Wednesday, 15 June 2022

We need inexplicable wonder in our lives. Long Live the 5 Day Test Match


Forget your glorious rugby Grand Slams and that goal in Stuttgart decades ago.
What better way to get one over the Auld Enemy, than beat them at their national game?  Ever since moving to this country I wondered why, more than any other population colonised by the English, the Irish hung on for so long to their loathing of their imperial oppressor.
The only other ex-colony where people talk with as much venom about the English is Australia, but their verbal attacks are laced with confidence.
Because they know that they have regularly whipped our English arses at our national game, in intimidating fashion. Like many other countries colonised by the English, they have revelled in giving their old brutaliser a sound beating on the cricket pitch.

Does that really hurt the English as a nation? You’d better believe it.

Imagine Roy Keane in his prime, decked in whites with a dash of green, sneering and snarling as he runs up to hurl a rock-hard leather ball at 90 mph towards an English chinless wonder.

Dribbling yet?  
Cricket should suit the Irish down to the ground: intelligent, contemplative, subtle and intense, it encompasses all the best Irish characteristics - even wit. 
Better still, the game has official breaks for both Tea and Drinks.
Although there are many shorter and speedy versions of the game, a Test Match is as slow as Gaelic Games are fast. After five days, it may well end in a draw, which doesn't mean the match is tied. It just means five days wasn’t long enough for two teams to bat and field twice.


It was the weather, of course, and what could be more Irish than that?

Now that Irish cricket is accredited by the ICC, you can play Test Matches until your brains explode or your hearts sing: whichever you choose, remember James Joyce, who wrote in Portrait of the Artist:

“The fellows were practising long shies and bowling lobs and slow twisters. In the soft grey silence he could hear the bump of the balls: and from here and from there through the quiet air the sound of the cricket bats: pick, pack, pock, puck: like drops of water in a fountain falling softly in the brimming bowl.”

Who needs rules, when there is such poetry in the game?

In soccer, players cheat as a matter of course. When a player in the box feels the wispy damp breath of an opponent on the back of his neck, he will collapse to the ground. 

By comparison, consider this wonderful cocktail of brute force and eccentricity included in this despatch from the 2005 Ashes Test at Lords:

“A bouncer beats Ponting for pace, and crashes against the grill of his helmet, cutting the Aussie skipper on his right cheek. A drinks break follows, to allow time for the blood to stop flowing.”

There’s much talk of 5 Day Test Matches being irrelevant in today’s world, yet I love them for their unique arcane mystery.

And then there comes a Test like the England v New Zealand match that finished yesterday. 

Simply incredible: from horror and despair to a seemingly impossible victory, with a performance of pure magic by Big Johnny Bairstow. 

We need inexplicable bizarre wonder in our lives.
Long Live the 5 Day Test Match.


©Charlie Adley


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