Issue 17 of The Nightwatchman is out now and available to buy here.
Matt Thacker introduces the latest issue of The Nightwatchman…
I’ve spent a disproportionately large amount of my life at or around The Oval. I was first there on the opening day of the sixth Test (six Tests!) in 1985 in a series England had already won, when Gower and Gooch – it was the summer of England’s G-Force – put on more than 350. I remember Christopher Martin-Jenkins popping down to sit on the same row of seats as us, presumably coming to check up on his nine-year-old son Robin between TMS stints.
And I’m as likely as not in the ground as you read this, 50 feet or so above my 32-year-old seats and the same distance to the left, beavering away in the Nightwatchman office with its life-enhancing view over the ground and London beyond.
I really love the place. It’s got the history of Lord’s without ever making you feel you need to whisper or bow your head, and you never feel uncomfortable in your scruffy jeans. The Oval embraces visitors, and the members of the security team – the first point of contact for many – have all been there for ever and are delightful. The overriding impression is one of helpfulness and eagerness to please.
So after producing an MCC special in the summer of 2014 to celebrate Lord’s bicentenary, it is great that the Nightwatchman is able to mark the 100th Test to be played on the ground with this collection of essays that all take The Oval as their starting points, pushing off in many unexpected directions.
There is a whole lot of love and warmth in this issue – many people seem to have marked their lives in Oval events and the respect in which the place is held is evident throughout. Jon Hotten kicks off for us by celebrating “the people’s ground”, and opening partner Sir John Major is no less enthusiastic, calling The Oval his “spiritual home”.
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Simon Barnes recalls KP’s barnstormer, Charlie Connelly uncovers a world first, Mike Selvey reveals how he learned to bowl the away-swinger, Mikey Holding strikes fear once more into the heart of many an Englishman as he relives his 1976 spell, and Rob Smyth talks to an Englishman who bowled every bit as quickly.
Meanwhile, Alan Tyers manages to shoehorn a sprinkling of famous Kennington residents into a whodunnit, Daniel Norcross channels Trainspotting, and Matthew Engel rounds things off by remembering the words quietly spoken some 20 years ago by Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie.
And there’s plenty more to enjoy besides – the origins of Real Madrid, Long Room quizzes, the architect of the FA Cup, Rachael Heyhoe Flint’s finest innings, the Surrey president who witnessed the German surrender at the end of World War Two – all life is here.
If you would like to write for us or just let us know what you think about The Nightwatchman, good or bad, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We read every submission (but promise nothing) that fulfils our criteria: that articles should touch on cricket (however tangentially) and are original, well written and thought-provoking.
Matt Thacker, March 2017