You’ve got to love a bit of cricket. No, really. I know matches sometimes last for five days and still end up a draw, but cricket – first-class cricket, anyway – is like the five course gourmet evening at the Fat Duck as opposed to the quick thrill of a McDonalds which is Association Football. I quite enjoy the crash-bang-wallop Twenty20’s too, although I do wish they looked as much fun for the players as they are for the spectators. There were few smiles on show last night when England took on India in the solitary Twenty20 of the tourist’s schedule. Lots of shouting, posturing, swearing (possibly), ‘tea-potting’ and spitting, even. Yes, that. And on the hallowed turf of Old Trafford too.
Now I’m all for a bit of passion. I like taking things seriously. But it’s only a game (as is football, contrary to Bill Shankley’s famous assertion). As it happens, last night’s Twenty20 wasn’t the only game I watched this week. On Monday we happened to be strolling on the cliff top at Sewerby when we happened on a Bank Holiday friendly between the locals and some team from Tadcaster. The sun shone (briefly) and the wind abated; the thwack of leather on willow competed with the plaintive cry of seagulls overhead; the sun sparkled on the sea and the backdrop to the whole scene was the delightful Sewerby Hall. Doesn’t it look pretty?
Unfortunately, it didn’t sound pretty. Dear God, the tranquil summer sounds of bees hummings, birds singing and games playing was all but drowned out by the veritable cacophony of clapping, shouting, chivvying, directing, berating, exalting and appealing. Honestly, I’ve been at Test Matches and heard less noise. And this was a Bank Holiday friendly.
Mind you, they don’t do friendly much in Yorkshire – not on the cricket field. I once stood in at short notice for a team that was a player short and – not having packed me whites – had to make do with trainers and some tracksuit trousers. Which was fine until (in a lost cause, I hasten to add) the captain tossed me the ball and – mirabile dictu – I happened to take a couple of quick wickets. At which point the opposing captain (if you were playing for Flamborough, circa 1987 you might know him) stormed onto the field with a copy of the East Riding Cricket League rule book and protested the the umpires that I wasn’t properly attired. (His words were slightly more direct, and contained fewer syllables.) At which point I was banished from the field, never to play competitive cricket again.
Unless, that is, you count a game in the park with the family. Three years ago, on the occasion of Charlie’s Christening, we seemed gradually to drift to the park – all of us, from Sarah’s great-grandad to Charlie in his pram. And all except Charlie joined in the most memorable game I shall probably ever play.
And you know what? It was fun!