My baby was due to enter the world on February 18th, just a few days into the tournament. Not ideal timing, but at least he wasn’t interrupting The Ashes.
In the end, he was late. Five days after the scheduled start of his innings, at risk of being timed out, things began to stir. We were just getting used to the comfortable preliminary round, experimenting with fielding positions and fine-tuning the batting order, when the situation suddenly became a bit more serious. Flashing lights, pained expressions, screaming and shouting – we were now well and truly into the knockout stages.
You can do all the net practice you like, but out in the middle it’s a different matter entirely. I proved myself a useful partner at home, picking up singles and keeping the partnership ticking along, but once in hospital I froze. All padded up with nowhere to go, I stood paralysed at the non-striker’s end as my darling wife held firm in the face of an almighty onslaught. Time and again she went down; the physio told her to retire hurt, to accept a runner, but she would not budge. She stared back at the bowler with a determined glare, took a deep breath and re-marked her guard.
The moment of triumph, when it came, was strangely muted. Despite having had my eyes fixed on this life-changing landmark for so long, I hadn’t really considered how I might react when it finally arrived. Should I look to the heavens and thank the Almighty? Get down on my knees and kiss the pitch? Or embark on a lap of honour, arms aloft, twirling my bat to the four corners of the stadium?
Nothing has been the same since. They say you never forget your first – a monkey off the back, an unsullied glimpse of a dazzling future, your place in the world secure forever. There will undoubtedly be low points – dips in form, tantrums, bad decisions, horrific collapses, entire days lost to bad weather. But a platform has been set, and now we must make hay while our son shines.