August 15, 2014

Not so grim up north

Manchester may be cold but there's music and memories, trams to take and ales to drink

You can't win a Test in the first session; you sure can lose it © Getty Images

July 27
Morning of third Test. Crowd filling in, sun out, anticipation building up as toss time approaches. Good time to be alive. Cake arrives for Test Match Special. This one is from Dauntsey's School, Wilts. Commentators will eat it when on air, and the school will get a mention. Cake will be reviewed too.

See Ishant Sharma has a thick jacket and a baseball mitt on. India's only hit-the-deck bowler injured. India's only bowler who can be physically disconcerting for batsmen.

Pankaj Singh gets debut, has a catch dropped early in his first spell, has a plumb lbw not given in final session. Some time ago, the 29-year-old, mindful of his advancing years, said to ESPNcricinfo, "It's now or never." Rod Tucker and Ravindra Jadeja let Pankaj down.

Later, when asked about India's slip catching, Joe Dawes says he is satisfied with where it is headed, and that even Mark Taylor and Mark Waugh used to drop a few, so why so serious?

July 28
Gladstone Small. Had Klippel-Feil Syndrome. Or no-neck appearance. Small now has people in splits. Knows how to work them. Doesn't get the fuss around Gary Ballance's shirtless revelry in a nightclub before this Test. His times were more tolerant of characters. Talks about best batsman he has seen or bowled to, Brian Lara, also his Warwickshire team-mate. Says Lara either batted or partied. Both for long periods. Only time he slept was at the ground, when not batting.

Ballance adds weight to Small's sentiment by scoring a big hundred. India 25 for 1 in response to England's 569 for 7 declared.

July 29
In England and Australia, press people share workspace with commentators - legends all. Michael Holding to Sunil Gavaskar, David Gower to Ian Botham, they all hang around. Which means living in constant fear: what if you are impersonating Kapil Dev and Kapil walks in?

Jonathan Agnew comes to the Rose Bowl with his dog Tino, named after Tino Best. Share elevator ride with them. Informed of how Sunil Gavaskar climbed walls when canine Tino and he were caught in close confinement once.

India 323 for 8 at stumps.

Manchester. Raining on arrival. Raining the next day. Yet doesn't feel grim at all. Finally feels like England

July 30
Devon Malcolm. Of you-guys-are-history fame when South Africa bowled a bouncer at him at The Oval in 1994. Says he thought there was a code that a fast bowler wouldn't bowl a bouncer at another fast bowler first ball. Fanie de Villiers did. Malcolm remembers telling his captain, Michael Atherton, he felt he could win this one. Took first seven wickets of South Africa's second innings, watched Darren Gough take out Daryll Cullinan, and then removed the last two on the same score. Remembers Gough being apologetic about having ruined what could have been a perfect ten. However, by the time Malcolm had been named Man of the Match, Gough walked up and said, "I should be the Man of the Match. I took the most important wicket!"

A run-out is the most important wicket at the Rose Bowl as M Vijay goes a bit casually, ending an 11-over opening association with Shikhar Dhawan. The two are yet to add 50 in an innings outside Asia. India lose three more before stumps. Sure to lose now.

July 31
Share elevator ride with one of the chefs at the Rose Bowl. Says India not happy with the Indian food that is served to them. Remember another chef in Australia who reported similar complaints. Proper Indian food with butter and spices, though, is not athletes' food. Not during Test matches. MS Dhoni doesn't complain. Loves his burgers and cola, says the chef.

England wrap up the Test before lunch can be served on day five. Moeen Ali takes six.

August 1
Manchester. Raining on arrival. Raining the next day. Yet doesn't feel grim at all. Finally feels like England. Sometimes breath fogs the air when talking. Stop in a flat by Ashton Canal in Piccadilly Village.

There is something to be said about having water between houses either side of a street. Small boats are moored and spend evenings here. Must be lovely to be on a boat on a still evening. Sit out on deck, have dinner and drinks, sleep in the boat despite the cold.

See a horse along the canal. Ask the owner if she rode it there. Told horses are still used to tow sick boats along the water. Horse walks on platform, boat remains on water. All in a residential locality in central Manchester.

August 2
Plaque in the Northern Quarter that says, "… And on the sixth day, God created Manchester." Line is from a t-shirt designed by DJ-cum-army-and-navy-store-owner Leo B Stanley in 1988. Those were the "Madchester" days, when indie bands and acid combined to produce what Mancunians call "real music". Bands such as the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays were all the rage. Add Oasis from after Madchester, and the Smiths, the Buzzcocks and the Fall before it, and you can't question Manchester's musical pedigree.

On a wall near St Peter's Square tram station, Oasis' Noel Gallagher is quoted as saying, "The thing about Manchester is, it all comes from here." He was pointing to his heart when he said it.

August 3
The tram. Is there a cleaner, friendlier and more civilised way to travel within a city? Slow, so you can see the city. Not underground and dingy like the London tube. Not too slow, so it is better than walking. More humane than cycle rickshaws. Yet, in a survey last year, 60% of respondents reported the service didn't offer value for money. Surely tourists didn't vote? And if it is good enough for Michael Atherton, it should generally be good enough.

