“After yesterday’s glorious trip through cricket and literature I was going to hold fire today,” confesses Pete Salmon, “but your suggestion that ‘Cut away, cut away for four’ has a Biblical feel has dragged me back. It’s an example of parallelism – the Lord himself tends to use it, and if its good enough for Him. You’ve got your synonymous parallelism, your antithetic, your formal, your synthetic and your emblematic. Nasser’s is synthetic I think, but I have to check my Robert Alter translation of the Bible to be sure, to be sure. Sits up next to the Wisdens obviously.”
My favourite translation is the JPS, but I wondered if Nasser’s bit was deliberately anaphoric or just him adapting to a change in circumstance as he realised the ball was going to the fence.
“There’s probably about two hours before I really need to go to bed,” says Phil Withall, “so you may as well step out for a bite to eat and a cup of whatever Guardian journalists are drinking these days.
“Ten minutes after I have retired play will resume, Jimmy will then take his 600th wicket and I will awake tomorrow to the combination of elation and regret that have accompanied my cricketing life for so many years.”
From your mouth to His ears.
“I was watching while spending a couple of weeks with my Spanish family-in-law at their holiday home in a small village,” recounts Ewan McDonald. “No-one could quite understand how I had been following the same game for days, least of all my father-in-law as I tried to explain the rules in my middling Spanish.
My wife, who has no interest in the sport, joined me for the last wicket partnership, and was literally leaping around the living room with excitement. What a day. Nothing’s better than Test cricket.”
“I live in Edinburgh, and it’s normally festival time in August,” says David Jarman. “For final hour or so of That Test Match I was at the opera, with TMS playing in one earpiece. My heart swelled with the winning runs, I clenched my fists. I looked around to see everyone rapt in the drama of the moment as Wagner’s Ring Cycle headed towards its finale. I wiped some dust from my eye. Jimmy Anderson is great, isn’t he?”
Heh, this reminds me of story. A few years ago, we lost a good mate of mine, and at the end of a dreadful week, I went to see Beyoncé as my wife is a huge fan (I have since been to Rome in order to do the same). Anyhow, the purchase of Personality Enhancer was extremely dear and extremely time-consuming, so little bottles of wine deposited into a pint pot made most sense. I was getting to end of my second and realised that my eyeballs were sweating, a fact not lost on the woman next to me, who leant over, put a hand on my shoulder, and said soothingly “Beyoncé’s great, isn’t she?”
“Yesterday’s OBO diverted into how difficult it is to get films featuring cricket financed,’ emails Jon Blair. “Well here’s a thing. For the last four years Michael Grade (yes, one and the same Lord Grade) and I (You can google me to see what I have done in the past) have been trying to get the finance together for a feature film based on Peter Oborne’s magnificent book about the political conspiracy to ensure Basil D’Oliviera wouldn’t get picked for the infamous England tour of South Africa in 1968. It is as much a story of racism at the highest levels of the MCC and the British establishment, as well as the mendacity of the then England captain along with the more predictable corrupt practices of the Powers-that-Were in the South African government, as it is a story of cricket, all set against the generational political changes of 1968, but here we still are without anyone prepared to finance it. Whether that is due to no appetite for a story featuring a cricketer at its heart, or something else I won’t ever know, but to say it is heartbreaking not to be able to tell this story on the big screen or even television is heartbreaking.”
Yes, that sounds great, and I feel you. When we were thinking about cricketing stories that would translate well to the silver screen, this one immediately sprung to mind. On TMS last week, Manoj Badale, owner of Rajasthan Royals, was saying that cricket has a big opportunity in America because of the growing south Asian population, so perhaps that, along with the growing recognition of south Asia itself, might help. I hope so.
“Gah,” says Sean Clayton. “I’ve now got the closing paragraph of your opening stuck in my head, to the tune of Alanis Morrisette’s ‘Thank U’. Worst of all, it almost, but doesn’t quite, scan.
(I suppose I should be grateful that it’s not to the tune of the old Cadbury’s Roses advert).”
We’re at Headingley, so I guess I can tangentially reference the song sung to the Roses tune when Leeds beat Arsenal to hand Manchester United the title in 2003.
“Watching the footage of that last hour from Headingley reminds me how different it all looks with a crowd in,” says Tim Stafford. “I have loved the cricket this summer but imagine how much better it would be again to see it played in front of packed houses or – even better – be helping to pack the house yourself.
