Jane Merrick: It started with a six ... how I fell for cricket

Jane Merrick is bowled over by the sound of leather on willow

Share
Related Topics

I can't pinpoint exactly the moment this summer when the switch flicked, the light went on, and I suddenly fell in love with cricket. Not the village green leather-on-willow cliché or that Twenty20 showbiz stuff, but the endless hours stretching into days of Test cricket. Hours of sitting still in front of the television with the blinds down, fluent in the formerly alien language spoken by Bumble and Beefy of "up in the block-hole", "silly mid-on" and "reverse swing". I am even getting to grips with the rules of lbw.

After more than three decades of resistance, at the age of 35, I have fallen for the highest form of cricket, and fallen hard. It's not as if I wasn't surrounded by the game when I was growing up. My father was captain of his school team and tried his best with three daughters (and no sons) to teach us how to play, totally in vain.

Our nextdoor neighbour taught a schoolboy Andrew Flintoff, and cricket was always played in the street. I even lived in Headingley for five years in the 1990s, within earshot of the, mostly in those days Australian, cheering crowds. But, nothing.

And it's not as if I'm a woman who hates sport – I love football and athletics. But cricket, well, it just seemed so impenetrable. Too many rules and baffling jargon. Time you're never going to get back. So what changed?

Before the Ashes series began, some commentators claimed that Test cricket was dying. The spoilt Kevin Pietersen and, now grown-up, Flintoff were ruining England's chances by making all that money and getting niggling injuries playing in the Indian Premier League. But the paradox is that it was a Twenty20 game that dragged me into this love affair.

In early June, I sat still for long enough to watch England beat Pakistan in the group stages of the Twenty20 World Cup, and enjoyed it. It was that sheer, crude excitement of such a concentrated run chase, the sight of the ball smashed skywards for six, time after time. It was this pyjama'd perversion of the game that the purists of the Lord's pavilion so hate that sparked my love affair.

That match left me wanting more, but in a more authentic form. By the time of the opening Ashes match at Cardiff I was ready for my first Test.

When last-wicket pair Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar somehow survived for 40 minutes to see England rescue a draw, there was something captivating in their heroics.

The Second Test at Lord's was extraordinary. We weren't supposed to skittle out Australia that easily. I loved Freddie's showmanship.

By Edgbaston, I was truly hooked. As the sun shone outside on the fourth day, the Sunday, the blinds in my sitting room came down and I watched the entire coverage, from the first ball to stumps. In one moment's eye contact between Flintoff and Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson I felt I understood more than a century of rivalry.

OK, so the Fourth Test at Headingley was terrible. But isn't that part of what watching England is about?

Am I in love with cricket because it's the Ashes? Will my heart still race when England play South Africa this autumn? I hope so.

What I do know is that this week, I will be glued to the television for the Fifth Test.

This Ashes series has shown that Test cricket is not dying. I think that if England bowl a good line and length, if Flintoff is as fired up as he was at Lord's and if the middle order comes good at last, we can reclaim the Ashes.

I know it won't be easy. I will be nervous. My heart will be thumping, with, as I think someone once said, that uniquely uneasy feeling that one Englishman has when another Englishman goes in to bat.



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam