Home Summer 2022 Are You Not Entertained?

Are You Not Entertained?

by Midnight

We went our separate ways after the wonderful win at Trent Bridge. For Higgy, it was reluctantly back to work. Lofty headed up to the Lake District for a brief boot camp involving open water swimming and a spot of fell running. I, meanwhile, went home to recuperate. Regrettably, I have been feeling ill with a cold/flu since the Trent Bridge Test. I suspect this may be due to getting a chill at the last game, a diet comprised almost entirely of beer whilst in Nottingham, and the stress around our next adventure which I am hosting – five days at Headingley.

While resting up I had the chance to watch the important and crucial Jollyboys ODI series in the Netherlands on Sky TV. I know sometimes I can tend toward cynicism, but looking at the crowd In Holland it would be easy to imagine that these no-contest games have been arranged largely as a promotional/fundraising device for Barmy Army Travel. Certainly, there were a lot more people in the crowd wearing football shirts, Barmy Army gear and drinking lager than those wearing clogs and toting huge cheeses. (How can you even suggest such a thing, Midnight?- Ed.)

Tending towards cynicism even more heavily I couldn’t help wondering if Buttler the Somerset Superman has changed his Christian name to ‘Yos’ to avoid any conflicting contractual issues arising from his arrangement with Lancashire CCC – eg. having to play for the club at some point, for instance?

A few people have challenged why I was wearing a New Zealand World Cup shirt at Trent Bridge.
As Richard Burton so memorably outlined to Anton Diffring in the film ‘Where Eagles Dare”, the answer to your question comes in three parts.

First part – I love New Zealand and they are my second team.

Second part – If I can’t wear a New Zealand World Cup Final 2015 shirt, purchased while I was at the MCG as they tried to beat Australia, when the Kiwis arrive on our shores, then when can I bloody wear it?

Third part – Have you seen those vile ‘Cinch’ England shirts? The one day shirt looks as if was designed by a Space Invaders enthusiast, and the pale blue Test one looks like a hospital smock, and makes the wearer look ill. I’m surprised the players agreed to wear the bloody things, I certainly won’t be, any time soon.

On the train picket line!

Our forthcoming visit to Leeds has taken much more planning than usual due to Thomas the Tank Engine spitting his dummy out. There will be no trains to Leeds this time. Memo to Mick Lynch, the RMT Union supremo – I would have a lot more sympathy for your strike if this was timed to coincide with the accursed ‘Hundred’ matches. So much so, that I would probably join you on the frigging picket line.

As regards accommodation. Lofty will now be staying in Saddleworth near to my home, in digs arranged for him by my good friend Doubter of Dobcross. I visited the place with Doubter yesterday morning. An Ordnance Survey map was required to find it. Imagine Charles Gray’s rambling mansion in the 1978 horror film “The Legacy” – you know, the witchcraft movie where actor Roger Daltrey comes to an untimely end by choking on a chicken bone.

Lord Lofty has a quiet ground floor apartment waiting for him. Better not order any KFC here, had you mate – ha ha ha!

Well off the beaten track, miles from the nearest pub or shops, so remote that even the local taxi drivers won’t know how to find it – and with pagan Yorkshire fertility rituals more than likely in the surrounding hills after dark. I cannot wait to see Lofty’s face on arrival at Legacy Towers. Well done Doubter, you do like your little challenges, don’t you?

Secondly, food. Higgy as usual will be staying at my gaff so the plan is to get in extra supplies, make bacon butties for both ‘guests’ early doors, and then presumably drive over to Leeds in Loftys boy racer car to watch the Test match.

Well, all the guests arrived as expected and soon we were in the Red Rose Tandoori in Mossley with Doubter for the traditional pre Test Match curry, which was a delight. Mercifully, not too late a finish on this one and Doubter very kindly ferried Lofty home to Legacy Towers – but would Lofty turn up back at mine at 9am to drive us to Leeds and would the bribe of a bacon butty be sufficient to get him up? Thankfully, yes was the answer and a very Eventful trip over the Pennines ensued on Day 1.

I had almost forgotten about the joys of driving with Lofty. It didn’t take long for total recall to set in. As we encountered a gaggle of cyclists heading out of my village, “F**king wnkers. Tour de Saddleworth, or what!” shouted Lofty as he sped past the bikers at dangerously high speed and even more dangerously close distance.. As we drove up through Denshaw to the M62, more negative Lofty observations on the number of wind turbines on the surrounding moors. Suffice it to say, Greta Thunberg would have a hard time convincing Lofty to be an eco warrior. I stoked the fire a little “Get away Lofty, if you were in Holland you would say ” Oooh what lovely windmills, time to get my clogs on!”

