Cricket By Night

I love the Ashes (even when Australia is playing so badly). I especially love the Ashes when they're in England, because then I can lie in bed with the radio murmuring in my ear all night and listen to the sonorous (never excitable) BBC coverage, drifting in and out of sleep and rolling over occasionally to catch the score. Michael and I first bonded over cricket, so even though it doesn't sound like it, it's actually quite romantic for us to lie there listening to Test Match Special together in the darkness.

Like everyone else in Australia, I fell in love with Ashton Agar during his marvellous innings in the First Test. He's young and dashing and good-looking, and he played with such grace and joy. You could see it on his face that he was just loving every minute at the crease, so grateful and happy to be there that it didn't matter that he was making run after run, living out every child cricketer's dream and saving the match. He came in at no. 11! He nearly made a hundred!

And then came the Second Test, and we were hopeless again.

I'm not saying it's entirely because of Agar that I picked up Netherland, which has been patiently sitting beside my bed for quite a while. And I'm not even halfway through. But so far, I'm relishing this brooding story of a cricketing Dutchman (yes, they do play cricket in the Netherlands), living in New York in the months after 9/11, who discovers the shadowy but thriving community of cricket players in the land of baseball. Invisible to most of the population, these cricketers are West Indian and Indian and Pakistani, and on tiny, unsuitable grounds all around the city, they passionately pursue their sport, inhabiting an underground, parallel world. Apparently this novel is 'in conversation' with The Great Gatsby; another exploration of American myth through an unexpected lens.

I remember being surprised when Jo and Laurie played cricket in Little Women. It's weird and wonderful to think that the spirit of cricket is still alive in America. Even if, at the moment, it's struggling in Australia.

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