It was the first day of the 2016 Lord’s Test between England and Sri Lanka. I was honoured to have His Majesty, King Cricket, among my guests that day in the Lower Compton – as reported here by His Majesty himself.
As the predictable shower of champagne corks began to rain down from the Upper Compton, King Cricket remarked: “I don’t know about The Home of Cricket, this place is more like The Home of Corks.”
This was far from the best joke King Cricket has ever made, but I laughed politely, in accordance with decades of training for such eventualities. I have reason to believe that my laughter passed muster with His-Maj.
Soon enough the conversation at Lord’s, more or less inevitably, turned to real tennis.
“What are the balls made of?” enquired KC, on learning from me that real tennis balls are quite heavy.
“A solid cork core wrapped in tape and then covered by a hand-stitched wool cloth,” I replied.
“Do they recycle the Test match champagne corks for that purpose?” asked KC. “They’d certainly have a plentiful supply of the material if they do so.”
(KC: As a quick sidebar, we don’t have proof, but we have a certain sense that liberties have been taken with the wording of some of these quotes of ours.)
“Good question, I’d have to ask,” I replied.
Some weeks later, that conversation and KC’s question popped back into my head while I was at the real tennis court. So I did ask one of the professionals who, amongst other things, manufactures the balls.
“Interesting idea,” I was told, “but it is probably a lot easier for us to work with the spherical cork cores we have made for the purpose.”
Intriguingly, though, a little bit of research suggests that, in less salubrious real tennis circles, King Cricket’s cork recycling idea is well underway.
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