Leather on willow at last

Late last year, along with every other cricket fan in the country, I made the attempt to secure tickets for the Ashes this summer. Sadly, this turned into a series of Epic Fails involving missed deadlines, forgotten passwords, and the address I lived at five house moves ago. At the end of it, despite my own supreme idiocy, I had somehow managed to secure a pair of tickets for the very last day of the series, at the Oval in London. I then spent most of the summer assuming that the match would either not go to 5 days, or would be completely washed out. The downpour the day before was hardly encouraging, and nor was the rainstorm we drove into on our way down the M1 on Sunday morning. So it wasn’t until we were inside the ground, in our seats, drinks in hand, watching Peter Siddle bowling at Matt Prior, that I started to believe we would actually witness some Ashes action. Even then, given the state of the scorecard, I was pretty much convinced we were doomed to watch a tedious grind to a draw.

Well, it only goes to show that the secret of assuring a good time is to keep your expectations low. Thanks to a very aggressive declaration from Aussie captain Michael Clarke, we were treated to 447 runs, 17 wickets, and some of the tensest cricket I’ve ever seen. We saw all the members of the England team bat, plus most of the Aussies, and some very fine bowling from the likes of Graeme Swann and Jimmy Anderson. We jeered Mitchell Starc, cheered Kevin Pietersen, and went nuts at every single run as the scoreboard ticked down towards a nailbiting finish. At 36 runs to go, with 36 balls remaining, I started to seriously think that we (ie England, not me and my husband) could actually do this, and that I was about to witness one of the most sensational victories in the whole history of the game.

Well, it only goes to show that the secret of assuring a good time is to keep your expectations low. At 7.35pm, with 20 runs needed from the last 24 balls, just as Ian Bell was run out, the umpires decided to poop the party and call everyone off for bad light. The baying crowd, us among them, made it quite clear what we thought of that decision. But as dusk closed in, there was no going back, floodlights or no floodlights. As Aggers pointed out on Test Match Special*, the new regulations on bad light are ridiculous, taking no account of common sense or the situation of the game, and so the thrilling day was brought to a frustrating end. It was like being on a roller coaster which abruptly broke down before the final loop.

But… when I consider how I’d been feeling 24 hours before, I can hardly complain. We had great seats on a beautiful late summer’s day. We saw more cricket crammed into a single afternoon than some Test matches manage in almost a week. And I also maintained my proud record of uncannily managing to be present for days of cricketing controversy: first Pakistan’s refusal to take the field at the Oval in 2006, then the run-out incident at Trent Bridge in 2011, and now bad-light-gate. Anyone who claims cricket is a dull game hasn’t been to see it with me.

 

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And here’s another three good reasons to watch cricket. L-R: Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, captain Alastair Cook.

*yes, I was listening to TMS at the same time as watching the live game, what of it?

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