Summer 2018

Headingley 2018: The Beer Snake is Dead

*Special Warning*

There is even less cricket than usual in this one folks. A combination of Pakistan’s inadequate batting, and the fact that I can’t really be bothered commentating on the match anymore as you will have seen it unfold on TV, are to blame.


Hopefully a couple of giggles though!


Pre-Test


Higgy arrives at my gaff as usual the night before the Headingley Test.


Lofty has already been in Huddersfield for two nights, and will be staying at his hotel for another three days after it ends (he must really like that statue of Harold Wilson in the main square!) so we are able to meet up for the customary curry and wine at Chutney Masala.


We discuss the forthcoming cricket and I must admit I am not looking forward to the game.


After my five – month diet of crap cricket in Australia, New Zealand, and latterly on TV at Lords, I’m getting very sick of watching England underperform.


There are some new faces off the pitch as well as on. My previous idol, James One – Test Whitaker, has been replaced by ‘Agent Smith’ from ‘The Matrix’, played in the film by Hugo Weaving, role now reprised by a chap called Ed who at least used to be an average cricketer.


The resemblance is uncanny, or maybe it is just the name, goofy sunglasses and the menacing sneer they both wear.


As our curry progresses and the wine goes down, other resemblances become evident.


If the film studio ever decide to make a sequel to ‘Darkest Hour’ and Gary Oldman is not available, then Lofty would be a natural replacement in the part of good old Winston Churchill, as he peers down his nose through his glasses at us and gulps the booze.


Higgy and I chortle and try to use the word ‘NEVER’ as many times as we can.


“You’re like a fucking double act, you two.” sighs Lofty.


We reminisce about the recent past tours and I recount a story about when Lofty went into a garage in Tasmania to fill up our car wearing his ‘Corridor Of Uncertainty’ South African shirt.


He goes to pay and after about half an hour he emerges from the office.


“Fucking hell Midnight, sorry for the wait, I couldn’t get away. The fella who owns this garage is a Saffer and he saw my shirt and thought I was too. He really kept me talking.”


He was correct, surely!


Day One


Some readers may have seen the chaos on Northern Trains in the news.


Our Trans Pennine ‘Express’ train to Leeds arrives late, and gets slower and slower along the line until just outside Deighton it is overtaken by a bullock cart on a nearby country lane.


The train announcer provides a wonderful series of world-weary apologies which genuinely seem sincere – he sounds as fed up are we are!


Finally we hit Leeds twenty minutes late and as we are going to miss the start anyway now, we decide to call into a favourite café on the way from Headingley station to the cricket ground.


When we arrive, surprise surprise. The café has changed hands again and is now Doctor Who themed, and called “Time Vortex.” Pictures of the umpteen Doctors and his adversaries decorate the walls. Lofty refuses the offer of a Silurian Sausage Roll and sits glumly on a bench outside, suffering after his 200 yard walk uphill from the station.


“If you ever have a ‘Davros’ day”, we advise the girl behind the counter, “We’ve got just the man you need sat outside!”


We finally reach our seats at 11.30 having already missed the first wicket. Incredibly, our pal Mike is sat in the very next seat to our block of tickets. The ground looks pretty full due to reduced capacity as the rugby stand is redeveloped; over in the Western Terrace the crowd are being royally entertained by Billy the Trumpeter, who plays a series of Yorkshire favourites.


Our tickets are great value at only £100 for a five day pass in the best seats. If only Sri Lanka was a cheap as Yorkshire! Having said that the radio vendors are looking to make a killing here, selling the small plastic earpieces at £15 – yes£15 – each. Maybe it will be possible to pick up Radio Colombo on these in November, in addition to the English channels!


Pakistan have won the toss and decide to bat, rather surprisingly given the muggy, hazy conditions. England have dropped Stoneman and selected Buster Keaton Jennings, who I must admit has been in great form for Lancashire thus far this season in all formats. Stokes is missing through injury, and Mark Wood has now donated so much kit to Decco that he has no cricket shoes to wear, and is thus replaced by Chris Woakes.