Loftys car music selection is the same as ever but this time we were treated to some real obscurities – does anyone recall “Mrs Appleby” by David Garrick? No calming effect though, as we neared Headingley another cyclist appeared from the left.

“Piss off, you git!”.

Eventually we found ourselves parked up in the Headingley Taps but sadly arrived at the ground too late for the first NZ wicket, that of the out of form Latham. New Zealand 0-1then as we reach our seats.

After an hour Jack Leach is brought on to bowl, accompanied by a torrent of abuse from Lofty. Which worked a treat – a wicket first ball, Will Young lbw. “Well, the next balls going for six!” grumbled Lofty, undaunted.

During the next five minutes I received enough text messages to assure me that plenty of people had read the Trent Bridge diary and in particular Loftys previous criticism of Leach.

Conway lofts Leach for four. “another pie gone” shouts Lofty.

Broad traps Kane Williamson just before lunch for 31 and New Zealand are in a bit of trouble at 62-3 especially after winning the toss and choosing to bat first.

Higgy and I venture out to the Taps at lunch to meet Five-O, Steve, Skip and Pete. On the way back, Higgy spots Phil Neale, ex England Tour Manager now working for New Zealand and sporting a smart new Black Caps shirt. Phil is also doing some work for the Oval Invincibles, and skilfully ducked my question as to how he kept his face straight watching the hundred. And despite his new allegiances, Phil urgently needs a crash course in New Zealand geography, as he identified my Jesse Ryder Nae Nae shirt as hailing from South Africa.

When we returned to our seats Jamie Overton took his first Test wicket, that of Devon Conway, and New Zealand were in more trouble at 83-4 but play was fairly nondescript until the last over before tea, when Nicholls drove the ball firmly and it deflected off the non strikers bat resulting in a caught dismissal. I have never seen that before and I suspect neither had anyone else. A slow afternoon in truth followed by a rain break at 5pm.

Play resumes and Leach is back. A pie is bowled outside the off stump which Blundell gleefully crashes through the covers.

“What a load of f***king crap” is the totally unsurprising Lofty commentary. The rest of the day is once again the Blundell and Mitchell show – this pair of unassuming, obdurate batsmen have been thorns in England’s side this series and we see another hundred partnership here to save the kiwi blushes.

At stumps we decide to have a Thai dinner in the Headingley area to allow the westbound traffic to calm and this works a treat – we are back home in time for pints in my local, and in time for Higgy and myself to be last out of the pub and gently ushered home by landlord Scott.

On day two Lofty arrives to pick us up. The car music today has an almost religeous feel to it: “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” being one of the more memorable selections. Has Hell driver Lofty undergone some kind of miraculous Damascene conversion overnight? No. “F—king white van man, you can f*ck off!” he bellows out if the window after being cut up, leaving us mere mortal passengers in stitches. To Loftys hate list of caravans and camper vans , can now be added cyclists, and all white vans. ‘Road rage’ doesn’t even begin do it justice! At one point I reach for the stereo controls to turn the plinky plonky music volume down and accidentally switch on his hazard flashers : which come on just as the traffic in front of us comes to a sudden and grinding halt – thus inadvertently helping prevent a possible accident. But do I get any thanks for this piece of good fortune – no, do I f *ck.

Just ” Watch what you are doing, you clumsy bastard!

Our expletive-laden journey eventually finishes and we park up in good time in the Headingley Taps. New Zealand start on 225-5 so clearly we need wickets, but within two overs Foakes has dived in front of the slips, shelling what should have been a straightforward catch for Joe Root. And he’s supposed to have a stiff back? Bollocks. Another life for Daryl Mitchell!

The unlucky bowler, Potts, didn’t have to wait too long for his first wicket, as Blundell was trapped lbw for 55. Given out by the umpire on a marginal line call, he didn’t review, but left the field cursing and shaking his head. We soon found out the reason – someone had ‘unplugged’ the DRS system, which was unavailable for use. That’s jolly unlucky isn’t it, particularly as normal service was resumed about fifteen minutes later!

