I think I started watching cricket in 1992 or '93, pretty much the nadir of the modern era for England's team. In those days, all England players were called Graham. There was Graham Gooch, Graham Hick, dewy-eyed debutant Graham Thorpe, and of course larrikin paceman Graham Trombone*. Even though the standard of Grahams was desperately low, I found the soothing pace of the five-day game very pleasing to my brain. And when the team went overseas to the West Indies or South Africa, you could leave the radio on BBC Radio 4 longwave all night, and wake up from strange dreams to hear what awful deeds tall foreign men had wrought on "our boys". Invariably, someone would be blowing on a conch shell.
So to win the Ashes today was in one sense very exciting. I know people around the country have apparently suddenly discovered that cricket is okay, and that they can watch it and pretend to know what the rules are. I've been watching it for 13 years and I don't know where "silly mid-on" is. It doesn't matter. I don't know which side is "leg" and which one is "off". But I was always pleased that some people didn't get it. Everyone I knew who was worth a shake got it.
You don't need to be a sports bore to watch test cricket, because it all happens so slowly. You get to know the players, and like a soap opera, you get to like them. Shane Warne may be a tubby and boorish Aussie, but he's been coming into my home for more than a decade and he's never stunk the joint out. That's not the Warne way. Cricket is a reality show where you like all the contestants, and they don't outstay their welcome.
When I tired of football's nebbish prima donnas in the late 90s, cricket didn't pall, so while I was happy to win the Ashes, i was sad because it's the end of live cricket on free-to-air TV. Sky Sports' cricket coverage is woeful and I wouldn't pay for the channel just for that. So today marked the end of something I really enjoyed. I doubt I'm the only person who felt like this.
Like George Costanza, I believe in always going out on a high. But for me and the summer game, the high was never really the point.
* Not a real player