John Challis: Looking forward to a year of great sport

After the disappointment of England’s Ashes campaign, I’m glad our national cricket team has fared better in the one-day internationals against the Aussies and the upcoming test series against New Zealand.

John Challis
John Challis

I have always been a huge fan of sport and cricket remains a firm passion. As a boy, I thought about being a sportsman and I was more than half-decent, even if I say so myself.

Like many actors, I was often immersed in the world of make-believe and I would happily play cricket in my parents’ garden. On one occasion, I distinctly remember making a century against Australia in The Ashes at Lords, before walking from the wicket to rapturous applause. I’ve had a lifelong passion not only for cricket but also for football – Arsenal is my team, since you ask.

When we were filming Only Fools And Horses there was regularly rivalry on set with myself and my great friend, the late Roger Lloyd Pack, who played Trigger. He was a lifelong Spurs fan and so there was an on-going North London banter between us. Not long after Roger’s death, Spurs fans paid a unique tribute to him when his team were playing away at Swansea.

During the match, fans were heard singing “stand up for Trigger, he is one of our own” and “he only had one broom”. They were referencing a classic scene from the sitcom when Trigger claimed he’d had his road sweeper’s broom for 20 years.He went on to say it had 17 new heads and 14 new handles. He would have been very proud of that, I’m sure.

Living near Ludlow means I’m a long way either from Lord’s or from the Emirates Stadium, but I follow the fortunes of both the England cricket team and Arsenal wherever I go. And there’s always a text message on my mobile phone from a friend giving me a bit of stick if Arsenal lose, or telling me they were lucky if they won. I was quite fortunate towards the end of summer when I saw some exceptional cricket right here in Shropshire.

The Lashings All Stars played at Morda Road, in Oswestry. Wasim Jaffer, Abdul Razzaq and former England spinner Monty Panesar were part of the line-up that faced the Oswestry first XI.

One of the highlights was bumping into Test Match Special’s Henry Blofeld, who was commentating, and we got along very well. I don’t get to watch as much cricket as I would like so it was great to be there and I’m looking forward to more great sport in 2018.

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