Another dropped catch by Bairstow off the bowling of Broad but finally at 12.23 Broad has Bracewell caught low down in the slips by Crawley. This can be classed as a Lofty wicket walk, as he had timed his trip to the gents so as not to miss a single ball of Jack Leach’s bowling. Fifteen minutes before lunch Leach served up a century pie to Mitchell, who hit it for six. We just cannot seem to get this guy out. A generous ovation from the Clean Slate crowd.

At the other end Tim Southee was having fun hitting boundary after boundary from the predictable Overton.

Last ball before lunch Leach’s great spin bowling finally pays off. Mitchell hits a towering shot tiwards the fence and Stokes sprints for miles to catch it. A poor decision by Mitchell to play like that just before lunch, but a great innings nevertheless. Didn’t England need that wicket.

Right after lunch Leach returns to the attack accompanied by more Grumbling by Lofty “Frigging hell, more f*cking pies!” Well, both Southee and Wagner hit balls up in the air and when NZ are all out for 329, Pie chucker Leach has five wickets. Lofty applauds him off the field, but in a rather unusual fashion! Leach is in fact the first spinner to take five wickets in a first innings on this ground since Phil Edmonds in 1975.

England get off to a disastrous start. Lees is dropped first over then bowled by Trent Boult. 4-1. Pope is also bowled neck and crop. Crawley tries another of those booming drives of his but this time plays all around the ball, which crashes into the stumps. We are in deep shit already at 17-3 which is nearly 17-4 as Root edges one through the slips. The batting is simply abysmal and I find myself afflicted by short term Loftyitis – “Get a fuking GRIP!” But there is no upstaging Lofty. Root is caught behind. “For fcks sake!” he screams : 21-4!

Doubter of Dobcross will be joining us at cricket in the morning and he gets in touch “For f*cks sake, I thought I was going to enjoy a day watching England bat tomorrow!”

“You still might be” I reply ” After we follow on!””

A thrilling counter attack by Bairstow and Stokes follows. Again, more like T20 than a Test match. We reach 55-4 and I go for a pee. Big mistake. Stokes is out to a very silly shot.

“This is disrespecting Test cricket” preaches St Michael of the Tattered Reputation on the radio as I stand over the urinal. “This is proper crap!” says the more down to earth Lofty when I return, which probably echoes my own feelings at this low point. Foakes gets out, we are 55-6, it is an absolute f*cking shambles and to put matters into perspective, this is the earliest that England have EVER lost their sixth wicket in a home Test match. At tea, we are in tatters at 91-6 and just 20 overs of this innings have been bowled. The England batting has been similar to that seen in a bad T20 match. Overton and Bairstow have added 35 thus far which is easily the best partnership of this disastrous innings.

However, there is no doubt that the carnage has been compulsive viewing!

After tea the behaviour on the Western Terrace deteriorates. There are a mass of ‘forbidden’ beer snakes and the game seems to have evolved into not only building he snake, but then running away from the hapless and useless stewards with it. Our precarious batting partnership continues and England struggle to 100. To lighten the mood a group of fancy dress ‘policemen’ appear on the Western Terrace, chasing a blonde haired Boris Johnson lookalike, which seems rather cruel after Boris’ bye election thrashings yesterday.

To the relief of everyone the follow on is avoided at 4.45 pm, Bairstow having gone to another fifty. The hundred partnership between Bairstow and Overton, who has been a revelation, is brought up at 5pm. Overton reaches a well deserved fifty at 5.15 pm. This has been a thrilling fightback and superb entertainment and in a nutshell, if this is ‘Bazball’ then count me in!

On the radio, Saint Michael of the Tattered Reputation is now declaring it is the best thing he has ever seen.
Well, make your f*cking mind up, St Michael, you cannot have it both ways!

Overton and Bairstow put on an unbroken 209 by stumps at a frenetic run rate of 5.4 through the innings.

We are 264-6 at stumps, just 65 runs behind.

Incredible and fabulous viewing.

Day 3 begins and we are joined by Doubter of Dobcross, who, like Lofty, is a petrol head. Lofty sets off and there is lots of revving, popping, speeding and tight racing lines. The usual level of invective is present and when we pass the first cyclist, Lofty erupts. ” Look at that bloody idiot climbing up the hill” ” We call them organ donors in Saddleworth!” empathises Doubter, rather callously.

An hours worth of car related discussion follows which would have sent Jeremy Clarkson to sleep, but given Greta Thunberg apoplexy.

The cricket starts slowly. Overton edges towards his maiden hundred, but is heartbreakingly caught in the slips for 97. So near and yet so far. I recall Tim Bresnan doing something similar in Bangladesh and he never did go on to attain that Test hundred.

