As regular readers of my sports pieces will be aware, although cricket was one of my boyhood obsessions, it no longer holds much interest for me. I put this down largely to the world constantly evolving – a concept which, generally-speaking, I embrace – and me gradually falling off the cricket pace as other interests and hobbies become dearer to my heart.
It’s called Life.
Last evening, as a refuge from televised World Cup soccer, I came across Sky Sport’s ‘review of the day’ programme on the Headingley test match taking place between England and Sri Lanka and decided to watch whilst consuming my TV dinner.
In summary, Sri Lanka batted on to 457 all out in their second innings, Angelo Mathews top-scoring with 160, leaving England 350 runs to win. Ominously, the studio-based presenter then advised viewers “After the break, we’ll show you what happened when England went in to bat with 21 overs left in the day …”
I duly watched the commercials deploying my traditional blank expression, a growing suspicion in my mind that the England second innings was not going to go well.
Suffice it to say, England then slumped to 57 for 5, courtesy of a spell by an apparently innocuous medium pace bowler Dhammika Prasad of 6 overs, 1 maiden and 4 for 15.
Sam Robson made 24; Alastair Cook 16; Gary Balance a first-ball golden duck; new test centurion Ian Bell 8; and Liam Plunkett (the nightwatchman) 0 – leaving Joe Root, who survived a pretty confident appeal at one point, on 6 not out.
It made for dire watching, I have to say, partly because of the inbuilt unsatisfactory nature of ‘highlights’ televised cricket. Sometimes, when the batsmen are going well, every ball shown is a pleasant scoring shot, usually to the boundary.
Then a ball is shown to be blocked in a straightforward manner, or just passed through to the wicket-keeper.
This is the editor’s time-honoured way of lulling the onlooker into a belief that he or she is watching quasi-live, rather than edited, coverage – the better to shock with the next (wicket-taking) ball when the batsmen on strike – usually – departs in spectacular, or indeed ignominious, fashion.
Despite myself, I rather enjoyed the programme … in the way that all we long-suffering British sports fans ‘enjoy’ watching our national team taking part in elite contests or tournaments. We’re all so attuned to things going wrong that, when they finally do, there’s a warm sense of relief in the watching of dashed-hopes-that-weren’t-really-hopes receiving their inevitable day in the sun. Because we can then get on with the real business of picking over the bones of the debacle and analysing how and why things went wrong, usually so that we can spot the same issues more easily the next time that our national team takes to the field of play.
Having said that, when the cricket coverage of the final overs was over and presenter Charles Colville sent us to the commercial break with the promise that “Next up, we’ll have an hour of analysis and opinion from Bob Willis and others …” I decided that I just couldn’t face it.
Somehow, my bed seemed a more enticing prospect.
See here for Mike Selvey’s report on yesterday’s play, as published on the website of THE GUARDIAN