Saturday, 29 October 2016

GIDEON HAIGH: Stroke of Genius – an extract | The Roar

GIDEON HAIGH: Stroke of Genius – an extract | The Roar
... The Oval was a location pregnant with meaning: the venue where Australians had made a fortune in 1878, lost a great Test in 1880, and won a great Test in 1882; the home of one of the county clubs that had recently sought to recruit Trumper. It was also a vision of the future of cricket watching, served as it was by the world’s first electric tube and a brand new tram line, surmounted by a superb pavilion hosting 400 000 visitors a year. Overshadowed by the gasholders of the South Metropolitan Gas Works, increasingly encircled by factories, foundries and breweries, The Oval’s playing expanse now had a rus in urbe quality, a remnant of the days when Kennington had been open fields and market gardens. ... Their own rules were an attendance to pleasure of utmost seriousness and decorum. In the Jubilee Book, Ranji had reported the astonishment of a German visiting a county match at The Oval at ‘the extreme orderliness of the many thousands’ in the presence of a mere ‘five policemen’ when ‘abroad it would require at least 300 policemen to keep such a large crowd in order’. When Neville Cardus later argued for cricket as the ‘national art’ of a people ‘prone to be ashamed of living the life aesthetic’, he gestured not towards St John’s Wood but Kennington: ‘Go among the shilling crowd any fine day at The Oval and what do you hear? Little technical jargon, little talk of off-breaks and the position of the left funny bone in the late cut. Instead you will hear many delighted cries of “Beautiful stroke – Beautiful!”’ ... It has the hallmarks of a first attempt, after which Beldam moved ever so slightly left, so that Trumper’s head in his normal stance would have reposed between the distant ogee-roofed towers of the board school on Kennington Road. ...

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