This brings in Stuart Broad and Doubter is straight into Betfred mode. “A quid says Broad gets more than thirty!” he offers me. Having seen Stuart bat on many recent occasions I seize the bet with glee. Broad promptly goes on a slogfest, “Oooh Broad is on fire!” exclaims the Indian commentator on TMS, clearly unaware of events at Trent Bridge and in particular the Nottingham Pub Disaster..

Broad costs me a pound, but I don’t mind as the scores are soon level then England lead. I take the offer of a double or quits bet on Stuart not reaching fifty and reclaim my pound coin when he is bowled by Southee for 42. As Fred Done advises, Doubter, when the fun stops………ha ha ha.

England reach 350 and there is lots of talk on TMS about the so far unseen batting qualities of Matty Potts, but before he can even take strike Bairstow is out to a great catch on the boundary by Trent Boult.

In comes Leach, out goes Lofty to the gents. Leach is out lbw to Southee for just 8 and Lofty emerges from the stairwell with a triumphant grin on his face. ” Got him out!” He gloats.

England are all out for 360 and NZ start with a 31 run deficit and twenty minutes to bat before lunch. In just the second over, Jack Leach is brought on to bowl. “F*king hell, is everybody else injured?” shouts Lofty, to much general amusement.

No wickets fall before lunch and during the interval we are joined by our pal Mike, who by sheer coincidence has been staying at the same hotel that Lofty used in Huddersfield last year, The Cambridge, home of the ‘reconstituted breakfast’ so enjoyed by Lofty, as regular readers may remember. Mike has brought Lofty a treat, and delves into his tupperware lunch box to reveal a rasher of reconstituted bacon, and a reconstituted sausage, both obviously stone cold, from his breakfast buffet. Ah, memories are made of this!

Lofty declines Mikes kind and thoughtful offer, but the reconstituted bacon has triggered my own hunger pangs so I head behind the Western Terrace in search of food. The offering is overpriced and terrible, as usual at Headingley. Eventually I settle upon two pieces of Keighley Fried Chicken costing £7 without chips, and a bottle of Oasis pop with a retail price of £1-05 printed on it, but which is on sale here for £2. Never mind Clean Slate Headingley, they should call this ground Clean You Out Headingley. It will be another visit to the food bank for your writer once the Test is over!

New Zealand reach 168-5 at stumps, a lead of 137, so the match looks interestingly poised now, and for a change Doubter books us into a posh restaurant in the village of Delph for our dinner. On the way there on foot we are caught in the worst thunderstorm I’ve ever seen and we all arrive at the restaurant thoroughly drenched. The food was nice, but an industrial drier would have been nicer.

Doubter has the driving duties on day four in his lovely wife’s Q3 Sport back. No expletives, no assassination of cyclists, it was wonderfully relaxing to the point that I almost fell asleep.

We arrived early and got to our seats just in time for the latest installment of the Mitchell and Blundell show. The radio reveals that Foakes stiff back from yesterday is not in fact a stiffy, but a sniffly – he has bloody Covid. Sam Billings has once again been asked to undertake a marathon drive to deputise. Well done young man. I wish bloody Buttler was even half as keen to drive to Old Trafford to play for Lancashire!

Today it takes just twenty minutes for the ball to be changed. This has been a constant nuisance, no wonder we never get all the overs in! Maybe the ECB should consider sacking Duke and Kookaburra, and ask Numan Inc of Penistone, the erectile disfunction people, to manufacture the balls – I’m sure they would produce something hard and long lasting!

As usual we are unable to dislodge Mitchell and Blundell, and I decide upon a combined wicket walk/ early lunch. It is New Zealand’s morning, and the large crowd are certainly NOT entertained.

Out of the blue I receive a very useful and helpful text from Simon Bell, a nice chap I met in Port Elizabeth, to tip me off that tickets for day 5 will be free, and are available now at the Yorkshire ticket office.

Higgy and Lofty nip down to acquire ours – there is no queue at all. As Simon suggested to me the free tickets will be quickly snapped up – this is Yorkshire, after all, and the ‘owt for nowt ‘ belief system still reigns here. Later, I receive a text from Five- O about his own day 5 tickets. “We are about 4700th in the queue!’ he ruefully advises. What did you do before the advent of the internet in Somerset, mate??

Eventually the penny drops and Five-O arranges a walking trip to the ticket office – another satisfied customer.

