I just put up Andrew Miller’s latest diary on Cricinfo. In it, he refers to England’s plucky band of die-hard supporters, myself included, who have endured years and years (a lifetime, in my case) of torment, depression and anxiety. And not forgetting the dreadful cricket, too – HA! Sorry.
But seriously – these past 13 years, or so, of watching England play Test cricket have been as memorable as they have depressing. Each Test win, up until their frequency became more regular, was celebrated in my household as A Great Event, such were their rarity. As big, I imagined, as footballers winning the world cup. Fraser, Stewart, Croft, Ealham, Gough, Tufnell, Peter Such’s batting reducing Australia commentators to tears, losing 7 wickets in about an hour – and then, about once a season (or less) we were treated to a draw. Or, on special occasions afforded the luxury of tasting a victory. It was almost like going to a posh dinner and not realising it was a black-tie ‘do’: you look out of place, feel vastly uncomfortable but can’t resist getting boshed on the champers.
My elation and my Dad’s was unbounded – and I watched other Test nations (Australia and South Africa, but Pakistan and India too – and of course the West Indies) beat England, and eachother, with monotous ease and regularity. More depressing, though, were the lack of respect England afforded, and the reaction of opposing teams. “You invented the game yet you can’t even play it yourselves! You losers!” they said. Well, they might have well done.
Quite why I’m going to say this, I don’t know – but nevertheless, England’s loss to Pakistan was like the good old days. Chirpy English confidence sapped by dangerous opposition; underestimating the opposition; feeble batting; poor preparation; jubilant opposing supporters stamping on the makers of the great game; a cocky fast bowler urgently needing wickets, and getting them. “Oh, for the sake of W.G. – show some bottle England. What are you doing?” I haven’t said that for ages – and it felt good.
These things all make up the comfort blanket of an England supporter, raised on a 1990s diet of recession, Gulf War I – and M.A.Atherton. The England Collapse may not have returned to its former miserable glory but, in an odd way, amid all the success this excellent side have produced in the past two years, this arse-kicking at Multan did at least raise a smile to one saddo here.