Two apologies are due: firstly for the extreme quietness of Cricket Tragics over the winter. We've been in hibernation. And secondly for taking a month to post this piece. It comes from Mr J Capper, Hyde Heath Chairman, umpire, and stalwart buyer of rounds in the Plough, so really our tardiness is inexcusable. Sorry JC!
I have been lucky enough to be in Johannesburg watching the 4th and final Test between England and the “Proteas”, as they are now called, from the first ball on Thursday, 14th January to the last on Sunday, 17th. It’s the first game for many years, other than at Hyde Heath, that I have watched from first ball to last and there were a number of rather interesting comparisons. I just wondered whether any of the differences could be the catalyst to the Heath turning into the team they would like to be – or maybe not.
First thing: as we were getting up for breakfast there was a wailing of police sirens, the like of which suggested, at the very least, a major bank robbery, and reinforcing our concerns regarding crime in Jo’burg. Actually it was the England team coach and the escort heading to the ground, crossing all the red lights, and arriving 1 ½ hours before the scheduled toss. Now Atif might have mistakenly jumped a red light, but probably on his evening job, delivering pizzas rather than arriving in a rush to be early, but certainly no-one, other than Charlie, our captain, ever arrived that early before a start. Actually, Jeremy, who lives closer to the ground than anyone else – his house could be used as a boundary marker – usually arrives some time after the teams have taken the field. Not that useful if we’re fielding, as he is one of our opening bowlers! So, the England team arrived early and then started stretching and “warming up”. Not usually seen at the Heath, but there was some familiarity in practicing slip-catching before the game, different only because there was no delay looking for the ball in the nettles every three attempts.
Once the match starts, the teams run (yes, run) onto the pitch with the captain leading (and, even he was running, not hobbling) everyone else following closely, no-one is still smoking and they all seem to go straight to their correct fielding places – they all even seem to know from which end the first over will be bowled and. they don’t have to re-adjust the clock for a delayed start.
Once the game is under way there are a lot of similarities. Probably, the way the ball seemed to be bowled so much faster was down to being so high above sea-level and not any reflection on the fitness of our opening attack. The players on the boundary remember to stop signing autographs in time to walk in for the next ball. Everyone remembers to walk in apart from some excessive players who ran in – every ball. The ball kept on being thrown back to the keeper – not, however, to the left, right or high above him. Each throw was backed-up – and usually stopped. There was an interesting ploy of catching the ball as it traveled back to the bowler, I had always assumed our tactics of dropping it as it was passed round, caused one side to get roughened up slightly quicker...
Strangely, there was no sign of sulking or throwing toys out of the pram when a bowler was taken off, nor did we see any bat-throwing despite some strange decisions. None of the players looked like they were only picked because their wife was making the tea or because their dad was Chairman, Alright, the Barmy Army did make a lot of noise but the WAGs at the Heath aren’t that quiet, particularly as the evening wears on. The only other unusual detail – no-one wore black socks!
Could the “Mighty Heath” learn from this? Probably not; after all, in spite of the early arrival, the keenness in the field and the correct attire, they still lost. Badly.