Baseballs are one-and-done, discarded after even the merest nick or scrape. Cricket balls are used continuously and degrade progressively after countless bounces off the pitch and strokes of the bat. Fast bowlers start off with the new ball giving way to medium pacers and finally the slow bowlers take over when the damage has been done and make the ball dance. Crafting the classic red balls for Test Matches is a fascinating blend of art and manufacture – Dilip Jajodia explains.
The 1950 British Council love-letter to cricket gave glimpses of the 1948 Ashes matches between Australia and England where Sir Donald Bradman concluded his storied test career. The crowd at Lords and possibly even the English team wanted to see Bradman leave on a high note but he was dismissed quickly for no runs. In a sweet coincidence, Australian science journalist Brady Haran has just released a Numberphile video putting that match in context of Bradman’s body of work.
Our last encounter — I remember it well. Pavilion at Lord’s in ’39, against the West Indies. Hutton and Compton batting superbly, Constantine bowling, war looming.
— Hirst to Spooner in ‘No Man’s Land’
Pinter, cricket fancier, named his “No Man’s Land” antagonists Hirst and Spooner after two well-known players. The play nicely mirrors the game – stretches of groundwork and moments of attack, usually ending in a draw. At one time videos of the 1978 tv adaptation with Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud were available on the web [January 2018 Update: And are again – see below]. I downloaded a full version without knowing why. The characters are unlikeable, their purposes unclear, and the author famously, contemptuously, refusing to answer any questions about his intentions and denying meaning to any of it. Like a lot of Pinter, it is hard to like yet it tends to stick. I’ve seen three different stagings in person and this grainy recording from the videotape era is more vibrant and three-dimensional than any of them, even the overpraised Stewart/McKellen effort from 2013. It works surprisingly well without the visuals. I’ve taken the two Sirs on walks, cellphone in my pocket, headphones in my ear. Their poetry made time and distance disappear for me as the Pinter does to their characters.
Here is a gem of a short film about the sport narrated by a younger Richardson. The Pavilion at Lords features prominently as do Hutton and Compton, although not batting as superbly as in ’39. England’s hope for the Ashes fell to ashes under the captaincy of Australia’s legendary Donald Bradman. A short clip from the tv production still on the web follows and then the author himself reading one of the most mournful and beautiful passages from it.