by Patrick O’Connor

DAN slumped down on the seat next to the old lady who was staring keenly out towards the vast expanse of green grass.

He didn’t think he’d ever seen grass cut so neatly, laid out in precise, differently shaded squares.

“Oh good shot,” she said and immediately scribbled something in a blue book perched on her knee.

“Placed that superbly past mid-off.”

“I’m sorry?” he replied.

“Oh, are you American? We don’t get many of them here.” she said.

“No I suppose not.”

“Your first cricket match?”

“Yes, I…”

Dan felt the dull fog which had clouded his mind over the last 24 hours tighten its grip. His head was pounding ferociously and he didn’t really want to talk. Fortunately she seemed more interested in writing in her book and made another entry.

WHY would an African-American woman, born and bred in Fort Worth, want to swap Texas for an English suburb in Nottingham, the home of Robin Hood?

That’s what puzzled Dan. All he received was a text saying Mel was leaving him, that the marriage “had run out of steam.” It shook him to his bones.  Her sister had come round to collect her clothes and stuff and whilst she was packing Dan sneaked a look at her cell phone and discovered an address in Nottingham where Mel was apparently staying.

A long haul to Heathrow, then a switch to a regional airport near Nottingham and it was a tired, bedraggled and confused Dan who turned up outside the quaint small semi-detached house last night.

There had always been a slight concern in the back of his mind that being in a mixed-race marriage could cause a problem at some stage. Was Mel under pressure from her family to hitch up with a black guy, was that it?

That theory was torpedoed immediately the door was opened and Dan was greeted by a ginger-haired, bearded man with a posh English accent. He sounded like Hugh Grant but looked like someone from ZZ Top who had had a trim.

Mel appeared behind him and in a short, snappy exchange in a leafy English avenue late on a sultry summer evening, informed Dan that she had fallen head over heels in love with ‘Nigel’ whom she had met at a conference Stateside and that she wanted a divorce – quickly.  A few minutes later he had found a 24 hour store, bought two bottles of whisky and eventually passed out on a bench in a nearby park.

A park keeper, maybe influenced by his strange Texan drawl, had politely moved him on the following morning and after two large cups of black coffee at a café, Dan wandered along the road before he came to a huge stadium.

Still totally befuddled by what had happened, he bought a ticket and entered through the gates to the Trent Bridge cricket ground, one of England’s most famous sporting arenas.