The Day I Loved Cricket
Two words, followed by an eruption from the Birmingham crowd, sealed my fate. They were the conclusion to a game of cricket that has since formed an obsession.
That passion has seen me bowl hundreds of overs and consume thousands of hours of cricket. But that is where it began in earnest. Edgbaston, Birmingham.
It was the moment the 2005 Ashes series came alive. The storylines invaded my thoughts and I learnt the names of these bottle blonde Aussies in their flared whites. Names previously unknown to me became heroes and Kevin Pietersen’s skunk haircut became a banned desire.
I should say, that by this point a 12-year-old me was already a cricket fan having spent weekends on the boundary watching my dad play and trying to bowl bouncers at my younger brother without much technique, skill, or even control of my gangly limbs. What I wasn’t, though, was an avid watcher of the game. Edgbaston 2005 however, changed all that.
What followed was a game which has gone down in cricketing folklore. Memories of this game have become glazed with nostalgia.
The first was Flintoff hooking Brett Lee off his nose for six, with his eyes closed. A flash of red from the blade of the batsman had created the damage. The ball sailed into the baying crowd. I still own a Woodworm bat based on a combination of this shot and the way Pietersen played during the series.
The other memory I have entwined with this game took place not on the field at Edgbaston but over 160 miles away in my own back garden. It took place not between the stars of the test match but between my brother and me, clashing in our own battles during the breaks in play.
What started as honing our own games turned into emulating those that we saw on TV. First, we copied the Ashes heroes. Then we copied the greats of the game. He morphed into Brian Lara, bat periscoped to the sky. I tried to copy Malinga and bowl toe crushing yorkers.
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Yet, as the game built to a crescendo ours came to an abrupt halt.
Back on the equally competitive field of Edgbaston, England had found themselves in the box seat. Australia needed more than 100 runs with just two wickets in hand. I awoke that morning with anticipation, I watched the clock ticking towards the start of play in expectation.
Yet Warne and Lee had other plans. They kept the hosts at bay and, most importantly, wicketless. They couldn’t, could they? Trepidation set in, even when Warne inadvertently kicked over his own stumps to give England their much-needed breakthrough.
Ebbing and flowing the game had turned and twisted.
The hope that had begun trickling away like a stream was now flowing away like a rapid. The impossible had almost been completed, despite England’s best efforts. Australia was going to win.
All my emotional investment was for nothing. Is this what being an England fan is like? Did hope to follow by disappointment?
Yet they still had to complete the task of knocking off the final few runs. So in ran Harmison once more.
The delivery was short, directed at the body. Kasprowicz fended the ball from his left shoulder and the ball looped, almost in slow motion. Geraint Jones dived forward, the ball dying and escaping his grasp. Jones rolls forward, ball and limbs entwined. He arose with the ball in hand as England pleaded with the umpire, the series hanging in the balance at the time.
The year prior I had watched the 2004 T20 Finals Day at the same ground, that final wicket put me right back into the moment. I could hear the sounds, my senses coming alive as I combined memories with what I was witnessing through the screen.
The seeds may have been sown long before as I watched my dad or emulated players in the garden with my brother but that was the day that my passion excelled.
It all started with that tumbling catch. The rest, as they say, is history.
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