Thursday, January 6, 2011
For anyone with a mild interest in cricket or a sense of national pride, getting to sleep tonight is going to be harder than it was not thirteen nights ago when we all lay in our cots eagerly awaiting the big man...
...tomorrow could be the day we win, not retain, we outright win the Ashes on Australian soil for the first time in over two decades. This, is history.
I adore cricket. It's the only sport I follow with any interest and is one of two things that causes taxi drivers to say 'but you're a girl...?'. Please note the other one is the fact that I'm a stand-up comedian, not that I've just shown them my penis.
I often argue with my mother about cricket. The woman uses this subject to behave like an infernal tool and display a level ignorance rarely seen outside of the pages of a newspaper named far too similarly to the Holy Grail. I think she does it to find out if I'm pretending to like cricket to finally get a boyfriend - no offence to my cricketing lads, but surely I would learn what a 'try' is and get myself a simpler man and game to traipse round after? Nevertheless I find myself rising to her bait and grinding out my reasons for loving the game like a patient counsellor explaining why it's important not to try to pay for groceries with finger paintings.
"I would like it if it wasn't for all the walking that the bowler does, he spends half the match traipsing back to where he started just so he can run in again." She opines, gracefully...
I momentarily wonder if the game could be improved by some sort of travelator system, or, perhaps even better, we hire ex-Gladiators to give the bowler a piggy bag back to his mark? Then I explain to her why the bowler needs to have a run up...he's the sodding bowler. Perhaps we could rig up a pully system where Strauss stands in the outfield and pulls Tremlett back on a large elastic before firing him, and the ball, at a quivering Hussey but somehow I don't think it would have the desired effect.
"That's why they show the replays on the TV, Mum." I croon, softly, "So that you don't have to watch him walk back - you can have a look at what the ball did, where it might go, what the bowler did, how close it came to being out...there's barely time to see it all. If only Anderson had a limp, then we might get a full analysis."
"Well that's all boring too!" Comes the well-thought-out retort, "You watch endless replays of the same ball being thrown...."
"Bowled..." I growl...
"...and then he doesn't even hit it half the time anyway. It's boring."
Now, you could insert here a reasoned argument for why the replays and endless repetitions and breakdowns are of interest to someone who cares about the outcome. But it would be a waste, because the argument is quickly descending into, "Please date a rugby player so we don't have 5 straight days of the same game, and I can tell your grandfather you're not a lesbian."
I'm now on the receiving end of a monologue explaining the intricate delights of a game where grown men plough into each other at such high speeds their ears inflate. How has this not been outlawed along with cock-fighting, bear-baiting and Noel's House Party on the grounds that it's ear-inflatingly unbearable?
Cricket has a rhythm, a sense of grinding tension and, sometimes, (I'm taking to you Vaughany) a graceful strength that is magical to watch. It's understated and mesmerising. I know it isn't for everyone, but I'm speaking as someone who hasn't watched an entire film since 2003 and regularly forgets what they're watching in the ad breaks of a TV show. And yet cricket will hold my attention for days, or a month at a time.
Cricket's delicate, form is fleeting, and the chance to watch a match for free at home was given up quicker by Channel 4 than Ricky Ponting's wicket during this season. And yet the Barmy Army marches on and we are just 3 wickets away from one of the most impressive displays by an English side in living memory.
Fingers crossed that when the boys come home there'll be a big red bus to rival 2005 and we might be one step closer to bridging the gaping chasm between my mother and I. That's right England; win tomorrow, not just for your country, not just for the urn, not just for the chance of a lucrative deal in the IPL...but for the twisted relationship of a mother and daughter who just need some common ground. Some common ground that isn't the pros and cons of finding a rugby player to procreate with.