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Sky are beaming in the Test match from Pakistan. That's why I'm late writing this. I got up, made breakfast and went straight to the TV set to catch the tail-end of the second day's play.

The light in Pakistan has that powdery quality you only get in hot, dry countries. The sun falls fast. The light goes orange. A powdery orange.

Ailz sits next to me, pedalling away on her exercise bike. Bunny lollops round our feet. Marcus Trescothick removes his helmet and a little Niagara of sweat comes running off its peak.

England are playing just like they did against the Aussies. We're going to win this series. Marcus Trescothick, standing in as captain for the injured Vaughan, ends the day on 133 not out.

There's a group of about twenty Asian guys in the stands, parading backwards and forwards with an outsize Union Jack. I guess they must be British Asians, supporting their adopted country against their country of origin. It warms my heart. British multiculturalism is working no matter what commentators, rattled by the riots in France, are saying.

I'm not normally given to patriotic outbursts, but right now I'm feeling good about us. Rule Britannia- land of crumpets and curry!
poliphilo: (Default)
As a kid I hated sport - Football most of all but cricket not far behind. What gave cricket its slight edge was that it's a summer game and you got to spend a lot of time lying in the sun, chewing bits of grass.

I still hate football, but I got turned onto cricket (as a spectator sport) in the early 80s. Spectator sport? Listener sport, more like. I used to carry around a transistor radio, tuned to BBC 3's ball by ball Test commentary.

I'm not sure I can explain it. Yes, cricket's dull, cricket's slow, but these are things I like about it. I'm not interested in the faster one day game. I love the tension and suspense of the five day Test Match. I guess it appeals to the same thing in me that loves Tarkovsky.

I've followed England through thick and thin. There's been a lot of thin over the past 20 years. But right now we have a winning team. Later this summer we play the Aussies, and for the first time in ages we're in with a chance.

The first Test of the season is against Bangladesh. It's going on now. Every so often I'll stop whatever I'm doing and go sit in front of the TV. It's not a great match- Bangladesh have only been playing at this level for 5 years and they're hopelessly outclassed- but, even so, once I'm settled in front of the screen I find it hard to tear myself away.

One more ball. I'll turn the thing off off after one more ball. O lovely- what a beautiful stroke! That was worth waiting for. Wouldn't it be good if he did it again? Maybe I'll hang around for a couple more deliveries just in case he does.....
poliphilo: (Default)
I don't like sport. Never did. As a kid I couldn't see the fun in taking your warm clothes off and putting on other very thin ones so you could run about a muddy field in the rain with lots of other people who were trying to hurt you. I never watch football (soccer) and I can't be trusted to watch athletics without making tasteless remarks about abnormal muscle growth.

But cricket is different. I got into watching cricket because of Ian Botham. Botham was something else. He was a musketeer with a willow bat in place of a sword, he was a Victorian adventurer, he was Errol Flynn as Robin Hood. He supplied my need for heroic fantasy, for narratives of courage and the triumph of the human spirit.

And he rarely disappointed. He would go onto the field after finishing off a bottle of brandy in the dressing room and knock off thirty indispensable runs to turn the match. In 1981 he won a Test series against the Australians all but single-handed. He was Legend.

In the twenty odd years since he retired I have continued to watch Test cricket in the hope that history would repeat itself- that the King would return from the isle of apples. As yet this hasn't happened, but there have been many compensations. Test cricket- which is played over five days- provides a complexity of human drama (decisions and revisions that a minute may reverse) beyond the scope of any other sport. Every time two nations meet they add a chapter to a history that stretches back- in some cases- for a hundred years or more. It's like dynastic war without the bloodshed.

And yesterday Nasser Hussein, a decent but not great player and former captain, nearing the end of his career, and with the jackals of the press howling for his demise, won the match with a final stroke that took his personal score past a hundred. It was so good, so right, so unlikely. It was a Botham moment.


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