July 5, 2013

England v Essex warm-up: the future and past of cricket

Alan Tyers
Ashton Agar appeals for a wicket, Worcestershire v Australians, Tour match, New Road, 3rd day, July 4, 2013
"Seesaw on the full is out, nyah nyah"  © Getty Images


England cricket bosses have hit back at suggestions that this week's practice match between England and Essex descended into farce as multiple substitutions led to the game being stripped of its first-class status.

Some spectators felt short-changed by a series of spur-of-the-moment changes to the playing conditions that saw players drafted into the Essex side mid-match.

But cricket chiefs believe they can get more people to engage with the sport by taking them back to childhood games in the playground, tapping into happy youthful reminiscences in a bid to shape their entertainment decisions today.

"Sort of like Don Draper does in Mad Men, but hopefully with less alcoholic blackouts and identity theft," confirmed the spokesman. "So that's why we wanted to get as many lads as possible into the Essex team, like how your teacher made sure all the kids got a go at batting and bowling when you played in the playground. We're not selling cricket. We're selling a memory. And beer. We're quite keen on selling a lot of beer."

After the success of 14-a-side cricket, future plans for England games include: making games one-hand-one-bounce, a rule where you cannot be out first ball, and the introduction of a "six and out" policy.

However, the MCC rules and regulations sub-committee did confirm that you would still get 12 runs if you could hit it over that blue Ford Escort.

The recent England-Essex match proved ultimately disappointing for some players who saw personal achievements negated due to the change in playing conditions. Particularly upset was Tim Bresnan, who saw his century struck from the records because he didn't say "in" after completing each run.

"It's a shame for Bres," said the spokesman. "On the other hand, Jonathan Trott is very relieved that we decided not to make it 'tip and run' after all. He feels that having to dash over to point and run round a traffic cone takes him out of his bubble.

"And while some may say that the match lacked the sort of ruthless professionalism people have come to expect from top-level sport, we thought that an upturned waste bin made a pretty good set of stumps all things considered."

Graeme Swann, however, was put in trouble for hogging.

"Graeme realises that while it might be nice for him to score 94 runs and take six wickets, it's important that everybody gets a go. He's agreed to share his Man of the Match pick-and-mix with the rest of the boys, even that little Essex one who we think must be somebody's younger brother who wandered in from the Primary School playground."

Australia, meanwhile, enjoyed a good practice at Worcester but matron is preparing herself for a rash of sore knees and dead legs as a result of all that running about.

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Alan Tyers
Alan Tyers writes about sport for the Daily Telegraph and others. He is the author of six books published by Bloomsbury, all of them with pictures by the brilliant illustrator Beach. The most recent is Tutenkhamen's Tracksuit: The History of Sport in 100ish Objects. Alan is one of many weak links in the world's worst cricket team, the Twenty Minuters.

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