Wednesday, 22 February 2012

All ten

It was a perfect summer's day many seasons ago, a midweek game that, even when you had nothing else to do made you feel like you'd bunked off real life for the afternoon. I don't even know what made me think of it: maybe it was the sight of Junaid Khan laughing as he walked into bat against England in the last ODI in Dubai. His face was a picture, the look of a total chancer in love with the absurdity of it all.

The ground was deep in the countryside somewhere, a natural bowl out in the woods with an erratic boundary line dictated by the encroaching trees. We got changed in a stone hut with a thatched roof set side-on to the wicket. We scattered some plastic chairs outside. The peeling scoreboard still had the numbers from the last game hanging on it; someone was unhooking them and throwing them noisily onto a pile. A single, weathered sightscreen stood at either end.

We bowled first. Simon opened up. He marked his run. He was like a minor character from Blackadder, short back and sides in a severe parting, bumfluff pencil 'tache, big old bowling boots that looked like they'd been passed down through generations. He came in with knees pumping, quickish, but a little bit slower than he apeared.

The new cherry sang for him that day. A couple were bowled, I caught one at second slip. We stuck in a short leg and got one there too. They were four or five down for not very many. A brief stand, then a couple more. By now we had about five slips, gullies, close men, the works. Simon got another: that was eight. Every over from the other end had a strange tension - neither side actually wanted a wicket to go down. At drinks, we half-joked about deliberately dropping one if a chance came, but that somehow didn't feel right either. If it was going to happen, it couldn't be manufactured.

Simon did it. The last two, from memory, were bowled. We surrounded him. We had Junaid Khan smiles. He was a lovely guy, always great to play with. He deserved it. It had taken maybe an hour and a half. They'd only made 60-odd and we knocked them off quickly, on the ground surrounded by trees, underneath the perfect sky.

It's a melancholic feeling, thinking about it now. I wonder what happened to Simon, and to everyone that played that day. Have they had good lives since then? I hope so. Nothing ties us except that game, but I doubt that anyone who played has forgotten it. All ten. Not bad. Well done, mate.


John Halliwell said...

A lovely piece, OB. Almost an evocation of an Edwardian afternoon - perhaps it’s that description of the opening bowler that makes me feel that way.

I hope the ball was presented to Simon and that it rests to this day in a prominent place within his home and every now and then in quiet, reflective, moments, it catches his gaze and he thinks “We were great that day, you and me, almost unplayable. All ten! I’ll never forget it.”

I wonder what was going through Laker’s mind as he worked his way through Australia’s batting at Old Trafford in 1956? As Lock ran in from the Warwick Road end did Jim quietly pray for solid Aussie defence of each ball: “Please God let me have all ten. I’ll never ask again. Don’t let the bloody chucker ruin it for me”?

the thirdman said...

Love this so much.

Pencil Cricket said...

What a lovely post :-) Not quite Cardus' standard but very much the same ambience. Anyway, it put a smile on my face - as usual OB!

The Old Batsman said...


Yes, John, not quite Edwardian, but you know, mid-80s so a while at least!

Actually the ground reminded me of the clearing described in Spedegue's Dropper if you've ever read that...

Limited Overs said...

So wonderful, just wonderful. Cheers.

Tim Newman said...

Agreed, a wonderful piece of writing, OB.

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Pay per head sportsbook said...

I liked this article so much because you totally wrote it in a great way and like John said, it is an evocation of an Edwardian afternoon

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