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

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

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before