December 22, 2008

This was my Geraint-at-Edgbaston moment

As my wife gave birth to our second child, on the floor of our bathroom, I, Andy Zaltzman, serial dropper of dollies, sitters and regulation four-quarter chances on the cricket field, had caught the one that mattered
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Hello again Confectionery Stallers. Apologies for my absence from the virtual pages of Cricinfo since before the Chennai Test. This was not due to my being unable to bring myself to look at any screen for fear of being overwhelmed by flashbacks of England not looking like making a breakthrough as victory leapt confidently from their grasp. Nor was it due to being hospitalised by bafflement at how two teams for whom spinners bowled almost 60 per cent of the overs contrived to achieve a putrid over-rate of 13 per hour. Nor even has it been due to a niggling typing finger injury that I could not risk exposing to the rigours of a blog about a five-day Test.

Far from it. The real reason for my unscheduled sabbatical is that last Monday morning, with the Chennai Test gradually tipping in India’s favour and heading to a potentially nerve-jangling conclusion, my wife went into labour. In the modern manner (and much as I prize Test cricket as unquestionably the pinnacle of the game), I abandoned my radio and television to be with Mrs Confectionery Stall in her hours of need, as she set about launching our second child into the world.

However, the labour, like Craig White’s bowling, was unexpectedly rapid. To cut a not-long-enough but rather panic-stricken story short, we did not arrive at the hospital in time. In fact, we had not even left the house when my wife rather abruptly broke the news that new Zaltzman was shall we say, on his or her way down the pavilion steps after nine months in the dressing room.

The emergency services were called, and I was promoted unexpectedly to the role of chief and only midwife. The principal piece of advice from the reassuringly calm operator on the 999 call was: just don’t drop it.

Little did she know that my extremely humble cricketing career was marked principally by two characteristics – a prodigious ability to score not many runs unfeasibly slowly, and an equally Herculean capacity for failing to take catches. This was not the time for either of those qualities. This one had to stick. And it was bound to be slippery.

Crouched expectantly like a wicketkeeper in a 19th-century photograph, I awaited the arrival of my newborn with palpitating tension. My heroic wife uttered a couple more primeval yowls (imagine the noise Glenn McGrath would probably have made to himself had he ever bowled four successive long-hops), and here came the infant. “Watch the baby all the way into the hands,” I muttered to myself. “The pressure’s on, so stick to the basics. Stay low as long as possible, give with the wrists.” A momentary hush came over the crowd (namely, my wife) – and I caught it. Or, as it rapidly transpired, I caught him. I, Andy Zaltzman, serial dropper of dollies, sitters and regulation four-quarter chances on the cricket field, had caught the one that mattered. This was my Geraint-Jones-at-Edgbaston moment.

As my wife had valiantly conquered the final elemental pangs of birth, I had felt just as the much-maligned Kent gloveman must have felt in the milliseconds after Harmison’s bouncer brushed Kasprowicz’s glove with Australia’s last wicket pair needing three runs to steal the second Ashes Test of 2005. And like Jones, I pouched the biggest catch of my career, the one for which I would be remembered regardless of the numerous handling errors that have speckled the rest of my life.

For all the heroics of Flintoff, Pietersen and the rest, if Jones had shelled that tricky, sinking catch, England would not have won the Ashes, and the orange-mittened wicketkeeper would almost certainly have been summarily dropped. Similarly, if I had spilled my son during his first second of life, I would almost certainly have been summarily divorced.

I managed to refrain from either hurling the baby in the air in celebration, or even casually rolling him towards the square-leg umpire before high-fiving my wife and looking up at the replay screen, preferring to sink to my knees in relief and burst into tears. Thankfully, the Confectionery Stall’s newest fan had entered the world breathing and healthy, and the ambulance crew arrived five minutes later to complete the formalities with rather more expert hands.

Thus my brand new son emerged into the midsts of a shattering England defeat, born to the soft murmurings of a radio in the next-door room commentating on India now cruising towards their target. They too had achieved something momentous, far more easily than they might have done. My wife and I quietly thanked England’s bowlers for ensuring that our fraught situation was not rendered even more tense by a distractingly close finish to the Test.

The boy is doing well. His first week of existence saw two of the five biggest successful run-chases in Test history, much excellent, close-fought cricket, and a confirmation that the balance of power in the world game is shifting. What a time to be born. Not that he seems particularly interested by it at this early stage. But, if the science of genetics is worth the paper it’s written on, he will be a Test-match boy, not a one-day boy.

