The Cricket Match
The cricket match began at about 6 pm in the Hipodroom, or horse-racing track.
We had to cross the track to get to the central area, which was all dry brown
grass. Small boys were playing football on one part of it, and frequently had
to retrieve their ball from the cricket field. They all wore shirts with names
like Beckham, Figo and Zidane on them. Someone was practising horse-racing on the
track itself, driving the horse from one of those two-wheeled chariots
the French race in, but which haven't caught on in Britain.
Mark and his team were playing what claimed to be the Estonian national
side, but which the captain said was mostly third-team players. Of course,
there are not many cricketers in Estonia, and no other cricket ground.
I think only one of the home players was actually Estonian, with the rest
expatriate British. The pitch, we were
told, had been ruined by someone spreading horse manure on it. The match was to
be twenty overs an innings, and teams of unlimited size. I hadn't played
since I was eleven, so didn't take part.
As always with cricket, the match itself took place in the far
distance. I had brought my binoculars, but soon gave up watching,
what with the absence of a scoreboard, and lots of people who
hadn't met for thirty years embracing and partying on the boundary.
Every now and then someone would announce what was happening. All the male
Pritchetts seemed to get out very quickly. After the visitors had batted,
we all went off for a barbecue outside the bar. Then the home side batted
and lost by three runs. Tim Pritchett injured a finger and someone managed to get a
mouthful of the manure on the pitch.
After the match, there was a long ritual in which the captain of
the home side fined as many members of both teams as he could for offences like throwing
the ball up behind their backs and failing to catch it, but as the fines
were very small no one seemed to mind. I couldn't work out whether this was
a local custom, instituted to help pay for a scoreboard and the removal of the
manure from the pitch, or a normal feature of cricket that I'd never heard of
before. Then we all went back to the Old Town in a fleet of
taxis, having arranged to meet at 12 next day for the coach trip.
Of course it was still light.