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Monday, June 23, 2014

Snakes & Cricket



My Dad once told me during my early teenage years that the two most fascinating things in the world were politics and cricket.

I didn’t believe it at the time.  How could anyone enjoy a game that went on for 5 days?

But during my early 20’s I used to have a lot of time to kill – these were the days before broadband, when I only had 4 television channels (albeit 4 more than I have now) and I had monstrous hangovers every weekend from drinking large bottles of vodka.

Laying in my rickety single bed, nursing pounding hangovers, I would eventually settle for the cricket – back in the days when it was free to air on Channel 4.

It involved minimal concentration – I could open my eyes for 10 seconds, then close them for 60 seconds.

I didn’t really understand it.  Even now I still don’t know what a gully or silly mid-off are.  I am vaguely aware of the Duckworth-Lewis method.

2005 was the peak of my interest in cricket – before I truly discovered nightclubs and the year we first won the Ashes back.  And the last year of cricket on Channel 4.  It was safe to say that cricket had become my favourite sport.  I dreamt of attending the Ashes for a full 5 days, or at least a test match.

So following the success of the previous year’s Christmas present of a Rugby League World Cup Final ticket for my Dad, I decided upon getting a ticket for test match cricket for last Christmas.  The original thought was Lords, but at £60+ a head it was slightly out of my price range – in the end Headingly in Leeds made more sense logistically as it was easy for my Dad to get to from Hull, and I could visit my mum too.

And I love Leeds.

So we began our journey using the Leeds Metro, some nice 60’s style trains and a large group of lads roaring with laughter – apparently one of them had crapped themselves.

Welcome to The North.

Immediately upon arriving inside the ground, beer was foisted into our hands.

I really liked the ground – it had a mixture of modern and traditional structures, the wide terraces being where we were sat – with the loudest fans and a handful of yobs – just two sections down from the fancy dress parts.

 
Any early sunshine soon disappeared under a lot of cloud, it remained bright and dry but there was no need to be worried about getting sunburnt.

But the lack of sunlight in my eyes still didn’t help with being able to see the cricket ball – even for the slower spin bowlers it was very difficult to see what was going on.  One had to rely on the sound of the ball hitting the bat to be able to work out where it was travelling.

The batting was slow.  There were lots of maiden overs and not an awful lot to cheer.  We missed the first wicket by being slightly late too.

After a couple of hours I was beginning to question being there, it was a tad…boring.  Did I still love cricket?

Lunch came, fish and chips consumed with further beers and England stepped up the pace of batting, albeit gradually, with a handful of boundaries to cheer.


The crowd then stepped up their contributions, especially when the first attempts at the strangely banned beer snakes got going in the boisterous fancy dress section – who would all stand up and applause every time the ample-chested Bavarian girls walked up and down.

 
Our section was rowdy but less rowdy – a good chunk of the crowd didn’t make it back from lunch – one assumes they went to the pub and stayed there.

The rest of the day consisted of more drinking, games of cat and mouse with G4S as they tried to confiscate our empty beer glasses, a competition to build the largest beer snake (I guess around 15m long), singing “G4S are unreliable”, booing as G4S then subsequently threw some of the more troublesome out, Mexican waves, lots of throwing empty pint glasses and various items, generally terrible paper aeroplane throwing, various chants, more drinking, singing “Rooney, Rooney” every time a fat person walked up the steps, various randoms – usually girls – being challenged to down their drinks, laughter and embarrassment when one guy dared to bring some wine to drink for himself.


And many rounds of “Feed the snake and it will grow”.  Inspiring.  And the slightly more inventive “Feed the snake – let them know it’s Christmas time”.

Oh yeah and some cricket.  We were doing really well but had a slightly disappointing semi-collapse of the batting near the end.

However we took the lead and it was nice to see England winning after watching enough football recently.

The cricket was often background material and much of the day’s entertainment was from the fans.  I doubt it would be replicated at Lords.

We finished the day with a really good meal, some beautiful pork belly in the middle of the vibrant city centre of Leeds – which was already buzzing with nocturnal life at just 7pm.

Just £37 for two really nice meals with drinks.

And then train back to Bradford for our £29 hotel room.

 
Leeds is such a great city – I could happily live there, if my friends were there.  And there was better weather.

The game should be finished tomorrow.

I highly recommend a day making beer snakes in Leeds.