Creased by the loss of our cricketing summer

By Keith Newbery

Friday, July 20, 2012

 

Creased by the loss of our cricketing summer

The fascinating old book, The First Test Match, which has been helping Keith through a soggy summer with no cricket.

THIS ISLAND LIFE HAVE you ever heard of Tlaloc? No? Well, he is (as all good students of Mesoamerican history will tell you) the Aztec god of rain and fertility and his name, literally translated, means He Who Makes Things Sprout.

At the County Press, this deity is called Richard Wright and he’s an altogether more agreeable cove than Tlaloc, who is described in all the relevant texts as 'a wrathful god who brings floods and droughts’.

It’s amazing what you come across on Google, as the days of high summer drag by in a drizzly haze of squelching holidaymakers and smirking meteorologists.

We have been royally Tlaloc-ed upon non-stop for weeks now, as the sun skulks defiantly behind clouds the colour of tarnished pewter.

Which is why, despite the deceptively cheery illustration which accompanies this column, I stand before you a broken man.

I am suffering severe withdrawal symptoms from lack of cricket and find myself mooching around the house, flicking nostalgically through old scorebooks and listlessly rubbing linseed oil into the blade of my ancient bat, which hasn’t been wielded in anger for more than 25 years and never will be again.

Mrs Newbery is now so alarmed about my deteriorating state of mind, she has threatened to contact the Jeremy Kyle Show, in the hope I will be publicly abused by the lairy shyster for ten minutes before being carted off to a clinic for specialist treatment.

Once there, I would no doubt be placed in a darkened room and subjected to a familiar cricket-day diet of chewing-gum, cheese sandwiches and rock cakes, while listening to recordings of old Test Match Special commentaries.

To understand why I have become such a tortured soul, you have to appreciate the degree of planning and expectation which goes into the summer for the likes of Malc Lawrence, Roy Winter and me.

Key fixtures are carefully inscribed in diaries months beforehand and discussed with lip-smacking anticipation during those grim days when darkness falls before the six o’clock news and the winter winds howl.

This 'summer’ at Newclose our plans included almost a week of cricket between MCC Universities and Sussex II, a three-day match between MCC Universities and Warwickshire II, with a match between the Professional Cricketers’ Association and Hampshire.

This is without all the Ventnor and Island representative matches, many of which have fallen victim to the elements without a ball being bowled.

There’s no more desolate sight in the world than a cricket ground where sightscreens rock in the teeth of a force eight and across which the rain swirls horizontally for hours on end.

Then there’s the disruption to my Friday morning routine, part of which is to scan the cricket scoreboards in the County Press to see how certain Island players are faring.

Is Simon Wratten any closer to achieving his ambition of reaching a hundred (for the season, not in one match)? Is St Helens’ skipper, Lee Brown, still requiring hapless fielders to fetch the ball from the general vicinity of Bembridge Harbour, to where he despatches it with great regularity?

But last week, the two usual pages of absorbing statistics, over which I could pore, were reduced to a small pocket of information confined to the bottom left-hand corner of the page.

Friends are doing all they can to help me through the ordeal and Roger Mazillius recently gave me two fascinating old books, The First Test Match 1877 and The Life of Don Bradman.

But the latter made me feel slightly worse, if anything, because it brought back so many sad memories. There were photographs of players in shirt-sleeves, standing next to those long-forgotten things called shadows.

I am now reaching a stage of terminal desperation and am prepared to watch any sort of cricket anywhere.

I even put a call into Ryde Arena to discuss the prospect of cricket on ice, and they’ve promised to get back to me …

If the answer is 55, what is the question?

FOLLOWING my report on the Island’s mysterious highway hieroglyphics a few weeks back, I have received a worried e-mail from Ray Fellows, of Northwood.He informs me a graffiti artist turned up 'weeks and weeks ago and sprayed white paint around a very shallow and narrow rut in the pavement outside the village shop’.

He added: "This was duly filled in, yet a few yards along, a much larger area of artwork is still awaiting some sort of attention."

But the mystery (like the ruts) deepens.

"The one which really needs deciphering by your code-breakers is in another part of the village, where at least two areas are outlined in steadily-fading white paint, with a secret code of '55’ sprayed on them."

What can it all mean?

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