I had given up on the Headingley game after Woakes had fallen, and was at the pub for my friend’s birthday. With two kids I rarely get beyond the sofa these days but I decided that it was a good idea at 2pm to start drinking Sambuca. I remember Stokes’ century on the pub TV and have a hazy recollection of toasting the win with more Sambuca. We apparently ended up at a party hosted by Basement Jaxx where I fell over in the middle of everyone and broke my finger. I somehow made it home and my wife found me asleep on the kitchen floor next morning.”
A contribution every bit as vital as that of Stokes and Leach, and I’m not even joking.
“May I make a proposal for a more scientific approach to the start and finish times?” asks Kim Thonger. “Why are we fixated on a fixed start time? It’s not beyond the wit of man, although that may not apply to the ECB, to devise a variable start time through the summer months based on actual daylight hours and angle of sun’s rays, see marvellous sliding thingummibob here…”
I think there’s something to be said for standardised times, but agree that when we’re chasing playing time, we need to be flexible and proactive.
“I’d missed the previous day’s play, because we’d driven to Oxford to see friends,” says Nath Jones. “On the way back, the head gasket of my terrible old Corsa blew, in the outside lane of the M40. I rolled the car to the hard shoulder then convinced a heroic taxi driver to pick up my wife and kids and take them to the nearest tube station while I waited for the AA.
The additional problem was that we were meant to drive said car to France on holiday about 36 hours later. I spent Saturday night finding the cheapest hire car, then listened to the beginning of Stokes’s innings while on a train to Gatwick on the Sunday to pick up the car. I listened to TMS while driving back to London (having convinced the car hire guy to give me a free upgrade to the biggest car they had), eventually giving up on radio, parking the car up, and watching the last hour on my phone, sat in a parking space somewhere near Croydon. Not how I would’ve imagined watching England’s greatest Test innings.”
Siri, what is serendipity (apart from Stephen and Mark Gottlieb’s sister)?
There’ll be an inspection at 1.40pm
Hopefully we might get some play quite soon after that.
“I was on the usual OBO/TMS diptych,” says Guy Hornsby, “the best place to be. I got more and more tense so went into the garden then ended up driving down the road and listening in a garage on the Washway Road in Sale, celebrating by shouting on my own to odd looks. Cricket, the BEST.”
This thing of ours.
“I live in NZ and a year ago, I stayed up all night watching England’s increasingly improbable heroics,” says Martin Burley. “The match-winning shots were played barely in time for me to dash airportwards for an early-morning business trip. My contributions to the meetings that day were of dubious value, infused as they were with a heady concoction of euphoria, disbelief and sleep deprivation.
My colleagues weren’t too fazed though, since I’d been in exactly the same state after a very similar trip following the World Cup final.”
“Tally ho from Slovakia, where it is not raining, just so you know,” boasts George Brownwitheney. “I couldn’t hack it watching on the telly last year so I went and sat in a hedge with a tinny, under the guise of protecting my father’s farm from pigeons, with TMS playing from my phone and pretending I wasn’t listening. No pigeons were harmed, and I got sunburn. Thoroughly worthwhile.”
This is it: Test-match cricket, turning sentients into scarecrows. With the thoughts that we’ll be thinkin’, we could be another Lincoln, if we only had a brain.
“May I say a hearty thank you to you and all you colleagues on the OBO and Tanya and the CC Live team for your excellent coverage this summer,” says David Harris (no, not my dad). “Regarding the Headingley Miracle, my daughter and I were sat glued to the telly, willing every stroke away from Aussie fielders, praying for Tim Paine’s mitts to turn into Gloves of Clang. As Stokes ran out of partners, until the unflappable Jack Leach, we barely had any fingers left, forget about nails. And with crushing inevitability, just as she had in the World Cup Final earlier in the summer, my wife came home from work and started bustling about. ‘I’ll make some food, what do you want? Who’s winning? What’s the score? How long’s left?’ All the standard, non-cricket fan questions. ‘Be. Quiet.’ we hissed. Then the burned review. Lyon’s dropped run-out. Jack’s one (oh, what a One). And then the joy. Marvellous. Enjoy the ODIs and T20s later in the ‘summer’, and maybe we might get some limited attendance at the Blast later. Who knows.”
