She is glad not to walk up the steps to the media box alone, but from her demeanour you could never tell. They met at Manchester Piccadilly, in the bookshop. They spent ages there, but he couldnâ€™t find anything sufficiently highbrow to bother parting with his hard won cash. His intellect scares her a bit, to be honest. She doesnâ€™t know him all that well.
They were kind of thrown together in the Lordâ€™s Media Centre last year; allocated seats next to each other, it took most of the season for him to trust her. Then, one morning, he was late â€“ a sick child, or something â€“ and she helped him out, shared her notes with him, that sort of stuff, and Dan suddenly realised she was OK. Clair wasnâ€™t like the other young journalists, keen to get one up on you when you were down, ready to snatch the next slice of bread from your mouth.
A geeky pair in the back row; him with his earnest Yorkshire intellect, his taste for French novels and classical music, her with her down to earth preference for popular culture. They agreed on one thing only â€“ the god-like status of Michael Vaughan. About everything else they fought, much to the amusement of some of the seasoned press box veterans seated around them.
For the Old Trafford Test they had thrown their lots together; single rooms in a guesthouse they hoped wasnâ€™t too seedy. Dan missed his kids â€“ Clair missed her husband. They were better off together. Less time to dwell.
But Clair was dwelling, as she took her seat in the back row. By the very act of arriving, she had committed herself to the full five days. Back home in Wales, her father was dying. The trouble was, heâ€™d been dying for months now, and sheâ€™d taken the view that she couldnâ€™t put her life on hold indefinitely. She had also told him she was never going to say goodbye, and heâ€™d agreed it wasnâ€™t necessary, if they had sufficient faith to know theyâ€™d meet again.
- Day 1
- England 1st innings
- England: 50 runs in 7.5 overs (52 balls), Extras 11
- 2nd Wicket: 50 runs in 49 balls (AN Cook 21, MP Vaughan 18, Ex 12)
- Drinks: England – 69/1 in 12.0 overs (AN Cook 32, MP Vaughan 18 )Â
- England 1st Innings: 1×5 ball over (19th over, CD Collymore, called by Umpire Aleem Dar)
- England: 100 runs in 24.3 overs (152 balls), Extras 15
- AN Cook: 50 off 81 balls (8 x 4)
- Lunch: England – 112/1 in 28.0 overs (AN Cook 51, MP Vaughan 40)
- 2nd Wicket: 100 runs in 163 balls (AN Cook 45, MP Vaughan 41, Ex 14)
- Drinks: England – 137/4 in 42.0 overs (PD Collingwood 5, IR Bell 0)
- England: 150 runs in 46.3 overs (288 balls), Extras 19
- Tea: England – 167/5 in 54.0 overs (IR Bell 16, MJ Prior 1)
- England: 200 runs in 62.6 overs (391 balls), Extras 24
- 6th Wicket: 50 runs in 89 balls (IR Bell 23, MJ Prior 24, Ex 3)
- Drinks: England – 223/5 in 68.0 overs (IR Bell 43, MJ Prior 27)
- IR Bell: 50 off 99 balls (10 x 4)
- England: 250 runs in 75.1 overs (469 balls), Extras 29
- England 1st Innings: 1×7 ball over (77th over, DJG Sammy, called by Umpire Aleem Dar)
- New Ball Taken: England 274/6 after 82.0 overs (IR Bell 73, LE Plunkett 5)
- End Of Day: England – 296/7 in 86.0 overs (IR Bell 77, SJ Harmison 2)
Walking down the road from the metro station, Dan was feeling somewhat reticent, but also a little overwhelmed at the serendipity of the moment. He played with the piece of paper in his trouser pocket â€“ it had to be around here somewhere â€“ how could he get away from her to look? It would seem as though he regretted her company already â€“ and that certainly wasnâ€™t the case; he was glad of it, her generous warmth, in a city where he couldnâ€™t remember the hurt. Maybe tomorrow. Not tonight â€“ maybe heâ€™d do it tomorrow.
