Monday, 22 June 2015

Cricket at Avebury

'No one knows who they were, or...
'What they were doing...'

So sang Spinal Tap of the druids, and driving past the neolithic majesty of Silbury Hill on the way to Avebury CC, with bleary revellers, blissed-out new agers, wide-eyed truth seekers and bedraggled hippies wading through waist-high grass, strewn in road-side ditches and crashed out by camper vans, it was obvious that our prehistoric past retains all of its mystical pull.

The summer solstice usually means no cricket for Avebury, whose dazzling little ground lies just beyond the stone circle and below the great man-made ditch, because the local police take over their clubhouse as a temporary base for operations. But this year strings were pulled, the ancient gods appeased and the constabulary kept in situ by the arrival of a marquee to act as a temporary pavilion, and a game fit for the longest day was agreed: one hundred overs, two innings per team and all results possible.

A hazy, chill morning slowly gave way to an English summer's afternoon. King Arthur Pendragon was spotted in the village. Several druids floated down the path that runs across the far side of the ground, one the harbinger of a wicket for our skipper, charging in up the hill as if pursued by King Sil himself. Between innings we climbed the ditch and looked down across the stones, following the path that whoever placed them had picked out, an avenue for the rising sun that stretched far up the hill beyond.

Perhaps beset by superstition, I batted in a helmet for the first time in aeons. It felt strange but comforting. The cricket was a suitable spectacle, a fifty and then a dreamily-struck ton for a couple of our boys ultimately overcome by Avebury, who hit powerfully to all corners. Wickets fell, catches were held and more than six hundred runs scored across the day. Our opening bowler survived a fearsome crack on the ankle, offered up a prayer to Herne The Hunter and produced a lethal off-cutter that trimmed the bails.

"I've always wanted to bowl one of those..." he said.

I was half-hoping that the game would not finish but instead be enveloped by a swirling, Arturian myst rising unbidden from the ground: Avebury's South African pro - apparently a quick bowler by day - had other ideas, and burned some vast sixes beyond the fence, four in succession at one point, to bring things to a close with an over or so to spare. It was almost 7.30, and still two hours until dark.




8 comments:

Charlie Campbell said...

A lovely piece about a lovely day. Though I was slightly disappointed that no one produced dowsing rods to look for the lost balls.

Alan Earl said...

This short article epitomizes what I love about cricket. Living in Norway as I do, I can almost reach out and taste the warm summer breeze, smell the freshly mown grass, enjoy the intermittent church bells, join in with the gentle scattered applause and chuckle at the wit of those standing around the clubhouse . . . .
Oh, to be in England again . . .

John Halliwell said...

Wonderfully evocative, nostalgic but unsentimental. That first para is glorious! I just wanted to be there, and almost felt as if I had been, such is the quality of the writing. If only the distance had been halved and the topography had allowed for clear sight of the great stones while fielding at square-leg: "I'm sorry, skipper, I must have taken my eye off the ball for a split second."

Sriramachandran said...

I missed it on TV, but reading this piece had just compensated it.

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