For the last seven years I have been a cricket widow. Read it and weep ladies and gentlemen, seven years, that's longer than I've been married, but about as long as I've been with Husband, you do the math Sherlock (he was a mathematician wasn't he?). I should be to all intents and purposes an expert, well versed in the art of the game, attune to the subtle sound of leather on willow (a weeping one in my case) able to discern with a sweeping glance the chances of one team over another, to discuss at length the relative merits of one player over another over polite drinks. I should, but I can't. Because the entire game is one long tea party, and a true lesson in being British.
So, for the benefits of my non-British readers I shall attempt to explain this tally-ho game, and for my British readers, listen carefully, it's you I'm talking about.
Firstly it is played in an enormous field, a massive one, bigger than most football fields (although probably not Manchester United's, they need a lot of Porche parking space). This field is well kept, watered even during a hosepipe ban, aerated by hand by a little old man retained through retirement simply to perform this job, and it is green. Greener than England's pleasant land, greener than Husband's face when he gets my credit card bill. Except of course for the little bit in the middle where they actually play this game called cricket. This bit is brown, dead, left under a specially made triangular thing to make sure it is dead enough, if in doubt they beat it with a large club before each game just to make sure. I think it's the little old man who keeps this bit dead, mainly to show off how beautifully green he keeps the rest of it.
The game is played by eleven men per team, they all wear white, absolutely nothing to discern which team is which, because that would be unsporting. They toss a coin before each match to decide which team fields and which team bats first. If it is a hot day, the coin tossing winning team tends to pick to bat first. This is because only two of them actually go out to play, the rest stay in the pavilion drinking tea and reading papers, pausing only to cheer politely any activity at all on the pitch. Which in infrequent. Not much happens in cricket. Someone bowls a red ball, someone else tries to hit it and if they do they run between two posts to try and get as many runs as possible. The second guy playing for the batting team also runs, in case the batter gets tired and wants an extra run. Obviously, if the batter hits the ball quite far then he doesn't need to run, he just gets given six runs automatically. It doesn't matter that he might be able to run more than six times between the post, the main thing is that he doesn't get tired.
This activity goes on for a while, for as long as the batter can run a couple of times between two posts or until someone catches the ball or hits three sticks with the ball. Catching the ball or hitting three little sticks that aren't glued together is a bad thing in cricket. It means the batter and his wing man have to go and get a cup of tea and their breath back while someone else has a go. You'd think, wouldn't you that the conclusion to this game would come either from death-by-boredom of anyone within a mile radius or by catching the whole team out one by one (this includes surprising them by hitting out at three innocent sticks).
But no. And here comes the oh so British thing about cricket. If the first team is doing surprisingly well, if perchance the batter hasn't been out until 4am drinking Red Bull or a few people come to bat and total up a rather decent score, then they have a little chat. The upshot of this being that they've done well enough old boy and time to let the other team have a go. Did you hear me at the back? They're doing really well, so they decide that rather than be rude and do too well they let the other team have a try until they catch up or overtake. I mean, it would be just terrible to win in one fair swoop wouldn't it? Forget going for gold and striving against all odds, let's have a cup of tea in the pavilion and see if the other team can catch us up. Which they usually do because they stopped to let them have a go.
I'm sure by now you'd like me to stop. Stop! Stop! You're saying, let us be free of this drivel, let us watch football where it's over in ninety minutes and someone actually wins. Let's watch Rugby that's over in eighty minutes and somebody actually wins.
Sorry, but I'm trying to give you a taste of my life. You see this game is not only inactive, but it stops for bad light. That's dusk to you and me, forget flood lights or some little invention called electricity, if one team fancies an early night in with the wife (they may all share one I'm not sure), everyone agrees to end for the day and go home. Regardless of the score. There's always tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow. No one ever points out that if they just got on with the game and stopped letting each other have a go to catch up it may be over in a day with a discernible winner.
But, ladies and gentlemen, this game goes on for a week (except for 20-20 cricket which is a modern interpretation that they play in two hours. It was easy to create, they just removed the biscuits from the pavilion). It goes on for so long, and so little happens that the radio commentators are not known for their snappy up to the second delivery, their skill at preempting the next move, oh no, the highest paid commentators are those known for filling the gaps in an entertaining manner. Husband's favourite Henry Blowfeld regularly talks about the pigeons on the pitch and their amusing head nodding. I once accidentally tuned in during a long car drive and dear old Henry was commenting on the number ten bus that had just driven past the grounds for the eleventh time. Husband guffawed at the image, inactivity does that to you.
Not only does this game go on for a week, but it can still end up in a draw. Days and days of resting, tea drinking, laughing at a pigeon until it's rejected for playing for laughs, occasional catching and batting only to end up shaking hands and nodding pleasantly at each other at such a sporting game, and what a shame no one got the cup again this year.
Sometimes, just to keep it interesting you understand, there's not even a cup to be won. Take The Ashes for example. A hotly contested annual game between England and Australia. One (possibly drunken) night, a long time ago, an Englishman set fire to a cricket bat and was so remorseful the morning after that he scraped up the ashes and put them in a little wooden box. He then held it up to the Australians and asked if they wanted it. They did, and decided to play cricket for it. Cue millennia of squabbling over The Ashes, although if the Australians ever do win they're not allowed to take them home. They have to have a replica. A testimony to the cack handed nature of Australian cricket players or the propensity of the English to hold onto anything of historical value, no matter who it really belongs to? You decide.
And that's it. That's cricket. Never ending, tournaments all year, endless commentary on every radio station known to man, and a wife. A wife sitting at home, growing cobwebs and wondering whether Husband will make the number ten bus home.
*Husband would like me to point out here that I know nothing at all about cricket. I don't. But surely that makes me the more dinner party worthy of the two of us. Enough said.
How To Collaborate With Other Bloggers
4 hours ago