What Are Your ‘Stolen Moments’?

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My childhood was eons ago. It was a world before the internet, blanket media and instantaneous access to information. A world that my kids think is somewhere between the Jurassic period and Victorian England. A dystopian world where dinosaurs routinely knocked down buildings and feasted on mangled chimney sweeps.

My oldest son once participated in a school project that featured a picture of a Victorian school. All the children had to add a slogan to be pasted around the picture. His was simply “my Daddy went to school in the olden days”.

So there we have it. Today’s we’ll be looking all the way back through time and space to the archaic days of the late 1980’s and early 90’s. A time when 20 over cricket was a game played by children and the doosra was something served with a double naan.

Back in those days you had to work much harder to get your cricket fix. This was especially so outside of the core cricket playing summer months. My options were restricted to the radio’s Test Match Special which would provide coverage from time zones that were largely inhospitable. It often involved staying up late into the night and trying not to succumb to sleep. Not an easy thing to do when England were playing New Zealand at the Basin Reserve.

In addition I had my monthly subscription to “The Cricketer”. A magazine with a perpetually stuffy image but one I have to admit to rather enjoying. Although I was always perplexed by the amount of coverage given to public school cricket and their old boys’ teams, who probably spent their weekends power-boating and prancing about like rejects from “Howard’s Way”. I still have a box full of those old magazines stored next to several more boxes of “Roy of the Rovers”. Come on, breathe in that nostalgia!

The final option open to my young cricket loving self was to visit the local library. Do you remember those places? The local council probably closed yours down at the turn of the century. In there you could find three whole shelves of cricket books. Due to the limited fare I think I probably read through all of them at least once. Bringing out an eclectic mixture of reading content.

I can remember turning the pages through autobiographies of W.G. Grace, Victor Trumper, Jack Fingleton and one originally titled “My story” by Sir Jack Hobbs. Where “The Master” would regale you with detailed anecdotes of how many shirt collars he would pack for a tour to Australia. Away from ghost-written autobiographies I recall a book by Fred Trueman that analysed the great fast bowlers. Obviously none were as good as Fred but he grudgingly accepted that Harold Larwood wasn’t bad.

As I was walking to work the other day I was reminded of one of those old library books. It was some kind of anthology of cricket writing and it included an essay by the politician and journalist Bill Deedes. It was a short piece titled something like “The Stolen Hours” or “The Stolen Moments”. I have tried searching for it online without success. If someone remembers it then send your answers on a postcard please.

The pretext of the article was that cricket was best enjoyed when one should be doing something more useful. He would refer to nipping out of the House of Commons to catch an occasional hour of a championship game at The Oval. Probably on expenses and involving one prepared on another Harry Brind belter.

However, for the sake of this exercise I want to put a slightly different twist on Bill’s approach. Let’s define ‘stolen moments’ as the ones when you are not sitting ringside at a game or ensconced with beer and biscuits watching it on the TV or listening intently on the radio.

These are the moments when cricket shouldn’t be there or at least should not be available. Where instead it hones into view like an unquenchable, beating soundtrack to life. Test Cricket with its longer playing time and possibilities to dip in and out of the action clearly offers up the best opportunities for these stolen moments.

So, after that stodgy Boycott type build up, here are mine …

Andrew Caddick taking 4 wickets in an over vs the West Indies (4th Test Headingley 2000).

This was the series when the West Indies juggernaut finally ground to a screeching halt. The old “Blackwash” days were already a thing of the past. England had improved steadily if not spectacularly and the West Indies decline was already set into accelerated motion. The widening cracks temporarily papered over by the fading but still potent ferocity of Walsh and Ambrose and the batting brilliance of Brian Lara.

Let us join the 4th Test on the 2nd and final afternoon. West Indies are struggling at 52-5 in their 2nd innings and 48 adrift. Ridley Jacobs is taking guard to Andrew Caddick. I have just left my boring financial services job and am walking back to my car to begin the drive home. I stop at the window of an electrical shop where every television in the window is tuned into the Test Match. As Caddick’s arm comes over I think I may as well stay peering suspiciously through the glass and see what happens.

In the blink of a second Jacobs is cleaned bowled and trudging back to the pavilion. Faced with an immediate wicket I feel it worth hanging around for a bit longer. In the space of the next 5 balls Nixon Mclean, Curtley Ambrose and Reon King are all castled by Caddick; completing a 4 wicket over. Fate, time, space, Russell Grant and David Icke all coming together in perfect harmony to ensure that I was positioned in the right place and at the right time to see it happen.

