Pitch Black

Lightning flickers across the sky. Thunder rumbles around like the complaints of a slightly-peeved demonic entity. Rain pours down from a lead-coloured sky. It must be the cricket season...

At this very moment, I should, in theory have been relaxing at Lords' (Cricket Ground rather than Traci's, though the latter might have some entertainment value too), pint in hand, basking in the summer sunshine and watching the highest level of cricket being played live, for the first time ever. I've written elsewhere about the joys to be had, playing the sport, but must confess that watching it pales considerably in contrast to football, baseball, or Japanese barbed-wire death matches. My only experience of spectating at a professional game was an afternoon spent at a county game between Middlesex and Kent on one of my very earliest trips to London, back in the mid-80s.

However, when a work colleague suggested a trip to one of the days in the England vs. Zimbabwe test match, I was seduced by the idyllic vision of leather on willow - not to be confused with the vision of leather on Willow, which is a sordid, Buffy-related thought with which I will, of course, have no truck. None at all. No, sirree... Er, where was I? Ah, yes: this fantasy (that's the cricket one, not the Buffy sidekick one) failed to take into account two things: the weather, and Zimbabwe's woeful ineptness.

The former should really have been no surprise; English weather makes the planning of outdoor events a bigger lottery than the National one, with slightly more chance of winning the jackpot than of getting a dry day. This is why Test Matches are allocated five days to complete: foreigners find it impossible to understand how ANY sport can take that long, and still have a good chance of ending in an incomplete draw, but it's simply because the odds are good that you'll spend two or more of them sitting in the pavillion. The problem with cricket is that it so dependent on the ground conditions; baseball is largely an air-based game in comparison, with the ball only hitting the ground a couple of dozen times a game. [Mind you, they still have nifty stadia with retractable roofs; I've been round the one in Phoenix, and it's the ninth wonder of the world, holds 40,000 and is air-conditioned]

Zimbabwe's extraordinary failure to perform was a bit more unexpected, given they are actually ranked above England in the unofficial league table. But, blimey: England score 415 in their first innings; Zimbabwe managed 83, and will be doing well to get even to that in their second attempt. You have to allow for some dubious umpiring decisions, and the conditions being a little different from Zimbabwe (no black militants squatting the cricket pitches, for example), but to an amateur cricketer like myself, there's something strangely gratifying about seeing internationals playing such crap. I'm toying with the idea of affecting a slightly nasal accent and phoning up to offer my services.

However, it's too late to save them this time round, and so I am left in a dry, warm house, watching the TV coverage as Channel 4 attempt desperately to find something to occupy the time until the rain stops. They will probably soon be reduced to interviewing the producer's cat -- though I would not be at all surprised to find it purring with a slightly nasal accent, and offering its services as an opener for Zimbabwe... Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go watch some Buffy.


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