Sunday morning. I am driving around Ingleton in search of its cricket ground. Ingleton is tiny. How hard can it be? My son is sitting next to me, we're already late for the match and I'm more than a little stressed. On the third circuit of the village I finally swallow my pride and ask a passerby for directions. Five minutes later we're legging it down a 'short cut' through nettles and brambles to the cricket field. We're in luck; Shireshead are batting first. I install myself near the boundary and settle down for a compelling couple of hours.
I watched my first full cricket match in Barbados ten years ago. It was a schoolboy cricket tournament. I sat with the boys as they waited to bat, pretending to read but really listening to their conversation. I learnt a lot about those boys during that match. There was the talented batsman who blamed everyone but himself for his dismissal. Every game. Then there was the babe magnet, repeating like a mantra, 'I'll be out first ball, I know I will.' (He was). I learnt that cricket, like all sports, is all about the people. When you know the people, you begin to care about the game. You understand the individual challenges that make up the team performance and you care, really care, about who wins and loses.
So now, after my husband's 'idiots' guide' explanation, I understand cricket. More or less. I can't claim to be riveted by a Test Match and I have been known to nod off during the highlights, but when England win The Ashes I am delighted. I love Test Match Special on the radio, but mainly when it rains and the commentators discuss Mrs Smith's victoria sponge.
But back to Shireshead on a Sunday morning. The under tens play to special rules. Each pair bats for a full four overs and loses points for each wicket that falls. Two hours pass quickly. The boys play well and win comfortably. Afterwards we picnic by the river. I love cricket.