Cricket’s Taking A Siesta As The Nation Plays A Test Match

Today we introduce guest writer Richard Sprake to TFT. Here are his musings on Test cricket and the lockdown. Enjoy!

At 11.15 on Sunday the 3rd of April, the ICC announced that cricket will take a siesta this summer. There will be no spring butterflies in bellies of opening batsman. Green trees will wave around village grounds but no one will be there to witness them.

The nation is currently in the mother of all Test matches. It’s the Corona Test. The UK population has been batting for 53 days. The bowler is S K Corona, a venomous enigma, he digs it in short and smashes you in the chest.

First innings, captain laid down the orders “Stay in all day”, captain then ignored his orders and was clean bowled. Not Atherton though, he threw the anchor down, no social event tempted him into a drive. Cooky was locked down on the farm, no milking the bowlers, just the cattle, cow by cow, teat by teat. Rory Burns didn’t budge from the sofa, he wasn’t tempted into a cut, no matter how badly he needed one.

I, on the other hand was out once. Living on my own, I’d been batting for 20 days, the sun was shining and I snicked off to a BBQ in West Brompton – captain’s orders broken. It was just the two of us, she was an old friend, a master chef, she placed a sirloin on a length, and I had a nibble. When the fun was over, the steak dispatched, I trundled back to my flat, head down, guilt tucked under my arm, I realised one thing – I’d been playing too much Twenty20 cricket. The unfortunate truth is, we all have.

We’ve been suffering from the game’s biggest export – impatience. We’ve lost the ability to leave invitations alone, to sit still and see off Allan Donald, to pursue deeper, long-term goals, to win the summer not the day. We’ve swapped conversations for WhatsApp, sprinted from meetings, to the gym, to bed, waved goodbye to family time and fallen into the arms of our boss, thrown away the book and turned off the Test Match. But here we are, forced into the Corona Test, forced to dig in and rediscover lost wisdom of the longer game. And the nations stepping up to the plate. Since lockdown many have slowed down, read stories, spent more time with loved ones, discovered that it’s ok not to throw your gloves at everything.

My brother recently spent six months away from his son, who’d never stopped asking when he would be back and his daughter, who’d drawn enough pictures of him to fill the Tate. They had planned a fun packed summer, camping trips, beach weekends and time for him to reconnect with the family but it wasn’t to be, lockdown instead. I zoomed him 4 weeks in, a tough military man he had spent the day singing and playing guitar with his children, tired and exhausted, he had the look of a man who had died and gone to heaven.

It’s not just my brother who’s finding fulfilment in the slow-paced Test Match, You Gov Polls are reflecting the benefit lockdown has had – many of us reporting increased happiness, day by day.

Test Cricket’s counterfeit cousin is great fun but it’s a late night, a wild party, short lived, empty like the crowds of its grandfather. The Test Match is being smashed out of existence by big sixes and broken attention spans. The short form game is bashing its grandfather to death and robbing him at the same time. Twenty20 teaches us no lessons, has nothing to say in a time of crisis, it might have all the cash in cricket but its soul is bankrupt.

As the Corona Test draws to a conclusion and cricket wakes from its siesta, let’s not forget the lessons we’ve learnt, let’s not forget the tortoise wins, let’s turn the Test match back on.

Richard Sprake


  • What a good analogy! Excellent piece Richard. Bad things often have positive outcomes in ways who can’t always envisage. Let’s hope all those who have
    rediscovered their soul don’t through it all away when this is over.

    You know I’ve just got back from South American where a 3 week trip ended up as 9 weeks, but I stayed with friends, became part of the family and got myself into an almost perfect mindset. Fortunately all at home kept well throughout while I lived in the shadow of the Andes. However I look at it, a fabulous experience, that took me back to the balmy days of the 70s, travelling and surfing around the world.
    Often the simple things are best in life, 4 or 5 days watching a cricket match comes to mind. The essence of the gourmet meal, rather than the McDonald’s of the T20 or 100!

    And who would have thought that covid19 would have virtually wiped out any possibility of the 100, to take Richard’s words “it’s soul is bankrupt”. How true, and sod the money, real cricket will survive.