I will return shortly, sleepless nights permitting, with some thoughts on England, India and Ricky Ponting.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ska on July 24, 2011, 19:43 GMT

    Andy, thanks for sharing your private moments. Best Wishes. Didn't expect such a belated comment, did you? :)

  • Dwight and Alexia on December 31, 2008, 1:57 GMT

    Andy top catching. Your blog brough tears and giggles. Wishing you, M, M and H a wonderful new year. Lots of love, Lexi and Dwight

  • Manish Jain on December 24, 2008, 21:09 GMT

    Congratulations Andy. I just want to thank you for your hilarious blogs. Wish you and your family a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

  • swami on December 24, 2008, 15:00 GMT

    a well - directed delivery smoothly taken by the keeper ... seems like everyday cricket ... but infact andy , in your case it is the catch of your lifetime ...

    congratulations ... hope it is geraint michael zaltzman (in honour of messrs. jones & kasprowicz) or better andy jr. the funnier & more humorous zaltzman ....

    great piece , sir ... looking forward to your next blog

  • Pundarik on December 24, 2008, 10:32 GMT

    Kudos, Andy..they say catches win matches n u sure won d biggest TEST match of ur life..d crowd(aka Mrs. Confectionary Stall) must b over d moon...may d junior Zaltzman or should we say Geraint Steve Michael Zaltzman :-), grow up a fine young lad.

  • Gaurav on December 24, 2008, 6:31 GMT

    Congrats Andy!!! Best Wishes to u and family. All the best man!--- Gaurav, Calcutta, India.

  • Rahul on December 24, 2008, 4:26 GMT

    Congrats to the Zaltzman team and welcome to its new addition. Just thank your lucky stars andy that you did not had allister cook in the first slip to assist you in the cought behind..you never know what could have happened...

  • Kyle on December 23, 2008, 22:03 GMT

    Congrats Zaltmans! It was lucky Jr was delivered now and not 18 months later. Otherwise you may have struggled to get a hand to him as he shot a surprisingly long way down leg side...

  • Hemant Gandhi on December 23, 2008, 21:58 GMT

    Andy,

    Congrats to you and your wife. Pl make sure he becomes a blogger than a bowler.

  • Vivek on December 23, 2008, 18:45 GMT

    you know how to work them words, bro. great posts. congratulations and best wishes to you and the missus. cheers!

  • Ska on July 24, 2011, 19:43 GMT

    Andy, thanks for sharing your private moments. Best Wishes. Didn't expect such a belated comment, did you? :)

  • Dwight and Alexia on December 31, 2008, 1:57 GMT

    Andy top catching. Your blog brough tears and giggles. Wishing you, M, M and H a wonderful new year. Lots of love, Lexi and Dwight

  • Manish Jain on December 24, 2008, 21:09 GMT

    Congratulations Andy. I just want to thank you for your hilarious blogs. Wish you and your family a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

  • swami on December 24, 2008, 15:00 GMT

    a well - directed delivery smoothly taken by the keeper ... seems like everyday cricket ... but infact andy , in your case it is the catch of your lifetime ...

    congratulations ... hope it is geraint michael zaltzman (in honour of messrs. jones & kasprowicz) or better andy jr. the funnier & more humorous zaltzman ....

    great piece , sir ... looking forward to your next blog

  • Pundarik on December 24, 2008, 10:32 GMT

    Kudos, Andy..they say catches win matches n u sure won d biggest TEST match of ur life..d crowd(aka Mrs. Confectionary Stall) must b over d moon...may d junior Zaltzman or should we say Geraint Steve Michael Zaltzman :-), grow up a fine young lad.

  • Gaurav on December 24, 2008, 6:31 GMT

    Congrats Andy!!! Best Wishes to u and family. All the best man!--- Gaurav, Calcutta, India.

  • Rahul on December 24, 2008, 4:26 GMT

    Congrats to the Zaltzman team and welcome to its new addition. Just thank your lucky stars andy that you did not had allister cook in the first slip to assist you in the cought behind..you never know what could have happened...

  • Kyle on December 23, 2008, 22:03 GMT

    Congrats Zaltmans! It was lucky Jr was delivered now and not 18 months later. Otherwise you may have struggled to get a hand to him as he shot a surprisingly long way down leg side...

  • Hemant Gandhi on December 23, 2008, 21:58 GMT

    Andy,

    Congrats to you and your wife. Pl make sure he becomes a blogger than a bowler.

  • Vivek on December 23, 2008, 18:45 GMT

    you know how to work them words, bro. great posts. congratulations and best wishes to you and the missus. cheers!

