International cricket is back, but players' support for Black Lives Matter cause created a moment that will live long in the memory
After 117 days and several rain delays, international cricket returned as England faced West Indies
OK, so we have all been hankering for a return to normality.
And what could possibly be more normal than rain stopping play at the cricket in England?
Seriously. After 117 days without international cricket. Everyone was ready for its return, aching for it even.
Then it rained. Three more hours more to wait, after an already interminable delay.
Really, 2020 – why are you trolling us so?
For those watching in the Mena region, the appetite had been whetted by a Richard Hadlee retrospective, timed to finished just before the first ball of England v West Indies was to be sent down.
Instead of cutting to Southampton in the south of England, the programming continued with filler. The Hunger Games Series was trailed, then the Twilight Zone.
Then we were informed The Football is Back. Yes, we know the football is back. No need to be so smug about it. But we’re here for the cricket.
Check Twitter. The covers are coming off. Hurrah! Check it again. The covers are going back on. Boo!
After half an hour of more filler, some cricket. A Glenn Maxwell-Big Bash highlights reel.
All well and good, but that is the sort of stuff we have been gorging on for the past four months. Please, put the live stuff on.
Fifty minutes later, some cricket in whites. But still only archive footage, of Marnus Labuschagne batting against New Zealand.
And then all of a sudden, at 5pm UAE time, the channel cut to images from the Ageas Bowl. Not live cricket just yet, but compelling fare nonetheless.
First of all, all the players and two umpires stood in the middle of the field, in a socially-distant arc, observing a minute’s silence to commemorate the late West Indies great Everton Weekes.
Then Michael Holding’s lilting tones on commentary: “Welcome everyone from around the world …”
And yet still, one more delay. One moment that, whatever was to follow in the live cricket, would likely leave a far more indelible image.
It was cricket’s first chance to take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter cause.
The gesture was given extra nuance to that recently seen in football, for example. The West Indies players, led by captain Jason Holder, each wore a single black glove covering a raised, clenched fist.
It brought to mind the actions of United States athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, making their human rights salute on the podium at the 1968 Olympics.
It was such powerful stuff that, after the long and expectant wait, the action cricket was in danger of being overshadowed.
Then Kemar Roach sent down the first ball after cricket’s break for the coronavirus.
It was a length ball on off stump, which Rory Burns blocked and no run was taken. Ah, the good old days are here again.
Of course, some things felt different. Not necessarily for those who have watched Test matches in Dubai in recent years, but the absence of any crowd at all for a Test in England – where that format is supported better than anywhere else – felt odd.
Not that it was really pervasive, with the high camera angles behind the bowlers’ arm making for few glimpses of the empty stands, as well as what seemed to be the low, steady hum of the usual ambient crowd noise.
It took three balls for the first Decision Review System referral to be made. Burns survived, as a decision to turn down Roach’s LBW decision was upheld.
In the next over, Shannon Gabriel powered in and had Dom Sibley – 12kgs lighter than last time cricket was played – bowled out.
Then, shortly after, rain stopped play again. Maybe after all this time off, we need to be weaned back on to cricket after all.
Updated: July 8, 2020 07:43 PM