It was a very quiet day today. Wicky withdrew from the Lord’s test for family reasons. Darren, the team psychologist, followed him round all day like an imprinted chicken. Peter, the Earl of Neville, will fill in. He is a reliable gloveman. On the other hand, Hollywood has been sidelined for the Lords Test and perhaps the series if Junior Junior Marsh gets just one decent score.
Time is slowly clicking over to a new hour in step as it always is with what is right and fitting.
We spoke in whispers as if we were at a funeral, until Sarah snapped us to attention by swinging the Duke both ways in the nets to The Captain. He managed to drill one waist high into the side net straight to where gully (or short point) might have been. Sarah appealed loudly. I heard Trapper say behind me “Gee, that looked out.” All eyes turned to The Prof. He shrugged his shoulders and lifted his finger.
I could see The Captain was fairly annoyed. It would have been a miracle catch at gully, one of those horizontal one-handed grabs that people talk about all summer.
Sarah is broadly balanced. As The Captain took guard for the next ball, “from a real bowler” he said, she invited him for a drink. He demurred, as he often does. It’s a reflex action like ducking your head into a bouncing ball instead of playing a straight bat. He threw a cheap smile in her general direction, then smashed the next ball through cover. The Ashes is everything.
The drink invitation
Is it improper to refuse a losers drink with an opposing team who has just beaten you senseless? No. Who wants to be around a victory drink when you are the loser. Sure, cricket is just a game, but why would you do that? The convention is to shake hands after a game, not to celebrate victory with the winners. What can you say to them, or they say to you, when the social context is immediately dominated by the event and emotion of winning and losing? Nothing. Only a person used to losing would see any merit in celebrating the end of a game immediately after losing it. (New Zealand lose a few more games than most.)
That is the way it is these days.
BB McCullum should take note. There is no traditional rivalry between England and New Zealand that will ever approach the competitive intensity of an Ashes series. There is no urn, there was no newspaper article bemoaning the death of English cricket. The ECB does not schedule regular 5 test series with New Zealand, let alone 15 tests in twenty-four months. Even Australia doesn’t schedule a 5-test series with New Zealand. It’s not worth it.
BB McCullum will never play an Ashes test. But Jimmy Anderson has. In all the bluster about gentlemanly cricket England and BB have promoted, hanging your hat on propriety is no more than a poor man’s sledge.
The same can be said for the convention of congratulating an opposition player on scoring a century. Does every player have to do it? The bowler? The fine leg fielder? No ,not at all although one would expect The Captain to say something like “Nice job. That was really lucky.”
What is missing from the Ashes is a decent sledge. Jimmy knows that a decent sledge is one you can laugh at. Jimmy laughed at a few at the Gabba in 2013.
Written on behalf of a team preparing to square an Ashes series 1-1 at Lords