There is drama in the afternoon as two lbw decisions are overturned to the frustration of the crowd. Eventually, Potts does trap the immovable Mitchell for 56. The game, and the days entertainment, needed that. I will happily claim the wicket walk here, as I had gone for coffees to relieve the tedium.

Jack Leach returns. Bracewell belts him for 6, then tries to repeat the dose and is caught by Crawley just inside the boundary for 9. 291-7 now, a lead of 260, building nicely.

Super Jack bowls Southee for just 2 for his 8th wicket of the match. Lofty, by this time, is strangely silent.

Billings justifies his petrol expenditure by taking an unusual catch to dismiss Wagner for a duck. The ball lodged in the top of his pad! New Zealand now 305-9, a lead of 274.

The behaviour on the Western Terrace has degenerated to primeval levels. First we get “Stand up if you hate Man U “- fair enough. Next, we get a streaker. Nice to see the locals are so up to date with current issues surrounding Clean Slate Headingley. Finally, and totally unacceptably, a massive fracas occurs subsequent to the breaking of a beer snake, and we see a huge ape in a number 8 Gascoigne football shirt throwing more punches than Dave Boy Green at a helpless fellow supporter. The moron is finally apprehended by the police and the useless stewards, who must wish heartily that they had not been designated to supervise this stand today.

The final wicket, that of Trent Boult, falls on 326. It is another victim for Jack Leach, who has figures of 5-66. He has become the first spinner to take five wickets in each innings for England since Deadly Derek Underwood back in 1974. Even Lofty has to applaud that!

England need 296 to win. A frenetic start, with boundaries aplenty. For some inexplicable reason a Mexican wave begins to circle the ground, which leaves me scratching my head. Why did the idiots not do this in the morning, when Mitchell and Blundell were batting, and we were all bored shitless? It has done the job of distracting Crawley, who plays an airy fairy shot over the slips which he is lucky to get away with, and is then involved in a silly run out resulting in the loss of Alex Lees. Oh dear. No calling. No communication. Ball watching. Otherwise, perfect technique.

“F*cking hell!” Shouts Lofty, oblivious to the young ladies now sat in front of us. England 17-1.

Crawley needs runs obviously and unleashes a succession of big drives, as if to compensate for the loss of Lees. One big drive too many. Out for 25, and it is 51-2.

Root is subjected to two appeals for lbw in the same over from Southee, presumably because of who he is, and what the Kiwis think he can do. Thankfully, both reviews are lost.

England’s 100 comes up with a ridiculous reverse sweep for six by Root. We are eating into this total quickly now, with Bracewell in particular coming under pressure. He has been the wrong pick for New Zealand, where are Ejaz Patel, Santner and Sodhi? Pope reaches fifty with a streaky shot behind the wicket. 117-2. A fifty for Root just before the close. Just 113 required to win tomorrow, but, there is rain forecast for the early part of the day.

We adjourn to the Chutney Massala for the inaugural meeting of the Jack Leach fan club, chaired of course by Lofty. A nice curry, a couple of bottles of wine, and early nights for all ready for tomorrows finale

A wet morning and we arrive later than usual. In the car park we hear the news about Morgans retirement as one day captain, to be replaced by Buttler. I can just. Imagine the mandarins at Lancashire CCC having an emergency meeting, to discuss how the f*ck they can wriggle out of the stupid Buttler contract, which they should never have agreed to in the first place in the opinion of many LCCC members.

Play begins at 1.30. Pope is out early, but it makes no difference. Root and Bairstow polish off the runs at an astonishing rate, with the latter scoring the second fastest Test fifty for England in history.
I think the fastest, they said, was by a batsman called Tavare.

Despite yesterdays warnings of a sell out the crowd has been sparse. The only other notable event is the bringing up of a hundred runs from the hapless Bracewell off just fifteen overs of bowling.

England win the match and the series at just after 2.30 pm, and New Zealand look glad to be heading for the airport.

We stay for the presentation, which is a complete waste of time as none of us can hear a word due to the absolutely crap sound system at Headingley. Sort it out, please, Lord Patel. A basic and fundamental issue that is totally transparent, and that you can resolve by spending a few quid.

We hear enough to learn that Jack Leach has deservedly been awarded ‘Man of the Match’ – Lofty can now drive back to the Channel Islands a fulfilled and happy man!.

A final night out before we part. My local, for a few, well more than a few, beers.Then a Thai restaurant in Mossley, Pho Thong, which is excellent in every way.

Its time for bed, said Zebedee.

Regards to all.


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