I stopped at Gatehouse of Fleet yesterday, and found a pub that was showing both the Leicester match and the final of the T20 cricket - England v West Indies - live from India. Everybody (except, presumably, the fans of Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City, who could possibly catch them) wants Leicester to win the league. It would prove, if only for one season, that the prizes don’t always go to the teams with the most money to spend on ludicrous transfer fees and grossly inflated wages.
After Leicester’s 1-0 win I settled down to watch the cricket, in a side-room of the pub, with comfy armchairs (and a smaller armchair audience). It was a fantastic game, with the game in the balance until the final over. The armchair experts agreed with me that England hadn’t scored enough run. They ended up with 155, when 170 might have been a par score. But then Joe Root opening the bowling with his dibbly-dobbly spinners and got two quick wickets. West Indies kept losing wickets, and were mostly behind the required rate. When they needed to score 19 from the last over, the odds were on an England win.
Then Carlos Brathwaite, one of the West Indies lower order batsmen, hit the first four balls of the over, bowled by Ben Stokes, over the boundaty - 6, 6, 6, 6 - and that was that: the game was over. Stokes looked disconsolate; there was a distinct feeling that England had dragged defeat from the jaws of victory. But it had been a great game of cricket… and I didn’t think I’d ever say that about this abbreviated 20-overs-a-side game, with the hoopla, the music, the fireworks and the dancing girls.
The West Indian women had won their T20 competition earlier in the day, against the odds, by beating Australia. It will be good too if these results bring about a renaissance in West Indian cricket, which has mostly been in the doldrums these past twenty years.
The first test match I saw was at Headingley; from memory it would have been 1963. I’d been collecting the cuttings from the back pages of the newspaper about that summer’s West Indian tour, and I can still recall most of the members of their team: Seymour Nurse, Conrad Hunte, Frank Worrell, Gary Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Deryck Murray, Lance Gibbs, Charlie Griffith, Wes Hall.
Gary Sobers was the ultimate all-rounder: a graceful batsman and equally graceful fast-medium bowler who also bowled off-breaks. Wes Hall’s run-up was so long that he pushed off from the pavilion steps. He was very quick (and batsmen didn’t weat helmets or arm-guards or chest-protectors in those days). West Indies won the series 3-1, but I had to look up the result on Wikipedia. Even at the age of 12, I think I was more interested in the game than the result…