A packed Oval, a cheering crowd yelling abuse at Shane Warne, a sing-a-long – it could have been 2005. But instead it was the eve of the Ashes series and the Duckworth/Lewis Method, a new band created by The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon and Pugwash’s Thomas Walsh, were rocking their way through their debut album.
Over 200 people crowded into the England Suite in The Oval’s new(ish) OCS stand to hear Hannon (think Jack Russell in front of a keyboard, he even had the hat) and Walsh (an Irish Brian Blessed) enjoy a lively, cricket-adoring atmosphere with The Oval as a back-drop. “Just look behind me!” said an amazed Hannon, as he settled down with a can of Guinness.
They worked their way through the record in order – which inevitably starts with ‘The Coin Toss’ and finishes with the evocative ‘End of the Over’ (containing a simple backing vocal counting from one to six).
But it is the clever, cricket-knowing lyrics with a variety of styles that makes this incongruous match – Irish musicians and cricket – work so well. The rock ballad ‘The Sweet Spot’ (“About cricket, of course,” said Hannon), the anthemic ‘Meeting Mr Miandad’ (“A song about when we went to Pakistan, in a VW camper van and met Mr Miandad,”) and the heart-wrenching love song ‘The Nightwatchman’ all show cricket up as the slightly silly sport that it really is.
The big crowd pleaser, much to Duckworth’s (Walsh) and Lewis’s (Hannon) surprise, is ‘Jiggery Pokery’, the Noel Coward pastiche about Warne’s Gatting ball. As Hannon belted it out, The Oval reached a noisy, patriotic conclusion as everyone screamed: “I hate Shane Warne!”
As a taster to the Ashes, this was a fantastic occasion. As an accompaniment to the series, the album is pure genius.
Buy it here.
Edward Craig is deputy editor of The Wisden Cricketer