Every sport has its own jargon but few would deny cricket has more than most. There’s silly-mid-this and short-backward-square-that – but don’t let the lingo put you off. Get past dollies and gardening and you’ll discover why cricket is known as the best game in the world and why The Flaneur is devoted to spreading the love of cricket across the globe. You’re almost certain to get the cricketing bug and will soon be chatting about snicko and yorkers and understand when someone has carried their bat even though everyone has to carry their bat, otherwise they couldn’t play cricket…
It’s not often you get to see Scotland play cricket, so when I saw they were playing the MCC at Lord’s I hurried to the home of cricket to get a sight of our northern neighbours at the crease. Who knows, this time next year maybe they’ll need passports to come and play in London.
The Saltires – Scotland cricket team at Lord’s
Some of the grandstands at Lord’s are named after the greats of the game, some are named after their location. One is rather unimaginatively called the Grandstand. There I took up residence, watching the red and gold pennants atop the Mound Stand blowing towards the Nursery End. There was a lot of wind about and it was rather cold. It wasn’t raining but the sky was grey – ideal conditions for the ball to swing a bit. A steward told me the weather forecast was the type that leaves you none the wiser after hearing it than you were before, so I had no idea of the prospects for play. Hopefully the rain will hold off…the eternal cry of the English cricketer.
Scotland won the toss and decided to field. They came onto the outfield and huddled near the pavilion, waiting for the MCC batsmen to appear. Their one day kit is blue with an asymmetrical St Andrews cross on the chest. The scoreboard showed the names of the officials. One of the umpires was called Mr Scotland which seems a bit like having someone called Mr Manchester United refereeing at Old Trafford, but he did a fine, impartial job as you would expect.
Come on then lads here we go then get stuck in, called out one of the Scots fielders.
Wardlaw bowled the first over, the white ball zipping off the pitch towards Luke Stoughton who scored two off the second delivery. Wardlaw retaliated with a ball that beat the bat. Cassar hit a six off Sharif into the stand over deep mid-wicket, the ball flying over the adverts for beer and banking. Change of over and the wicketkeeper and slips walked to the Nursery End, the media centre periscoping over them, peering at the Victorian pavilion. Stoughton was Sharif’s first victim, dismissed by wicketkeeper McLeod jumping high to his left and taking an athletic catch.
So what am I talking about? Cricket isn’t the sort of game you can pick up and play after a few instructions. It’s not snap or football. But it’s not as complicated as it’s often portrayed. Basically eleven gents take it in turns to stop another eleven gents hitting a wicket with a hard leather ball.
They use a bat to do it and as well as defending their wicket they also try to hit the ball as far as they can, for which they score runs. Now you know enough to watch and enjoy the game. There are (a lot) more complexities but they can wait.
The new batsman Perren danced around the crease between balls, probably to keep warm. Fielders swung their arms for the same reason. Then Cassar got the thinnest of edges. Was he caught behind? I heard nothing but the Scots seemed sure. The ump agreed and it was 32 for 2.
Cricket is still a game where the players applaud the opposition if they play a good shot. They applaud their own teammates after every ball. The MCC innings continued with no player getting in for long and the weather getting colder. Maiden walloped the ball around, Perren top-scored with 27, bowler Evans grunting after every ball as though he had pulled a muscle.
Eventually MCC were all out for 149 off 37.1 overs. So Scotland had to score 150 to win.
A quick break for luncheon and Barrett opened the bowling for MCC. The sun had given up even trying and my fingers were starting to freeze up. In the second over MacLeod hit two consecutive fours off Anderson, demonstrating his powerful shots. The fielders danced to keep warm. After three overs it was already 31 for none, Scotland in control though Anderson was looking quick. Indeed, just when McLeod looked like taking the game away from MCC Anderson snuck the ball through and bowled him for 23.
After a short rain break the innings resumed. Scotland were scoring at well over the required run rate, but were losing wickets. Umeed on his debut was playing well. He skied one which could have been caught, but it landed safely between mid-wicket and mid-on.
Barrett came over to field by the Grandstand. Two kids rushed over to sit near him. One was wearing sunglasses which he somehow contrived to lose over the edge of the grandstand. Barret retrieved them for him between balls.
Umeed played and missed a delivery from spinner Dutch and was stumped for 21. An unfortunate end to his first innings for the Saltires, but he will be pleased he made an impression on the game. The umpire strode over to reset the wicket, bending down to pick up the bails as though it was hard work to reach the ground.
85 for 5. It had appeared Scotland would waltz the run-chase but after collapsing it was going to be close. They had plenty of overs left (34) but it was the wicket count that would be worrying them. Things got worse when Leask hit the ball hard and low to mid-on who took it well and held on. Leask didn’t want to walk, but it was given out – he trudged to the fence where a white blazered steward opened the gate for him. They know how to do things properly at Lord’s.
After 37 overs it was 136 for 8. Scotland needed fourteen runs, MCC needed two wickets. It could go either way – especially when Wardlaw took a big swing, missed and was given out LBW for 16. One wicket or thirteen runs. You see how exciting cricket can be? MCC managed to bowl several consecutive maidens and keep the game alive, bombarding the Scotland tail but couldn’t dislodge Evans or Haq, who has an elegant late cut.
You chickens! shouted someone in the crowd when Scotland took two runs where they could maybe have scampered through for three. But they didn’t need to take the risk. Soon they needed two to win. MCC could still win if they took just one wicket, but Haq glanced a four to leg to take him to 28 and Scotland took the glory.
By the end there was a very cold wind. I look forward to returning to Lord’s at the height of summer when the sun’s taking its job more seriously. Lord’s is a fantastic arena for seeing your first cricket match. Or your thousandth. If you haven’t been, here’s a list of their 2014 fixtures. Maybe see you there.
Scotland are playing England in Aberdeen on May 9th