A few months ago I was in Stockholm and bumped into someone I used to work with who is now living in China. He said that he’d been watching the recent Twenty20 World Cup and it had whetted his appetite for cricket, a game that, as a Swede, he knew very little about. I of course immediately set him straight and said that while Twenty20 is all good fun, the REAL game is Test Cricket. For someone who has only just started to discover cricket, I knew it was a tall order for him to absorb himself. But he seemed keen. So, a few weeks later I sent him a copy of the 2005 Ashes DVD set (which I picked up for £2.99 at HMV) and a couple of cricket magazines, including one that contained a complete history of the Ashes.
Then, about a week later I got this response…
“The package” arrived yesterday and my mother in-law was befuddled. It was in her name and she could not remember ordering cricket dvs’s. We have visitors now so I can’t huddle in front of the telly until Saturday. I have already indulged in the booklet and mag though. Intriguing! Interesting to see the graphics on where batsmen score and bowlers concede. I will get back with more questions soon.
A few weeks later I sent him this quote, in the hope that it would help him preserver with the DVDs (all 11 hours of them).
Email from the Swede:
Just read an article on Cricinfo. Great description of Test Cricket, but also an article on the future of the long form of the game. I esp love this quote:
“Cricket has always been the most unusual of sports. Grand, subtle, nuanced, cerebral and leisurely, it cannot be followed as a passing hobby. Test cricket demands devotion and engagement, and those willing to submit themselves are rewarded handsomely, for it is a treat for the senses. As a sport it is perennially in conflict with the pace of modern living, but at the same time it is a reassuring affirmation that all good things are timeless.”
Then everything went quiet. Two months passed. Nothing.
Until a few days ago when I received this email…
What a glorious game.
Test cricket must surely be the crown of cricket formats, and The Ashes its undisputed jewel. The rivalry, the tradition, the venues, the rules. Fantastic!
I have watched the 2005 series two times. A bit off and on during summer and over two nights straight finishing yesterday at about 1 am.
I must say that I fancy the Australian team. In general it is just a feeling fuelled by the more composed and easy going Aussies. Pointing is cooler than Vaughan. Flintoff looks like a thug. Pietersen has a ridiculous hair. Etc.
For me though it comes down to the bowlers. The magic of Warne is so much better than the power game played by Englands fast bowlers.
Spinn seems more intelligent than power. Mind you that this is a novice speaking but that’s my opinion right now. Perhaps it takes more of a trained eye to appreciate the fast bowlers? And sure, some of Simon Jones Yorkers where fantastic to see.
I have been writing down stuff as I go along and have learned a lot. The whole extra-thing; Bye’s/Leg Bye’s, no balls, etc. What a maiden is. Half-volley vs. full toss. The black hole. Rulings on this and that. Some things about how to judge a good or bad delivery and shot. And much more.
Surely a test series boiled down to 10 hours of DVDs makes the format look great. Sitting through the 06/07 series might be a huge waste of time. Or perhaps not?
Some of the things that comes with test cricket is really intriguing. The fixed time with the possibility of getting a draw like the aussies did or having to settle for a draw like in test 5 without even starting the second inning – it ads such drama. It really was a shame about the umpires giving light to England early in test 5, then they had to be consistent. And then the rain. Pietersons batting was fantastic but Langer and the others where not even given the opportunity.
The declaration of the english team.
And the umpires ceremonial removal of the bails upon drawing the last test. Goosebumps!
When and how it is decided how many balls that remain in a day? When AUS got the draw by staying on the pitch they could easily have gone on for a bit. So who decides and when is the decision given?
It looked like the toss was important in test 2 through 5. My guess is that a good hard surface takes some of the tricks out of the bowling favouring the batting team. Correct?
Does the pitch at Lords really lean to a side? And is this usual – i.e. that every pitch has its small quirks?
All in all a fantastic experience. Thank you!
I will try to seek out a Sunday league team here in Shanghai and see if it would be possible to give it a go.
Email from the me:
So glad you enjoyed the DVD and have discovered the joys of the game. You really must come across to the UK next year – it’s a cricket bonanza – Australia will play two Test matches here against Pakistan, as no country will Tour there. Pakistan also play England in a four test series…seems only England and Australia play five match series anymore.
Re. your questions.
