The Games of the Remains

This was written in June 2013, but on Wednesday July 24th, Leicester City play York City in a pre-season friendly, so I am trying to stoke up a new level of Richard III-based sporting excitement...

A view fit for a king.

Scarborough is one of my favourite places in the world. I love it personally, having had family holidays there since I was a toddler. I love it geologically, from its glacial tills to its dinoturbation. I love it scenically, agreeing with my dear mother that a clifftop view of the South Bay is hard to better. I love it historically, rock-pooling-ly, amusement-ly, Spa-ly.

I should also love it cricketingly, but till last Sunday somehow I'd never been to North Marine Road.

Scarborough Cricket Club.

This auspicous day - June 9th - saw my home county (Leicestershire) take on the county of my current home (Yorkshire) in a YB40 clash. I always enjoy Leicester away games, but they're usually footballing, so it was nice to have a change of sport.

It was also nice to attend a proper county cricket match again. Ever since my Dad introduced me to it, I've loved Sunday League cricket: the quirks of county outgrounds, the proximity you can get to the players, the chance to go on the field of play during the interval and have a knockabout.

For me and probably no-one else, Leicester vs York at Scarborough also constituted a battle for Richard III's bones. I've spent a fair amount of time over the last few months explaining why York's claim to Greyfriars Dicky is unverified and unnecessary. Yorkists are still babbling on about it though, so I've decided that his bones should be turned into a new version of The Ashes. Sports teams from the two cities do battle and no matter who wins, the remains stay in a museum in Leicester.

The burial site of Richard III, Greyfriars, Leicester.

To me therefore, this cricket contest provided the first part and I made this clear to my Yorkshire-supporting friends. I contemplated putting on my cricket whites and a Laurence Olivier wig and coming along as Richard The Third Man. I'd have been able to get two nephews into the ground free, but they wouldn't have been allowed out again.

Talking of young lads, the Yorkshire team was full of them, none younger than the 15 year-old Yorker Matthew Fisher.  It was probably the most amazing day of his life so far, and he performed admirably.

I knew young Mr Fisher would get plenty of attention, though, so as a Leicestrian I decided to focus on bigging up the unsung heroes of my team instead. The Foxes were fielding first, and one of our opening bowlers is an excellent pub quiz question.

Q. Which Leicestershire seamer is an amalgam of two of the 1990s' biggest stadium music acts?
A. This one.

(Sorry. I've been asked to explain it. His name is Robbie Williams, but the initials of his first names are REM.)

I had my camera with me and was keen to record the action. When he got posted to the boundary right where we were sitting, Michael Thornely inadvertently became the lucky player to get immortalized. You can follow his exploits in my excellent Flickr album:

A Day in the Life of Michael Thornely

Yorkshire started off scoring rapidly, then slowed down, then sped up again at the end, with Liam Plunkett clubbing a quick-fire fifty. There was one run-out that looked quite close; we could have done with Richard the Third Umpire. Yorkshire finished on 258-9.

To fulfil the rules of Sunday League cricket, we took a ball onto the pitch during the interval. The bat was my vintage hardback scorebook, which goes back to 1991 and includes a Leics-Yorks match from 20 years ago. What stories it could tell.

When the Foxes came out to bat, I tried to suppress clear evidence of my loyalties. I was sitting on the front row of the stand where the die-hard drinkers were, so I wasn't sure this would be a good idea. I pretended to be happy when Leicestershire were 54/2 and 123/4, and pretended to be annoyed when the mighty Mike Thornely hit a six and a four in the same over to take us to 180/4.

Leicestershire's Matthew Boyce hits out during his fine innings of 41.

Off-field entertainment was provided by a portly Peter Beardsley lookalike drunkenly trying to run away from a security guard whilst carrying a beer snake. On-field entertainment was provided by Rob Taylor and Jigar Naik putting on 71 from 46 balls.

When Taylor hit a four to secure a last-over Leicestershire victory. I couldn't help but get up and dancing my little celebratory song and jig:

Richard The Third,
We're keeping his bones!
Richard The Third,
We're keeping his bones!
Richard The Third,
We're keeping his etc.

With five of the Leicestershire XI actually being born in the city, it felt like a genuine win for Leicester. That's another of the things I still love about county cricket: the fact that - unlike most top-flight football clubs - there are plenty of locals playing. You can see yourself in the team.

My Yorkshire friends didn't begrudge us victory. To show their historic magnanimity they suggested we go and have some fish and chips here. Much like his 'wish' to be buried in York Minster, there's no evidence Richard ever stayed in the house, but it is scientific fact.

This man is not one of the Leicestershire Foxes.

It was a fine win for Leicestershire, but more importantly it was a thoroughly enjoyably daft afternoon out, which is just as it should be. Part two of the Games of the Remains - a pre-season friendly in a sport that will be rebranded footbaIII for the day - takes place on July 24th. I can't wait.