In bright sunshine, at the best time of the day to play cricket, the players and officials left the field on the third day of the third Test between England and Sri Lanka at the Rose Bowl after only 51 overs of play had been possible during a frustrating day of intervals for rain in which the covers had been on and off more times than a Henry Blofeld could count and the crowd had come as close to revolution as any English crowd could.
At one point just 28 balls were bowled in two sessions over three hours.
Had this been Greece, the Authorities would have been swept from power at about 4.10 in the afternoon when, with the sun cracking the new paving around the Rose Bowl, and the wicket bare of covers and dry as a bone, those self same officials announced that the players would take tea.
During this period of Establishment madness when an official was overheard to say, “let them eat cake”, a spectator dressed as Batman ran onto the pitch, easily evading an abject steward, before surrendering with typical English aplomb to the powers that be and his fate of expulsion from
Gotham City the ground and a thousand pound fine.
Although, the Cape Crusader was led out to the sound of supportive boos and gestures of social solidarity, the system had won.
And the main reason why cricketing fatigue on a par with Greek austerity fatigue had not consumed those in this heated crucible of rebellion? Why, none other than that other Dark Knight of the Cape, the World’s Greatest
Detective Batsman was not out 27 and threatening to play one of his special innings.
Kevin Pietersen had come to the wicket in the eighth over of England’s innings and proceeded to drive and pull his way to 22 in as much time as it takes the Dark Knight Detective to fire up the Batmobile.
At the start of play at 10.45, England had taken just 18 balls to remove the last Lankan to bring their total score to 184. Welegedara and Lakmal had then removed Strauss and Trott respectively to leave England balanced precariously at the top of a high building on 14 for 2.
Batman immediately drilled Lakmal like a rocket powered grappling iron straight for four. In that instance the hero of many an adventure simultaneously calmed and exhilarated the populace, and saved the city authorities from the consequences of their incompetent handling of the delays.
The Dark Knight went on to power with awesome ease a boundary enrobed 85 before falling to his first piece of daredevilry of the day, edging to the keeper just nine balls from the scheduled close of play at 7.30pm.
But let us examine the counterfactual that might easily have occurred had that first straight drive gone the way of his last.
Throughout the day the radar monitor showed heavy rain showers approaching in their legion from the south west, like the serial threats of Catwoman, Penguin, the Joker, Two-Face and Poison Ivy. Between these downpours, the sun would shine brightly like periods of peace following the defeat of some violent menace.
It was a nightmare for the groundstaff who valiantly manhandled the covers protecting the playing surface. It was a nightmare for the officials gauging when it was ‘safe’ to allow play to resume. It was a nightmare for this first Saturday crowd at this newest of Test venues who wanted action and who, beneath a blazing su,n saw only tarpaulins and a field baren of action. For them it was bewildering and absurd, irksome and aggravating.
When, after a long period of inaction with the sun in full force and the wicket calling to be played on, it was announced that tea would be taken, a man dressed as Batman walked in a dignified manner onto the field and sat down. Three or four stewards ran towards him and attempted to arrest him.
With that, the Caped Crusader was joined by Robin. More stewards appeared and it looked for all the world as if these two would soon be removed by the Authorities.
But then two Mexicans, then seven hippies, then a dozen readers of this blog and dressed in sou’westers, followed by Darth Vader, temporarily on the side of good, six Dickie Birds, three bears, ten more Mexicans, the cast of Star Wars and all the Telly Tubbies made their way onto the field and sat down.
There were now too many for the stewards to contemplate removing, but still they came as citizens of cricket to remonstrate; now it was fathers bringing their sons, and women with scorebooks and whole families and friends and people sitting there talking to each other who had never met but sensed that, by being together, they could not be removed, that in their silent protest they for once really mattered and what they were doing was important.
Play was abandoned for the day at 5.30. The sun shone. A deputation representing the newly founded Justice Society of Cricket Spectators, led by a Telly Tubby, a Mexican and a Hippie, were negotiating with the ICC.
The talks would be long and arduous but they would bring change.