Monday, 26 October 2009

Lost and found

Many times I have driven past cricket grounds and got that strange sensation of an elusive familiarity, a sense that somewhere, at some point, in all those hundreds of matches, I've played there. Usually it's just a faint echo, but occasionally the feeling locates itself around a very specific memory.

Last week, I passed the Officer's Club at Aldershot. It looked magnificent in the painterly autumn light; its white brick pavilion worthy of a county ground, the long covers and the golden trees the only reminder that summer has gone. 

It's actually two grounds, a small nursery separated from the main pitch by a long terrace. I played there as a very young batsman, co-opted into a police side by a neighbour. All I remember about the game is an intense determination to still be batting at tea, which was probably about twenty minutes away when I got in. I desperately wanted to know what it felt like to be one of the not out batters. I made it, and kept my pads on at the table. That's how not out I was.

Not far from there, also on army land, was an old shed with nets in it that we used in winter. It was always cold; a floor of hard, polished wooden boards with mats laid over the top. Bowlers had room for their full run, and because of the surface, got a fast, skidding bounce, not steep but rapid.

There, I tasted real pain for the first time. One of the bowlers was a couple of years older, a decent, slingy quick with a fast arm. The surface was made for him. One day I inside-edged a short one into the fleshy part of my thigh. It hurt so much I actually couldn't breathe for a minute. Two balls later, he did it again, on the exact same spot. It felt like a knife blade going in. You could see the stitches of the ball in the bruise mark, which went from groin to knee, a glowing black in the middle, going through all degrees of purple out to yellow at the edges. I can almost feel it now.


Mark said...

First game I ever played in on the hallowed first eleven square at college - U13's Second XI. We bowled them out for 80 odd and the cricket master deemed half an hours batting before tea - which was taken in the pavilion, rather than in the school canteen. (Esteemed folk like Cowdrey, Dexter, Brearley and Graveney had used the said pavilion)

I scored 5 not out in the half an hour - and we 'teaed' on 16-5!

For that 20 minute break, I felt like the mutt's nutts.

Then go out in the over afterwards!

The Old Batsman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Old Batsman said...

Not out at tea - it's the fucking bomb. A great moment in life.

Gaurav Sethi said...

Absolute gold OB, rave on.

Tom Redfern said...

played against the Army there this year. I think it's the same ground. Proper pavillion in that you have to walk down a long-ish flight of steps and a good walk till you get to the middle.

The Old Batsman said...

Cheers Naked! Tom, yes, that's the one. Nice place.