August 31, 2014

What cricketing memories remain locked in your archive for eternity?

Your first six? A last-ball victory? The legendary and the quiet moments of your favourite players?

How much of the 2005 Ashes can you recall without the help on DVDs or YouTube? © Getty Images

Closing in all too soon on another English cricket season, I begin to wonder which shots, catches and wickets will resonate over time. Whether moments from the professional arena, via stadium seat, camera lens or radio commentary, or the on-field antics of my own games on park pitches and village greens, certain memories will fade, while others will gleam across the years.

My psychology degree thesis was on first-time memories - whether a positive experience is more likely to be remembered than a negative episode. I interviewed volunteers about their first driving lesson, cigarette, plane ride, day at school, and romantic kiss. Evidence suggests that emotionally positive experiences outlast negative, and that those with high self-esteem will encode positive episodes more effectively. Hopefully, when I'm sitting by the fire with my feet up I'll have erased those golden ducks, and only the glorious, match-winning innings, along with bowling spells where wickets tumbled like matchsticks, will exist.

Could I have applied first-time memory questions to cricketing experience? I have vague, grainy archives of my father adjusting my grip in the back garden, along with stepping out to play my first formal game wearing a pair of blue trainers. Alas, despite the millions of balls I've bowled and faced in nearly 30 years of cricket, it's only a sharply edited highlights montage that survives: my first six with a proper ball, clipping one off my legs and smacking the brick pavilion; walking out to bat on my men's cricket debut and sweeping a four; having Leicestershire, Warwickshire and England player, Darren Maddy, caught behind at a county trial; trapping Chris Broad plumb lbw at Grace Road, only for the umpire to whisper he couldn't give him out first ball of an exhibition game.

Key moments in key matches are the lasting memories. Until HD cameras film every ball of our amateur game, each player will retire with an archive curated by their own, very subjective brain. Yes, the scorebook keeps a tally, and careful reading of past games might bring back balls once thought lost to amnesia. But what bowler could read the dots, crosses and digits of their career and recreate each and every delivery they ever bowled? What batsman could look back at the page and replay every delivery they ever faced? Although Boycott was a meticulous keeper of his own score, and still possesses a remarkable cricketing memory - especially, and unsurprisingly, of his own exploits - he surely can't remember every ball of every game he played.

Celebrating Sir Vivian Richard's 60th birthday, the septuagenarian Keating colourfully recalled the first time he saw the "gangly young smiler" despatching Chris Old "in a festive flurry of sixes"

Various journalists made the pilgrimage to visit Harold Larwood in his Australian dotage. His award-winning biographer, Duncan Hamilton, wrote that Larwood was a fastidious collector of his own memorabilia: "It's for when me memory goes". The Guardian's Frank Keating, another Larwood acolyte who made the trip to his Sydney suburb, noted the vividness of the blind paceman's recollections as he shuffled around his living room describing photos taken on the Bodyline tour that he could no longer see.

Celebrating Sir Vivian Richard's 60th birthday, the septuagenarian Keating colourfully recalled the first time he saw the "gangly young smiler" despatching Chris Old "in a festive flurry of sixes". Keating then went on to near-canonise the three Ws - Worrell, Walcott and Weekes - with visceral reveries of the legends at rest and at play. Perhaps we hold dear a place in our cricketing archive for our favourite players, and even keep their quiet moments precious. I can still see King Viv strutting out to bat at Grace Road in a Leicestershire versus Somerset match in the John Player League, and how he whacked his wad of chewing gum against the sightscreen when he was out a few balls later.

Judging by the recollections of cricket writers, professionals, umpires, and the keen amateur, the more exciting the contest, the more likely the memory will be encoded. And memory aids such as the 2005 Ashes bumper DVD package help keep alive a series that I followed ball by ball. From KP swatting Shane Warne for six, to Freddie Flintoff thundering one into Ponting's pads, this epic contest lives on in my neural networks. As do those thrilling matches I've played in that went down to the wire, whether it be that last-ball edge and dashed single, or the game I went out to bat with six needed off the final delivery - it bounced once and was fielded on the boundary.