    People say they haven’t got time these days, it’s all “instant”. Well now as the song says “we’ve got all the time in the world”.

  • I didn’t take the article that way at all. Thought it was some light relief and a nice positive spin (for a change) amongst the doom and gloom. I speak as someone who’s had most of their freelance work cancelled so I’m not exactly smiling about COVID. I don’t think any offence was intended otherwise I wouldn’t have published it. But apologies if you and others feel differently. These are very challenging times and we wish everyone well.

    • Thanks Simon – great to get your take on this. I just thought it might be useful to highlight you’re dipping into the comments section of a cricket blog, not the FT or spectator. Just in case you’ve confused ‘thefulltoss’ for your daily source of socioeconomic commentary and fact-based insight into this, yes, tragic crisis. For me some of the subtle clues here were that the author nicknamed the virus ‘SK Corona’, presumably using the initials borrowed from the deadly Shane Warne to strike fear into the hearts of his readers (admittedly he then likens the bowling to a fast bowler which is, I accept, disappointing). The author then compares his frankly irresponsible bbq with a (potential love interest) friend to battling a tricky wicket-to-wicket-medium-pacer, one who he can’t help but ‘nick-off’ to… did you get the poetic symbolism? I bet you did, you’re very smart. Anyway that should have been a pretty clear signal that we’re not dealing with Peter Hitchens here but a rather softer, dare I say – gentler soul. Think Kane Williamson rather than David Warner.
      I inferred that our Kane was trying to say that this is, like test cricket, a hard slog and without explicitly stating it, that implies to me some positive and some negatives, of course a cricket analogy probably doenst do it justice, hence why they’re so rarely used on Newsnight. Anyway sorry to play so many shots, I get your point. Hope you beat Vic at golf.

  • The problem cricket has, certainly in this country, that no other major sport shares is that it’s an exclusively summer game. No doubt efforts will be made in all other major sports to extend existing seasons and start new ones later. Whatever happens all efforts will be made to make up for lost time. Cricket cannot be extended or started earlier because of the weather. It is not surprising therefore that cricket fans feel the loss of their game more keenly than most.
    As Richard Sprake points out we have to realise it’s ‘softly softly softly catchy monkey’ to beat the virus, otherwise we’re 2 steps forward and certainly more than one step back. Until a vaccine becomes widely avaialable we have to knuckle down to toughing it out, especially with leisure activities, where people will be most careless, as enjoying yourself in a self disciplined manner is not going to be the order of the day here. This is why I believe cricket fans have to be prepared for a longer wait than most to renew aquaintanve with their passion. Competitive sport cannot be played in an artificially watered down environment. If it means effectively losing a season, even though other sports will no doubt get a better chance to complete their backlog of fixtures, then so be it. It’s not worth the risk to rush things.
    Germany are already experiencing a second spike, we do not want to follow suit.

    • An interesting set of conversations with players has shown that very few miss the game of cricket (for various reasons).. they nearly all said however they missed the post game social aspect..

      Something for clubs to remember and the game to realise that our sport just isn’t much fun to actually play currently.. sledging, verbals, nastiness pretty much the main complaints

  • Heartwarming and funny! Much enjoyed. Can’t wait for test cricket to return. Won’t ever take it for granted again!

    • If only that were true about almost everything we lose. However experience tells us different.
      It’s like going back to school after the summer break. Hours later it’s like we were never away.
      Don’t forget it’s only been a couple of months, hardly a significant period in the grand scheme.

  • Vibes more positive over the last day or two about the Pakistan series going ahead – but the T20 WC looks like it’s being written off (sorry, ‘ postponed’).

  • If Pakistan come, which I doubt, they will have to come early because they will have a 14 day quarantine before they can do anything. In my view I really think there is little point in any cricket this year. If we get anything it’s just going to be a some watered down games behind closed doors as is said above. A few games in September? Maybe but really is there any point?

  • Two brilliant pieces of writing, the first by Richard Sprake, the second by A Belland, well done both…


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