I think this is my favourite bit.
“I had recently moved to the Netherlands and was enjoying a day at my local beach,” says Tom Paternoster-Howe. “My wife and daughters were in the water, cooling off because it was about 30 degrees in the shade. Meanwhile, I, who would normally be splashing about in the lovely cold North Sea, was glued to my phone reading the OBO. Every refresh of the screen, I was sure was going to bring news of a wicket &, ultimately, heroic failure. It was exquisite torture, with the happiest of endings.”
A beach in the Netherlands! They’ll have one in Paris next.
Rob Robkey is taking us on a walk around the square, and there’s still a fair bit of standing water about. The middle is worse than the outfield, but it’s not raining anymore, and he reckons that if that stays the case, we might get three hours. In other words, it’s perfectly set up for a burst of pure, uncut SJ Broad.
“I was in southern Spain for my brother’s wedding a few days later,” emails Nick Donovan. “La Vuelta de Espana was passing through our town, so I went down with my Dad to see them pass through – quickly, obviously – while following on Cricinfo.
With the crowd all checking phones for when the cyclists would arrive, the signal dropped with England needing 80 or so (I think). As it was baking hot, and my Dad is an old man, we stopped in an Irish bar to treat ourselves to a Guinness. When I walked in, I assumed it would be over, but England needed 12…”
Down like silk.
“You’re right to highlight what an extraordinary achievement it has been from everyone involved to enable us to have test match cricket this summer,” writes Robin Durie. “We owe a particular debt of thanks to the West Indies and to Pakistan for making this possible. They have proven to be two very likeable teams – both led by impressive and decent captains – who have contributed greatly to a pair of enjoyable and often exciting series. Let’s hope the ECB is able to reciprocate in the future, & to support the ongoing development of West Indies and Pakistani test match cricket.”
“Will we be seeing Yasir Shah in this country again?” asks John Starbuck. “Like Lionel Messi, whom he resembles, you can sense an era passing.”
I hope not but I’m not sure – it doesn’t much look like his enthusiasm’s waning. A few days ago, Michael Holding said that one morning, he woke up, looked out of the window and thought nah, don’t fancy it, so retired that day. Yasir will do what’s best for him, and if he stays fit I think he might hang about for another four or five years, especially now that Tests are returning to Pakistan.
“I was on holiday in France with my parents and my (Italian) wife’s family,” recalls James Appleton. “It was the last day and we’d packed up to go to the airport, but our departure was delayed as the English contingent sat out in the garden shouting at TMS – much to the bafflement of my in-laws.”
A parents and parents in-law double-header, goodness me. I think we may have found our person who appreciated Ben Stokes the most.
“Yep, the weather here in Hampshire is filthy,” says Luke Richardson. “One year ago, I was stood with my children in unbelievable heat at Eurodisney, watching the tea-time parade. An hour or two before I’d given up on the OBO but thought I’d sneak a look to see how bad it had been. Hope had done one. I spent the next half-hour barely noticing the amazing floats, or my children, as I frantically kept refreshing before the battery on my phone gave up. ‘You must have enjoyed that parade,’ said my wife noticing my cheerfulness.
When we got home, I could not stop watching the re-runs and even this morning found myself reciting Nasser: “Cut away, cut away for four … what a player … etc and so on”. Atherton’s disbelieving ‘What a shot that is’ for the reverse sweep six also sticks in the memory.”
I’m slightly obsessed with rhythm of the “cut away, cut away”. It’s biblical really, given that a repeating word changes “Thou shalt” to “Thou shalt surely”.
“I’m sorry but I’m not having it,” chunters Geoff Wignall. “‘… Best television programme that ever was’ indeed. That was Bagpuss. I’m not suggesting this as a suitable rabbit-hole down which to take the OBO. Oh no.”
I was more of a Mr Benn man, but I concede that there’s something compelling about a furry cat that looks like Battenberg.
“A year ago today,” says Tom Rebbitt, “I was outside my daughter’s ballet lesson in Gothenburg lying on the grass in the sun and shouting at TMS to the amusement of the passing Swedes. Especially at Glenn McGrath….”
“At the risk of adding to the 10:30 start chat,” says Chris Lingwood, “why does test cricket start at 11? Especially since we have such horrible trouble with light! Why can’t they just get cracking at 10 or earlier? Think of all the cricket that would have given us over the last few weeks. I’d gladly get up earlier if I was heading to the ground.”
