Pongo Opener Finishes with an Impressive Half Century: Or, Damian Lewis Plays Cricket

Many actors have personal trainers and personal chefs keeping them in fit employable shape. Damian Lewis may have these advantages too for all we know. But more likely (and evidence confirms) that he maintains his footballer’s body by….playing football.

Damian Lewis and Zinedine Zidane 2010 Unicef Soccer Aid charity football match at Old Trafford; source: photobucket

And biking:

source: dailymail.co.uk

And golfing:

Damian Lewis Golfing
Damian Lewis at Alfred Dunhill Links Championship; sources: eonline and Alan Partridge (flickr)

And, running up and down Helvellyn, England’s third highest mountain.  Not to mention diving into Elizabethan castle moats.

In fact, what did Damian Lewis aspire to be when he grew up? In the clip from the rich 5 minute interview with BBC News, his answer is “A sportsman of some sort”.  A “tense adductor” be damned, he IS a sportsman and will continue to be well into the future.

Most recently, Damian Lewis took a breather from his physically exhausting run on stage in American Buffalo by sojourning to a calm quiet game of cricket. Last week, Damian Lewis once again captained the Actors XI in their match against Authors XI in what has become a fine tradition of artists to express their inner sportsman in a friendly but serious annual competition at Nursery Ground at Lord’s.

Now, I’m a Yank, so any motions I make towards speaking the language of cricket will read immediately as trying too hard (witness the title to the post). Yanks have a stubborn predisposition to not know the difference between a wicket and a stump (or, are they the same thing?). My connections to a colonial past though, with a husband and extended family who played the game as children and stayed stalwart fans through adulthood, renders me more willing to talk about cricket than the average Yank, I guess. One thing I know about sports in general is that it hits a creative nerve, ie the nerve connected to competition, unlike any other entertainment. Writer Nicholas Hogg tells us “In his foreword to The Authors XI: A Season of English Cricket from Hackney to Hambledon, Sebastian Faulks notes that ‘cricketers tend to be vain, anecdotal, passionate, knowledgeable, neurotic and given to fantasy. So do writers. The game is made for the profession.'”  Surely the same qualities are shared by actors as well.  And who can resist a rivalry between creative spirits? Now, let’s talk a bit about the origins of this rivalry.

Nick Hogg started the Authors XI club in 2012 with the aim to revive a centuries old tradition of writers coming together in sport. One of the first such clubs was started by JM Barrie of Peter Pan fame. Barrie’s team was called the Allahakbarries, named under the mistaken belief that “Allah akbar” meant “Heaven help us” in Arabic (rather than “God is great”). Those early clubs stopped for WWI and never got going again until much later.

As for bringing actors into the mix, Hogg says, “There’s a genuine rivalry…Writers think they create the words and that actors are just the hired hands who speak them. Actors think they are the ones who bring it all to life. There’s definitely a level of rivalry there that’s always been around.” So why not take that rivalry to the batting pitch?

There were not many close up shots from this most recent match as there have been of past matches. It is a cricket match after all, not a red carpet. Count me as one those fans constantly torn between wanting to see the subject of my fan love anywhere and everywhere while still respecting his privacy and wishing he not be subjected to cameras in his face 24/7,. In the absence of pics, we were sustained nicely by some lovely tweets heard before and during the 2015 Authors vs. Artists match.

Here’s Damian at practice a few days before the match.

Damian Lewis Cricket Practice Tweet
Practice makes perfect.

Literary agent Julia Kingsford understandably took the side of the actors in her tweets.  Do we spot some mutton chop sideburns on the dashing bloke in the foreground in her second tweet?

Damian Lewis Cricket pic 2

Damian Lewis Cricket Pic

The Authors Cricket Club’s own twitter caught us up to speed on the final score.

AuthorsCC Tweet

My resident cricket expert tells me this means that Damian Lewis (and Nathan Harding-Lee) each scored an impressive 50 runs (half century!), but, ultimately, the Actors team didn’t get past 199 runs in 40 overs (6 balls, aka 6 pitches) and ended up losing the match to the Authors. Considering that Damian’s team-mate and co-high scorer, Nathan Harding-Lee, is a rather young actor who also describes himself as a cricketer on Twitter, scored no more goals than his older team mate speaks convincingly to the game of cricket being a grown man’s game, not a young lad’s. The score also speaks convincingly to Damian Lewis’ level of fitness that he’s able, while maintaining a full work load, to give young lads a run for their money on the road (aka the pitch).

Finally, another young actor set about confirming AuthorCC’s victory:


Arguably, Damian Lewis took the defeat like the gentleman he is, but apparently couldn’t resist a quip about “setting rules” for next year.

Damian Lewis Cricket Tweet

Indeed, talented artists, authors and actors alike, don’t need gimmicks like reality TV and sports biographies to make their mark on the pitch, or, for that matter, on the world.

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