When watching sports it is often possible to simply sense that you are in the right place and that the stadium in which you sit defines and evokes the sport it hosts perfectly. Visit some of Europe's industrial powerhouses like Manchester, Liverpool, Dortmund or Turin and you will be sure that you are in the right place for football - there is little to compare with the atmosphere at Anfield or the Westfallonstadion. Similarly, in 2001 when I spent a year in New York State as part of my university education, I was able to watch some sport in just the right places. I saw the Canadiens in Montreal and spent an afternoon in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium. Sadly, I did not feel the same sense of awe and wonder when I saw the Toronto Raptors.
I had the same feeling of being just where I needed to be when I went to watch cricket at Headingley, the home of Yorkshire CC. Many people might argue that Lord's in London is cricket's spiritual home as it hosted the first international matches and is viewed by many as the centre of the game. This is not an unfounded opinion. However, whereas Lords can at times be rather quiet and solemn, Headingley is forever bursting with noise, life and opinion. There are other places that could claim to be the perfect place to watch the game: some of the grounds in the Caribbean are wonderful, as is St George's Park in Port Elizabeth beneath the shadow of Table Mountain and the palm trees and historic Dutch Fort in Galle also make for a wonderful back-drop.
For my money, though, there is nowhere in the world quite like Yorkshire to enjoy cricket. First of all, it is the most cricket-loving area in the world. This may sound like quite a statement in light of the passion with which the game is followed in India. However, In no county or province are there as many amateur or professional leagues, as many registered players or as many cricket clubs. Along with an aversion to spending their hard-earned brass (Yorkshire for 'money'), most Yorkshire-folk are born with cricket hard-wired into their DNA. Because of this, Yorkshire County Cricket Club have won more national Championships than any county in England and has a record superior to any other county or province in the world. There is a saying that goes, "When Yorkshire are strong, England are strong". With such thoughts in mind, I was very excited to make my way to Headingley to watch Yorkshire play Leicester.
Twenty 20 cricket is a shortened form of cricket. A match lasts roughly three hours and fixtures usually take place between 17h30 and 20h30. We arrived just in time to watch Yorkshire bowl and Leicestershire bat. The game itself was something of an anti-climax. Yorkshire boasted several top players including former England internationals Ryan Sidebottom, Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid. They made short work of a Leicestershire side, which had several younger and less talented players bolstered by the Zimbabwean journeyman Andrew Ireland. Their only star was Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan. Yorkshire won comfortably, and in so doing hit some fantastic sixes (cricket's equivalent of a home-run) and took some fantastic catches (cricket involves catches the same as baseball, but using bare hands).
As great as the action was, the highlight of the game was the atmosphere and the crowd. The first thing that struck me was the knowledge of the crowd. During the game there was plenty of heated and informed discussion about the course of the game and cricket in general. It was the not the sort of thing you would expect to find at your average football match. There was also something of a carnival atmosphere as many of the fans had been consuming plenty of the local ale and were in full albeit slightly off-key voice. Much of this culminated in the barracking of one of the Leicestershire players who was fielding close to the Western Terrace seating. Every time the ball came even close to him, he was heckled and barracked mercilessly much to the amusement of the whole section.
Tickets to a Twenty 20 game at Headingley cost 20GBP when sold on the door. If you book online and print the tickets in advance there is a discount of 5GBP. The three hours of entertainment were well worth it.