In early May I received an e-mail from John White, out of the blue:
I have been invited to the Oval on 19th July and have been asked if I would like to bring a friend! It could only be you Ian. Are you free? We will be the guest of WE Communications and we get to go in the members area.
My first thought was that this must be the test match, but when I looked up the date I discovered that it was an evening domestic T20 match between Surrey and Essex.
It occurred to me that I haven’t been to a domestic cricket match as a neutral (i.e. without my county, Middlesex, playing), since I was a kid. Those experiences, as a kid, were all at The Oval, as it happens. This scorecard – click here – might be an example of one of those – I need to check the old diaries but for sure I saw once saw Barry Richards dominate the bowling there, while all others made it look like hard work.
Indeed all my early experience of seeing professional cricket was at the Oval – here is one especially odd set of experiences at the Oval from 40 years ago, including an encounter with Bob Willis on the tube after play, which I have already Ogblogged.
John’s e-mail was not terribly informative and (after accepting the invitation with relish) I didn’t give the event a great deal of thought again until it was imminent.
As it happens, on the day, I was working from home, interrupted only by a marathon session of tennis mid morning at Lord’s.
On reflection, I should have pipped John an e-mail about the extent to which this might be formal entertaining, mode of dress, etc., but instead I picked up Marcus’s e-mail, Googled WE Communications and decided for myself that this must be corporate entertaining of some scale and that I’d better turn up suited and booted. I even put my little case of business cards in my jacket pocket.
As it turned out, the evening was in fact a very informal set up with Marcus (who is a Surrey member), his colleague Josh (who is in fact a fellow MCC yellow-carder), me and John. All the others were in “dress-down, evening out” attire.
It was a very enjoyable evening. Really good company; people who know and enjoy their cricket while at the same time keeping the conversation suitably varied and interesting on many topics.
I really liked that feeling of neutrality at the match. I was watching cricket, simply hoping to see a good match, without any emotional equity in the result. It was strangely refreshing. In particular I think the neutrality worked for me because I was in good company.
After the game, although John was demob happy, he was keen to start his long journey home and I was keen to get home quite early as I had a long working day ahead the next day.
The evening was great fun; I’m sure we’ll do something like that again next season – perhaps at Lord’s, so that Marcus can experience that slightly oblivious feeling of cricket watching neutrality.