Friday, 9 May 2014

Column 10, 2014 – Antici... ...pation

Printed in The Cricket Paper issue 82, Friday May 9, 2014.
[Full text below]

It’s that time again. Every year it happens. The long slow build up of expectation as the cricket season approaches and the first outdoor outing looms ever larger on the horizon.

I played a few indoor games over the winter. It’s good fun, and eerily reminiscent of cricket. It even contains many of the same elements – bowling, batting, throwing, catching – but remains definitely and resolutely something else.

Indoor cricket is not cricket to the same extent that table tennis is not tennis. The extra word changes it completely.

There were winter nets, and now outdoor nets too. Outdoors feels closest, perhaps because you’re in natural light, and at the place where actual cricket happens. It smells of new grass, and you can’t help wandering over to inspect the square and speculate.

In the brief summer of Easter week, the square dried out, and the strip Derek prepared even had little cracks in it. Anticipation reached a rolling boil. Easter Sunday, our first scheduled game, it rained solidly all day. Of course it did.

The next week, after a deluge on Friday, the slate grey skies never looked like lifting and the game was called off before 11. I don’t remember an April with no cricket at all.

This week, the forecast was clear, and Saturday dawned bright and blue. I stood staring out the window, searching for the grey. There wasn’t any.

Finally, it was actually going to happen. I was so excited I nearly cleaned last year’s mud off my spikes. Instead, I worked out how long it had been. Last autumn was as wet as this spring, so our final game of 2013 was the first day of September. Over eight months. 244 days. 66.85% – just over two thirds – of a year. That’s a lot of anticipation.

We batted first and I opened. Walking out to the middle, pulling on gloves, sniffing the air, feeling the breeze, squinting at the sun, I tried to freeze the moment, frame it in my mind.

You can see where this is going, can’t you? This story can’t end well.

Even in wet outdoor nets, the ball skids on to the bat pretty quick. On early village pitches when there’s been this much rain, the ball does no such thing. Anything below express pace sticks in the surface, mooching on to the bat with all the urgency of a reluctant teenager with revision to do. I know this perfectly well. It is not new information.

I defended a few, left a few. Then I went to flick one off my pads for an easy single, and was through the shot so early that when the ball finally deigned to turn up, it was met with the full face of my outside edge and went straight up in the air for some gentle catching practice. Betrayed. I always suspected nets were a bad idea.

The first game has finally arrived. The first run will have to wait.

- ends 494 words -

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