This season, I'd argue, hasn't been a vintage year. Neither the professional game, nor my own amateur efforts, have stood out above other seasons - blame rain, opposition captains not raising an XI, and a game called off 24 hours in advance because the player making tea needed to know whether the weather was good enough for him to start baking.

Each of us will reminisce differently, and then argue about the historical inaccuracies, but apart from Alastair Cook's return from the brink, Moeen Ali's defiant ton against Sri Lanka, James Anderson's heart-wrenching last stand, Broad eating a bouncer through the beak of his helmet, and the memory of what we didn't see happening between Jimmy and Ravindra Jadeja in the corridor at Lord's, I'm not sure the 2014 national archive is in danger of running out of filing space.

That said, this year's domestic file is yet to close. England have two ODIs and a T20 to play, and I too have four games left - weather and baking logistics permitting - including a fixture for the Sick Children's Trust against a Mark Ramprakash XI featuring Min Patel, Alex Tudor and Matthew Hoggard (who I already wound up earlier in the year when facing him without a lid) and a season finale against the touring Vatican team. Memories waiting to be made.

Nicholas Hogg is a co-founder of the Authors Cricket Club. His first novel, Show Me the Sky, was nominated for the IMPAC literary award. @nicholas_hogg

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ali on September 2, 2014, 0:18 GMT

    Great article. As a Pakistan fan, a few come to mind. Imran Khan running through India in the Karachi test in 1982-83. Pakistan dismissing Gavaskar in the 5th test of the 1987 series to clinch it. The last ball six from Javed Miandad to seal the cup. Wasim and Saqlain finishing off the Indian tail after Sachin's 136. Brian Lara's epic 153 to win for WI. And of course I will never forget Imran Khan holding his arms high to celebrate winning the final of the 1992 world cup. That was as much emotion as you could get from Imran on a cricket field.

  • Dummy4 on September 1, 2014, 16:09 GMT

    As an Indian fan, Javed Miandad's six of the last ball in Sharjah still torments me. Sachin's attack against Shoaib, Wasim and co in 2003 world cup are moments I will forever cherish. Rahul Dravid's 200 in Adelaide, and VVS + Dravid rearguard action in Calcutta against rampaging Aussies are Test match moments I will never forget. Add that to Kumble's 10 wickets in an innings against Pakistan. Shoaib's breathtaking spell to get Dravid and Sachin out to scorching Yorkers in Calcutta!

    Yuvi's six 6's of Broad in the first T20 world cup, blazing Sehwag's bat in all formats, Sachin's hit of Abdul Qadir as a 16 year old .. gee, it's a joy to be an Indian cricket fan.

  • Dummy4 on September 1, 2014, 11:45 GMT

    I am a SL fan and like to mention some great unforgettable moments by SL team... 1.1996 WC victory with Aravinda's brilliance. 2.2014 T20 WC victory moment. 3.Murali's 800th test wicket. 4.Malinga's 4 in 4. 5.Sachithra's mankading in Eng. 6.SL winning the test series in Eng in the penultimate ball in the test series. 7.Melbourn Mirracle with Malinga's and Mathews's great innings. 8.Mahela's century in 2011 WC final. 9.Herath's magical spell against NZ in 2014 T20 WC. 10.Herath's 9 for against Pak recently. 11.Mahela's last test innings. 12.Sanga's Lord's 100. 13.Sanga-Mahela 624 partnership vs SA. 14.Malinga's hattrick vs Aus. 15.Mathews's fire power in the victory over Pak at Galle just before the arrival of rain...

  • Dummy4 on September 1, 2014, 8:40 GMT

    I am just 19 years old and i dearly wanted to come into this world a lot before than i actually arrived just to see those ģŕ8 cricketers and unforgettable moments, but alas thats not the case...!!!

  • Greg on September 1, 2014, 4:37 GMT

    Things I remember

    1) Seeing Thommo bowl in a state one day game some time after his shoulder injury. He must have been bowling near full pace again. The ball was almost leaping out the TV set. Never seen anything like it...

    2) Dennis Lillee taking Viv Richards wicket on the last ball of the day, WI were 4/10 overnight. They still went OK though Dujon And Clive Lloyd did a rescue mission the next day.

