Episode 2 – What to do while footy is off

So that’s it. A 2-1 defeat to finish the season off at the Emirates inspired by a man that’s not even as good as ‘Arry Redknapp’s wife. Still, I’m not going to let another trophyless campaign dampen my spirits as I’m off to the Kia Oval today, home of Surrey County Cricket Club.

I did my research before deciding to head here after snooker’s poor showing in Episode 1 – What to do while the footy is off, and found two rather interesting facts. The first one being that the Oval hosted the first ever international match in 1870, a 1-1 draw between England and Scotland. It’s also played home to 22 FA cup finals, including 2 replays between 1872 and 1892. If it’s good enough for the greatest domestic cup competition in the world, it’s good enough for me.

It was a 10.30am kick off, so I got there around 9.30am in order to beat the traffic, take the stadium in, have a bit of a read of the match day programme and watch the pre-game warm ups. This decision paid dividends! As I strolled into uncharted territory I was greeted by the warm sight of jumpers for goal posts. They were warming up playing football! It was hardly the Arsenal style of play that I am used to; more like watching two Stokes. A hoof up field, a mad scramble, and a goal, but it was football and after a 26 all draw that gaffer called them in.

Although the stadium was pretty impressive the crowd were worse than Boro away. 23,500 is the capacity of the Oval and with 10 minutes before kick off, I would say there was no more than 500 people inside. Hopefully it’ll not get to the lads. Apparently the toss took place whilst I was watching the football; Surrey won and chose to bat first. It was strange as the teams emerged, no music, just a lame a round of applause…also pretty similar to Boro away.

There were two referees on the pitch for this match; not sure if it was an experimental move by Sepp Blatter, much like his additional assistants for games in Europe. But it would be interesting to see how it worked. No linesmen though I must add.

The first throw was wide of the target and the ref. absolutely ripped it out of the lad who took the throw in, shouting and gesturing “wide ball” towards a section of the crowd. He was punished further as Surrey were given a goal. Bentdner would be close to tears if he had to endure such treatment. The rest of the over was pretty boring, not one ball hit the batsmen and not one ball was hit by the batsmen. It was pretty much the same for the next four overs.

At the fifth there was hell on. The thrower chucked the ball at the batsmen who smashed it with his racket over the boundary line, counting for six goals. The ref. loved it, throwing his hands in the air like he just didn’t care, he clearly supported Surrey. However, with the very next throw the ball hit the batsmen on the leg. Now I am not sure if it was intentional by the batsmen, to me he didn’t seem like that type of player, but the away team were going nuts, screaming at the ref. to get him sent off. It was good referring to be fair as he didn’t make an immediate decision, but did send the batsmen off for a deliberate ‘leg before wicket,’ apparently. I was disappointed by the reaction of the away team as they were celebrating the sending off, it’s not something I like to see in football never mind cricket.

After 45 minutes I was bored and looking forward to half time; it turns out cricket isn’t played at as high tempo as the football at the Emirates. I hadn’t seen the fourth official come out with the board but I assumed with the sending off there would be about two minutes of additional time. I started whistling in attempt to get the ref. to blow as I had no idea where he was getting all this time from and in my role as spectator, I showed just what I thought of him…”THE REFEREE’S A…”

After another argument with the steward, it turns out that this match has a dinner break about half 12 and will go on for another FOUR days. It was 11.15am and people were already asleep. There were no chants kicking off, the game play was slow and to top things off it started to rain. A stadium with no roof, and a man with no jacket, but play must go on… or so I thought. Seemingly the cricketers are shit scared of rain as even with a slight drizzle they were steaming off the pitch as if Megan Fox was waiting in the changing rooms.

Cold, wet, jacketless and bored, “Play will resume after lunch” the stadium announcer bellows. A fella with a makeshift hood made out of a carrier bag pointed me in the direction of a pub so I thought a couple of pints would see me through to the second half.

There was no second half, ‘rain stops play,’ 12 pints, hangover for work in the morning… disaster.

Conclusion: Cricket pitches are too big, cricket isn’t played in a very good spirit, football is much better than cricket, and cricket it shit.

David Jones

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