What a smash: A concept album about cricket

The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon has written a concept album about cricket. The Independent's man on the boundary gives it a test listen
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In 1930, Don Bradman took time off from the day job to write some music. It accompanied the lyrics of an emotional ditty called "Every Day Is a Rainbow Day for Me" (having scored 974 runs in that summer's Ashes series he presumably identified with the sentiment) and the song was given a rapturous reception at its first public performance in Sydney's Grand Opera House.

Bradman, the best cricketer who ever lived, was also, rather maddeningly, an adroit pianist. He made a record of his own which featured a non-cricketing song called "Our Bungalow of Dreams" and not surprisingly was also the subject of a smash hit song called "Our Don Bradman", the sheet music of which sold 40,000 copies in a few weeks.

This featured the immortal couplet: "For when he goes into bat, he knocks ev'ry record flat." It is this tradition which The Duckworth Lewis Method, an assemblage of songs largely on a quasi cricketing theme, follows admirably.

The sport has long had an attraction for pop musicians. Elton John used to be a regular visitor to the England dressing room; Rolling Stones Mick Jagger (whose dad was a cricket coach) and Charlie Watts are lifelong fans and Chris Martin, Coldplay's front man, was once a key member of his village side.

But never can cricket have meant quite so much to two Irish musicians, the duo who formed The Duckworth Lewis Method. They are Neil Hannon, the lead singer of The Divine Comedy, and Thomas Walsh, more usually associated with Pugwash. It seems that on discovering their mutual devotion to the great game, they concluded that the next logical step was to write and perform an album.

By and large it is a hoot. Many of the lyrics would not be out of place in "Our Don Bradman" but it is a happy blend of cricket and pop. It is not to be taken seriously – at all. Some of the 12 songs are about cricket only eponymously. Take "The Sweet Spot", for instance, whose percussive drive makes it the most listenable of the tracks.

You might assume, given the nature of the album, that this is about the part on the bat from which are struck the most profitable strokes. Not so, as the following verse demonstrates: "Now you've hit the sweet spot, it's oh so fine, now you've hit the sweet spot like the sweetest wine, I'm down on my knees to please you all the time." Most whimsical, chaps.

This double entendre malarkey is nothing new in cricket songs. The late actor Jonathan Adams (he was the narrator in the original production of The Rocky Horror Show) penned a ditty called Sticky Wicket Blues in which: "My Baby she said 'Buck Up! Let's get laid'/ Began slap and tickle – I said 'Old girl, well played'/ I said, 'Play the game at home'/ She said, 'No have it away'/We got a little near the knuckle – thank God bad light stopped play."

Hannon and Walsh have taken their conceit a stage further by assuming, for the purposes of their album, the identities of Messrs Duckworth and Lewis, the academics who devised and gave their name to the arcane but deadly precise system for working out amended run scoring targets in rain-affected one-day matches. They might have deserved a song of their own.

There are cricket songs here, and rather jolly ones such as "Test Match Special", the rather more pertinent "Age of Revolution" about the spread of cricket in the empire ("always denied entry by the English gentry, now we're driving Bentleys and playing Twenty20"). But the zenith is "Jiggery Pokery", a piano-based song about the astonishing ball that Shane Warne bowled to Mike Gatting, his first of 10,757 in Ashes matches in 1993 and told from Gatting's perspective. It turned hugely past the batsman and bowled him.

According to the song: "I took the crease to great applause and focused on me dinner, I knew I had little cause to fear their young leg spinner."

The Duckworth Lewis Method is a delightful frippery. It is not to be compared, however, with the most evocative of all cricket songs (apologies to Bradman), Roy Harper's elegiac "When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease". Now that was art and sport in one.

The Duckworth Lewis Method is released on Monday on 1969/DCR. The band will be playing at Latitude Festival on 17 July (www.dlmethod.com). Don't miss the Ashes Special pull-out inside the Saturday Magazine today

Howzat for lyrics?

The Age of Revolution

"Time to take the new ball,

the dollars and the rouble.

Storm up to the Oval,

we're all going global.

Always denied entry

by the English gentry.

Now we're driving Bentleys

and playing Twenty20."

Gentleman and Players

"Fuller Pilch pulls his pipe and nonchalantly puts his top hat on his head.

But Mr Pilchy comes a cropper, knocks the bails off with his topper.

Gentleman and Players play,

Sunday afternoon

Gentlemen and Players play,

April, May and June."

Test Match Special

"Show me the outfield from a zeppelin.

Show me the coin toss that we never win.

Peruse the paper, sip some Earl Grey tea.

And let the Test Match Special

set you free."

Jiggery Pokery

(as though sung by Mike Gatting)

"It was the first test of the Ashes series, 1993.

Australia had only managed 289 and we

Felt all was going to plan that first innings at Old Trafford.

Then Merv Hughes and his handlebar moustache dismissed Poor Athers.

I took the crease to great applause and focused on me dinner.

I knew I had little cause to fear their young leg spinner.

He loosened up his shoulders and with no run up at all.

He rolled his right arm over and let go of a ball.

It was jiggery pokery, trickery jokery.

How did he open me up?

Robbery muggery, Ozzie skulduggery.

Out for a buggering duck!

What a delivery! I might as well have been holding a cob of corn.

Jiggery pokery. Who was this nobody making me look so forlorn?

I hate Shane Warne!"

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