Vive le Cricket

Friday 15th July 2016

A week spent with an anglophile French family in Douai brought a beer-fuelled invite to come over to Canterbury to sample the delights of The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence for the archetypal English experience.

To be honest trying to explain cricket to our willing but baffled and ultimately bemused French hosts initially floundered on language, vocabulary and the lack of direct translations.

Leg before wicket? “Jambe Avant Wicket”? “Jambe Avant Trois batons en bois”??? Silly mid-on? “Mi idiot sur”? – although what made them think it was so British, quintessentially so, was the fact a game could last 4 or 5 days and end in a draw.

They laughed out loud. I think we should try them out on a T20 first! They did like the idea of drinking beer in the sunshine though!

It also set me thinking how different cricket might have been if it had before a major sport in Europe rather than the old Empire? Imagine a Test series against Germany, France or Italy in Berlin, Paris or Rome?

Would national stereotypes come out? Would the Germans be all nuggety batsmen, metronomic nagging bowling and sharp fielding? The French blessed with elegant batting but cursed with a fragile tendency to collapse? The Italians might tire of a long form game but at least their climate might reduce the chances of bad light stopping play in July…

Seriously though, aside from the Netherlands and Ireland cricket outside the UK in Europe struggles for any recognition. Is the sport of cricket happy to stay popular in the heartlands or does it want to become a genuine world game? Will it become part of the Olympics?

Time will tell, but if I were to try to show our European cousins what they are missing out on, and those in England that are yet to be entranced by a wonderful, captivating, thrilling, eccentric, sport could do worse than join me for the next three days of cricketing Nirvana (weather permitting of course).

On Friday we go to Tunbridge Wells for the sell-out NatWest T20 Blast match against Surrey. Short and sweet but guaranteed drama with both sides desperate for a win as the group stage moves towards the conclusion. Brave batting, big hits, a few sixes, clever bowling, athletic fielding and a boisterous atmosphere all hopefully on show.

Saturday sees my annual trip to Lord’s for the Test against Pakistan, getting tickets as a Kent Member is still well-organized although the ticket prices don’t get any cheaper!

Lord’s though, in its pomp can be a majestic place, where the elite and the rest of us collide in the sweaty scrum behind the pavilion at lunch, the giddy colour clash of blazers and old school ties with trainers, shorts and England shirts, you can guess which people are in the pavilion and which are in the Compton Lower at a glance.

The convivial hum of post-lunch satisfaction can mean some are there for the occasion rather than the game, but I will be concentrating on what happens out on the square hoping England can give Pakistan a better game than they did in the Gulf.

Sunday and you sort of have a parochial collision of the two worlds again, Tunbridge Wells Cricket Festival, something to be nurtured and experienced first-hand.

With neighbours Sussex the visitors in the Specsavers County Championship the vibe should be competitive but celebrating everything good about County Cricket.

I’ll be making sure I have at least one session in the beer tent catching up with all the usual faces combining their two favourite things, Kent and ale!

Hopefully it will go better than my trip to Nice to see England lose to a volcanic rock from near the North Pole, but if Kent are to glean anything tangible from this season they will have to build on their excellent two T20 wins in the West Country and soon…