  • praful on December 23, 2008, 16:15 GMT

    congrats andy!! isn't it great when u get to keep the most important catch!!

  • Pradeep on December 23, 2008, 15:54 GMT

    Hey, congrats buddy.

  • preethi on December 23, 2008, 15:46 GMT

    Andy Congrats!! Hope this wonderful and informative piece of literature goes into the manuals and handbooks of practicing midwives!!!

  • Ravi on December 23, 2008, 15:43 GMT

    Forget about cricket news/blogs man. your real time story is very fascinating. Being an expectant father i can feel the pain/joy of those moments. may god bless the mother and the child. and of course your cricket soul !! Cheers man. all the best

  • Dani on December 23, 2008, 15:31 GMT

    Congratulations Andy and good luck.

  • Middlesex on December 23, 2008, 14:55 GMT

    Great writeup Andy, very funny. Congratulations and keep up the good work.

  • ram on December 23, 2008, 14:03 GMT

    Hey Andy, your blog was the most hilarious peice of writing combining cricket & birth. I could not stop laughing long after I finished reading your peice. May Andy Jr. grow into a healthy boy and end up captaining England one day in the future. And if he turns out to be half as good a cricketer as you are a writer/satirist, then rest assured England have a good cricketer in the offing. All the best to you snd your family. Merry X-mas and Happy New Year.

  • bala on December 23, 2008, 13:49 GMT

    congratzzzzzzzzzZZZ Andy.Sorry, a rather drab day at Mohali.

  • Anonymous on December 23, 2008, 13:03 GMT

    "I managed to refrain from either hurling the baby in the air in celebration, or even casually rolling him towards the square-leg umpire" ROFL! Hahahaha... BRILLIANT!

    congratulations Andy. and as said before, v.nice of you to make light of this momentous occasion for our sake :-D p.s. Vivian Lara Zaltzman sounds so much better than Geraint Sachin :-P

  • Arvind Pai on December 23, 2008, 10:34 GMT

    Hm well, you just about got away with it this time. For your third innings (if there is one, either by accident or by design), please be better prepared. I strongly recommend that you go in with 5 slips, 2 leg slips, 3 gullies; 2 backward points, 4 close-in fielders, half a dozen covers, 2 dozen extra covers, lots of folks on the boundary, and an extra wicketkeeper.

    You say it is against the laws of the game to have that many fielders? Well, no problem. You only need to convince the BCCI to influence (aka threaten) the ICC to stage your third innings on the Sydney Cricket Ground, with Steve Bucknor as umpire. As an additional precaution, you must trick Bucknor to believe that you are Ricky Ponting.

    Also in calling your catch a Geraint-at-Edgbagston moment you are grossly understating its importance, unless you are planning to throw away your baby after 15 months.

    By the way, BCCI will have a chartered plane ready for you when you complete the catch.

  • RK on December 23, 2008, 7:24 GMT

    Kongrachulashuns... from the Academy of Bad Spellings! What a peach of a delivery!

  • Ashish on December 23, 2008, 7:23 GMT

    Congrats Andy. Glad to see that you didn't drop the all important one. And you get to keep it, too !!

    Your blog is like the bright sunshine after the depressing fog in Mohali.

  • Vipul Aroh on December 23, 2008, 6:47 GMT

    Congrats Andy on becoming a father. Hope Andy Jr. grows up to solve England's spin conundrum.

  • CoolBin on December 23, 2008, 5:37 GMT

    Congratulations Andy! A funny piece, although i am not too sure if Mrs. Zaltzman would be too thrilled on being compared to Kasprowicz :). God bless the newborn baby.

  • Suhas on December 23, 2008, 5:07 GMT

    Congratulations Andy

    You're good

  • Sam on December 23, 2008, 4:52 GMT

    Congratulations on the new baby and also the hilarious piece. "I managed to refrain from either hurling the baby in the air in celebration" I burst out laughing at that one. Thanks and keep it up, Samuel

  • Danny John on December 23, 2008, 4:41 GMT

    ha ha ha hee really funny absolutely asatire filled piece i hope u make this into a play Danny ,Mumbai

  • Rex on December 23, 2008, 2:21 GMT

    Congratulations! This is one of your best pieces. Such a momentous occasion and you make it look so funny. Brilliant! I felt a sense of guilt whenever I broke into peals of laughter as soon as I thought about how serious the matter really was. You are wonderful! Thank you!

