Its decision time in the Ashes today. But while we’re all glued to the action as Muppet’s England—not, i stress, a nickname of my creation—take on Ricky “Punter” Ponting’s posse, a few eyes will be drifting in the direction of the boxes overhanging the Oval.
Over the course of the financial crisis corporate boxes might have been emblazoned with the names of high street banks. But their contents have resembled something more like the captain’s cabin of the Marie Celeste; the food and drink all laid out but no-one around to partake. Alas while the fate of that ship has been recognised as one of the greatest maritime mysteries of all time, I suspect the case of abandoned boxes will not find its way into cricketing mythology.
Mervyn King—or shall shall we call him Il Papa?—explained in June that the Church Bank “cannot promise that bad things won’t happen to our flock”. And just as he predicted (after the event), so it has (already) come to pass. As is proper in such circumstances the guilty financiers have accepted some degree of penance (largely enforced by public opprobrium) albeit without the hair shirts and cat o’ nine tails. And all season it now seems they paid for their boxes, and yet forgoed using them. My, how wrong we have painted them! Never mind that this week marks the grand finale of one of the sporting spectaculars of the year, with the result delicately poised and tickets selling faster than Harry Potter books on ebay. Their steadfast resolve will not be broken by such trifling matters.
But wait? Might it be that, with the Ashes hanging in the balance, the bankers might dane to return to the best seats in the house? I will be at the Oval for the first day’s play, and will be looking for signs of periscopes peeping over lofty balconies, just in case one or two lapse at the last, and Beelzebub’s temptations (in the form of Pimm’s and cucumber sandwiches) prove too great. But perhaps a trip to the cricket would do Mr King, at least, some good. His musings appear increasingly mystical: apparently, like our ultimate destination, we must leave the financial sector in the hands of the Almighty for “the prevention of…