I realise many readers of this blog will (a) know little or nothing about cricket and care less and/or (b) dismiss it as just another type of deviant behaviour practiced mainly in English public schools (which is largely true) but bear with me. I love it even though the sport’s governing body do their very best to make it hard to access.
It’s not on free-to-air television in the UK for a start (this year’s World Cup Final apart) so its home star players are unknown to most. It’s easily disrupted by the weather (not solely the fault of the authorities I think we should grudgingly agree). And it’s a sport that confusingly exists in three – soon to be four – formats that can variously last from three hours to four or five days. Some of the practices are arcane and the points system for county championship games, as well as changing every few years, means a team can do quite well without winning many games. There are those who think it’s not as athletic as other sports but this picture of the Worcestershire players’ pod surely proves otherwise.
The four day county games are my preferred choice. But because the England & Wales Cricket Board think they don’t make enough money they schedule these games for midweek dates outside the prime summer months when fewer people can go. Then when crowds are relatively small they say it proves no one wants it.
I started writing this in bracing winds in Liverpool where Leicestershire battled their way grimly to a draw. On the last day and a bit they made 151-6 from 98 overs. That’s slower than slow and may defeat my own argument that it is an entertaining sport.
Where’s the beer?
Tipped off by a sympathetic Lancastrian, I negotiated three requests for my non-existent membership card to reach the top floor of the victorian red brick pavilion, where a glass of Black Sheep was calling my name. I don’t mind it when it’s not served too cold and the alternative (Bombadier) was unthinkable if not actually undrinkable. It’s such a plain beer though.
Just when I thought I was safe the barman asked to see my membership card but by then the beer was safely in my paws.
The Media Centre
The title pic is from Scotland v Afghanistan at the Grange, Edinburgh where the pavilion has bench seats fixed to the concrete roof, which is ideal in a cold and wet climate. We spent a happy afternoon chatting to some lovely visiting supporters who had driven overnight from London to be there.
You see cricket engenders conversation. If we’d been sitting on the same bus as these lads we probably would never have spoken. But sitting in the cold for hours on end watching not a lot happen forges bonds in mutual adversity and we ended up exchanging phone numbers.
My dad is a member at Worcestershire and trips to New Road remain a treat. The view of the cathedral; the cakes served at 3pm in the ladies pavilion (in advance of which an outwardly genteel but subtly vicious scrum forms); a wander up to the Plough at lunchtime for a pint of Salopian beer or the earthier charms of St John’s; all part of a typical day at the cricket.
With New Road recovering from a major flood, we watched Worcestershire play on a club ground at Kidderminster last week. Three beers were on in top condition. They flew off the bar, changing rapidly over the course of a couple of days. You could take the beer outside. I spotted a copy of What’s Brewing in a bin. Sometimes cricket feels like one big outdoor pub.
This weekend was spent in Chester-le-Street where Durham took lunch on the first day at 47-6 against Worcestershire. For the uninitiated that’s not a good score. Rain fell so we had a couple of decent pints in the Sticky Wicket in the good company of home supporters, watching the Women’s Wimbledon Final till the rain abated, briefly.
I am not saying it was better than watching cricket in the Stygian Durham gloom but it was a rather fine way to spend an hour or two. Cheers.