Jimmy and Monty hang on vs Australia (1st Test Cardiff 2009)

This match followed the 5-0 hammering in Australia. Everybody agreed that England needed to start well. I was desperate for 2005 not to have been a flash in the pan. On the 5th afternoon the prognosis was bleak with England holding on for the draw by their finger nails.

England’s 9th wicket fell with the dismissal of Paul Collingwood for a battling 245 ball 74 and just Anderson and Panesar stood between England and defeat. With 11 overs still to block out the game seemed up and a summer of pain in store.

Lacking the necessary funds for a SKY Sports subscription I had been following the final day’s proceedings on the radio. However, as the last hour came into focus I had already, under threat of divorce, been dismissed to the bottom of the garden to paint a fence. A task I undertook with all the diligence, skill and commitment of Tom Sawyer rather than Mr Miyagi.

Out of reach of radio I had to rely on my primitive mobile phone to bring me text updates via Cricinfo. This it did via an intermittent signal and endless hanging between balls, where I was convinced the delay was directly connected to a wicket. But, eventually we got over the line, Jimmy, Monty and me.

The World Cup Final – England V Pakistan (Melbourne 1992)

I was 15 years old and took my radio into school. A terrible, crackly old thing where you could be forgiven for expecting to hear “London Calling”. It was the same radio that I had listened intently to in bed when England had skittled Pakistan for 74 in an earlier group game and been cheated out of a win by the weather.

The tournament was being shown on SKY, which at that time put it beyond the reach of 95% of the population. It was therefore outside the consciousness of all of my school friends and thus I kept a lonely vigil.

I remember finally making it out of class for break time to hear that England were 9 down and caught the last rites of Richard Illingworth’s dismissal. What made it worse was that nobody else seemed to care. Those of us that do care are still waiting for that elusive World Cup win.

These are my stolen moments. I’d love to know yours.

Garry White

17 Comments

  1. My stolen moment was Headingley 1981 soon after I had started work for Honeywell Computers. There was no prospect of smuggling a radio into the office but you could telephone the British Telecom Test score service. In the excitement of Willis’s spell down the hill it was constantly engaged though. Dave from Maintenance was knocking down some partitions on another floor and he had a radio – and was avidly listening. Job done.

    • That’s a brilliant one Andrew. I can’t believe there used to be a BT test score service. But I can believe it was engaged just at the time people needed to use it 😉

  2. 1970. Thursday 30th July, day 1 of the 4th Test (as they called it then ) England vs. The Rest of the World. We, that is my parents along with my 13 year old self and 5 year old sister, were enjoying our second summer holiday in Guernsey. Now perhaps because I was bored, or maybe as my mother wasn’t keen on boat trips, this day my father and I set off on a fairly small inter-island ferry to spend the day on Sark.

    It was a very hot, sunny day, and I found the famous car-less island an interesting place to wander about, especially as I had my small, black transistor radio with me to listen to the Test as England battled against the well balanced and skilfull RoW attack (Proctor, Sobers, Barlow, Gibbs, Mushtaq & Intikhab). Now my radio could only just pick up TMS, and no-one except for me could hear it as I carried it pressed to my ear, so my father & I were surprised to eb stopped by a local who told us, in a stern and unwelcoming way,that listening to a radio in public was “illegal” in Sark, and that I could be “arrested” if I continued to do so.

    Of course I didn’t stop checking in from time to time (hiding behind hedges or walls, or down deserted paths) as we played ‘spot the local jail’ whilst walking round the island. So I knew that England had slumped to 91-4 before Keith Fletcher and skipper Illingworth rescued the innings with a century stand. When we returned to the little port and were waiting for the boat back to Guernsey, I was now bold enough to listen openly – and so I heard, in my ‘stolen moment’ as Eddie Barlow destroyed the English middle order and tail, including a hat trick (Alan Knott, one of my heroes, bowled Barlow 0, Chris Old, bowled Barlow 0 and finally Don Wilson, caught sub – another of my Kentish heroes, Mike Denness, England’s 12th man but subbing for their opponents, bowled Barlow 0). England declined from 209-4 to 222 all out and Barlow finished with 7-64.

    Most of the English team are no longer with us today (only Boycott, Fletcher, Illingworth, Knott and Snow are, I think) but all of the RoW team are, save for that day’s star performer Eddie Barlow. I’d like to record this small story in memory of those wonderful players from my childhood.

  3. Andrew Caddick taking 4 wickets in an over vs the West Indies (4th Test Headingley 2000).

    I was in a car, driving North from Nottingham to Leeds in anticipation of going to day 3 of the test match. I got as far as Sheffield before the Windies were all out, turned round and went home. I’ve not been to Headingley for the cricket since.

