Review of "England"
Now here is a blast from the past. What has happened? I am now 40, and found myself at a loose end, so I thought I would pick up my opinionating pen again. Will pop in from time to time and write stuff. Enjoy! Nolly
Anyone who is anyone knows that there is a vital cricket match today (2nd March 2003). England need to beat Australia to have any real chance of progressing in the Cricket World Cup. In order to raise the spirits of the nation, I thought I would write a review about my greatest sporting moment.
I love the game of cricket. So much so that my wife has to prise me off the sofa when the coverage is on. Two years ago, however, my love of the game obtained a new dimension.
For my birthday that year, I received a ticket to the fourth day's play at the Headingley Test Match. I had never been to an international match before, and so I was really looking forward to it. As the Ashes series wore on, we were wondering whether it would be the last day's play, and after the Third Test Match, we were doubtful if the play would indeed reach Sunday! England were constantly outclassed in every department. I bet the Aussie's ate sandwiches better than England. It was that bad!And so myself and my three cricket-loving companions set off on our 75 mile journey to Leeds on a cloudy and murky morning. We reached the ground and took our seats in the 'Winter Sheds Lower'. For those of you who watched the game on TV and don't know where that is, it is the stand below the executive boxes to the right of the big screen. The view was brilliant, and we settled down for a great day.
That Weathered Look
The Australian batsmen, Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting were on form. The ball flashed to all parts of the ground, and Ponting hooked a monumental six into the West Stand. Then the clouds descended on Headingley.The day proceeded to be frustrating for the players, the umpires, the groundsmen and the crowd. Rain Stopped play at 11:35. The players came out again and at 12:15, just as 'Shep' was about to call 'Play!', the rain fell yet again and the players rushed to the confines of the Rugby Stand End.
The Lunch period was spent in glorious sunshine, but as soon as play started again, the clouds descended again. Mind you, it was very spectacular to see Darren Gough roaring in to bowl with lightning flashes and thunderclaps going off around the ground. The situation was so dodgy that the poor cameraman on the 250 foot hoist was soon brought down to safety. Play was inevitably delayed again. As you can see, this is obviously a dim recollection, as Darren Gough was playing for England and not laid up injured!It was at this stage that I said to my companions, that I bet that they will deliberately squeeze out just enough bowls to render the refund rule invalid. And that is just what happened. After 24.5 overs had been bowled in the day, the Umpires conferred about the light. They bowled one more ball. They then conferred a little more and offered the light to the batsmen. The crowd booed of course, but it felt as if they were under orders and made sure that we didn't get our money, thus saving the ECB 200,000 pounds. You see, the rule is that if there is 25 overs bowled in a test match day, the crowd is not entitled to a refund, and tickets are £20 to £30 each!
It is at this stage that I must congratulate Adam Gilchrist, the Australian captain, for declaring the Australian innings. They could have batted England right out of it, but eventually they left England a theoretically possible 315 to win in a day. It was a total that would mean attack from the very start from England, chances to take wickets for Australia, and excitement for the crowd, if the weather played ball, that is!As our Sunday tickets had been booked in January, we received free tickets for Monday. My father in law and I drove to Leeds and parked up in a side street. Unfortunately our two companions from Sunday were unable to be with us, and so I managed to flog their free tickets for a fiver a head, thus saving two diehard England fans a fiver each. There was no reserved seating, and so we sat in the rugby stand not far from the players' balcony. We were not expecting much to happen, and were anticpating leaving half way through the day.
Nolly's pathetic attempts to analyse test cricket
At Lunch the score was 118-2 The radio commentators had already said, when Butcher hit the first of his imperious drives and Hussain hooked Gillespie out of the ground for six, 'Game On'.The afternoon session ticked over. The first McGrath over yielded 13 runs. The runs came along, and the total looked more and more gettable. There were LBW appeals, and at 214-2 Hussain was adjudged caught behind by a ball that brushed his thigh for 55. Would England wobble? Would there be time for the traditional collapse? Would those damn Aussies deprive us of our happiness yet again?
As this was my first live international match, I also got to see David Shepherd hopping when the score was 222-3. And that was when tea came. England's target was a mere 92, and they had a minimum of 36 overs to get them.After tea the scoring settled for a while. The runs came but it was nothing spectacular. But then again it didn't need to be. My father in law and I joined in the crowd action. There were mexican Waves, cheering, waving of numbers, clapping and chanting and winding up the Aussies by slow hand-clapping when the deliberations seemed to be interminable. Mark Ramprakash was out at 289, and the TV replay showed the ball hit the ground just as it entered the fielder's hand. Not to worry, though, as 26 more runs were needed. However we seasoned England fans were wondering if there was still enough time for a collapse.
The runs stil came, and the winning runs were scored, quite fittingly, by Mark Butcher with 22 overs left to go. He finished at 173 not out, his highest ever score in a test match. England had scored over 300 runs in a day to win, and this was only the fourth time in test history that they had managed it, and only the thirteenth time for all test-playing nations.Butcher was man of the match, and the crowd was electric.
Conclusions of one of the Cricketing 'Not so greats'
When England were 33-2 I got odds of 16-1 on an England win- they were later 1-25! not a bad little earner. However there was a snag earlier on. I like to be pessimistic. Just as we were parking up in the morning I said the following words, which of course I was held to:'Richard, tell you what, if England score 300 runs today and win I'll even give up smoking!'
I managed to give up 18 months later!In 1981, I spent the last part of the last day of the Headingley test match in Mr Jennings' woodwork lesson back home in Tunbridge Wells. But what about Headingley 2001? What can I say about the final day?
Three words matey- I WAS THERE!Come on England- your time has come!
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