It is difficult to determine when a Test match ends on the final day. Usually they decide that if there is a chance of a result that when the last hour of play starts that there will be 15 or so overs bowled (which of course often takes LONGER than an hour, but it’s cricket!). If there is no chance of a result then the Umpire make a decision at “some point” that the game should end and, if the captains of the two sides agree, it ends. This is why the 5th Test of the series you watch had such a strange ending (not sure if that was conveyed in the DVD) as no one really knew when the game was going to end.
The toss is usually of vital importance. Each pitch at each ground plays differently and, usually, it is better to bat first b/c the pitch deteriorates over the five days, which means if you bat last you are playing on a very dry and dusty wicket – usually. This makes it easier for spin bowlers as the ball will turn a lot. However, if the pitch is green (i.e., has grass on it) on the first morning of day 1 and the sky is overcast, and there is moisture in the air … well, it’s better not to bat as you might loose a lot of wickets b/c all of that helps the ball swing (in theory!). Simon Jones was a brilliant swing bowler and the ball swings more in England than Australia, which is why the Australian batsman had such trouble with the swinging ball in the series you watched. The state of the pitch, guessing how it will play over five days, etc is one of the true mysteries of the game, and a major contributing factor as to why the five day game can, when everything comes together, be so epic.
Yes. Lord’s def has a wierd lean. All grounds are different everywhere in the world. It’s why a 5 test series is so good. For example, Perth is traditionally a paradise for fast bowlers as it is hard and bouncy, whereas Sydney is a haven for spinners, and so on…
Email from the Swede:
The Ashes 05 seems to stand out in the history of test cricket. I saw it quoted to be the best series in living memory. The intense feeling I got from the second viewing is now being slightly diluted when I have to get my fix from the ICC CT. Most of my heroes from the DVDs are now gone – and I miss them. Shane Warne – what a guy! It is a damn shame that I won’t see any more of him. Some of the England players are playing but it is not quite the same thing.
I get the feeling that getting into cricket is like trying to get the taste of fine whiskey. It is an acquired taste and you must not let distractions get the better of you. Persist and it will all be revealed.
Regarding the ending of a test match and your reply it all seems fitting. The question is “will we have a result”. That just about sums up why the game seems so interesting to me. In what other sport would this be the case?
In the Ashes05 I saw something interesting (last match 4th day I think). The light was going but the umpires allowed the teams to play on, provided the fielding team played spinners. I guess that is not as dangerous as having a ball hurled at you at 90mph. Very interesting.
NZ is now 214-5 after 40 overs against SL. England beat SL so the pressure is on.
Tomorrow I will be watching Aus-Ind.
Which websites and blogs should I read?
Is there essential litterature to read?
More to come!
Email from me:
Hope all is well over in China for you. Sorry, it’s taken me forever to respond to you!
Nov – Dec is an exciting time b/c there is sOOOOOOO much cricket going on right now. West Indies v Australia (a bit boring but good to see who the young guns might be for Australia), Pakistan v NZ (fascinating so far, but it’s not telecast which is a bummer!) and India v Sri Lanka (two of my fav teams and a gripping first test, but less so in the second which India won easily).
Re. web sites, cricinfo is the absolute gem.
And you should listen to their excellent Podcast every week. Great insight into what’s happening around the world.
I read the Wisden / Cricinfo cricket magazine each month, but not sure how interesting it would be for you.
Books I would recommend in order are:
The yearly tome. Brilliant. Dense. Everything about world cricket. Endless articles. Descriptions of every game player. Addictive once you’ve bought your first.
The Art of Captaincy
A brilliant insight into the thinking behind the game by one of England’s great captain.
On and Off the Field
A Diary of a county player…follows Ed Smith through the year as he gets his first games for England. Incredibly honest and brutal (he was forced to leave his team the year after this was published). Wonderful writer.
Mastering the Art of Cricket
This was published when Channel 4 got to broadcast cricket about 5 years ago. It was designed for ppl who know little about cricket to read but is a really brilliant description of all elements of the game.
There are THOUSANDS of books on cricket, but I would limit myself to Wisden and the cricinfo web site right now (and listen to SwitchHit podcast each week).
And you can always have a crack at this cricket management game, which is fun if geeky (you only manage the players, you don’t play them like in FIFA). It will allow you to manage any country or club and play test matches, etc. It will even let you replay the 2005 Ashes series 😉
It also has a free two day trial.