Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ben Bowled over by Durham; What Was an American Doing in the Press Box at the Durham Ashes Test? DAVID WHETSTONE Has the Answer

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ben Bowled over by Durham; What Was an American Doing in the Press Box at the Durham Ashes Test? DAVID WHETSTONE Has the Answer

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID WHETSTONE

NOT all the professional writers who gathered in Chester-le-Street for the fourth Investec Ashes Test were cricket correspondents.

In their midst was an American novelist and former professional basketball player.

Rather than filing for the newspaper sports pages, Benjamin Markovits was the official Test match writer-in-residence, commissioned by Durham Book Festival.

On Saturday he will read from the resulting essay which is also to be published in the London Review of Books.

But what did a Texan make of a game that, far from conquering America, baffles many people even in the country of its birth? "The club (that's Durham County Cricket Club) were great," he says.

"They made sure I had different seats around the ground so I got to see it from different angles. I had a press pass so I could sit in the press box and I also had a view of the action from the boardroom.

"People were really great. I knew that as an American I had a pretty low bar to cross. If I knew anything about cricket - and I could talk about (cricket legend) CB Fry - they would be pleased. And I really did get the excitement."

It transpires that Ben Markovits, whose novels include a trilogy about the Lord Byron, was not exactly the cricket virgin you might suppose.

Though born in America, he spent part of his childhood here and has British citizenship. He has also written for British newspapers and, I learn, has seen more professional cricket than me.

"An editor of mine took me to the Ashes a few years ago so I spent a day at the Oval, and I've also been to Lord's to see a county championship match. But cricket is an endurance test and I'd never done a full Test before.

"Because I've written about sport before and I used to play, they thought I might be suitable for the residency. …

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