Eng­land is ‘not the home of cricket’

Sunday Times - - SPORT -

THE T-shirt went first. It came off with a frip of flub­bery flesh to ex­pose a beer-fu­elled belly, a ver­i­ta­ble spin­naker of skin.

Then one shoe was flipped into the air, fol­lowed by an­other. Socks took brief, pa­thetic flight be­fore plop­ping onto the con­crete apron of the foun­tain gur­gling ex­pec­tantly be­hind him.

The shorts? Mer­ci­fully, they stayed firmly on. Per­haps be­cause un­do­ing them would mean find­ing their moor­ing but­ton trapped in the dense depths of the spin­naker.

With that, into the wa­ter he went to the si­lence of on­look­ers and the ap­plause of his mates. Less than an hour ear­lier and a kilo­me­tre be­hind all that lay The Oval, scene of Eng­land’s vic­tory over Bangladesh in the open­ing match of the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy on Thurs­day. Ahead of the foun­tain flop­per and his merry men lay a night of cel­e­bra­tion of that fact.

They seemed to be hav­ing too good a time to be both­ered with some snarky Saf­fer re­porter’s ques­tion: is Eng­land the home of cricket? Be­sides, the re­porter didn’t fancy be­ing

A York­shire­man took 4/59 for Eng­land and an­other scored 133

tossed into the foun­tain t-shirt, takkies — no socks re­quired — shorts, cell­phone and all.

So he re­solved to ask his ques­tion of some­one more sober, in ev­ery sense. “No,” a York­shire­man said. “York­shire is the home of cricket.” Be­ing a York­shire­man, he didn’t let a de­bate get in the way of his ar­gu­ment: “A York­shire­man took 4/59 for Eng­land and an­other York­shire­man scored 133 not out.”

Then he shut up and stared straight ahead, as if even Don­ald Trump would know who he was on about. He was, of course, talk­ing about Liam Plun­kett and Joe Root, taker of 4/59 and maker of 133 not out for Eng­land against Bangladesh.

Plun­kett and Root are of Mid­dles­brough and Sh­effield — York­shire­men both.

Ee by gum. Must be true, then: York­shire is the home of cricket. Or is it?

“Is Eng­land the home of cricket? Hmmm. That’s a very good ques­tion.”

The pon­derer was a man of Devon in Eng­land’s deep south west, once re­moved to Lon­don, where Sur­rey has be­come as close to his heart as chicken tikka is to the na­tion’s stom­ach.

“It de­pends in what sense you mean ‘home’. If you mean in a sen­ti­men­tal, nos­tal­gic sense as in the coun­try that gave cricket to the world, then, yes — Eng­land is the home of cricket. Of course, that doesn’t hold in other senses.

“Ac­tu­ally, I was talk­ing about this to some­one the other day. And he said, ‘The Oval is the home of English cricket and Lord’s is its tem­ple’.

“Now, would you rather be at home or in your tem­ple?”

Which asked a dif­fer­ent ques­tion, al­beit in­ter­est­ingly em­broi­dered.

The an­swer is that cricket is home­less: it lives any­where and is loved. Even in gur­gling foun­tains.

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