July 19, 2003

Kittens and cricket

Atomic Kitten: and jolly nice they are too

No more than a couple of years ago, there was an advert doing the rounds on British television, which posed one of the philosophical questions of the age. "Which do you prefer," asks one daughter to another. "Daddy or chips?"

After this evening's fun and frolics, the same might be asked of Atomic Kitten and cricket. Each has its indisputable merits, for sure, and being a fan of one does not preclude you from being a fan of the other. But it is faintly perplexing to find both on the same menu.

The Kittens, as if you didn't know already, are Britain's favourite all-girl Liverpudlian pop trio, and since it was announced that they would be performing at the Twenty20 finals, they have become cricket's most-talked-about novelty act since Ronnie Irani was last picked for England. Their brief - and undeniably entertaining - appearance has ensured the legend will live on.

If cricket had never seen anything like it, you can be sure the feeling was mutual. The Kittens, who arrived in a convoy of people-carriers midway through the second semi-final, tend to be greeted wherever they go by a squealing throng of teenyboppers and flashlights. Today, however, they skulked into the pavilion much as an MCC member might arrive for a Smash Hits party.

Jen (or was it Tash?) ran on ahead of the others. Liz (or was it Jen?) hid behind a large bloke, who later turned out to be one of her dancers. Tash (or was it Liz?) fiddled with her mobile phone and tugged her hair. With his place in the final secure, Warwickshire's Trevor Penney, who had been loitering on the pretext of buying an ice cream, quickly disappeared up the staircase behind them.

"Hello, you're lovely," announced a beery brummie from behind a makeshift barrier, but for the most part the onlookers gawped like a herd of cricket fans. The only murmur of disquiet came from a Gloucestershire man with a rapidly dissolving cardboard tray of lager, whose patience came close to snapping as he heard his team slip ever closer to defeat. "Is this a ****ing cricket match or what?" he asked. Well, quite.

The gawping continued apace during the concert itself. While the Kittens strutted their stuff on a miniature stage beneath the giant screen, the chosen few bopped and boogied on a cordoned-off section of the outfield. The rest just craned their necks as best they could. It made for an eclectic mix. On the one hand, there were the ubiquitous face-painted seven-year-olds, hand-jiving like Indian batsmen on a spinner's wicket. On the other, there was the less probable sight of Devon Malcolm leading the adult's shape-throwing at the far side of the stage.

It didn't take long for some wag in the crowd to find a suggestively lewd use for a pair of `6' placards - even less time for his idea to be copied by all and sundry. But the Kittens responded in the cruellest manner possible - by summoning forth their dancers, who cavorted with them throughout the remainder of the set, and were roundly booed for their efforts.

In a recent interview, the Kittens had hinted that they might become cricket converts thanks to the Twenty20 Cup. But their parting shot hinted that they needed to be worked on a little while yet. "This is our last song," Liz eventually announced in a decidedly sarcastic manner. "And then you can all get back to your cricket." And so it was, and so we did.

Kittens and cricket. Wonderful inventions both. But the two probably weren't designed with each other in mind.

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