Sunday, 14 August 2011

Just not cricket......

One of the more enjoyable aspects of my job is entertaining clients. Usually this would entail dinner in the evenings or perhaps a major sporting event at the weekend. Occasionally I get invited to an event during the week but more often than not there are more pressing priorities and a colleague will usually step in and host on my behalf. However recently one of our suppliers asked if I had customers who might want to go to the England v India test at Edgbaston. I didn't need asking twice and luckily I have two customers who are even bigger cricket buffs than I.

Cricket has been a constant throughout my life. It's never quite scaled the peaks of my passion in the way that football, fishing or music have but equally I can track the timeline of my life through the various test series and winter tours that I have watched down the years. Unlike football I never played to any real standard but I have at various times in my school and work years been an enthusiastic if hapless participant on the field. I have however, come to realise that I make a much better spectator than player and barring the odd ill advised foray onto a cricket pitch, I have limited my involvement to attending the occasional high profile game. 

Whenever you mention that you like cricket, you typically get one of two reactions, wild eyed enthusiasm and instant affinity or rolling eyes accompanied by the word 'boring....'. To a point I do find the latter reaction understandable. For people with short attention spans or a constant hankering for instant gratification five day test cricket is the proverbial sporting paint drying. But for someone like me who thinks nothing of watching a motionless fishing float for eight hours or for people who demand subtlety and tactical nuance in their sport it is the most absorbing of all spectacles.

Test match cricket was always on in our house growing up, my mum was as keen as I am now and towards the end of her long terminal illness, her enforced immobility meant she became as big an expert as I have ever known able to instantly recall statistics which would have made David 'bumble' Lloyd feel threatened in his job. Fifteen years after her death I miss many things about my mum and discussing the trials and tribulations of the England cricket team is one of them. She would be very proud of the current team.

As a child my holidays were usually in a caravan somewhere in England and consequently as least two or three days were spent indoors sheltering from biblical rain and howling winds. When stuck in a caravan, laid out in front of a gas fire eating chocolate biscuits and trying to talk above the sound of water drumming on the roof, a day can last a month. On those days, I have indelible memories of watching Ian Botham on a tiny portable TV smashing the West Indies bowlers to all corners of the ground. Or Geoffrey Boycott seemingly batting for months on end for just thirty runs. I came to understand the fineries of five day cricket and it became my sport of choice for the summer months.

The third test at Edgbaston was a chance for England to clinch the series and claim the honour of being the number one team in the world.  In the last decade, the England cricket team have been in the ascendancy but for most of my life were about as successful as my football team Manchester City. Seemingly all my sporting affiliations are entering purple periods though and I was more than a bit excited as I awaited my lift on Friday morning. I had somehow coerced a colleague into driving me to Birmingham. As any fan will tell you, watching cricket is a thirsty business and our supplier had thoughtfully laid on a free bar to resolve this problem. 

We left at 8am and were in the vicinity of Edgbaston by 10am. With an hour still to go before play commenced the crowds were gravitating towards the ground many in outrageous fancy dress outfits which has become a staple facet of watching England play. Even as someone who is pathologically allergic to fancy dress of any description I am still able to admire the effort and the foolishness of these committed souls.

We followed the directions of a man holding a hand written sign saying 'Car Pork £10' and found ourselves in a residential area where we were directed to somebody's drive which we were assured belonged to 'me Dad'. His father was clearly a very rich man who owned several properties as the cars behind us were directed onto the drives of several neighbouring houses. Mind you at £10 per car per day, it's no wonder he can afford so many properties.

After a brief walk to the ground, we arrived at the main entrance. Our tickets were for 'the experience club' which was a huge lounge with a bar at one end and a never ending and constantly replenished buffet at the other. Never were the words 'winning combination' more applicable to a sentence than the previous one.

Our seats were on a balcony just outside of the bar and consequently I was able to slay my thirst without taking my eyes off the cricket. My customers, two hefty lads from Yorkshire were also extremely thirsty, probably due to the saltiness of the buffet and I managed to continue my fitness regime by making regular trips to the bar and back for them.

The cricket was in truth a trifle dull. Having established a handsome lead, England chose to press home their advantage and bat through the day to establish an unassailable runs total. This was undoubtedly the right thing to do but without the thrill of big hitters at the crease it wasn't the greatest spectacle I've ever seen. A seemingly endless stream of single runs were punctuated only by a  couple of heavy showers that sent us scurrying inside for cover which necessitated further trips to the bar via the buffet.

The action picked up in the afternoon though my ability to focus on the game diminished with each pint. Wickets began to fall whilst Alistair Cook continued his own personal ascent to the top of his profession though at times it felt like he was taking the long way round. But as the day wore on the crowd became rowdier as it became apparent that the coronation of the England team as number one in the world was a mere formality. It was also obvious that coronation would not occur until the Saturday afternoon.

By the close of play at 7pm I was quite full and ready for home. Claire, my colleague and reluctant driver appeared enthralled as she drove us home whilst I regaled her with observations, theories and general buffoonery about our day. I say she appeared enthralled,  I think she may have been in a hurry to get back home, I've never seen anyone drive quite so fast.

All told it was a fantastic day though I have now discovered that in a remarkable twist of irony, free bars are always paid for the following day, yesterday was a write off. I was fit for nothing except lying on the sofa...............and watching England being crowned the kings of cricket.


  1. Thanks again, as usual. A good read.

  2. Thanks Viv. Did you allow yourself a celebration yesterday?

  3. Enjoyed that even though I am of the 'boring' persuasion! I met my husband at a cricket match, both of us in the process of being bored!! Maybe we will meet one day. Rozzies Mum.

  4. Thanks Rozzies mum! I do totally get the boredom thing. It's definitely not for everyone. Its a good excuse for a drink though, not that I often need one.