The decision to bat first is a disaster, just like England’s was at Lords. Pakistan struggle and struggle. Broad is on top form today. No doubt his ‘handbags’ with Michael Vaughan have provided some incentive to perform and this is certainly evident here.


At lunch I go to find Five – O, who it transpires is wearing a conservative little number today. A purple shirt with little floral designs. My granny used to have a pair of curtains with a similar pattern in the 1960’s!


Broad and Anderson simply run riot after lunch and Pakistan subside to 174 out.


At this stage we have not yet bought any beer inside the ground and although the Western Terrace contains the usual motley collection of fancy dressers, there are absolutely no beer snakes in evidence. Then, the reason becomes clear. A new hard plastic ‘souvenir’ pot is the only drinking vessel available and as well as costing a pound, this is not flexible enough to make snakes.


Sod the cricket. I will always remember that I was at Headingley the day the Western Terrace Beer Snake became extinct.


England bat steadily for the remainder of the day and are half way to Pakistan’s meagre total by the time we board the Snailtrain.


A pleasant interlude in Huddersfield with Mike and Silver Dave joining us in the Kings Head for a few beers on the way back to the right side of the Pennines. Dave is awaiting a knee operation and is limping more markedly than even Lofty. A request from Lofty to borrow the walking stick he is using for tomorrow is declined.


On return to my house I prepare a special cocktail for Higgy after we have polished off a bottle of wine. Vodka, tomato juice, Worcester sauce and Tabasco. Mmmm. Bloody Mary.


Higgy seems to enjoy my recipe, although the previous weekend my New Zealand trekking partner Paul had a slightly different view.


“Ugh. What have you put in this? It tastes like fucking Cup-A- Soup!”


Day Two


As we walk towards my local station we see a crutch which has been discarded in the river.


“You should fish that out for Lofty!” exclaims Higgy, as if he knew what was to come.


Doubter of Dobcross meets us at the station. He intended to use some free Northern Rail tickets to travel to Leeds today, but as from two weeks ago the train is now operated by Trans Pennine, and these are now invalid. He is not a happy bunny.


From sunshine in Saddleworth to cloudier weather in Yorkshire and by the time we arrive at the ground it is raining, with no signs of relief. We spend the first hour in the Doctor Who café drinking Cyberman coffee, then trudge uphill in the rain to the Headingley Taps.


By the time we reach the pub, which is at the top of the hill, Lofty, who is trailing behind us all, is gasping for breath like a man who has hiked a mile too far up Everest. Where is that crutch when you need it?


A few beers seem to help revive him and we meet Five-O, Peter and Chris Crabb outside the packed pub. At one point, Chris whips out a bottle of ‘suncream’ from her handbag and proceeds to top up her diet coke from the suncream bottle with a healthy slug of vodka.


She explained that she had obtained this steward- defeating product on line from Booze Smugglers.com and there are other lines too. For instance, a bra that holds half a litre of wine.


As Chris explained “You go in to the cricket as a 38D and come out as a 32A!”


Five – O has not quite grasped the concept yet.


“Chris, how did you get all the suncream out of the tube before you poured the vodka in?!!”


At 2.45 to everyone’s astonishment play begins. When we enter the ground Doubter and Lofty promptly fall asleep after too many beers.


Dom Bess, the night watchman, is still in and furthermore he is embarrassing our senior batsmen – no doubt the coaching from the Blades whilst he was staying with them in Adelaide is entirely responsible! Heartbreakingly, he is out on 49.


Most of the England batsmen get in, but none reach fifty, and at stumps we are left with Buttler and Sam Curran at the crease. England are already well ahead.


Time for a few beers at Huddersfield station on the way back to Lancashire.


