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A cricket player

Think that cricket lovers are not nearly as debauched as rugby lovers when it comes to inter- and post-match drinking sessions? Think again. Anybody within decibel range of the ‘Barmy Army’ (an itinerant band of England cricket supporters) will tell you. And if you’re at a game, you could be there for a long, long time. So pace yourself.

HOW DID IT ALL START?

No one really knows where or when cricket originated, but as long as you throw the name WG Grace into the conversation, your date will be impressed. The generously girthed and heavily bearded Englishman, who played between 1866 and 1908, is considered to be somewhat of a legend amongst cricketing buffs and is credited with popularising the game. Earn extra points for knowing that he was called ‘The Doctor’ (possibly because he was a doctor). His views about women at cricket games are not widely known, but then he was a corpulent, reactionary Victorian with a large beard. So it’s safe to assume that he wasn’t exactly in the feminist vanguard.

HOW DOES THE GAME WORK?

DATING A FAN IN 6

  1. What he’ll wear: Brace yourself for a luridly striped blazer and chinos.
  2. What you should wear: Think comfort – you’ll be outside for a long time. Dark glasses may come in handy too…especially when you nod off.
  3. Likely first date: An evening of Twenty20 cricket, the ‘sexy’, mercifully shorter option.
  4. Preferred holiday destination: Australia, the Mecca of any England cricketing fan – especially if the Ashes is taking place.
  5. What he’ll be drinking: Trust us, he won’t be too fussy.
  6. Books on the go: Any cricketing biography, or he might even appreciate your very own copy of The Bluffer’s Guide to Cricket (the indispensable guide for anyone who wants to become an instant expert on the game).

There are three main forms of cricket: ‘Test Cricket’, a 5-day game format at international level (four days for county ‘first-class domestic’ level played by cricketers who haven’t quite made ‘Test status’), the one-day game format (also known as ‘limited-overs cricket’), and the newest format ‘Twenty20’, the shortest and arguably most exciting of the lot. Yes, it is that complicated – but it gets worse. The Twenty20 format was introduced in the mid-2000s to ‘sex cricket up’ – according to the England and Wales Cricket Board. The game involves two teams each with a single ‘innings’, making for two 90-minutes sessions (still double the length of a regular football match).

WHO DOES WHAT AND WHEN?

All teams are made up of 11 players, generally consisting of five specialist batsmen, a wicket keeper, and as many bowlers who can bowl. Players who can both bat and bowl to a good level are known as ‘all-rounders’. A good bit of trivia is that players who bowl, despite a lack of any apparent talent, are called ‘pie chuckers.’ The batting team tries to score as many runs as possible in an innings, whilst the bowling/fielding team tries to get the other team out, needing 10 wickets before it’s their turn to go out to bat. There are a number of different ways of getting ‘out’. Some are more common than others. Ask your man to explain what they are and then affect rapt and undivided attention when he tells you. It’s worth knowing that for the batsman to be given out, the fielding team have to appeal to the umpire by asking ‘how’s that?’ Or, more commonly, bellowing in the umpire’s face ‘OWZAT!’

WILL HIS LOOKS BE AFFECTED?

If he dabbles in the sport himself, you shouldn’t worry too much on this front. Although most players will probably have broken more than one finger, they are aware that if hit by a hard ball travelling at an average 145km/h, it will be REALLY hard and will REALLY HURT, so they are pretty savvy when it comes to wearing protective gear, especially to cover their nether regions. (This particular item, you should know, is called a ‘box’.)

WHAT SHOULD I DO AT A MATCH?

It was only recently that the world’s most famous cricket ground, Lord’s (in north London) allowed women into the inner sanctum of the main pavilion. Since then the female audience has grown significantly, with Lily Rose Cooper (neé Allen) amongst its famous fans. But women are still very much in the minority at cricket matches, and at the ‘village’ level of the game they are still expected to make the tea.

Again, prepare for the long-haul. Whereas rugby and football matches are done and dusted in 80 and 90 minutes, respectively, cricket usually doesn’t have a finish time. Because it takes so long, there’s plenty of time to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to do so – not only is it perfectly normal not to have the faintest about what is going on, but your man will revel in the chance to impart his wisdom. Just remember to blink occasionally to show you’re awake.

PLAYERS TO LOOK OUT FOR

At the moment, the most famous player on the world stage is probably Sachin Tendulkar, the Indian batsman known as ‘The Little Master’. More copies of his book have been sold than copies of the Bible…allegedly. He is very good at scoring runs in great quantities. Nonchalantly drop into conversation that cricket in India is, for some, akin to a form of religion. Other names to drop are the England batsman Kevin Pietersen (who is actually a South African), otherwise known as KP or, after Pimms o’clock, ‘FIGJAM’, meaning ‘F**k I’m Good, Just Ask Me’, and the England player Joe Root (a Yorkshireman), who is a ‘player to watch’ and whom any mention of is sure to impress.

Internationally, people still talk of Shane Warne as one of the greatest bowlers of all time, along with arguably the greatest batsman of all time, Sir Don Bradman (both Aussies). These days Warne is better known for his relationship with Liz Hurley after their somewhat scandalous affair (and his curious ‘metrosexual’ makeover which has rendered him virtually unrecognisable from the former tubby, bleached-blond poster boy of Aussie cricket).

As for players easier on the eye, England player Stuart Broad is proving very popular and has even been nicknamed ‘Malfoy’ after his striking resemblance to the Harry Potter character.

MAXIMUM BLUFFING VALUE

Talk about the 2005 Ashes. Winning the Ashes in 2005, after 18 miserable, soul-searching years, was a vital turning point for England. For those of you not in the know, The Ashes is a Test series that takes place every two years between England and Australia – some fans argue it is the only Test series worth watching. Also mention ‘the ball of the century‘, bowled by Shane Warne in the 1993 Ashes series in England.

DON’T ASK  ‘Who’s winning?’ (It’s impossible to tell at most points of the game. Teams can have the advantage or be ‘on top’ but neither team is technically ‘winning’ until the result has been decided.)

DO ASK  ‘Would you like me to pick you up a copy of The Cricketer?’ (The ‘holy grail’ of cricket magazines.)

 

Ellen Tewkesbury

Happy Bluffing!

If you want to take your bluffing from the pub to the cricketing field The Bluffer’s Guide to Cricket is available now!

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