A challenge to fans to remember the roots of their favourite game provides a cracking conundrum. Hopefully they won’t need the help of a third man while they queue to make their worship in the summer sun.
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You and I have a secret to share, or more accurately a miracle hidden in plain sight. As the crowds gather here on Ashes street, they might appreciate your shade while they wait for the ground to open, but you and I both know they won’t spare a thought for trees. Even while their heart quickens, voice roaring as players and ball appear to move in slow motion: the non-striker frozen in a lunge towards the crease, the wicketkeeper diving to the left, a high ball at its zenith above a poised outer fielder. Little do they appreciate that none of the joy, none of the adrenalin, would flow without your kind.
Do you want to tell them, or shall I? Remind them that the bats are cleft from finest English cricket bat willow before being bonded to a handle fashioned from a forest vine. Tell them that the stumps and bales are turned from our common ash which at this very moment is fighting a war for survival against a deadly fungal pathogen. If they nod knowingly, challenge them to think of another essential element.
I wish I was there with you to watch their reactions, but I can imagine the scratching of the head, the shared question puzzling friends who will frown in turn.
Don’t hurry to help them, instead be patient. You could wait until an Aussie fan wanders by with a digger hat complete with hanging corks. The group celebrating on the bench by popping a bottle of champagne might provide another clue. Perhaps they’ll give up and head on to the stadium, only to return after a corker of a game with the answer. Maybe they’ll be forever stumped!
If they insist, ask them what else the game needs besides bat and stumps? If the ball is getting ever larger, eventually it will hit them! Surely at this point they will solve the riddle.
REPLY TO THE STUMPED TREE
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