Mark Mason

Stress Test: some cricket fans can’t cope with the Ashes

[Getty Images]

The current Ashes series is proving a once-in-a-generation classic, one of those contests that cricket fans spend decades dreaming about. How are some of those fans reacting? They’re refusing to watch.

I’m talking about the ‘I just can’t stand the tension’ brigade. The ones who, when the run chase gets down to 30 with three wickets left, run from the room shouting: ‘It’s no good, my nerves won’t take it.’ They pace up and down, fingers in ears, determined to avoid learning the result until the match is over. Only then do they creep back in and discover the news.

It’s madness. You wait years for the drama of a truly great sporting event – and then when it arrives, you shun it. Yes, your palms are sweating and your heart’s about to burst, but isn’t that the point of sport?

The latest person to confess his lunacy is Test Match Special’sDaniel Norcross. Had he not been working on the third Test at Headingley, he says, the anxiety of the final session would have proved too much, and he’d have been unable to carry on watching.

‘I know it sounds mad,’ he tells me, ‘but I reserve my insanity for extreme situations. I was perfectly willing to watch the finales at Edgbaston and Lord’s [the first two matches], but this was different. If England had lost, the Ashes and in essence the summer would have been over. The stakes were simply too high. I needed to disinvest, as the consequence of my engagement was that I stood to lose everything I hold dear.’

Norcross has form – and early form at that. ‘The 1982 Melbourne Test match, I was 13,’ he says. ‘We were spending Christmas in Wales, and my dad and I were listening on the radio.

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