"A large town in Somerset," Wikipedia says of Taunton. Can do whole place in one 5k run. Quiet, old, positively small town. Welcome brief change after London's hubbub. Takes two quid off each pint. Everybody knows everybody in the local pubs. Startle patrons in one by furiously typing out an interview transcript. Stop typing to join conversation. Memories of Somerset team of the 1980s - Ian Botham, Viv Richards and Joel Garner - still alive in the pubs of Taunton. Patrons here have seen them play, party, get up to mischief. Too small a town for the trio. One man says he was offered thousands of pounds by a London tabloid to speak things about Botham that are still unpublishable. Also tells of local photographer Alain Lockyer, whom the three invited to the dressing room for a photo before their last game at the club. He could have lived off royalties from that famous picture alone.
County Ground in Taunton. Somerset cricket museum shut. Not-for-profit museum; relies on volunteers to operate, and they are busy with preparations for the World Cup match between Australia and Pakistan. At least the Somerset merchandise shop is open. Lovely stuff, including maroon Somerset hats and cable-knit sweaters. Shame they won't be able to offer these products on match days because the ICC won't let them.
Pakistan train for their game against Australia. Chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq here with his two sons. Both play on the sidelines, then wait in stands as Inzamam talks to team. Their phone goes off with the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme tune. Show title could perhaps be taken as Inzamam's reply to calls for quick singles back in the day.
Back at local pub. Hottest topic right now is BBC withdrawing free license to people over 75 other than those on the poorest pensions. Vocal protest from son of second World War veteran. Others generally unhappy with London. Capital allegedly out of touch with smaller towns where average age is high and TV often only form of entertainment for the aged, who are not that mobile. Stark difference between demographics of London and Taunton. London young and bustling - many flats without lifts, not suitable for aged people. Taunton slower; bigger houses - better for the old, but fear they might be left alone here.
Even younger lot not happy with London, though. Woman left her job feeling unsafe. Man blames Londoners for not helping out the gay girls assaulted recently in a bus in the city. "All la-di-dahs, pretending to read."
David Warner scores his first century back from the ball-tampering ban to help Australia beat Pakistan.
In press box, ask Waqar Younis to confirm nicked-chain story from last diary. Vaguely remembers losing chain, remembers being angry, but not that clearly bowling bouncers in fading light. Show him another unrelated old photo, of him with Aaqib Javed and Saleem Malik, tweeted this morning by someone, and he remembers the long hair clearly. "Haye jawani deewani," he says wistfully. Ah, crazy youth.
Walk around The Oval in London to try to find out what happens in the iconic gasholder structure now. End up finding out a bit of music history. Now closed pub The Cricketers Pub & Venue, sandwiched between The Oval and the gasholder. One of many small music venues in the 1970s and 1980s. Capacity 200. Some folk musicians even lived there for stretches. Roy Harper and Ralph McTell were among the big names who played regularly. Happy Mondays' first London gig was here.
Promoter Jim Driver, who lived and worked here for a few years, feels it was Margaret Thatcher's Beer Orders of 1989 that rang the death knell for such small pubs and venues. On paper meant to decrease the power of big brewers, it ended up resulting in brewers losing interest in keeping small pubs running. Instead, small pubs were redeveloped into houses and markets. This one wasn't. It went to a retired Jamaican policeman, who ostensibly believed he had bought a piece of cricketing history, only to have to sell within a year. Nothing happens there now. Its beer garden has a mural of a cricket match on its wall. Must be the Jamaican owner's work.
Plans afoot to turn the plot into a 21-house residential complex. Similar plans in place for gasholder, but its status as a heritage-listed building prevents that from happening. Locals say don't be so sure. Loopholes will be found.
Walk into The Oval and find iconic photos of streets visited yesterday. Milkman standing on top of his cart to watch cricket over a short boundary wall in 1933. Schoolboy atop a streetlight relaying score to about ten of his friends below back in 1938. Children in proper shirts and pants playing cricket beneath gasholder in 1953.
All those charms of free cricket gone with tall boundary walls. Paid cricket has you wishing you hadn't paid when Sri Lanka sneak up on Australia before fizzling out. Performance and campaign reminiscent of Pakistan.
Needing to win to keep their campaign alive, South Africa melt down against New Zealand, dropping catches, missing a run-out, failing to review a wrong decision. This is Edgbaston, where 20 years and one day ago Lance Klusener and Allan Donald were involved in that run-out. Faf du Plessis heartbroken. TV in press conference room plays clip of Herschelle Gibbs dropping Steve Waugh. Du Plessis doesn't notice. Just as well. Has enough ghosts from this campaign to deal with.
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Is there a better approach to a cricket ground than the one to Old Trafford? Lazy ten-minute tram ride on first really sunny day of World Cup. Off the tram and into the ground. Have seen on previous trip Lancastrian Michael Atherton take the same route. Just behind Joel Garner this time as he has his accreditation scanned. Curtly Ambrose in press box. Overhear him tell somebody, "You do that Twitter-thing…"
Carlos Brathwaite nearly pulls off a crazy chase. Modern improvement on the famous and possibly apocryphal story of George Hirst and Wilfred Rhodes: "We'll get them in singles." Carlos will do it in sixes. Reminded of his equally crazy chase in Kolkata in the World T20 final in 2016. Brathwaite himself reminded of two failures, against Afghanistan earlier in that T20, and against Australia in this World Cup. One haunts him, he says. The things we remember.
Edgbaston. Spot pair of excited eyes looking at me. One of the schoolkids with whom New Zealand will play cricket shortly as part of a charity initiative. "Booty Os," kid shouts. It's the New Day t-shirt I have on.
"Becauuuuuuuse," I go.
Two others join the kid and start clapping their hands: "New. Day Rocks. New. Day Rocks."
Things have begin to fall in place for Pakistan miraculously. Not just when they are playing, but when others are too. On the field they get the better of New Zealand. The similarities with banwey (Hindi/Urdu/Punjabi for "92") are getting more uncanny with each passing day. Bazid Khan, former Test cricketer, son of Majid, now a commentator, remembers what it was like in banwey. Pakistan were down in the dumps back then but the players couldn't believe how Imran Khan never accepted results. Before team meetings he would still talk like he was certain of winning the World Cup. "Baba pagal ho gaya hai," they would say. "This old man has gone mad."