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

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