The car park in Malahide Castle yesterday morning was the early indicator.
The yellow UK registrations and English accents, those leather binocular cases, the floppy canvas hats... the cricket couldn’t be too far away, and it wasn’t, either.
Walk past the high wall and enclosed garden, and there it was, Ireland v England in a One-Day International.
Your correspondent claims no great expertise in the sport, having never covered a match before.
The sum total of my cricket knowledge is a now-fading enjoyment of the Bodyline TV series from the 80s, which featured a very young Hugo Weaving.
We didn’t have English TV channels when I was a teenager, so we didn’t have summer afternoons soaking up Richie Benaud’s commentary either, leaving a wicket-shaped hole in my sporting knowledge.
Still, I do recognise the cardinal sin of rocking up to write about a sport you’ve never covered before — namely, lapsing into second-hand Attenborough.
As in lodging your response in the same register as an anthropologist finding common ground between cultures thousands of miles distant from each other, solemnly intoning the shared essentials.
A parallel offence, one to be ranked alongside the one above on the charge sheet, is to shoehorn in experiences from your own past as valid comparisons.
“Why yesterday in Malahide was like being in Liberty Square for a Munster final/Thomond Park/Turner’s Cross” is a scoundrel’s way of saying that to his or her surprise the people at Unfamiliar Sports Event X were... human beings after all, but only I the commentator have the ability to recognise that.
This is nonsense, of course. Yesterday’s One-Day International in Malahide was like nothing but yesterday’s One-Day International in Malahide. It didn’t need the validation of outside comparisons, because no sport ever does.
All of this was compounded with the ordinary sensitivities of the newcomer yesterday: sitting in the media section in Malahide it felt as though a red light and siren would both go off if the keystrokes composing “it’s not cricket” were contemplated by your fingertips.
Anyway, the neat horseshoe of shallow seating and overlooking trees gave the event a sober-and-easy atmosphere, an impression reinforced when the game was delayed because of concerns about the surface.
This announcement was met with nodding equanimity by the crowd, by the way. How much of that was powered by realistic expectations about the climate in Ireland, even in May, and how much was generated by the laid-back nature of the spectators I can’t say, but it certainly resonated with this observer that there were no great tantrums being displayed when the hour’s delay was confirmed.
Then again, the queue for coffee was pretty long at that point.
At this stage I should really have wandered out to the concession stands and carbo-loaded — or caffeine-loaded — but being ignorant of the protocols, I stuck to my seat. In doing so I apparently missed a chance to meet Colin Salmon, who was in a few James Bond movies. (The shaken-not-stirred lines I stored away with “it’s not cricket”).
I am dimly aware of a proud tradition in cricket commentary of the odd double entendre, so when I saw David Willey lead off the bowling for England I had high hopes.
Then I saw the first Irish batsman, William Porterfield, which seemed barren enough ground for a pun. Willey sported an alice band, which didn’t help in the construction of off-colour jokes, but when Ireland duly ran up a decent score, I flirted briefly with Alice In Runderland.
Then England’s Jofra Archer picked off a decent diving catch, which is roughly the point at which my cricket expertise teetered off the end of a cliff.
(On a side note, I was a little disappointed to see England in blue and navy gear rather than gleaming white, though clearly I didn’t advertise my ignorance in the press box; I was put to the pin of my collar mimicking the purrs and hums of appreciation which were sparked by events on the field I couldn’t decipher.)
Ireland ran up a pretty decent score of 198 before England came in to bat, and though the skies darkened the rain held off.
Some early dismissals gave Ireland hope of an upset; those dismissals included Dubliner Eoin Morgan — captaining England, please keep up — whose exit, it’s fair to say, was met with slightly louder cheers which bid his teammates adieu.
The visitors rallied, however, and made it over the line.
Ben Foakes did a lot of the damage, which was good news phonetically for disappointed home fans. Apologies if my actual cricket terminology is not on point, but I think I’ve advertised my ignorance pretty honestly.
I’ll be back to learn more, though.