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  • Eddie Hewitt

#ENGvWI Test Match Culture

Culture abounds at cricket matches. The three match series between England and West Indies is providing a marvellous opportunity for cultural exchange and celebration as well as top quality sporting competition. The summer is drawing to a close far too quickly, so it's time to take a late stroll around the grounds and to seek out all the sights and sounds that complement the game, in most cases, so delightfully.

In search of local and exotic culture at Edgbaston (August 2017)

For starters

The international cuisine on offer may not have been completely authentic, but the range of dishes at Edgbaston was huge. Indian curries in wraps, Chinese noodles, Fish ‘n’ chips, Cornish pasties, Jerk chicken and many other choices. I opted for curried goat, my preferred taste of the Caribbean. Quite tasty, but so many bones. A flask of tea and cheese and cucumber rolls suited me just fine later on.

Curried Goat, an absolute must before start of play in the day/night test

Spectators

The cameramen have to work hard to find West Indians in the crowd. And musically speaking, it’s a far cry from the days of conch shells and whistles and all that deafening noise underneath the old Grandstand at Lord’s.

West Indies supporters at Headingley (2017)

Classical Music and other sounds

The musical treat nowadays is a performance of Jerusalem by the Sports Soprano Laura Wright. Splendid singing, though the custom is a shade jingoistic. And then Nessun Dorma at teatime. High culture indeed. A bit lower down the scale, we hear defiant bursts from a lone trumpeter and interminable, mindless chanting from the barmy army in the Hollies Stand (Birmingham) and on the western terrace (Headingley). The less heard from them the better. If some extra excitement is needed, I gather that discreet flag waving can be rather fun.

Sports Soprano Laura Wright belting out Jerusalem at Edgbaston (2017)

Laura Wright overwhelmed after singing Nessun Dorma at teatime.

Photos via @theLauraWright

Liquid culture and fun for some

Fancy dress adds to the party mood. But do we want a party? The presence of several Woodies from Toy Story at least brought some originality to the pageant. Attempts to create the world’s longest ever beer snake were also impressive. Outstanding, and how we all laughed, but rather them than me.

Lots of Woodies and plenty of Buzz in the Hollies Stand at Edgbaston

The beer snake at Headingley

Once the alcohol has really soaked in, the chanting can become almost unbearable. Beer-fuelled, pathetic, mindless noise. This is not football. Raucous celebration (in Birmingham, again), whether for success on one side or failure on the other, has no place in cricket. West Indies are the opposition, but they are also our friends and invited guests, and we should be making them feel welcome.

Big names

Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards and fellow Antiguan Sir Curtly Elconn Lynwall Ambrose have been present. The voice of Sir Curtly enhanced the Test Match Special commentary.

Sir Curtly Ambrose in the Test Match Special Commentary box at Edgbaston

England have had an even bigger name in the commentary box: Ebony-Jewel Cora-Lee Camellia Rosamond Rainford-Brent. Ebony is a World Cup and Ashes winner with England, and now the Director of Women’s Cricket at Surrey. Infamous for scoring one of two first round hundreds in a Pointless partnership with Henry Blofeld. Also infamous for her embarrassing dismissal in the TMS Anniversary match.

Ebony Rainford-Brent with Jonathan Agnew in the TMS box (2016)

Just one more big name to mention here: Labon Kenneth Blackburn Leeweltine Buckonon Benjamin. Also known as Gravy, the Antiguan spectator/entertainer. A genuine superstar in Caribbean cricket. If only he were at Lord's for the decider. It would be fun to see St John's Wood try to cope with the kind of entertainment normally served up at St John's Recreation Ground.

Gravy, Antiguan superstar, in regal attire

Gravy, padded up and ready for action, in younger days

More than any other sporting event, perhaps, attending a test match provides a wonderful opportunity to meet people and share experiences and stories, and even to mingle with the stars (or at least pass them by on a tour around the ground). Sometimes, it's the other way round; test match heroes come to visit you instead. This was the case at Royal Ascot Cricket Club in 2013, where Michael Vaughan, one of England's finest ever players and captains, brought along a team of ex-England legends.

Michael Vaughan (left) with your Connected Cultures correspondent

England legends including Adam Hollioake, Mark Ramprakash, Devon Malcolm, Philip DeFreitas and Dean Headley, plus a few more, captained by Michael Vaughan

And so to Lord's and MCC culture. The members have their own subculture, and it's not always very attractive or welcoming. Let's have a word or two specifically on MCC fashion. A rather strange sense of fashion. Here we present the 'Egg and Bacon' look, or rather looks. There are different ways of wearing the 'old school tie' and also burning tobacco. Choose for yourself whose sense of style you'd rather find in the pavilion:

MCC member Keith van Anderson, impeccably turned out. Photo via Lord's.org

Let's keep this one anonymous. Not quite a full English breakfast, but certainly a mess of Egg and Bacon

The late English summer series is currently 1-1, with one match to play at Lord's. We look forward to welcoming our guests to the home of cricket, and to an exciting season's finale.

© Eddie Hewitt 2017

Links:

Connected Cultures - West Indies Cricket: ups and downs

www.connected-cultures.com/single-post/2017/08/31/West-Indies-ups-and-downs

BBC Test Match Special www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00fr0n5

© 2020 Eddie Hewitt. All rights reserved.