  • Huddo on December 23, 2008, 2:13 GMT

    Congratulations Comrade! At the birth of my second, my wife looked up from her travails to see her obbie there with arms forward waiting for the last push to deliver Declan - and me alongide and slightly ahead with my hands out ready at first slip next to the gloved keeper - in the moment of crisis and excitement I reverted to my most usual and primal state - the natural slipper

  • Caveman on December 23, 2008, 0:04 GMT

    Congratulations. Hope you have a future England captain for all your efforts (and a bit of credit to the wife as well!)

  • Arun Jose on December 22, 2008, 23:29 GMT

    Congratulations Andy, for becoming a father again and for this amazing blog! I haven't seen a funnier blog ever in cricinfo! Cheers!

  • anil on December 22, 2008, 21:43 GMT

    Congrats to yer missus for her perfect delivery and your awe-inducing caught behind that got Andy Kasper Jr. out! Lots of good wishes to you and your family.

  • OjOnam on December 22, 2008, 20:51 GMT

    awesome ! congratulations ! nice post too !

  • vish on December 22, 2008, 20:25 GMT

    Congratulations- for becoming a father for the second time- and for safely "catching" the baby and also xmas and new year greetings- keep the posts coming - reading your posts brings a breath of fresh humourous air in our lives-

  • Prad on December 22, 2008, 20:12 GMT

    lol, good one :) "This one had to stick. And it was bound to be slippery. "

  • Vinay Gangadharan on December 22, 2008, 19:56 GMT

    Wow, What a writeup, great humour. Congratulations for the new arrival....May you be blessed with all the happiness this brings to your life. Hopefully the new Zaltzman will open the bowling or batting in 20 yrs time....Cheers to it....Keep writing Andy, u r a delight...Vinay from Bangalore, India....

  • kingofchennai on December 22, 2008, 18:36 GMT

    dude,i have to give it to you.this is possibly the most hilarious blog you have written.did your wife really read this and you describing that moment as arriving from pavilion steps?i cud feel tears running down my cheeks ,man.still not stopped laughing.

  • Samir, India on December 22, 2008, 18:26 GMT

    Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Zaltzman. Its taken me a full two minutes to stop laughing and shaking enough to be able to type.

  • Pat on December 22, 2008, 18:21 GMT

    Congratulations Andy, on fielding well on the second innings of fatherhood. And that, as any cricketer worth his crotch guard knows, is all that is available in a Test. Andy Jr., or perhaps Geraint Sachin Zaltzman, has my best wishes. May he grow healthy and wise. And make his old man proud on the green with twenty two yards. Amen!

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  • Pat on December 22, 2008, 18:21 GMT

    Congratulations Andy, on fielding well on the second innings of fatherhood. And that, as any cricketer worth his crotch guard knows, is all that is available in a Test. Andy Jr., or perhaps Geraint Sachin Zaltzman, has my best wishes. May he grow healthy and wise. And make his old man proud on the green with twenty two yards. Amen!

  • Samir, India on December 22, 2008, 18:26 GMT

    Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Zaltzman. Its taken me a full two minutes to stop laughing and shaking enough to be able to type.

  • kingofchennai on December 22, 2008, 18:36 GMT

    dude,i have to give it to you.this is possibly the most hilarious blog you have written.did your wife really read this and you describing that moment as arriving from pavilion steps?i cud feel tears running down my cheeks ,man.still not stopped laughing.

  • Vinay Gangadharan on December 22, 2008, 19:56 GMT

    Wow, What a writeup, great humour. Congratulations for the new arrival....May you be blessed with all the happiness this brings to your life. Hopefully the new Zaltzman will open the bowling or batting in 20 yrs time....Cheers to it....Keep writing Andy, u r a delight...Vinay from Bangalore, India....

  • Prad on December 22, 2008, 20:12 GMT

    lol, good one :) "This one had to stick. And it was bound to be slippery. "

  • vish on December 22, 2008, 20:25 GMT

    Congratulations- for becoming a father for the second time- and for safely "catching" the baby and also xmas and new year greetings- keep the posts coming - reading your posts brings a breath of fresh humourous air in our lives-

  • OjOnam on December 22, 2008, 20:51 GMT

    awesome ! congratulations ! nice post too !

  • anil on December 22, 2008, 21:43 GMT

    Congrats to yer missus for her perfect delivery and your awe-inducing caught behind that got Andy Kasper Jr. out! Lots of good wishes to you and your family.

  • Arun Jose on December 22, 2008, 23:29 GMT

    Congratulations Andy, for becoming a father again and for this amazing blog! I haven't seen a funnier blog ever in cricinfo! Cheers!

  • Caveman on December 23, 2008, 0:04 GMT

    Congratulations. Hope you have a future England captain for all your efforts (and a bit of credit to the wife as well!)