No Balls: The Podcast We All Need During Lockdown


There hasn’t been much to smile about over the last few months.

A deadly virus sweeping across the world, quarantines and lockdowns forcing us to stay at home, the lives and livelihoods of many under severe threat. It’s been a rough ride.

Finding something to take our minds off the situation has become a priority and many have managed to find that solace in podcasts.

One that particularly stands out is No Balls: The Cricket Podcast, hosted by England international cricketers Kate Cross and Alex Hartley.

Whether you’re a fan of the sport or not, this is a show that nearly everyone can relate to in some way. Furthermore, you cannot help but have a smile on your face while listening.

In essence, it’s two friends having a chat and a laugh while sharing what’s going on in their lives. The show may be loosely centred around cricket but you don’t have to really understand it in order to enjoy listening.

While it may not be a unique type of podcast, there’s one thing that makes it stand out from so many similar shows; their incredible friendship.

It’s clear, even though they spend most of their time slating each other, just how close Hartley and Cross are. They bounce off each other brilliantly (regaling hilarious story after hilarious story), their laughter is infectious and they are so in sync that you wouldn’t be surprised if they finished each other’s sentences.

Speaking to The 52’s Will Moulton on SportSpiel, the duo said it was because of this friendship that they were encouraged to enter into the podcast world.

“There’s been loads of times where mates have said to us that they really enjoy our company, especially when we are at our liveliest or taking the mick out of each other,” says Cross, a member of the England side that won the 2013/14 Ashes series.

“We both started listening to Chris Ramsey’s podcast which he does with his wife, who is not a comedian. We both said she’s funnier than him and I remember Al saying something along the lines of ‘if she can be funny on a podcast then so can we’.

“I think we just rated ourselves and the next minute we were doing this little trial run and sending it out to our families.”

Nearly 20 episodes later, No Balls grows ever more popular with each new release. This has especially been the case since lockdown started as they now record shows weekly rather than on a more ad hoc basis.

As well as chatting between themselves, the duo also spend a lot of their time responding to messages from listeners. This includes answering cricket-related questions as well as discussing some of the odd life habits their followers admit to in the LBW (Little Bit Weird) section. The theme here often involves food, with examples including one listener soaking their Weetabix for 15 minutes and arguments over whether certain condiments should be kept in the fridge or not.

They also delve into the role of Agony Aunts, handing out relationship advice to those who ask for it. However they do admit that what they say in this regard should also be taken with caution.

“It’s like the blind leading the blind. Someone messages us and we’re absolutely terrible with relationships. I don’t know why people come to us but they do,” admitted Cross.

“I think it’s because we give terrible advice so people just want to see how bad we can get.”

“I’ve found it all really strange,” says 2017 World Cup winner Hartley when talking about the amount of messages they receive.

“We’re used to people coming up to us at cricket games and asking us to have a little chat but the fact that we’re getting 50 or 60 emails a week from people wanting to talk to us or wanting advice on things or wanting questions answered, I think that this could be something really good.”

Not only is No Balls an exceptionally funny experience for the listener, it’s also clear just how much the two Lancashire players enjoy recording it.

“Wednesday, which is our recording day in lockdown, is my favourite day of the week,” Cross states during their interview with SportSpiel.

“Even if we come into the podcast in a bad mood at the beginning, we’ve cried laughing throughout. Even for us two selfishly it’s a really good day for us and I feel loads better afterwards. Then I realise I’ve got to edit it and slump back down again!”

Hartley also adds: “When we recorded with Sophie Ecclestone she texted us afterwards and she said ‘I can understand why you do that, I’ve had an absolute laugh over the last hour’. And that’s the reason why we do it – we really enjoy it.

What makes this podcast even more refreshing is that there are no holds barred when it comes to sharing their personalities and those of their guests.

This isn’t a sanitised media interview; this is what they’re really like and we love them for it.

 

“Primarily there aren’t many female sports people out there doing podcasts, which is one of the reasons we thought it might be a good opportunity,” Cross said.

“Everyone hears and sees a lot of the male cricketers on the TV but no-one really sees the women’s game or who we are as characters so we try to get that across as much as possible.

“My favourite episodes are when people like Sophie are just themselves. She wasn’t in interview mode, she wasn’t worried about saying the wrong thing, she was just the Sophie that we know.

“And that’s we want to get across. We see her in the dressing room and know how much fun she is and when she does go into an interview she does freeze up a little bit.”

In what for many is an extremely bleak time, these two provide us with a beacon of fun and positivity that brightens up our day by quite simply being themselves and sharing that with the rest of us.

We’ll leave Hartley to sum up the show in one sentence…

“If you want to listen to a podcast that is a complete shambles and has no recording equipment but is two mates having a laugh and giving some advice on life, then tune in to No Balls: The Cricket Podcast.”

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