The epic begins

With respect to Sussex and Northamptonshire and the warm-ups they provided last week, the 11-week tour of the UK is now officially underway following last night’s first ODI at Headingley. And what a way to start.

600+ run games are no longer the headline grabbing affairs they used to be but they are no less appreciated. This one promised to be a thriller with Hash and Faf adding 112 for the second wicket to reach 145-1 three balls before the half way stage, but they were dismissed within seven balls of each other.

J-P Duminy and David Miller were caught cheaply and softly in the deep and Chris Morris, one of the cleanest and most powerful conventional hitters in the game, top edged an oddly chosen reverse sweep. That left AB needing another miracle.

It is hard to imagine a Headingley crowd subdued. Before the last few days it was even hard to imagine what might possibly make one of the most exuberant crowds in the world subdued. But that was before the Manchester bombing.

Sure, it was still a near-sell out at the home of cricket (in the north) and they drank their beer. But they sat as though attending a classical music soiree, even in the cheaper seats of the great Western Terrace which would normally have been rocking with the sound of bawdy chants and swaying under the weight of beer mug snakes by 5:00pm, never mind the day/night status.

Rarely has a crowd given itself more freely and with less complaint to the security checkpoints than the Headingley thousands did as they waited patiently in longer than normal queues outside the ground.

Manchester and Leeds are just 50 miles apart, separated by the Pennine Hills but joined by the M62 motorway which is infamously shrouded for much of the year in drizzle and low lying cloud. Manchester is the capital of Red Rose Lancashire, Leeds the capital of White Rose Yorkshire. Before they played cricket matches against each other, they fought battles clad in armour.

But for all their traditional rivalry, they are simply too close – geographically and culturally – not to be drawn tightly together by such an abhorrence and tragedy. The Yorkies were feeling the pain of the Lancies and sharing their grief.

Much of central Leeds has been developed beyond recognition over the last two decades but many of the suburbs, particularly the terraced houses and cobble stone streets remain as they were 150 years ago. That’s my room, left-hand side, top floor, half way down.

 

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