  4. You got two of mine in this article. 1992 World Cup Final. Was at school and someone brought in a radio and putting it on in class was too risky so we took turns on nipping to the toilet to listen and find out the score and report back on the score.

    2009 with Jimmy and Monty I was at work that day and should have been at work until about 7 but at tea I cleared off early to watch at home and just kept my work phone on in case of any phonecalls. Was more nervous of getting busted for going home early than Jimmy and Monty not surviving.

  5. It’s slightly different to a “stolen moment”, but I saw what must be the last day of f/c cricket in England on a rain-affected wicket. I was in my first year of uni in Canterbury in 1984 and trotted down to the St. Lawrence ground for Day Three of the CC game against my county Hampshire. Day Two had been rained off but I was hoping (but not really expecting) a contrived finish.

    Pitches had been covered for over a decade but the covers had leaked and from the top deck of the Frank Woolley Stand I could see that one end of the pitch was noticeably darker than the other. It didn’t stop Hampshire captain Nick Pocock accepting a stiff target. The Hampshire openers saw off Terry Alderman easily enough but when Derek Underwood came on bowling into the damp end, it was all over very quickly. I can still remember deliveries to Mark Nicholas and Trevor Jesty leaping off a length to be gloved to slip and gully respectively. Pocock top-scored mainly by reverse-sweeps which was the first time I’d ever seen the shot (although apparently Mushtaq Mohammad played it in the 1970s I never saw him).

    http://cricketarchive.com/Archive/Scorecards/44/44710.html

    On another slightly different tangent, I very nearly missed Botham’s 149*. I was going to go to a CC game that day but it was raining that morning in Sussex so I didn’t go. And another odd experience was being at a CC game in Colchester and the PA giving running updates on the failure of the anti-Gorbachev coup…..

  6. A couple from me.

    The win in Pakistan in 2000, I was due in a meeting in our office over the other side of town. But this was before you were easily tracked down by mobile and on the way to the office was a sports bar, I managed to catch the last half hour and what was a famous win

    And the Ashes 05 (I’m sure this applies to many, many people) where I discovered OBO commentary, very little work got done that summer.

  7. 1986 3rd test v New Zealand at the Oval. I was hosting a broker hospitality event at the Oval as marketing manager of Cornhill. I sneaked off to watch the cricket in the sure knowledge that the brokers would be far more focused on the industrial quantities of alcohol. It was Botham’s return from some run in he had with the authorities. He came trundling in, clearly overweight and bowling at about the pace of a club change bowler. But despite him sending down some of the worst balls I have seen in tests the atmosphere, with the crowd roaring every step of his approach, got to the New Zealand batsmen and they gifted him wickets. Ever since that game I have thought of Botham as ‘Thundering Gut’ to Holdings ‘Whispering Death’. You could almost feel the ground shake from his run up.

  8. In the days where homeworking is more accepted I would have thought there is more scope for ensuring that you can be conveniently located to catch more action when needed? Broad’s demolition job at Trent Bridge in 2015 was a nigh on blink or you’d miss event but I as working at home that day. Suffice to say that I had more than enough time to get on with my work after that sadly!

    For the 2000 test at Lord’s v Windies I had a gentleman’s agreement with my boss at the time that I could go to Friday’s play so long as I worked a couple of hours extra each day from Monday to Thursday. Job done and it was a rather eventful day to say the least!

  9. It’s not quite a stolen moment but one I lost but unexpectedly got back.

    I was backpacking down under for the 1998/99 Ashes. I went to all 5 days of that famous MCG test when Headley and Gough bowled us to a famous win defending a small total.

    Because we thought defeat was inevitable, we foolishly booked a coach to Sydney (where we were headed for New Year) on the evening of the final day. We had to leave the MCG just as things started to get interesting.

    We were cursing our bad luck in the back of the coach when they suddenly put the radio coverage of finale on. We could just about hear it. There were quite a few Aussies on board (as you’d expect) but also some fellow Barmy Army members who made they same mistake as us. We all went nuts in the aisles when the wickets started tumbling! The locals weren’t necessarily impressed.

  10. For the Cardiff 2009 denouement I was on tech duty for our church’s evening service. On arrival in the booth I opened up ‘The Guardian’’s over-by-over coverage on the computer, then kept flicking between it and the software for setting up the song words to display on the screen.