- Day 2
- England: 300 runs in 86.6 overs (543 balls), Extras 42
- Drinks: England – 336/8 in 98.0 overs (IR Bell 95, RJ Sidebottom 1)
- England: 350 runs in 102.1 overs (635 balls), Extras 45
- West Indies 1st innings
- Lunch: West Indies – 17/1 in 3.0 overs (CH Gayle 1, DS Smith 0)
- West Indies: 50 runs in 9.4 overs (62 balls), Extras 19
- Drinks: West Indies – 88/2 in 17.0 overs (DS Smith 11, RS Morton 20)
- 3rd Wicket: 50 runs in 59 balls (DS Smith 11, RS Morton 29, Ex 10)
- West Indies: 100 runs in 19.5 overs (125 balls), Extras 29
- West Indies: 150 runs in 28.5 overs (180 balls), Extras 35
- Tea: West Indies – 153/3 in 30.0 overs (DS Smith 40, S Chanderpaul 15)
- West Indies: 200 runs in 39.5 overs (247 balls), Extras 40
- 5th Wicket: 50 runs in 74 balls (S Chanderpaul 26, DJ Bravo 17, Ex 7)
- S Chanderpaul: 50 off 66 balls (7 x 4)
- Drinks: West Indies – 220/5 in 49.0 overs (S Chanderpaul 50, D Ramdin 1)
- England 2nd innings
- Innings Break: England – 0/0
- Penalty: 5.5 – Ball striking Fielding Team helmet
- End Of Day: England – 34/1 in 6.0 overs (AN Cook 12, MP Vaughan 10)
The press box was emptying after the close. Sunlight still flooded in through the big windows facing the pitch, but a cool breeze moved the air from the open windows at the back. Next to Clair, the cricket correspondent for the Yorkshire Post was complaining about his hay fever. She made all the right soothing noises, but she wasnâ€™t really listening. She felt restless â€“ the news from home wasnâ€™t good â€“ she just wanted to get away from this place.
Finally, Dan came back and eventually he filed his last piece of copy. As he packed their laptops into his locker he suddenly said â€œCan we take a diversion on the way back to the hotel? Thereâ€™s somewhere I want to see.â€ A diversion of any sort sounded like a good idea.
â€˜Sold for developmentâ€™ said the sign. Shit â€“ he was too late. Clair looked up at him, puzzled. â€œWhatâ€™s special?â€ she asked.
â€œI was born here.â€
Although she was silent, he saw the â€˜so what?â€™ writ large in her eyes.
â€œIâ€™ve never seen it beforeâ€ he ventured.
The â€˜so what?â€™ was still there.
â€œI lived here for the first two weeks of my life.â€ He was in so deep now he couldnâ€™t stop himself. â€œBefore my mother gave me up for adoption. She fought it, but in the sixties, well, things were different. This was some sort of home for wayward girls and her parents hid her here; didnâ€™t tell anyone she was pregnant; there was no question of her coming home with a baby. I didnâ€™t see her again for over twenty years.â€
â€œAnd then what?â€
â€œI found her. She says she always loved me, but even now Iâ€™m still a secret. I have a half brother and sister Iâ€™m not allowed to meet. She has two grandchildren sheâ€™ll never know.â€
- Day 3
- England: 50 runs in 8.6 overs (60 balls), Extras 13
- 2nd Wicket: 50 runs in 60 balls (AN Cook 17, MP Vaughan 21, Ex 12)
- Drinks: England – 90/1 in 20.0 overs (AN Cook 31, MP Vaughan 37)
- England: 100 runs in 23.3 overs (153 balls), Extras 23
- Lunch: England – 136/2 in 33.0 overs (AN Cook 48, KP Pietersen 23)
- AN Cook: 50 off 96 balls (5 x 4)
- 3rd Wicket: 50 runs in 84 balls (AN Cook 19, KP Pietersen 28, Ex 3)
- England: 150 runs in 36.5 overs (234 balls), Extras 26
- Drinks: England – 193/2 in 49.0 overs (AN Cook 76, KP Pietersen 49)
- KP Pietersen: 50 off 79 balls (7 x 4)
- England: 200 runs in 52.1 overs (326 balls), Extras 28
- 3rd Wicket: 100 runs in 179 balls (AN Cook 43, KP Pietersen 53, Ex 5)
- England 2nd Innings: 1×5 ball over (62nd over, DJ Bravo, called by Umpire BF Bowden)
- Tea: England – 228/3 in 63.0 overs (AN Cook 89, PD Collingwood 3)
It looks very likely to be Vaughanâ€™s 21st Test win, making him Englandâ€™s most successful captain. Clair is spending tea diligently writing her copy for a Yorkshire website when the phone rings. It is her mother; heâ€™s fading fast. Still she wonâ€™t go home â€“ sheâ€™s sticking to her guns.
