Nope, I’m off to the new version of cricket, Twenty20. I know purists hate it, it’s fun, it’s fast and you actually get a result, so you can see their problem with it. Plus all the teams get to dress in bright colours and not those dreary old whites. From the point of view of a person that has to do all the washing at home, I’m anti white anyway. After all, you can’t spray fabreeze on something white when you’ve forgotten to wash it and still pretend it’s clean. With colours I can and often do.

Luckily enough I had won a pair of tickets, so I invited my cricket mad mate JG to come with me. Not only could I pick his brain on cricket law and etiquette, but he was also a booze hound not unlike myself, so he would obviously know the best place to sit. Apparently you need the perfect combination of view and accessibility to the bar. To be quite honest I wasn’t too worried about the view, I was escaping from the kids for the day, so we could have been watching women’s darts for all I cared.

Walking into the ground I was struck by how much quieter the crowd was compared to a football match. I realise that you get a lot less fans at a cricket match, even compared to those small provincial teams like Tottenham, but everything seemed quite jolly and subdued. There was no tension in the air, just a feeling of calculated nonchalance. Missing was the smell of fried onions, instead replaced by a heady mixture of Old Spice and linseed oil.

Beers needed to be procured first, seats second. Those kinds of priorities are ones I am always happy to go along with. As we took our place in a very polite and organised queue, I looked around to take in my surroundings. Above the bar were photos of all the previous Essex Captains, proud, distinguished, moustachioed men. Oh, and Ronnie Irani.

We stepped out of the clubhouse with our pints of Oranjeboom, a lager I thought had disappeared with my milk teeth. I shielded my eyes from the sun and looked out at the pitch, which we were viewing side on. I then had to shield my eyes again as the Middlesex team took to the field to warm up, resplendent in bright pink. I had put my back out the previous day so we decided to stand against the clubhouse wall for a while, the fact that we were standing next to the nearest door to the bar was nothing but mere coincidence.

As I was purchasing my third pint, the teams decided to take to the field and a polite round of applause rippled around the ground, more of a royal wave than a Mexican one. Essex were fielding first, and the fine chap to my right obviously mistook my three pint mellow face for that of a cricket expert. He voiced the opinion that we should open the bowling with someone that was proficient in the art of in-swinging. I voiced the opinion that I had only had a few drinks and it was a bit early to be asking me to throw my keys into the middle of the table. My new friend decided to move elsewhere.

It was towards the end of the innings, and mid pint number six, that I heard the glorious sound of ball hitting willow in the perfect pitch. I knew the ball had been hit for 6 before I even turned around to watch its trajectory. I had been asking the new gentleman standing next to me how much a cricket ball actually weighed, this had become annoyingly important to me as I had had an idea for a blog. The next sound I heard as I struggled to find the balls trajectory, was the noise of something weighing 163 grammes (I googled it in the end) and travelling 60 mph, hitting the brick wall a meter above my head. The ball bounced off the wall and hit the guy 4 rows in front of me in the back of the head.

Despite the shock of a near miss, I still managed to laugh like a loon at the poor bloke, which seemed to be the correct etiquette as everybody else was. I looked up to see the mark where the ball had struck and realised I was standing under the O in ESSEX COUNTY CRICKET. Maybe the opposition were using the circle as target practise, maybe it was a fluke? Either or, I decided to take a couple of steps to the left and stand underneath the Y. I mean, why not?

The innings soon ended and it was half time, or tea. I had stopped caring about the correct terminology by then, and started on the spirits as the pint glasses were becoming too heavy to hold. The Essex innings went by in a bit of a blur. I do remember that the bowler we had been having a pop at had then turned into an excellent batsman, but I may be wrong about that, they all looked the same to me. It all got a bit tense towards the end, I could tell because the crowd had actually started to make a bit of noise. We eventually lost by 11 runs, but apparently it didn’t matter because Surrey or Sussex or Stockbrokers XI, I don’t know which, had also lost so we were through to the next round.

I can’t really remember much about the journey home, although I do know we stopped in a pub before we got on the train. I also know that I was 10 minutes from home at 9pm, yet walked through the door at 11pm? The next morning my head hurt, my only consolation was that it probably didn’t hurt as much as it would have had the ball actually hit it.

In conclusion, the only difference my untrained eye can see between a Twenty20 match and a five day test is that with one you drink all afternoon, and the other you drink for five days. Maybe that’s why they call it a test?


Cate P said...

As a bit of a cricket fan I should be protesting at your treatment of the game, but I can't, I'm laughing too much.
Let's face it, all sport is better when viewed with beer in one hand and a spirit in the other.
Another superb post J, howzat.

Trish @ Mum's Gone to... said...

My husband, not a cricket fan either, has mentionen that he quite fancies going to see a Twenty20 match. He reckons our 14 year old lad would love it too. Now I've read this, seems the ideal boys day out! I'd better drive.

Russ said...

Brilliant post. Never been to a cricket match; I didn't realize that there was such a thing as Twenty20.

As the primary launderer in our house, I've been guilty of the Febreeze solution to laundry too.

As to they why not stand under the Y, doesn't it look like an arrow pointing down on your head?

goonerjamie said...

Cate - Everything is best viewed with a beer in hand, especially spirits.
Trish - Don't forget to give them beer money.
Russ - Good point, maybe the X then.

Emily O said...

I rarely admit to it but I love cricket. I'm a bit of a geek and I love the stats of the game. And I love its subtleties such as the amount of moisture in the air affecting the spin of the ball. You can be learning about cricket forever and still never fully understand the game. I once went to see England v West Indies at Lords and managed to fall asleep. Something to do with the all day drinking I suspect. Those were the days.

The Rambler said...

Hehe, cricket tragic here too & hater of the T20 but I too thought it was very funny.

The Rambler said...

Hehe, very funny. I'm one of the purists but nice job. I had a good giggle.

Motorbikes_Lady said...

Have just discovered your blog & you on twitter must say your a funny guy & your blogs always bring a smile to my face.

The Dotterel said...

...with one you drink all afternoon, and the other you drink for five days. Maybe that’s why they call it a test?

Got it in one, my friend. Howzat?

PantsWithNames said...

I love cricket, have even been to a couple of tests. Have always been pregnant at the time which somewhat stymies the reason for going. I do enjoy watching grown men behave like 10 year olds for the majority of the day though, reinforces my sense of superiority!

PS - only reason husband has agreed to come to Christmas with my family this year is because it comes with access to Sky and at least 2 other people who will stay up all night with him to watch The Ashes in Australia. I know he's got his priorities sorted...

niftyknits said...

best thing about cricket is the names: silly mid off and leg before wicket. hours of fun ensue as each and every time the TV accidentally reverts to cricket I have to point out to the husband that ALL the batters have their legs before the wicket. It's all about standing in front of the wicket, surely? Strangely I never remember his answers, although that might be due to not listening.