Monday Jun 25, 2007

Cricket: What Baseball Wishes It Was

I just went to my first cricket match and though I understand cricket purists might argue that a Twenty20 match doesn't qualify, it was plenty good for me. In fact, due to the rain delay it was really only 10 overs per side :-). Is that a Ten10? Anyway, the story of how I attended this match is humorous and interesting. It was definitely fate and an experience I won't ever forget.

I'm in London attending the Gartner Identity and Access Management conference and arrived Sunday with my friend and co-worker, Brandon. We got in early and the Hilton didn't have our rooms ready so we did a bit of sightseeing. I'll spare you the details of our pathetic navigation of the bus system, but after making it to Buckingham Palace and seeing Westminster Abbey and the House of Parliament/Big Ben, we had walked a long way and wanted to ride back to the hotel. The bus drivers were quite helpful and we were soon on our way back - or so we thought. In our haste to get on the right bus we neglected to make sure it was heading in the right direction. It wasn't. When the bus driver told us we were going the wrong way and we got off, we were next to something that clearly held sporting events. I asked one of the attendants through the fence if there was an event. He said yes and I asked if it was a football match. He laughed and said, "Mate, this is the Oval. You've never heard of the Oval?". I admitted the obvious, that I hadn't. He laughed again and then told me that the Oval was one of the most famous cricket stadiums in the world and the ONLY thing played in the Oval was cricket. I had just told Brandon that morning that one thing I wanted to do someday was to go to a cricket match. Why not today? The attendant told us that the game was being rain delayed and we proceeded to look for a place to buy tickets to find out how much it would cost.

A man, who either heard us talking to the attendant or could just tell we were in the market for tickets, approached us and said he had some he wanted to sell. Both of us were leery, but John assured us the tickets were not only legit, but 3 pounds (about $7) cheaper and could be refunded, if in fact the match was rained out. Further, he encouraged us to come in with him, his girlfriend Allison and his good friend James and pay him only if the match was played. Talk about no brainer.

The stadium was beautiful and looked to me like a HUGE golf green. It was somewhat covered by tarps, etc. to protect the pitch and key areas from the drizzle. The clouds were dark and I don't think any of us felt the match would actually be played. However, about an hour later the clouds cleared up and they announced that the match would occur, but it only be 10 overs per side and not the full 20. By this time John and James had completely explained the game. It helped that John was such a huge baseball fan (only weeks before he'd been to both a Cub and White Sox game in Chicago) and could relate aspects of cricket to baseball, something Brandon and I know better, though neither of us are fans.

The match was the Surrey Brown Caps, the home team, against the Hamshire Hawks. James is a big Hawks fan. John is a big cricket fan. Allison is mostly a John fan :-). The rain stopped, at least enough for the match to start and we could not have happened upon three better people to spend the afternoon with and learn about this fantastic sport. Hamshire elected to bat first, which John said was a surprising move, and Surrey proceeded to bowl exceptionally well keeping Hamshire to only 72. The spin (slow) bowling was quite effective. We were impressed that bowling, essentially pitching overhand while being required to keep your elbow straight, reached speeds of 89 mph. Yes, straight arm. Surrey looked like they would reach 73 very quickly, but slowed near the end, finishing Hamshire with an over to spare. Sky (a Sun customer) covered the match and we were on the replays, and probably the sports coverage on the news later, several times.

I loved it. Can't wait to go again. Thanks John, Allison and James! You guys were great and our experience with you at the Oval was definitely the highlight of our trip. John, when you are in Illinois next we've got to see a Packers/Bears game!

Cricket is so much better than baseball. Granted that is a low bar, but easily cleared. Let me know if you want to understand any of the rules or the intricacies, but do wait until John sends me his email :-)

Baseball - a poor imitation of cricket.

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