    The service started at 18:30. England had to hold on till 18:41. A few minutes later the vicar stood up and began his talk with: “Just to put all our mind’s at rest —and so we can all concentrate on what I’m saying — Smylers, please can you put the cricket score up on the screen.”

    I can’t imagine that happening now. In 2009, the 2005 Ashes — and cricket on normal telly — was still a recent memory. But now, I doubt most people in church would even know when there’s a test match on, let alone be so caught up in the result that it’d distract them from the service.

  11. Bob Richardson on

    Remember the Caddick Windies wickets well. A Friday in late June. I was teaching at a school in March, Cambridgeshire at the time. A few weeks away from the summer holidays, with reduced teaching loads after the GCSE and A level students had finished their exams and gone meant my motivation wasn’t at its highest. Nor was that of Dave our Head of PE. I wasn’t teaching in the afternoon, so I sneaked out to the pub opposite the school’s main entrance – The Stars, if I remember correctly – to enjoy a couple of quiet lagers while watching England get their then usual tw@tting. Dave joined me . He was on duty all afternoon, so at with a walkie-talkie awaiting the call to go and deal with a ‘scrote’ kicking off in German or Geography. Fortunately the school was quiet (maybe he was just out of range?) and we were undisturbed except by the rattle of Windies wickets. Dave missed two while he went for a piss. By the time our colleagues joined at 3.30 England were batting again and they thought they had arrived in a parallel universe. No doubt in the mean spirited business management driven bollocks that masquerades as modern education I’d be subject to serious disciplinary conduct for being absent without permission and under the influence of alcohol. At the time the worst would have been a bollocking. No one found out anyway. The Deputy who joined us, only gripe was he’d missed it.
    I think Corky got the tail.

    • Very true! It is easy to forget the context of this series. England hadn’t got close to the Windies in decades. They won the 1st test by an innings and were well in front in the 2nd before collapsing for 60odd in the 2nd innings. England crept over the line by 2 wickets via Cork and Gough in a nail biting finish that could be categorised as a “stolen moment”. I watched it alone in the unopened bar at Kings park in Bournemouth. I had been dismissed in the 1st couple of overs after tea and was able to nip upto the bar and turn the tele on before anyone nabbed me for scoring or umpiring duty. It’s easy now to think of the Windies in England as an easy mark and a bit of a walkover.. But back in 2000 this was a major, major victory!! The balance of power has changed ever since..

    • That would be my old school, Bob (though I was long gone by 2000). Good to hear that Dave K was not against the odd afternoon snifter. He was a strict one, as I remember.

  12. Great thing to think about, thanks for the idea! There must be dozens, but a couple sprang immediately to mind…

    1987 World Cup semi. England v India in India. Up at 4am to watch Gooch’s magnificent “sweeping” 100 on a tiny black and white telly in my room, with no volume so as to not wake my dad up. Then off to school. Torture. 11am – PE! PE teacher had a little caravan with a radio in it. Kapil just out caught by Gatting on the boundary. Nip and tuck. By the time we came back from the playing fields, the radio told us we were in the final!

    The other one was actually in the internet era (sort of). England v Sri Lanka in 2006, when Freddie Flintoff bowled himself for hours and wrecked his body in the process. Looked like there might be an exciting chase if we could bowl them out, so I skived off work and popped up to Lord’s. Looked like it might rain or at least be bad light, so decided to sit in the lobby of the hotel at the bottom of Wellington Road just outside the ground until we bowled them out. Ended up sitting there for 2 hours trying to get text message updates while Freddie flogged himself to death and the game ended in a draw with the Lankans 9 down.

  13. I love the premise for this piece as I too recall making use of my local library’s cricket-related offerings; books by John Arlott seemed to feature heavily alongside ghost-written offerings by the likes of Viv Richards and David Gower. But they always had the latest edition of Wisden in the reference section.

    My best ‘stolen moment’ would be the climax of the fourth Test in the 2005 Ashes series – I ‘witnessed’ Giles and Hoggy getting England over the line via the updates on the BBC’s website in an internet cafe in the Kenyan town of Nanyuki, having failed to find a bar in said town with a telly showing the match (I was backpacking through Africa at the time). By the time the match ended I was the only customer left in the place and the manager was desperate to close up. I hugged him when the screen told me that England had won; I think he thought I was mad.

    PS – the Bill Deedes ‘Stolen Hours’ essay can be found in ‘The Spirit of Cricket: A Personal Anthology’, edited by the legendary Christopher Martin-Jenkins (Faber & Faber, 1994).

    • Thanks Nick. So that was the book!! Will pick up a copy on EBay… Unless of course I can find one in the local library..

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