In the shadows of The Captain’s retirement I was persuaded by persons unknown (note 1) to publish Alastair Cook’s 3 invitations to The Captain to join his team for post-match drinks. They are a blend of politeness and outright skulduggery one expects from public schoolboys thrown a bat and ball and told to go play in the back oval. They form a solid square with the pen, as much as on the pitch, to tell an Ashes tale as old as Homer’s Illiad.
“11 July 2015,
I know what it feels like to return home after a night out to find the peanut butter knife buried in your lemon butter jar and to realise you have been ransacked. I felt like that after every game during our summer in Australia.
It goes without saying that being the burglar rather than the burgled is much more satisfying.
Please join me, Jimmy, and the lads for a drink at the local down the road from you. Anytime from 6pm. 1-0 deserves a friendly tipple.
pp. Jimmy & team”
Cooky was preoccupied after the second test. He spent a lot of time at ECB Headquarters reviewing old newsreels.
The next letter was hand delivered to The Captain just before the final runs were scored at Edgbaston in the Third Test.
“31 July 2015
2-1 is a big surprise! The word collapse never sounded so good. It’s like burgling a row of houses in one session and carrying away your loot in a rented skip. Only a £10 lottery ticket in Scunthorpe is worth more.
Losing here can be painful, like an arrow lodged in your heel. There isn’t much I can do for you. We did our best to mollify the crowd. They are a partisan well-versed lot up here in the midlands.
Ending a test inside three days is a credit to you, on a par with some of our best efforts, although I do hanker after a tense 5-day game. Let me know your thoughts.
You may not have received my earlier invitation, so I delivered this by hand. If you could see your way clear for a team drink tonight we would be proud to toast your company. Say 5pm at our hotel. We can move off from there.
pp Stephen & team”
The third letter arrived at tea on Day 2 at Trent Bridge. I told the ECB messenger that whilst there was nothing wrong as a rule with public school eagerness, this note smacked of brash overconfidence and was downright rude.
“Right you are, cobbler. Will you sign for it?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“7 August 2015
I know 3-1 was never in your playbook. It galls me in the twilight of your career, as I’m sure it cuts you, that the Notts crowd has not seen your best.
This game is not long for the taking. (Leonidas held the pass at Thermopylae for longer, but he was a true Spartan and led a young army.) And other events, mainly the return of the Urn, may overtake us in the wash-up.
So I’ve taken the liberty of inviting you to drinks after this match, for the third time. We missed you and the team after Edgbaston. I have never seen my boys happier or more settled. They are getting used to burgling opposition batsmen especially when they find the key dangling on the latch.
Jimmy says he’ll be back for The Oval. I hope you don’t mind. He doesn’t want to miss out.
England has never achieved a 4-1 Ashes victory at home. The Urn is ours but 4-1 has a better ring to it than 3-2 which suggests a closer tussle. Are you up for the challenge? We can discuss it at drinks.
pp Stuart (8/15) & team”
The Captain read each of the letters he had received during the series again as a group, signed each one and filed them away for his forthcoming Captain’s Diaries. There must be one, right? (note 2)
I asked The Captain if he would reply to Alastair.
“At the end of the series. That is the convention. Besides, The Oval can still offer some redemption.”
“How do you feel?”
“Annoyed. Why can’t he send a text?”
Note 1: Dennis, The Prof’s BarmyArmy mate, persuaded me to publish the letters. He said he recently finished Kevin’s diaries and thought Alastair’s three letters deserved similar notoriety.
Note 2: The Captain’s Diaries for India, 2013 were stolen during HomeworkGate.