“I distinctly remember where I was this time last year,” says Michael Robinson. “Having watched all of the first two days of England getting battered, I went to North Wales to climb and pretend cricket didn’t exist. I was up on the Idwal Slabs above Cwm Ogwen belaying my friend following the OBO (obviously), unsure how I had sufficient signal.
Obviously the pulsating game has me on edge when I maybe should have been concentrating on the climber, but you can’t have it all. I watched as the score crept up, until Leachy was on strike, 1 to draw, 2 to win, then the ropes went tight and I hear “CLIMB WHEN READY”. By the time I’d followed up the route my phone had died and it took my two more hours to find out what had happened. Nightmare.
Incidentally it’s bright in Manchester and I feel that again if they’d hosted the match here we’d be playing sooner rather than later, and would’ve got a full day in yesterday.”
“I took my son to watch the mighty Northants beat Warwickshire at Edgbaston in the T20 Blast on the day of Ben Stokes’ (and Jack Leach’s) heroics,” says Steven Pye. “The oohs and ahhs coming from the concourse below kept us aware of the progress of that last wicket partnership.
The groan and subsequent cheer accompanying Nathan Lyon’s slight fumble will live with me forever. Of course, we were tempted to go and watch the action on the screens below, but being a slightly pathetic cricket fan I told my son that we’d lose if we left our seats. At the end of it all, I have to admit that I did have something in my eye.”
It’s a funny one, isn’t it, because England winning didn’t exactly mean anything in the grand scheme of things … except it meant everything in the grand scheme of everything, a reminder of how good things can be and the unbelievably moving experience of someone realising themselves, after experiencing industrial quantities of doubt, in front of our eyes.
“We’d gone down to see my parents who don’t have Sky,” tweets Miranda Jollie, “assuming nothing much was going to happen, ended up huddled with my husband and dad around TMS in the garden, while my mum supplied beer and ice cream.”
I like beer and ice cream.
Athers and Wardy – yes, we’re on nickname terms – are discussing the absence of a crowd. And it’s important that, when reflecting on how much we’ve enjoyed a summer we didn’t think we were getting, we don’t forget that sport is not a television programme – though it is the best television programme that ever was.
Where were we all? I was extremely stressed, sat in an editing suite with a fantastic and heroic editor, who did not have the slightest interest in the cricket I was sneakily watching on his blind side.
Play will be delayed
“The outfield is absolutely a bog,” says Ian Ward, before referring us directly to Headingley a year ago today.
at 6.03am EDT
“You did miss someone,” emails Mark Hooper. “Thank you OBO staffers for making us laugh and argue over obscure facts and occasionally make us feel like we have something in our eye.”
Your pleasure is our pleasure.
Not great news, I’m afraid: the Rose Bowl is wet, and likely to remain thus for the morning session. There is, though, a reasonable prospect of cricket this afternoon, potentially for long enough for England to force a win, and at the very least for James Anderson to hit 600. In the meantime, stick with me here and while away away the hours, conferring with the flowers, consultin’ with the rain. And our heads we’ll be scratchin’ while our thoughts are busy hatchin’, while we’re waiting for some play.
Round these parts, we spend quite a lot of time talking about how much we love this thing of ours that we love so much: why we love it, how we love it, what that love means. That loving it is really part of loving ourselves, however strange and unpalatable that sometimes feels. To each other at least, we are wholly known.
Well, we are now, because “all this” has shown us an entirely different aspect to everything we thought was true: you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone … and come back. Over the course of this Test-match summer, we’ve been part of two wonderful series played by three wonderful teams … and yet it’s not really that is it, rather the simple knowledge that our friend, our teacher and our love is there with us and for us, caring for us, sustaining us and detaining us precisely when we’ve needed it most.
And now this is it. So, thank you West Indies. Thank you Pakistan. Thank you England. Thank you umpires. Thank you ECB. Thank you Sky. Thank you BBC. Thank you broadcasting staff. Thank you groundstaff. Thank you medical staff. Thank you medical experts. Thank you hotel staff. Thank you Lancashire. Thank you Hampshire. Thank you anyone i’ve forgotten. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you so very bloody much. Thank you.
at 3.28am EDT