A week or so before the match, I e-mailed King Cricket for some advice:
“I find myself on business in Manchester Thursday/Friday and have engineered an early evening gap in my activities Thursday so I can see most (at least the closing stages) of England’s T20 semi final. Can you recommend a suitable hostelry in Central Manchester for said match?”
King Cricket, polite as ever, replied promptly:
“I have to be honest, watching sport in central Manchester is something I actively avoid – as you can perhaps imagine.”
I found it hard to imagine. If a Mancunian sent me a similar request about London I would reply along the following lines: “The Lord’s Tavern always broadcasts the matches. It usually isn’t too crowded and it is sometimes convivial. The drinks are a bit pricey, but the Rioja is servicable and the beer drinkable.”
In fact, rereading KC’s warning a couple of times, I started imagining all manner of things – perhaps hordes of cricket-loving nutters throwing beer and food everywhere – perhaps even making life extremely unpleasant for anyone slightly dark-skinned who might be mistaken for a Sri Lankan fan. Perhaps worse.
I decided to take refuge in my hotel room for the match. The match was about an hour old once I checked in to The Midland. The television in my room displayed four sets of inverted commas inappropriately on one side of the screen, but it was possible to change channels and I soon found Sky Sports One.
After a few minutes’ viewing, by which time the ever-present inverted commas had left my consciousness, some strange green messages started appearing on the screen – seemingly random mixtures of letters, numbers and symbols. Perhaps these were Kabbalistic messsages predicting the score of the match or the end of the world, I mused. They increased in length and frequency and then the television simply switched itself off.
I considered venturing out into the town to find somewhere else to watch the match, but by now I was stricken with KC-induced fear, “as you can perhaps imagine.” I fiddled with the television and got it working again. It only went through the Kabbalistic messages and self-destruct routine once more during the match.
When the match was over, I waited a few minutes for safety reasons and then ventured out to the Obsidian Restaurant for a most enjoyable dinner with an old friend from university. The city centre seemed calm and reasonably safe.
On returning to the hotel after dinner, I was greeted in the lobby by a convivial group of people in black tie who were attending a Marine Insurance Association dinner at the hotel. One of them tried to sell me some marine insurance, but I managed to avoid the purchase and rapidly returned to my room. Sleep came easily that night, as you can perhaps imagine.