August 4
Lights out at 10pm. In memory of those who served and suffered in World War I. Think of Percy Jeeves, after whom was named one of the most loved fictional characters of them all: PG Wodehouse's Jeeves. The cricketer Jeeves was a bit of an allrounder, a quick bowler who batted at No. 8. He was, according to the book The Final Over, "shy, fastidiously tidy and reserved, relatively abstemious and totally uninterested in food". Selflessness must also have been the cricketing Jeeves' virtue. He could well have opened the bowling for England after the war had he not died in it.

August 5
Empire Exchange. Antiques/vintage/thrift store near the Piccadilly Gardens tram station. Rare books. Old football programmes. Wooden tennis rackets. Army helmets from the wars. Magazines from the '60s. WWII knives. Old concert videos. Vintage comic books. Flyers from actual boxing matches. Eight-track tapes. Their speakers always play hits from the '60s. Generous owners always ready with a discount. Spend every free moment in Manchester there.

August 6
Mr Thomas's Chop House. On Cross Street in the city centre. Lovely ales. Just outside its bar is a picture taken of the signboard outside with Cross Street in the background, on June 15, 1996. An almighty flood of dust and debris seemingly approaching. It is a photo of the Manchester bombings by the Provisional IRA. Old Trafford was scheduled to host a Euro 96 match between Russia and Germany. The IRA sent in a warning 90 minutes before the blast, which helped evacuation to an extent, but £700 million worth of property was damaged. Bartenders now too young to even remember it.

August 7
Old Trafford. Something about grounds next to train lines. Newlands next to Newlands train station. Wankhede next to Churchgate. This one beside Old Trafford. Some magic involved in taking a train to a cricket match.

Tram full of people going to the Test. Thermoses and picnic baskets and newspapers and binoculars all packed. All discussing cricket. Who should play, what team winning the toss should do, what the weather is like. Some talking about the Brian Statham days. Nothing like the build-up to the first day of a Test.

On a quick and bouncy pitch, India are reduced to 8 for 4. What was that saying? You can't win a Test in the first session; you sure can lose it.

August 8
One of the walls at Old Trafford has quotes mostly from commentary.

"A very small crowd here today. I can count the people on one hand. Can't be more than 30." - Michael Abrahamson

"The shirt is unique; there are only 200 of them." - Richie Benaud

"I don't think he expected it. That's what caught him unawares." - Trevor Bailey

"I'd have looked even faster in colour." - Fred Trueman

Most of the play on the second day rained out, with forecast not looking great either. India might just have a chance.

Listen to Tokolosh at St Ann's Square. Free gig as part of Manchester's Dig The City campaign. Band named after South African mythical evil spirit that becomes invisible by swallowing a pebble.

August 9
Share tram ride with national blind team from Bulgaria. Will be on Sky during lunch to demonstrate how blind cricket is played. Here to play Lancashire blind team. No coach arranged for them. Hardly any money in blind cricket. All members of team have to work separately. Cricket just a hobby and a passion.

India fold spectacularly to be bowled out for 161 in 43 overs to England, who are a bowler down. MS Dhoni maintains humour, saying they have squeezed in two days off between back-to-back Tests. Has to be hurting inside, surely?

Two hours after stumps, Stuart Broad, who was hit in the nose by Varun Aaron, is back outside Old Trafford, driving a car, waiting to pick his partner up. Is allowed to drive, and expects to be available for the next Test. Might have to play in a mask to keep the nose together.

August 10
Rains all day long on Sunday. Had India not lost all ten wickets in under two sessions, they would still have been alive. And then you never know.

Hear Gavaskar and Mark Nicholas have been in an accident on their way to London. Not a scratch on them, which is good to know. Remember Gavaskar's hilarious telling of tales of facing Jeff Thomson and Michael Holding. Gavaskar also tells of how a man in Jalandhar in the '80s once asked if he would sign autographs for his "boys". Thinking they would be budding cricketers, Gavaskar asked they be brought to his hotel room. In came hooded fellows with AK-47s. Imagine those next few minutes with those Khalistan advocates, those "boys", in his room, taking autographs, telling him they wouldn't harm him or Kapil or Jimmy Amarnath, because that would bring them a bad name, and then taking photographs with Gavaskar without taking off their hoods.

August 11
Witch Way. Delightfully named bus service between Manchester and Nelson. Possibly named after Lancashire's Pendle witches. Their trial in 1612 is among England's most famous witch trials. Moorhouse now even does a Pendle Witches Brew, which is found in most Manchester pubs.

Take the Witch Way to Burnley, James Anderson's home town. Go past lovely meadows, hills and valleys. See sheep graze near Rawtenstall. Castlemilk Moorit the breed might be. Rare breed, created as a mixture of Manx Loaghtan, Shetland and wild Mouflon in the early 1900s. Alastair Cook might know more about them.

August 12
Radio in Burnley informs of Mark Knopfler's 65th birthday. Dire Straits possibly first band to deliver a big hit album on CDs, moving on from cassette tapes. Plays "Money For Nothing".

Lose money for nothing on the Witch Way. Forget wallet on the bus, never to be found again. No money to get to Ashton Canal. Much inconvenience, with all cards to now be blocked and new ones issued.

Almost feel like developing a silly walk in Manchester before going to London. John Cleese's Ministry of Silly Walks app has already made him close to £100,000. Original Monty Python sketch, which aired in 1970, had Cleese, a civil servant, sanctioning grants to further develop them if the applicant's silly walk was silly enough.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo