Managing editor Matt Thacker introduces issue 41 of the Nightwatchman…
Since we produced our 40th issue of the Nightwatchman (that’s 10 years, with some 800 essays spread over 5,600 pages and totalling around two million words if you haven’t been keeping count), the England men’s team have won a number of Test matches, countless hearts and hopefully just as many minds.
The transformation of the Test team – both in style of play and results – has been nothing short of astonishing. We are talking about largely the same players, absolutely the same format, but a spectacle that has never been equalled in Test cricket’s nigh-on 150-year history. It’s the relegation of the result to something significantly less important than entertaining the paying public and the wider world. Making Test matches sexy.
The change in mindset is taking some getting used to. Ben Stokes’s seemingly kamikaze declaration to present Pakistan with a 50/50 chance of winning a Test match they had never been ahead in was the point at which many traditional observers felt enough was enough, declaring that the importance of not losing should have overridden everything else. But Stokes knows no
half measures, and the stunning victory that resulted gave us a match that will be talked and written about, forever.
Elite sportspeople play the same games that we do, just at a much higher level. To see them take part for pure enjoyment – smiling, laughing and joking, showing us that the game’s the thing – well, that’s bringing sport back to basics; playing for the sheer love of it. Winning? That’ll take care of itself. And if it doesn’t, well, too bad.
In this issue, Cam Ponsonby, William Dobson and Michael Sheridan provide us with three very different pieces about England’s Pakistan tour – their first for 17 years – including some fabulous photography. Elsewhere, David Tossell looks back 60 years to the very start of one-day cricket, Scott Oliver gives us a glimpse of KP as a young man, and S.J. Litherland feels Durham sizzle in the heat.
Combine that with chess, the revelation that cricket is the most popular sport in Qatar, a meeting between Wittgenstein and Compton, cricket played by folk of three score years and ten, a beautiful essay on SF Barnes’ last full season as a cricketer (at the age of 65!), the rather appalling thought that stumps might be used in cricket against their will, what the South African Mean Machine did for race relations in the 80s, a profile of Frank Chester, Test match umpire at the tender age of just 29, and why it is much more fun to watch the sport entirely on your own, and you’ve got what we hope you always do with the Nightwatchman
– something for everyone.
As ever, 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 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.