The English press crammed into a small media room at The Oval following the presentations waiting for Alastair and the Boy ‘Baby’ Root. Chef was his dreamy self, a broad jaw full of soft spoken public school honesty and casual manner. Waiting all day to lose a match in order to hoist a crystal urn on an artificial dais can do that to you. He had everything he wanted, two-timing as an Ashes winning Captain in his own backyard. [Ed. In pointed contrast to the record of The Captain ret.] Baby Root of course was all smiles and Yorkshire bonhomie. An de-corked bottle of Cruz sat was perched in front of him. He may have had it under his arm when he arrived, he may not, but it was symptomatic of a Trent Bridge hangover, the type of ‘down to business’ bonding that happens in the sheds after the first XV score an upset win in a Grand Final.
Chef did his best to answer the questions seriously once Christine, the Saatchi & Saatchi girl from ECB marketing, dropped the starters flag. No, I didn’t expect to lose this match. Yes, I over-estimated the emotional hangover from Trent Bridge “That was such a flogging, wasn’t it?”. Yes, it felt surreal to want to lose this test quickly.
“So, in that sense a dead rubber is like a used rubber?”
“Huh, oh. Yes, right.”
“I mean you peaked too early in Trent Bridge. At The Oval there was nothing left to give?”
This attract a few giggles. Alastair glanced at Catherine. She shrugged her shoulders as if to say “Cook has two O’s in it.” He didn’t need to ask the Boy Root. He had a grin from ear to ear. Yorkshire lads have a sensitivity to innuendo only a coal miner would understand.
““In terms of consistency, do you think it might have been [Stuart Broad’s] best series for England?”
“Stuart’s? Yeah, I think his length… the lengths he’s bowled…”
By this stage Baby Root was hugging himself as if he had peeked into the girl’s bathrooms at the school formal for the first time. Chef was unfazed, totally oblivious to the double entendre Baby Root had plucked from the stream.
“What are you laughing at?”
“Length… “, he reply whispering half behind his hand directly in front of the assembled mics. “Stuart has length… you know, length.. ahh… d…, he repeated.
“The length he bowls..” Alastair caught on quickly but brushed it off with a quizzical look in Root’s direction.
“Do you mind? I’m trying to give a serious interview here.”
The audience didn’t quite know what to make of it, but kept the cameras rolling. Alastair didn’t get it, in the same way a cultured public school boy might intentionally mistake the masculine for the feminine article in Greek. Baby Root had clearly forgotten that his own surname was more ‘in [Ed. or on] your face’ pornographic than obscure references to Stuart’s length. Anyway, as far as he could recall, Stuart’s length was full. He decided Baby Root would be happier hugging the champagne bottle in a back room than in a media interview. Alastair tried to continue but there was no point. Baby Root couldn’t contain himself. Everyone was in the gutter.
Catherine called time. (Duds, she thought. This was on a par with pissing on The Oval in 2013). Baby Root and Alastair got up and left, like they had heard the school bell. On the way out, Alastair told him what a dickhead he was. Catherine says Baby Root lacks self-awareness and struck him off the Future Captains Academy list. As far as she is concerned Yorkshiremen are a breed apart.
Alastair invited us to drinks. The Captain (both of them) accepted according to tradition. The Captain showed Alastair his new gold fog watch with the number 408 engraved on the back. “It’s a fine retirement gift” Alastair replied, and drew The Captain aside to compare notes about how tough it is during a form slump.
Puff and the Boy Root saw each other and shaped a left hook, then posed for a photograph with clenched fists just to prove a battler and a joker walk the same seam. Hollywood walked around trying to find another player that had been dropped during the series. He ended up talking batting collapses with Ian Bell.
Our bowlers gathered around Stuart Broad and Mark Wood. They were telling them what a good length ball actually was [Ed. That’s disgusting. Sarah]
The champagne with a beer chaser was excellent.