Cricket for Americans, Jan. 5 2019: Neither here nor there

Day three of the South Africa v Pakistan Test in Cape Town is on in the background. It’s 4:23 in the afternoon there, and a balmy 74 degrees Fahrenheit. Pakistan is batting in their second innings there at the bottom of the world. I am sitting at my kitchen table in St. Paul, Minn. It’s 30 degrees Fahrenheit here at 8:23 in the morning.

Cape Town is 8,808 miles away. But the signal from Willow.TV is clear and clean and perfect.

It’s a big old world, but it’s also a magical one.

Sure, we were promised flying cars and jet packs and day trips to the moon, but this is pretty good too. I get to sit in my apartment in Minnesota and watch a Test match on the other side of the world, live and in color, with only probably a 30 second delay. If that’s not the future delivering on a promise, then I don’t know what is.

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Pakistan are 214 for five. That is to say, they have scored 214 runs and lost five wickets. If they lose five more, they are dismissed. They only scored 177 runs in their first innings, while South Africa scored 431, so they have to score at least 36 runs to make South Africa bat again, and a whole lot more than that if they want to win the match or force a draw. In other words, it’s South Africa’s Test to win, but Pakistan is putting up a good fight here this afternoon, which is lovely to see. Pakistan has always been a favorite of mine. A friend once told me that while they won’t always win, they will always entertain, and I have always found that to be true. They are a real joy to watch, they play fun, swashbuckling cricket with a swagger and a smile. And their fight this afternoon is a great advertisement for Test cricket

If you are looking for a team to support this summer at the World Cup, may I suggest Pakistan. Their first match of the tournament is at 4:30am Central US Time on May the 31st.

Personally, I don’t have a team. I never really have. I have tried. But nothing has stuck. Pakistan, England, New Zealand, IPL squads, County Cricket teams, like water through my hands. But that’s never really taken away from my enjoyment of the game, in fact I think it only adds to it. I am a true neutral, and therefore while I never enjoy the highest of the highs, I also am never forced into the lowest of the lows. All I care about is if the cricket is enjoyable or not.

The game also just has so many wonderful personalities, and each match it seems a new cast rises to the top for us all to savor. And, in that way, it’s similar to golf or tennis — almost an individual sport in the guise of a team one. You can have your favorites and it doesn’t matter which uniform they are wearing. And while I am a neutral, this is true for most fans of the game. If a player scores a beautiful ton or double ton away from home, the opposing home crowd will applaud the effort, express the appreciation for his wonderful batting. It’s one of those little cricket intricacies that I love.

In Cape Town, Pakistan are collapsing to 221 for 7. They have three wickets left and 33 runs to get. The match is slipping away from them and there’s nothing they can do. South Africa is running downhill now. But I am neither overjoyed nor am I miserable. I am simply enjoying the cricket, the shadows long in the late afternoon at the bottom of the world. The crowd murmuring, bits of song, voices rising with each potential wicket. Players in white against the green of the Newlands’ turf. The sound of bat defending ball, of bowlers racing in, of batsmen tapping their bats against the hardness of pitch. The commentators droning on, their voices like music. Pakistan fighting on despite the odds.

Saturday afternoon in Cape Town.

8,000 miles away.

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