    3) Watching Ian Botham slaughter Australia late at night... Everytime he came into bowl you knew something was going to happen. He was bowling hand grenades

    4) Shane Warne bowling to Daryl Cullinan in Sydney & Richard Hadlee bowling to Dean Jones on an NZ tour of Australia. Both times it was like a cat playing with a mouse.

  • Warks on September 1, 2014, 2:57 GMT

    THAT Aus vs SA semi final in the 1999 World Cup. Best finish ever. They were playing for keeps unlike that slogfest the Saffers always remember.

    Tests - will never forget that last stand between Border and Thommo at the MCG in the 82-83 Ashes. SOOO close. When Miller took that catch and the Poms ran off the field having won by 3 runs I sat there in the chair motionless for about an hour.

  • Johnathon on September 1, 2014, 2:31 GMT

    India vs Australia in Kolkata during 2001. 2005 Ashes. Michael Clarke taking 3 wickets in an over to bowl India out. Javed Miandad's last ball six. Trevor Chappel's underarm incident. The Dutch beating the English in the very first game of the 2009 World T20 in England. Sri Lanka beating Australia in the 12th ODI of the CB series to knock out India. Malinga's 4 in 4. Tendulkar's 200* against South Africa. Murali getting his 800th test wicket with the last ball he bowled. SA chasing down 434. Pakistan bowling out India in the 1999 Test at chennai. Sri Lankan bowling England out to win the first series in England. Kevin O' Brien's incredible world cup knock to beat England in the world cup. Lara's regaining the record with his 400*. SCG miracle with Matthews and Malinga putting on an incredible stand to win. And the Dutch beating the Irish in that insane run chase we had earlier this year. Looking back at these moments makes me glad that I am a cricket fan.

  • Chris on September 1, 2014, 1:53 GMT

    My first standout memory: 1961 Old Trafford Ashes Test, listening to the radio when Richie Benaud bowled Peter May arond his legs for a duck, which started a collapse which resulted in England losing by 54 runs. The historic 1963 Lord´s Test, watching on t.v. as Cowdrey walkes out with a broken arm, with 2 balls remaining.Also I´m surprised so little has been mentioned of the unforgettable moment when Kallis left Ponting on all fours, which was probably the straw that broke the camel´s back re. Punter´s retirement. Live, I saw what Tony Cozier described as the greatest catch he´d ever seen by Dean Jones, 1991, Antigua. I was also present when Andy Roberts took a career best 7/37 and saw Majid get a 100 before lunch in the match where Glamorgan won their 2nd county championship.

  • Arun on September 1, 2014, 1:50 GMT

    While I don't support any particular country in tests / ODI / T20's &like to watch "good" cricket, having grown up in India, I have unfortunately watched too many Indian matches - so couple that stand out: 2003 World Cup - Ind Vs Pak @ Centurion - Sachin's upper cut for 6 off Shoaib Akhtar - too memorable to not write about - I actually created a login just for this & I'm not a die hard fan of Sachin... Aravinda de Silva's innings off the WC finals against Aus was excellent too - high pressure & he was so damn cool... On the tests side - Ind in Pak, prob Multan test, L Balaji cleaning up Inzamam was grt to watch too; another was Gilchrist's blitzkrieg @Hobart in 1999 against one of the best 90's attacks - incl Wasim, Waqar, Shoaib & Saqlain - pure treat...Another stand out was Pak winning the Chennai test (Sachin's 136) - the only time I was in a stadium & "we" applauded the Pak's - the "we" includes ppl who watch cricket for the game & not their stars; Wasim fondly recalls it too!

  • David on August 31, 2014, 20:23 GMT

    An evening meal at a friend's house. After dinner his wife gave us permission to tune the radio to a game 'England have a good chance of winning', she said. We turned on TMS just as England began their quest for the 190 runs required to win the game. 2 shell shocked hours later, Chris Lewis was batting with Angus Fraser, 40/9. numb disbelief gave way to gallows humour as England's batsmen plumbed unreached depths of ineptitude, to be Ambrosed for the last and most painful time

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