Alex Bysouth, a friend of The Middle Stump, takes a look at cricket and America’s insistence that it is not as exciting as baseball. Alex is not a keen cricketer (although he once hit a six in to the tennis courts in a charity match) and he is not a baseball fan, but since falling in love with a girl from across the pond, he gives us his view on the two sports.
I have, at a push, an exiguous interest in the world of cricket. I mean I enjoy hitting a ball as hard as I can and I did enjoy ‘Brian Lara 2007’ on the PS2, but as far as following the game goes, I often switch off at anything less than an intense Ashes series.
So, when I spent last summer working at a sports camp in the USA it was surprising to me how disconcerted I became by the slanderous way ‘our’ beloved pastime was banded around by American baseball lovers claiming ‘The Old Ball Game’ was much more exciting and skillful than, as they put it, having a tea party for 5 days before deciding to call the game a draw.
Before throwing any criticism their way, I decided to watch an MLB game, so the day after a drunken night in the capital, my fellow travellers and I embarked on the Nationals Park, situated in the suburbs of Washington DC. We touted 4 tickets with a face value of $1 each for what we were told by the dread-locked broker outside the subway station, were selling at a very reasonable $100 bucks, as an added incentive he threw in 4 top quality ‘Nats’ caps.
The Nationals Park boasted an impressive 42,000 capacity and a very modern design being only 3 years old at the time. We’d chosen to see the Washington Nationals host one of the favourites for the World Series in the Philadelphia Phillies. As luck would have it, according to the Hispanic friends we made in the crowd, it turned out to be one of the most exciting games they’d seen, with the Nats winning 5-4 and the game going to an extra innings.
We had sat through a whole 10 innings of baseball, for 7 innings in the middle there was not a single score. In fact, perhaps induced by too many Corrs Light’s the evening before, I fell asleep. I was only awoken by the childish giggling of my friends at the announcement Antonio Bastardo would be pitching for the Phillies, assuredly I had a little chortle too.
Admittedly the game climaxed in quite an exciting fashion, the Nats winning with the last play of the extra innings; disappointingly the win didn’t come through a Babe Ruth or Derek Jeter style home-run we’d been longing for. Instead, the Nats claimed victory with a ‘walk-off hit-by-pitch’, which meant as the pitcher had hit the batter with the ball, he was allowed to walk to first base and as all bases were ‘loaded’ the Nats stole the victory.
So after 6 hours of play, with no tea-break, the game had finished with a ‘walk’. Now I’m certain when I’ve watched our boys slogging it out for that little urn, they’ve either had to hit it really far, or at least run to win the series. Don’t get me wrong, baseball is a very skillful game, trying to hit a ball pitched at over 100mph isn’t a walk in the park (although in our case, it was a walk in the ball park) and it took me ages to perfect my ‘Splitter’ and ‘Curveball’ pitches on the Wii.
The Ashes may have the potential to last for 5 tests of 5 days each, but at least in this time you’re almost guaranteed to see a couple of thousands runs, some centuries, dropped catches, run outs, a few ‘hot-spot’ decisions, a silly-mid-on and plenty of sledging.
In 2011, aged 37 Derek Jeter became only the 28th player in baseball history to hit the ball 3000 times, whilst Brian Lara scored over 22,000 runs during a splendid career of first-class cricket. You see, home-runs maybe a common practice for Scotty Smalls and the gang whilst playing down the Sandlot, but in reality of top class baseball they are few and far between. I’m sure a deeper understanding of the sport is needed to appreciate the precision skill involved in one of America’s national treasures.
But where’s the excitement in winning a World Series, that is actually of course, just played in the States anyway!?
Give me a rainy day at Lord's and The Duckworth Lewis Method anyday!