Monday, 10 August 2009

Cullinan and cakes: Cricket's culinary treats

Despite the efforts of various radio DJs to ram La Roux’s faux-80s synthesized squealing into my brain, Test Match Special absolutely remains the soundtrack of my summer.

While Australia humiliated England at Headingley, the TMS team cheered its audience with an altogether jollier alternative subject to a batting collapse: food.

It took Geoffrey Boycott less than five minutes to add his input to the mix. Asked what he thought of Matt Prior’s injury sustained during a football match, Boycott boomed in overtones of Yorkshire dissatisfaction: “Daft. You’ll get more brains in a chocolate mouse.”

Boycott’s comment paved the way for a deluge of confectionery-related chatter in the commentary box. Jonathan Agnew waxed lyrical about cakes and sweets, sent in by the truckload by adoring listeners, while Matthew Hayden, the gargantuan Australian, licked his lips at the prospect of tucking into a selection of toffees, just as his former team-mates were devouring their feeble English prey.

What's for tea, Bumble?

A little further along in the media area, David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd kept Twitter followers updated not only with the cricket but, most importantly, the snacks available in the Sky studios.

One message read excitedly: “Pies and Branston have arrived and a HUGE cake. Beefy in business.” Beefy, of course, being Ian Botham – a talisman not only for his all-round cricketing ability but for his insatiable hunger.

Shane Warne may be a new addition to the Sky commentary team but the Australian is well acquainted with cricket’s healthy relationship with food. Renowned for his cutting remarks at the crease, there were often dietary references when he sledged opponents.

When bowling to the full-of-figure Arjuna Ranatunga, Warne was encouraged by his wicket-keeper, Ian Healey, to “put a Mars bar on a length”, to tempt the batsman out of his crease.

Warne’s own sizeable build, however, did not go unnoticed during his playing career. When welcoming Daryll Cullinan to the wicket, Warne remarked that he’d been waiting two years to bowl at and torment the batsman once again (Cullinan had supposedly seen a psychiatrist since their last meeting). The South African’s retort was short but sweet: “Looks like you spent that time eating.”

One wouldn't necessarily have to rummage through Bumble’s picnics or Warne’s mind games to find further foodie association.

Batsmen playing against Durham can actually be dismissed caught (Phil) Mustard, bowled (Graham) Onions. Proving to be a hit for reasons other than wickets and a comedy surname, England seamer Onions can now list Lily Allen as an admirer. It has not yet been confirmed whether Amy Winehouse has professed to her Twitter followers about an Ian Bell crush.

In fact, with Alistair Cook opening the batting, the England team has never been so pun-friendly, especially where culinary wordplay is concerned.

And should Rob Key win a recall to the England side for the decisive Oval Test, you can bet that food will once again be a feature of conversation at the crease.