I love cricket, all forms. Have done for as long as I can remember. So when the new Hundred tournament came along and I’d read all the naysayers and all the spin and all the hype I decided despite some reservations to book some tickets for last nights game. The Oval Invincibles vs The Trent Rockets two franchises that didn’t exist a few months ago but featuring Jason Roy and Alex Hales respectively two of England’s most thrilling batters. Let’s try out this new version of my favourite sport designed to bring in a new crowd, get kids involved and promote the women’s game. All noble concepts. This is not the place to dissect all the noise surrounding The Hundred so on to the day itself…..
It rained, of course it rained. The women’s game was due to start at 3 pm. It didn’t start at all. My son and I decided we would travel into to London for 6pm in the hope that the rain held off long enough for some play in the men’s game. This is also not the place to discuss why the women’s game was cancelled to allow the men’s game to take place. When we arrived there were already murmurings about how poor the communication had been. It was clear many people, having been there several hours with no cricket to watch had spent the afternoon at the bar. My first foray to an “event” for nearly 2 years and I sensed an uncomfortable, uneasy atmosphere. It’s just you Dave I assumed. We had a couple of pints of cold something proclaiming to be Yardbird Ale at £6.50 a pint and a £10 chicken kebab then found our seats. Which were great seats looking across the ground so we could see the pitch running from left to right in front of us. The outfield was full of players, two very serious looking umpires, ground staff and some serious machinery clearly trying to get the ground fit for play. An announcement at 7pm “a further pitch inspection at 7.45pm” was met by deafening boos and jeers. This crowd was cold, drunk and increasingly frustrated. The mood was lifted when a burly grounds man began scattering sand from a large bucket. Each scattered handful was greeted with a huge “OLE!” This was the highlight so far.
I’d become aware of an occasional annoying voice over the tannoy which turned out to be a refugee from CBeebies in a bright yellow hoody who’s soul purpose seemed to be as banal as humanly possible. he appeared on the giant screens gurning his way through another bland attempt at crowd engagement. He was no sand chucking groundsman in the entertainment stakes. He was a constant irritation throughout the evening like a giant annoying wasp at a picnic when someone has spilt the squash.
The game did start eventually at 8.10. It was a phenomenal 2 hours of cricket. Dismiss the format if you must but to see these elite sportsmen perform to this level on a wet cricket ground with a wet ball to such high standards close up was thrilling. Facing an 85 MPH bowler from 22 yards away under floodlights and being able to calculate in milliseconds all the moving parts required to smack it 90 metres into the crowd never fails to amaze me. I faced a bowling machine set at 80 mph once. It hit the wall behind me before I’d picked my bat up. Professional cricket batters are the nearest thing you’ll see to a Jedi knight in real life. Astonishing. Jason Roy stole the show as The Invincible won. Sam Billings captaincy and more Jedi wicket keeping were a joy to behold. The game will be remembered for Alex Hales being struck firmly in the box two balls in a row from 88 mph bowler Reece Topley. The constant replays of Hales punching the floor in agony made every man in the ground cross their legs and wince. I was swept up in the action, it became just a game of cricket but played at an incredibly high technical level. Being side on to the pitch gave a real sense of the ball speeds involved. A great game.
Now the, @Chiz ‘s fuckwits were out in force and we were seemingly surrounded. A group of 6 or 7 South London lads two rows in front had a military style booze run going for the 4 hours we were there a constant stream of beer, wine and spirts arrived as they became rowdier and rowdier. Those who’d brought along their young boys and girls were clearly nervous and clearly having their night out ruined. One row back were another group from Stoke it turned out including one lady. They were equally hammered but seemingly more in control. The atmosphere was teetering between banter and tension. The drunk fuckwit next to me (not my son I hasten to add) regaled stories to me that I couldn’t hear due to the music that blared at every opportunity and also was a spitter when he spoke, lovely. He also warned ne that it would kick off. He was proven correct when the South London lads disappeared en masse just as the game was coming to a close before two of them returned as the last wickets were taken to seal the Invincibles win. One of them stood arms aloft facing the Trent supporters and with a look of sheer bile on his face screamed “You were fucking raped, raped, fucking raped”. My drunk fuckwit was right, it kicked off. Terrified children with terrified parents desperately tried to leave the scene as one of the older Trent supporters tried to get to the completely deranged, stoned, drunk lad as he continued his tirade. It was a sad, depressing, shocking end to a supposed family orientated sporting event. We left for the train home deflated and wondering why we bothered. Fuckwits…….
It made me think..
The Hundred as a concept works beacuse the players are so ridiculously talented. Love it or hate it it’s produced some great games. Moeen Ali and Imran Tahir tonight for Brimingham Phoenix produced two of the great short form performances you’ll see. The organisers however have to get their act together. You can’t keep the fuckwits away entirely, it’s a societal and drink fueled issue. If they want this format to encourage newbies and families the must seprate them from the fuckwits and have alcohol free zones where parents can bring their kids safe in the knoweldge the won’t be exposed to bad language, boorish behaviour or outright violence. It can’t be beyond them to do something.