With the Ashes getting underway this week at Edgbaston, here are five key lessons we’ve learned from the 400-year-old sport of cricket.
1.Sportsmanship is paramount
The Spirit of Cricket, enshrined by two ex-England captains in cricket’s ‘Laws’, or rules of the game, emphasises the importance of respect and fair play. Few images portray this respect more than the famous photograph of Freddie Flintoff commiserating with Australia captain Brett Lee during the 2005 Ashes. “I was taught as a kid always to respect the opposition first and celebrate after, which I did,” said Flintoff.
2. …but some friendly rivalry never goes amiss
Cricket is famous for its ‘sledging’ – verbal abuse between players. Particularly easy targets include a player’s weight, partner and, of course, cricketing skills (or temporary lack thereof). Players can, however, be penalised if such banter goes too far.
3.There’s no need to rush
With test matches lasting up to five days, cricket is a drawn-out game of patience and strategy, with intermittent flurries of drama. Its detractors might argue that this makes it boring (it was described by Robin Williams as ‘baseball on valium’), but its fans relish the leisurely build-up of anticipation and gradual gains.
4. And there’s always time for tea (and lunch)
Each of the three two-hour sessions in test cricket is intersected by an interval – 40 minutes for lunch and 20 minutes for tea. This rather civilised tradition also gives players a chance to regroup and focus for the next session on the field.
5. Size doesn’t matter
Anyone accustomed to the giant gold and silver trophies awarded for major sporting tournaments may be a little underwhelmed by the Ashes trophy – a tiny terracotta urn said to contain the ashes of a bail burned to symbolise the death of English cricket, on the first occasion that an England side was beaten by the Australians on home soil, at the Oval in 1882. Despite its diminutive stature, however, this 11cm-high pot remains one of the most coveted prizes in sport.