The Duckworth Lewis Method

The Duckworth Lewis Method

In the corridor of uncertainty between novelty record and concept album comes this bizarre maiden offering from the partnership of The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon and Thomas Walsh from Pugwash – taking its name from the complex mathematical method for predicting cricket scores in rain-affected games.

Resulting from a brainstorming session over pints of Guinness, recorded in just six hours in Dublin and mixed at Abbey Road Studios, near Lord’s – or HQ as these two obsessives no doubt refer to it – it’s a predictable mix of wistfulness and whimsy, Wisden and wickets.

That it is released just two days before this summer’s Ashes series begins in Cardiff will only add to the intrigue, and Hannon and Walsh have already been enjoying the fruits of their labour, having been invited to join the Test Match Special team at the Oval. At times it sounds as though Hannon and Walsh needed a little more time in the nets to take this beyond the sketchings-on-the-back-of-a-beer mat stage, but there is just enough charm, good humour and catchy, quirky tunes to appeal.

From ‘The Coin Toss’ to ‘The End Of The Over’, the DLM produce an almanac of summery pop. Debut single ‘The Age of Revolution’ seamlessly mixes (reverse?) swing with a gentle reggae beat as Walsh and Hannon chart cricket’s evolution from colonial knockabout to multi-million dollar global sport. "Always denied entry / By the English gentry / Now we’re driving Bentleys / And playing Twenty20," croon Ireland’s answer to Botham and Boycott.

That its most obvious antecedent is The Village Green Preservation Society should come as no surprise. The rose-tinted nostalgia of the lyrics and the mellow harpsichord singalong of Gentlemen and Players would fit easily on The Kinks’ classic – lightweight as a size three kids’ bat, but as easy on the ear as leather on willow on a sunny day.

Happily, it’s not just cricket. While The Sweet Spot might begin as a paean to the joys of a well-timed stroke, it soon evolves into a Jarvis Cocker-style sleaze-along, as Hannon whispers reassurances that he can hit the sweet spot over a dirty glam stomp.

The standout song, however, is ‘Jiggery Pokery’. Sung, in what must surely be a pop music first, from the perspective of pugnacious former England captain Mike Gatting, it tells the story of Shane Warne’s ‘Ball of the Century’ which bamboozled the bearded batsman at Old Trafford in 1993.

"I took the crease to great applause and focused on me dinner. I knew that I had little cause to fear their young leg spinner," sings the protagonist, before an abrupt change of pace tells the infamous story of what happened next. Over a jaunty music hall piano stomp, the bearded buffoon moans: "Jiggery pokery, trickery jokery, how did he open me up? / Robbery, muggery, Aussie skulduggery, out for a buggering duck," in a song we can expect Athers, Bumble and the lads to be guffawing over in the Sky commentary box this summer.

The upbeat absurdity of ‘Meeting Mr Miandad’, jumpers for goalposts whimsy of ‘Flatten The Hay’, somewhat pointless instrumental ‘Rain Stops Play’ and the fitting tribute to the wireless heroes of Test Match Special, complete the batting line-up. With name checks for Michael Atherton, Peter Willey, Merv Hughes, Dickie Bird and top hat-sporting oldie Fuller Pilch among many others, it’s the ultimate niche album, aimed squarely at the ‘we don’t like cricket, oh no, we love it’ crowd – preferably those already acquainted with Hannon’s work. For anyone else, it will be about as welcome as a text message from Warney…

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