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The strangest place cricket has ever been played? Scotland, of course . . .

THERE I was.

Rained aff: 'Cricket's mince. Should have stayed in Saltcoats.' Picture: Phil Rider
Rained aff: 'Cricket's mince. Should have stayed in Saltcoats.' Picture: Phil Rider

In Largs, near the watter, with Ben Ainslie, who is famous for driving boats and has won big shiny medals for it. He is asked if I was interested in sailing. Absolutely, I replied, but the Possil and Milton Yacht Club had severely restrictive entry requirements so I could never indulge. Ben muttered sympathetically, missing the point by so far he would have had to have used a compass to re-enter the conversation on an even keel.

My unworthy remark was meant to convey the reality that some sports can be unavailable for a variety of reasons. Indeed, any sport outside football was considered exotic in Possil, though there was a cult for various martial arts, conducted on occasion with varieties of butchers' implements.

It is why I came late to the game of cricket, seduced only in my 20s when I was told to report on the sport while working for a local newspaper.

I took to it like Ollie Reed to a wine gum. My immersion into the game - I fell into the club's septic tank after the bar steward stopped play - was sudden and dramatic. Its history told me it was not only the game of the Raj but that of the working class, particularly in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire.

Cricket, of course, flourishes in the most desperate outposts. Asked to name the strangest place cricket is played, I always reply: "Scotland."

But Charlie Connelly has collated a gathering of cricket tales from all over the world in Elk Stopped Play. A top 10 of his discoveries is gratuitously complemented by observations of how the matches could have been translated into Scots.

10. The Casey Base match in Antarctica is played annually in February. Its mixture of low temperatures and icy slopes remind one of a cricket match in Wick in July, though the Scottish cricketers would never wear a jumper.

9. The Ascension Island is the only place thought to have required the addendum: "Wedding stopped play." This is because a church is situated within the boundary, requiring a pause when nuptials are being celebrated therein. This is opposed to Coatbridge where fights have the addendum: "Wedding reception broke out."

8. The rise of cricket in Bhutan can be attributed to the exposure to the game in the country after the advent of indoor plumbing and television. This explains why cricket has not yet caught on in Saltcoats.

7. Botswana has struggled to find a spot to play the game with cattle having to be shooed off pitches. Lanarkshire has the same problem with playing fields having to be cleared of stumbling Buckfast grazers.

6. The most northerly match ever was played on Reindeer Peninsula in the Arctic. The players' faces were blue from the cold. This is contrast to a match played in Cleland where the players' heads were coloured purple not from the cold but from the liberal application of nit medicine.

5. Cricket in the Cook Islands was improved when pitches were repaired when the locals poured cement into cracks. In Anderston, in contrast, cracked locals are poured into cement.

4. In Downtown, Dili, in East Timor, there are regular obstructions to the pursuit of the game. Most notably, people used the field to learn how to drive cars. As opposed to North Glasgow where many people use open expanses to learn how to steal cars.

3. The success of the Hong Kong Sixes was once badly affected by Typhoon Willy. This would be treated in Scotland by the application of a new jockstrap and a shot of penicillin.

2. The oldest surviving sports photograph in Mexico, dating from 1865, shows a cricket team with Emperor Maximilian in their midst. The oldest sports photograph in Scotland is at the top of this page.

1. The revitalisation of cricket on the Australian outpost of Norfolk Island took place with a match on Bounty Day 1997. The day commemorates the arrival of the Bounty mutineers in 1876. Cricket ended in Darvel in 1828 (just before 6.30pm) when locals staged their Bounty day by overturning an ice-cream van and making off with cartons of a coconut and chocolate flavoured snack.

The global stuff is shamelessly culled from the marvellous Elk Stopped Play and Other Tales from Wisden's Cricket Round the World, edited by Charlie Connelly and published by Bloomsbury at £9.99.

The Caledonian connections are the products of a diseased mind.

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