In a small village that epitomises rural Staffordshire – in the sense that life has barely changed for several generations at least – digital television is something many people don’t even understand, never mind feel a need for. When England face India in the Cricket World Cup, then, there is no Sky Sports at my grandparents’ house, no means to watch the action live.
There are the witty discussions of Test Match Special on Radio 4, of course, but sometimes on a Sunday afternoon you want the sort of peace that offers the opportunity for a sneaky doze. There is no internet with which to slavishly follow a text commentary and get bombarded by tweets documenting the ebb and flow of fifty-overs-a-side, and so we resort to the sole remaining option: Ceefax.
In the age of HD 3D sports coverage, it is easy to dismiss Ceefax as redundant. But with India all out for 338 we are set for the afternoon to follow the progress of England’s innings. With the benefit of nothing but cold hard figures – bare numerical statistics that possess no innuendo and describe the progress of the score in rigid, single ball intervals – we work out required run rates, current run rates … anything that might give us a clue as to the likely outcome.
Our expert commentary deems England’s cause to be hopeless with ten overs remaining. Their rate of scoring has dropped ever since losing Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott, and with the drip-drip-drip loss of the middle order there doesn’t seem to be chance for anyone to establish a foothold like Strauss did. Needing more than twenty runs with only two overs remaining (and only two wickets to spare), the over count ticks by at an agonising rate, slow even by the refresh-rate-standards of Ceefax.
… a six!
… two off the penultimate ball!
A single ball remains and the England total is one behind India’s. An unlikely result beckons.
The last ball of the match takes an age, but the unseen anonymous individual dictating how quickly we receive updates finally hits ‘refresh’ and the single run is revealed with the drawn outcome. The release of tension is palpable; we turn Ceefax off, put it back on briefly just to make sure it hasn’t lied to us, and then give our eyes a break from the tiny blue and white text.
In time, this simple innocence is going to be lost forever to digital text services that don’t possess the same charm, even though they provide the exact same information. Truly, the original Ceefax is something to be treasured.