- AN Cook: 100 off 198 balls (10 x 4)
- England: 250 runs in 67.4 overs (418 balls), Extras 29
- Drinks: England – 290/7 in 79.0 overs (PD Collingwood 36, SJ Harmison 9)
- England: 300 runs in 82.5 overs (509 balls), Extras 31
- West Indies 2nd innings
- End Of Day: West Indies – 22/1 in 8.0 overs (CH Gayle 11, DS Smith 10)
â€œItâ€™s birth and deathâ€ Dan tells her that evening, as once again they stand in front of the place he was born. â€œItâ€™s odd â€“ kind of full circle.â€
She looks up at him and smiles impishly. â€œLetâ€™s ring the doorbell.â€
â€œThere wonâ€™t be anyone there.â€
â€œThere might be â€“ a caretaker or something.â€
And she is right; but she refuses to go in with him. â€œThis is your history. You have to face it on your own.â€
Clairâ€™s words echo in his head as a former nurse shows him around the building. First, she rummages around in the office until she finds a box of old files, and incredibly she can tell him which room his mother occupied. He imagines her here, alone and frightened, and it is stuck in his mind whether she really did love him enough. He cannot accept he will never believe her answer; never understand how she could bear the pain of walking away. He could never walk away from his children. As he looks out, he sees a forlorn figure sitting on the steps. He cannot fathom why Clair is still here, but he is pleased that she is. Circumstances have woven a cocoon around them, and he vows to look after her, too.
- Day 4
- West Indies: 50 runs in 18.5 overs (115 balls), Extras 7
- Drinks: West Indies – 55/2 in 21.0 overs (DS Smith 21, RS Morton 11)
- 3rd Wicket: 50 runs in 87 balls (DS Smith 26, RS Morton 13, Ex 11)
- Lunch: West Indies – 99/3 in 37.0 overs (RS Morton 21, S Chanderpaul 5)
- West Indies: 100 runs in 37.2 overs (227 balls), Extras 15
- 4th Wicket: 50 runs in 94 balls (RS Morton 29, S Chanderpaul 20, Ex 2)
- West Indies: 150 runs in 51.3 overs (312 balls), Extras 17
- Drinks: West Indies – 155/3 in 53.0 overs (RS Morton 48, S Chanderpaul 32)
- RS Morton: 50 off 130 balls (7 x 4)
- S Chanderpaul: 50 off 86 balls (8 x 4)
- Tea: West Indies – 199/4 in 66.0 overs (S Chanderpaul 51, DJ Bravo 11)
- West Indies: 200 runs in 66.1 overs (402 balls), Extras 25
- 5th Wicket: 50 runs in 57 balls (S Chanderpaul 19, DJ Bravo 24, Ex 8 )
- West Indies: 250 runs in 80.1 overs (486 balls), Extras 26
- New Ball Taken: West Indies 253/5 after 81.2 overs (S Chanderpaul 62, D Ramdin 4)
- Drinks: West Indies – 254/5 in 82.0 overs (S Chanderpaul 63, D Ramdin 4)
- 6th Wicket: 50 runs in 109 balls (S Chanderpaul 18, D Ramdin 25, Ex 7)
- West Indies: 300 runs in 97.1 overs (590 balls), Extras 33
- End Of Day: West Indies – 301/5 in 98.0 overs (S Chanderpaul 81, D Ramdin 26)
For a while, it looked as though England could wrap it up that night, but Chanderpaul has frustrated them. Clair wishes they had; she has had to promise her mother she will go when her father dies. Her thoughts have been with him all day, but just at the moments she was feeling most vulnerable, Dan appeared at her side with a plastic cup of tea or other comfort. The comfort of strangers â€“ only now Dan wasnâ€™t a stranger. Somehow, for all their differences, they were inextricably bound.
So she knocked on his door at five in the morning, once she was dressed and her bag packed. â€œI have to go. Mum called to say heâ€™s dead.â€
Struggling with sleep, he blurts out the question his mouth has been biting back since Thursday. â€œWhy did you stay in the first place?â€
â€œBecause I didnâ€™t need to say goodbye. And because he was so proud of me, writing about cricket, he understood.â€
And he lay back on his pillows after Clair had left, marvelling that she could be so sure of a parentâ€™s love. He waited, staring at the ceiling, for the familiar bitterness to come. But it didnâ€™t.