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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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War


Saturday April 28 2007

This afternoon I took a short bus ride to the Oval, to see Surrey versus Hampshire, but basically to see Shane Warne bowling.  In the morning he was brilliant, apparently.  I wasn’t there.  He took 5-45 and Surrey were completely out of their depth, apart from Ramprakash who hit a not out century.  By the time I got there, Hampshire had made over a hundred for one on top of a huge first innings lead, and at tea they declared, setting Surrey 500 to win in four sessions.  Fat chance.  But there was a good chance that I would get to see Warne bowl and sure enough, at the end the day there were about fifteen overs of spin, bowled by Warne, and then also Udall.  Warne didn’t get a wicket, but Udall did, when Ramprakash, who had been batting wonderfully, got himself stumped in the second last over.

I took lots of photos of Warne bowling, but Warne’s bowling is an athletic thing.  He’s quite quick, and there’s a lot of movement involved.  So, me not being any sort of sports photographer, the best snaps I could do of Warne tended all to look like this:

image

In other words, okay as a general impression, but no clicking to get it bigger because this time, bigger would only be worse.  I got plenty of other good photos, but not any truly good photos of the one thing above all else I was there to see.

The other main memory of the day, aside from Warne, was the number of empty seats.  The Oval is a huge place which stages test matches every year.  But a county cricket crowd, if you can call it a crowd, and even if it is boosted by one-off Warne-watchers like me, gets totally lost there.  Rough guess: 500 people.  What a weird way to make a living, playing a weird game in front of tiny sprinklings of people, paid out of the TV revenue of test matches that most county cricketers only very occasionally play in, if at all.  It would be all right if round the edge of the pitch it was just trees, grass and as many folding chairs as the spectators cared to bring with them.  But a four-fifths empty stadium is a bleak and dispiriting place.  Ask the people who’ve actually been showing up in person to the Cricket World Cup.

Half the ground was shut, and there was absolutely nobody at all in any of the green seats in the big new curved stand.  Building work, apparently.

image

If you click on that, you will get it bigger.  If you need that.

Shane Warne is one of the world’s greatest cricketers, not just now but ever.  London has however many millions of people in it that it has.  Warne very seldom plays in London and pretty soon won’t be playing at all, but while he does he will finally be giving his all to county cricket and holding nothing back for test matches.  Ramprakash is a terrific batsman.  (He hit two sixes, one sumptuous straight drive off one of the fast bowlers, the other off ... Warne, just before he got out.) Yet county cricket, even as good as this, just doesn’t attract that many people these days, and most of those whom it does attract are weird men of a certain age, like me.  Which is presumably a bit of a vicious circle, because the thought of all those empty seats and weird old gits means that this old git won’t be going back any time soon.  Limited overs games, with a decent throng of spectators and a bit of atmosphere, maybe.  Four day games like this one?  Watched by, basically, nobody?  No thank you.

Certainly not tomorrow, because tomorrow means finding a TV set to watch the World Cup Final, and what is more actually getting to see properly what is going on.  With TV you get expert close-ups of everything, and you are in line with the wickets and can see what the ball is doing.  Plus you get replays of everything interesting.  Today, whenever anything interesting happened I kept expecting to see it again, but for this game there were no giant TV screens to do that, and if you missed something important when it happened, you missed it period.  Plus, my eyesight is terrible, and I basically can’t make things out or tell who anyone is from the edge of a big field like the Oval.  I can now see far more in my photos than I could see when I took them.

As it happened, the first Surrey wicket, Newman getting caught by Adams (I learn now from Cricinfo) I missed, because I was faffing about with my cheap binoculars at the time.  At least I saw the second one, the Ramprakash stumping, brilliantly executed by Hampshire’s Nick Pothas.  A fellow old git I got chatting with told me that Pothas will very soon be qualified to play for England.  Since he can bat, and since England have no problem with South Africans, he’s quite a good bet for the England spot, I’d say, any month or year now.

Finally, a couple of snaps I took after play had finished and right before leaving.  The first I show you because it is artistic and thought-provoking and all that kind of thing, and the second because that guy was the nearest thing to a Billion Monkey I saw all afternoon.

imageimage

Those you can also click on to get bigger.

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