England v New Zealand, Lord’s, 25th May 2015
I wonder whether you’ve ever had a conversation like this? Perhaps you have.
Purely Hypothetical Interlocutor (on my return from watching the last day of the Lord’s Test against New Zealand) : Good match?
Me : Very good thanks.
PHI : It must have been an important match, it’s been all over the television. They said people were queuing up to get in.
Me : Yes, they were. I was there an hour early and still had to queue for half an hour. They were selling tickets for £20.00, you see and there was a good chance there would be an exciting finish and England might win. It was almost sold out, so there must have been about 28,000 people there. Really good atmosphere.
PHI : Was that why it was such an important match, then? It sounds like quite a lot to me and surely England must win quite often?
Me : Well, if you go to Northampton or Leicester it would cost you £10.00 and they aren’t as good as England and New Zealand.
PHI : And how many go there?
Me : Depends a bit on who they’re playing, but maybe 200.
PHI : So, 28,000 people think it’s a bargain to pay £20.00 to watch England, but only 200 people think it’s worth paying £10.00 to watch Leicestershire. Are England twice as good as Leicestershire? Was the match twice as exciting?
Me : Hmmm. Doesn’t really work like that. It’s a bit hard to explain.
(But, well, no. Thinking back to what I was saying the other week about James Middlebrook and different levels of cricket, there were no performances on the last day of that Test that were really “on another level” or that, in purely technical terms, I haven’t seen equalled in County cricket and, frankly, I’ve seen better spin bowling in the Leicestershire League. And as for the narrative (in the sense of the sequence of scores) then substitute Leicestershire for New Zealand and the same failure to achieve a testing but achievable total on the last day can be seen for a tenner at most of our games.)
PHI : But if only 200 people had turned up or there had been no-one there at all (you know, like that tree in the forest thing) would it still have been an important match? Or is it one of your circular arguments? There were 28,000 people there because it was an important match and it was an important match because there were so many people there?
Me : I could really do with a beer, you know. It was terribly hot on the train and these important matches can be very draining …
Now you and I know, reader (assuming you’ve come here because you’re interested in cricket) that it was an important match, even if we might disagree about precisely how and why. But then we have made that initial leap of faith, that moment when we accepted that, in some sense, it matters whether one man knocks some sticks down with a ball or another manages to stop him with a bat and all else – this vast cat’s cradle of argument, sentiment and dispute – follows on from that.
Here – to prove that I Was There – are some snaps of the congregation, True Believers all.