Thursday, July 09, 2009

It's the Ashes. Look away now.

Everyone above a certain age remembers "No Hiding Place", the episode of "Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads" where they sought to avoid learning the score of an England international until the evening's highlights. It seemed a bit of a stretch even then. Nowadays if you want to avoid knowing what happened in the last minute of a major sporting occasion you have to remove yourself from society entirely. Now that the Ashes has begun it's an all-day hazard once again. During the 2005 Ashes I was working in an office with a window into an adjoining room in the corner of which was a television. That meant I only had to glance up to get a rough idea of what was happening. I couldn't see detail but I nonetheless developed a way of reading the play just from the camera angles the director was selecting. Wide shot with lots of green meant a boundary. Close-up meant batsman was having torrid time. When the games were taking place overseas I followed the ball-by-ball coverage on the excellent Cricinfo. Sinister patterns begin to appear. A dot ball took no time to come up on the screen. If the page was taking a while to refresh that could mean a wicket. The reporter was busy filling out the details. It's like the off-screen yelp of the football-watching ex-pros on Jeff Stelling's programme or Alan Green saying "we're going to go to White Hart Lane in a moment" on Five Live; an entirely new form of the thousand natural shocks that sport is heir to. Compared to all this agonisingly mediated information actually being at a match is a breeze.

Contrast all this with Charters and Caldicott in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes". This pair are trying to get back by train from some unspecified Mittel European country on the brink of war in time to catch the last day of the Test Match. The progress of the train is of course interrupted by disappearing women, the always distracting Margaret Lockwood, shoot-outs with secret agents and regular passport checks by fascist jobsworths. And yet they never lose their faith that they will be returned to Victoria in time to scoot across town to Euston and take the train to Manchester that will get them to Old Trafford in time to see the last day's play.


  1. Anonymous10:27 am

    Funnily last night was the first time I'd ever watched the cricket highlights on Five. I'd had a hectic afternoon so lost track of the scores at lunchtime, which meant there were plenty of surprises in store (though no surprises at Pietersen's feeble-yet-arrogant defence of the gallumphing sweep shot that got him out). It helps, of course, that Five's coverage starts just after stumps, so no need to spend an evening in the pub avoiding chatter about the action before coming home for Match of the Day.

  2. Cricket is well served by the Internet. If you can't watch it on telly, then following Cricinfo is a very good alternative. It has just the right degree of asynchronousness to allow you to get on with your day while keeping up with play.

    Keeping track of cricket scores for county games is so much more convenient online than trying to follow it in a newspaper. And as for figuring out the fixture list, online it's a doddle, offline it's impossible.

    But following the game online changes how it is appreciated. It becomes predominently about statistics, and less about technique or the delicious one-on-one battles between batter and bowler that make cricket such a wonderful sport, because these are things you have to witness for yourself to appreciate.

    But it doesn't change the fact that Ashes test matches should be on terrestial.

  3. Luke Tucker2:07 am

    I think it's much worse with the tour de france at the moment, because it's a sporting event that can't just be summed up with who won last nights stage and who has the yellow jersey. You will wake up the next day and the news will tell you the winner of last nights stage and who currently has the yellow, green, poker dot jersey which is boring and confusing to people who aren't fans of the tour and too simple for people who are fans. It's like people telling you the end of movies before you've even seen the start.

    Luke Tucker

  4. Doesn't TMS take up a part of your Ashes consumption?

    Earpiece/headphones in and away your working day goes...