Nearly the end of summer, and the final Test is upon us. It’s been a wildly successful season for the much maligned England team, so now is very much the time to roll out the encomia before the good times roll to a halt.
Only one thorny issue continues to give trouble, aside from the miserable torrents of rain that will inevitibly disrupt the match. The question is: how best to follow the game?
It’s easy when you’re relaxing in the garden or in the car: you tune in to the immortal Test Match Special on the radio. Unusually for a sport, the television coverage for cricket is inherently inferior, unless you’ve taken refuge in a pub for an hour or so and just want to keep a lazy eye on matters as they evolve. The problem with the TV is that you have to watch it. With TMS you can actually get on with something else (such as painting a ceiling, as I will be doing tomorrow), radio burbling in the background.
For today, however, TMS is not an option. I could listen to it at work, but it would be more than a little rude, especially when people are trying to ask me questions. So the answer must be to follow the match online. This used to always mean the celebrated Guardian over-by-over report, with its deep wells of sarcasm and banter. However, like any such personality-led enterprise, it’s become a bit of a caricature of itself these days: one too many sessions kept afloat by discussions of 80s TV shows have led me more and more to the scorer’s delight that is Cricinfo’s ball-by-ball coverage. Here, behind the rigorously formulaic descriptions, lurk knowledgeable and keen cricket watchers. This makes it even more satisfying when a hint of passion creeps out, like the sun sliding out unexpectedly between black clouds. I await eagerly each proclamation of ‘good ball’, ‘close’ or, best of all, ‘Shot!’
Enjoy it while it’s here: the winter tours almost always occur overnight for us, meaning that, in the morning, you skip straight to the end of day score, missing out completely on the developing drama of the day’s play.