Today we have an article by new guest writer Lee Payne. If, like me, you love watching England during the long winter nights, you might rather enjoy this … although I’m not expecting too much joy at Perth!
I haven’t been abroad for almost a decade. In fact, my passport expired four years ago. However, in the last few winters I’ve been to Cape Town, Mumbai and Adelaide. Early in the new year I’ll visit Christchurch. All thanks to my television and the wonder of overseas Test matches.
Watching Cricket from overseas is a great way to combat the winter blues. It’s like peering through a window into a warmer, brighter world. It makes scraping ice off the car in the dark that bit more bearable. The fog and the frost are forgotten when you see spectators basking in sunshine on a grass bank. I don’t even feel envious of them. In the quiet of the night here in the UK, it almost feels like I’m there with them.
A Test match from pretty much anywhere in the world will do. The best, though, are those from Australia and New Zealand. Both countries have some of the world’s most beautiful grounds – New Zealand’s method of playing Tests at smaller venues works well in giving the games a village green atmosphere and exposing the lovely rolling hills. Australia’s weather being pretty much the opposite of England’s is comforting on the long nights. South Africa is good too; Newlands is particularly stunning. It’s not quite as perfect though because the time difference is a mere two hours.
My first memory of cricket comes from watching an overseas Test on the TV in the middle of winter. It was January 2003, near the end of the Christmas holidays from school, and the 10-year-old me would get up in the morning and sit with my dad watching the closing stages of the day’s play from the Sydney Test.
Watching Michael Vaughan score 183 in the second innings made me fall in love with the game. The beauty of the SCG and the artistry of Vaughan’s century gave me an immediate appreciation of the aesthetics of cricket – this was a sport that was more appealing to the eye than ‘the beautiful game’ that is football. I’m so pleased that I got that at just 10. England won that match as well, and I was blissfully unaware of the four beatings they had taken from the Aussies in the series prior to that.
Every winter since then, when we have been plunged into darkness before 4pm and frozen by an icy northerly wind, an overseas Test has been a comforting form of escapism. Much like the way TV channels schedule dramas set in hot and sunny places during the coldest months (think of Wild at Heart and Death in Paradise), Sky Sports and BT Sport offer a way to warmer climates without leaving the house.
At school, my love of cricket had the added benefit of making me better at Geography. I was able to name the major cities of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India and it made me look intelligent.
It doesn’t have to be England that I watch. I’m not fussy. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching New Zealand play the West Indies. The passage when Tom Blundell was trying to reach a hundred on debut while batting with No.11 Trent Boult stands a good chance of being my best memory of the winter’s cricket, regardless of what happens in the Ashes.
Cricket has also helped me to deal with the challenges that life presents. As a worrier, indulging in a Test match when my mind has been all over the place has been a very cathartic experience. The game has helped me through dark times, both literally and figuratively. Matches played here during the English season have helped enormously, too, but there’s something special about watching an overseas Test. It utterly removes you from reality.
As sad as it is when the domestic season ends, it’s heartening to know that England will soon be taking to the field somewhere in the world. When winter bites, cricket is my happy place.
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