Miles Kington: Was cricket invented by marauding Vikings?

Fearsome hordes in white pour off the boats, dispatch the menfolk with their bats and ask the women to tea
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The Independent Online

"Enjoy the cricket, then?" So said the man with the dog to the resident Welshman, as he came back from the bar with a pint for each.

"The Ashes?" said the Welshman. "I certainly did. Marvellous. Especially with all those Welshmen in the English squad."


"The Jones boys. Geraint Jones. Simon Jones. And I think Vaughan is a Welsh name..."

"I didn't know the Welsh were good at cricket."

"I'm not sure we are," said the Welshman, "but we can hold our drink better than the English."

"That was disgraceful," said the lady with the green hairdo. (She was on to the Stone's Ginger Wine again and had changed her hair-dye accordingly.) "All those Test cricketers on the bus. They could hardly stand."

"That's probably why it says 'No Standing Upstairs'," said the man with the dog. "It's in case any cricketers get on."

"Always a mistake to have a victory parade the day after the victory," said the Major. "The troops are still drunk with glory."

"No, they're not," said the man with the dog. "They're drunk with drink."

"Take the English rugby team after they'd won the World Championship," said the Major, ignoring him. "By the time they were on parade in London, they'd had time to sober up while flying back from Australia. Have a shave. Change shirts. But these boys were still in their fatigues."

"Mark you," said the man with the dog," if you've been playing cricket for five days, and you've just squeaked home to victory, you're going to go on a much bigger bender than if you've just been playing rugby for 80 minutes."

"Ah," said the Major, "but what if you've been fighting the Nazis for five years? And just squeaked home to victory? What kind of a bender would you go on then?"

"I was listening to a programme on Radio 4 the other day," said the man with the dog, "and this ex-soldier said that as they were about to enter defeated Germany, their commanding officer called them together and said, 'As you know, gentlemen, we have won the war. As you also know, the expectation of a victorious army is Rape and Pillage. Well, I have got news for you. There will be no Rape.' And there wasn't, said the old soldier. But we got a lovely lot of plunder."

"I don't think it would have been right if the England cricketers had gone on a spree of pillaging," said the green lady. "Or rape either. That's all right for footballers, maybe. But would it be good for cricket's image?"

"Why ever not?" said the Welshman. "I see it now. Lots of long boats approaching the shore. The populace fleeing in terror. Hordes of fearsome men in white shirts and trousers pouring off the boats, eliminating the native menfolk with one blow of their dreaded bats and then politely asking the native womenfolk to take tea and biscuits with them at the afternoon tea break."

"I'd have tea with Freddy Flintoff," said the green lady, dreamily.

"He's married," said the man with the dog.

"That wouldn't stop him having tea with me," she said.

"It would have been brilliant if the Vikings had invented cricket," said the Welshman. "Actually, Flintoff does look quite Viking, come to think."

"And Pietersen is obviously a Danish name," said the man with the dog.

"Actually," said the Welshman, "it's interesting when you look at the Australian side to realise that they haven't got any Welshmen at all. You'd think a few sheep farmers might have gone down under from Wales. But if there were any, they are more likely to have come from Scotland. Gillespie. McGrath..."

"Quite a few mid-Europeans, said the man with the dog. "Kasprowicz ... Katich... they could have been playing cricket in Eastern Europe all this time... and I guess Justin Langer's ancestors must have come from Germany."

"Well, where do you think Andrew Strauss's ancestors came from?" said the green lady.

"Stop!" said the Major. "Stop right there! I would like to call a halt before we prove that nobody in the entire Ashes series was actually English or Australian!"

So we talked about the German election instead, which is something we've never done before, and never will again.