Justin here, and I expect that, like me, you are dismayed and disappointed at our Men's Cricket team’s disastrous showing in Australia. I mean, this is our national game, is it not? “No!”, some might say, Association Football is, and indeed that game may have some claim to the title, but cricket, for me at least, has always represented the finer side of English life, embodying sporting skill, a sense of fair play and huge physical acumen.
I also like to think that the Australians were beaten in the last Ashes series not just by England’s superior technical skill, but by certain difficult to define aspects of the English game. Cucumber sandwiches at tea; trousers held up by an old school tie; colourful caps; never arguing with umpires and the spontaneous cheering of an opponent’s stand – “Oh, I say, well played, old boy!” – even against the dreadful mutterings and bodyline attack from a fast bowling blacksmith... and the way that the Great Game arrests time itself... "Stands the church clock still at ten to three?”
And lest we forget, England invented the game. The Australians are the Johnny-come-Latelys here. And they’re a rough lot, are they not, with their coarse accent and their win-at-all costs attitude? Many of the nicer, more gentlemanly aspects of the game have simply not rubbed off on the Australians.
So, what would Jesus have done? Well, he might just have considered the fact that the English Women's team are in the process of beating Australia hands down. Who could possibly object to a mixed Test side? It would certainly wrong-foot the average chauvinist male Australian cricketer. Sledging would take on a whole new aspect. Just as a batsperson was taking strike, a slip fielder might mutter in a stage whisper, “Blimey, your bum looks huge in that!” Third Man would become Third Person and certain changes in shower arrangements would be called for. Or not, depending upon the level of team–bonding which had taken place on the bus.
Of course, my question as to who might object to a mixed side was rhetorical. There would be shrill, deeply offended – outraged even – calls from the Members’ Stand at all our great grounds to prohibit the notion – just as the moneylenders and badhats squealed when Our Lord heaved them out of the temple. But I’d like to think that my fellow bishops – and soon m’lady bishops might bring some influence to bear here in the House of Lords. It would be sexual equality writ large. And I don’t mind admitting that I personally have a fine googly.