Yoga, wine ring centurion’s bell.

Times Media


FIRST a trapeze artist did an airborne circuit of the ground, cradling the World Cup itself as she dangled and twisted artfully from a balloon, all to wild applause.

Then Eileen Whelan — patriarchy changed her surname to Ash — became perhaps the oldest cricketer to ring the bell five minutes before the start of play at Lord’s. More wild applause.

With that we were all set for the World Cup final. Soon, Mithali Raj would lead her India team onto that famous sloping field and Lauren Winfield and Tammy Beaumont would emerge from that even more famous pavilion to open the batting for England.

Whelan played seven tests for England between 1937 and 1949, spent 11 years working for intelligence agency MI6 — gadzooks! A spy! — still whizzes about in a bright yellow Mini, and turns 106 in October.

She sleeps with a cricket bat near her bed “in case of burglars”, she said in an interview with the Eastern Daily Press in November 2016.

And not just any bat. It was signed by Donald Bradman, and given to her by him 69 years ago.

The same year, 1948, in a match against Victoria Country Women in Ballarat, she took 5/10 in 7.2 overs and hit 11 fours in an undefeated 102.

Whelan’s secrets for a long and rich life, she says, are the sacred and the profane: yoga every Tuesday and two glasses of red wine a day.

Heather Knight, England’s captain and a stripling at 26, wrote for the BBC in February of sharing a yoga practice with Whelan: “My pride, and a number of my muscle groups, are still in tatters after being put to shame by a 105-year-old.”

Who among Whelan, Knight and the trapeze artist was in better shape was a question no scorer could answer.

But no-one would’ve struggled to count the smattering of Marylebone Cricket Club members on the pavilion’s outdoor seats.

If more of them had been in attendance who knows how many cardiac events might have been sparked by the real world turning up in their backyard.

And on a Sunday, nogal.


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