Lofty tells us about his Ford Focus RS supercar, which he normally uses for racing round the country lanes of Guernsey - where the speed limit is 40mph at its highest!


He has brought the car over to the mainland on the ferry and has been putting it through its paces on some ‘proper’ roads.


Coming up the motorway to Yorkshire, he almost ran out of petrol.


“The computer was telling me I only had 30 miles left on the clock at one point” says Lofty.


Higgy “Yeah, but what about the car….!”


Ouch!


We leave Lofty in Huddersfield and continue drinking outside my local in Saddleworth, where Doubter of Dobcross shows Higgy and I a Google snooper device on his phone.


This enables him to track the whereabouts of his wife – on her way to pick him up in the car – and two lads – Mini me (at home) and’Little’ Big Doubter – hanging around Tesco with his mates and some young female acquaintences, all acting cool.


Higgy is simply astonished by the technology on show.


“Do they all have some kind of implant in them, then?”


Day Three


It is a Sunday today, which means the trains are even less reliable than usual, if that were possible.


We all rise early and catch the 8.33am across the Pennines, which for once allows us to see the start of the Test match.


England’s innings resumes and Curran is out for 20 on his 20th birthday on debut, prompting much research on TMS to see if there have been any other examples of being out during a Test on your birthday for the exact age reached. They found just one – any guesses?


The sight of Broad dancing out to the crease like Bambi sets off alarm bells for Buttler, and he starts to unleash shots. For half an hour, we are treated to a barrage of boundaries, including an incredible straight six which flies right over the Sky camera gantry onto the pitch next door.


Another first – a golf shot hit onto a rugby pitch during a cricket match!


Doubter is confident of a big innings from Broad, but wearily I explain the nature of Broad’s decline in form, and as usual he is back in the pavilion quickly for two.


The stadium announcer asks the owner of a Toyota Yaris to return to their vehicle and move it. Lofty pounces.


“Who in their right mind would want a Toyota Yaris? They should tow the fucking thing away and scrap it!”


England are all out for 363, a lead of nearly 200, and the cynics amongst us (mainly me) doubt whether Pakistan will survive the day. In the event, they give a perfect exhibition of how not to bat, and are quickly dismissed in a sorry procession for 134.


Some simply horrendous shots on display here.


Game set and match to England in just two days and two hours of play.


The early finish allows us to enjoy a curry in Nawaab in Huddersfield on the way home and as Higgy and Lofty are expecting at least a five day stay, alternative entertainment is discussed.


On day 4, we end up taking Lofty’s prized RS Focus on a tour of highland Pennine roads normally traversed only by quadrupeds, checking out the pot holes, prior to a very nice lunch at Cross Keys in Uppermill.


Higgy and myself are pretty beered out by this time, and can you believe we have an evening in watching a film? ‘Animal Kingdom’, starring the superbly evil Jacki Weaver as a criminal granny with her gangster family in tow.


Real Australian criminals are portrayed here, not ball – tampering, snivelling wimps.


On what would have been day 5 we have a choice of entertainment at Old Trafford.


Football ground – The Rolling Stones. Cricket ground – Lancashire v Yorkshire.


We plump for the cricket, but manage to watch a bit of both in reality, as Lancashire bowl and field a bit like the aging Rolling Stones would have done – all that is missing are the reefers.


Having conceded a mammoth 379-7 however, Lancashire make a fair fist of the reply, managing by much slogging to get as far as 363 all out. An entertaining day was had by all here, but what of the Test match?


As far as I am concerned, at no time was this a contest – more of a Chumps Championship.


Two very poor sides on display, although no doubt England will be lauded for their ‘welcome recovery in form and the masterstroke of bringing back Buttler’.


Well, I’m sorry, but I’m not convinced. Dom Bess was a find, and a breath of fresh air to boot, but he has not taken oodles of wickets and is likely to be dropped once Leach is back to fitness. Let us see how England perform against the much stronger Indian side later in the summer.


Regards


Midnight




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