Leading Edge: Why England isn’t the home of cricket

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE in London

THE t-shirt went first. It came off with a frip of flubbery flesh to expose a beer-fuelled belly, a veritable spinnaker of skin.

Then one shoe was flipped into the air, followed by another. Socks took brief, pathetic flight before plopping onto the concrete apron of the fountain gurgling expectantly behind him.

The shorts? Mercifully, they stayed firmly on. Perhaps because undoing them would mean finding their mooring button trapped in the dense depths of the spinnaker.

With that, into the water he went to the silence of onlookers and the applause of his mates.

Less than an hour earlier and a kilometre behind all that lay The Oval, scene of England’s victory over Bangladesh in the opening match of the Champions Trophy on Thursday. Ahead of the fountain flopper and his merry men lay a night of celebration of that fact.

They seemed to be having too good a time to be bothered with some snarky Saffer reporter’s question: is England the home of cricket?

Besides, the reporter didn’t fancy being tossed into the fountain t-shirt, takkies – no socks required – shorts, cellphone and all.

So he resolved to ask his question of someone more sober, in every sense …

“No,” a Yorkshireman said.

“Yorkshire is the home of cricket.”

Being a Yorkshireman, he didn’t let a debate get in the way of his argument: “A Yorkshireman took 4/59 for England and another Yorkshireman scored 133 not out.”

Then he shut up and stared straight ahead, as if even Donald Trump would know who he was on about.

He was, of course, talking about Liam Plunkett and Joe Root, taker of 4/59 and maker of 133 not out for England against Bangladesh.

Plunkett and Root are of Middlesborough and Sheffield – Yorkshiremen both.

Ee by gum. Must be true, then: Yorkshire is the home of cricket.

Or is it?

“Is England the home of cricket? Hmmm … that’s a very good question …”

The ponderer was a man of Devon in England’s deep south west, once removed to London, where Surrey has become as close to his heart as chicken tikka is to the nation’s stomach.

“It depends in what sense you mean ‘home’. If you mean in a sentimental, nostalgic sense as in the country that gave cricket to the world, then, yes – England is the home of cricket. Of course, that doesn’t hold in other senses …

“Actually, I was talking about this to someone the other day. And he said, ‘The Oval is the home of English cricket and Lord’s is its temple’.

“Now, would you rather be at home or in your temple?”

Which asked a different question, albeit interestingly embroidered.

The answer to the original is that cricket is homeless: it lives anywhere and everywhere it is loved. Even in gurgling fountains.

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