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Saturday, 19th November Do you believe in fairy stories? Me too, even though over the years I’ve been badly let down by the likes of Santa Claus, the Loch Ness Monster and those leprechauns that my friend said would definitely appear at the bottom of the garden if I sat under the magical oak tree for long enough. After three hours sitting in the wet grass, I learned an important childhood lesson: never put your trust in imaginary little people.
But there’s still one story I believe in, though like many, my faith is being tested. All summer I sat staring at the television, waiting in vain for it to happen. I’m referring of course to Sachin’s hundred. According to the man himself, it’s “just a number”. Well, yes it is, Sachin, but that’s like an astronaut saying Mars is just a planet. And as you know full well, cricket is a number freak’s paradise. In fact, numbers are cricket.
Consider the jellyfish: a beautiful, delicate, ethereal underwater presence. But take it out of the sea and all you’ve got is a pile of squelchy stuff. So it is with cricket. When it goes the way of the dinosaurs, what will be left of it? A few glorious paragraphs from Cardus, the odd faded photograph of Doug Bollinger, and great piles of fossilised numbers. Numbers are cricket’s skeleton, its structure, its substance.
And a hundredth hundred is such a beautiful thing numerically, it is the dot on the exclamation mark, that feeling of inner peace you attain when you’ve solved a sticky piece of algebra, dug the last weed from the vegetable patch or finished wrapping all the presents. So please don’t keep us waiting any longer Sachin, we really need this. I just hope this isn’t the tooth fairy episode all over again...
Monday, 21st November For those of us who had wagered on an Australian win, the second Test was a rollercoaster, although not one of those tame theme-park affairs. No, this was a bowel-twisting, stomach-churning ride in a runaway mine cart with a wonky wheel, travelling at breakneck speed along a disused underground railway whilst being pursued by savage cutthroats waving sabres and unpaid utility bills.
Naturally, Patrick Cummins is my new hero. Not just wickets, but the endearing grin of a teenager who can’t quite believe he has been allowed to play with the grown-ups; and, gloriously, big, fat timely boundaries. As we know, teenage fast bowlers can let you down, but I’ve every confidence that he is the next Ray Lindwall, or possibly the next Craig McDermott or at the very least, the next Chris Matthews.
The only whiff of negativity about the thing was the realisation that this was all there was. It was like someone snatching a chocolate bar away from you just as you were getting to the crunchy bit in the middle, or the lights going up just as Hamlet says, “To be…” and the actors asking you to please remember to take your belongings with you on the way out and expressing their hope that you’d enjoyed the show.
Well, yes, it was a corker, I’d just like to see the rest of it to find out what happens.
Tuesday, 22nd November It was with some sadness that I read that Martin Crowe had retired again. I didn’t see his final game. Despite my badgering the young lady at the call centre, she did not budge from her, in my opinion, rather inflexible stance that my subscription did not entitle me to live coverage of New Zealand club cricket. I wasn’t asking them to fly Gower, Botham and Hussain out there. I’d have settled for Bob Willis with a camcorder. Then I had to explain who Martin Crowe was. I despair of modern youth.
So as I say, I didn’t see the game, but I imagine that even at the age of nearly over the hill, there was more style, panache and gold-plated star-quality in his three-ball retired-hurt duck than all of the rest of us combined managed in the entirety of our willow-swishing careers. Enjoy your second retirement, Martin.
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Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73