Diary of a Club Cricketer: Part Two

Dave HarrisCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2009

CHESTER-LE-STREET, ENGLAND - MAY 16:  James Anderson of England bowls Devon Smith of the West Indies during day three of the 2nd npower Test between England and West Indies at The Riverside on May 16, 2009 in Chester-le-Street, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

Names have been changed to save me from a lynching down the club.  Any resemblance to any person, real or imaginary, living or dead is purely for the purpose of parody and is not intended to reflect badly upon anyone, really! 

15th July

Well the soap opera never ends, it seems.

With no Bondy or Kabir, the Firsts have struggled.  Two weeks running they conceded over 300 and were bowled out for under 80.  Now it seems that Andy isn’t going to be able to play for the rest of the season as his groin injury has been re-diagnosed as a hernia, and he’s having an Op in a few weeks.

Simon has been asked to take over running the Firsts, which means that Colin will no doubt be dropped again, though it’s probably just as well as he’s been out for 0 (caught) the last two weeks. 

Dredge is even less pleased as it means that the Thirds will be well and truly gutted to fill the Seconds, who have lost three players for the next six weeks as they go on a tour of America, having just completed their Uni finals.

The Seconds just about hang on for a draw.  New captain Johnno has me bowl 25 overs from one end (4 for 80) but can’t find anyone to do much at the other end as we concede 320. 

We hold out on 200-9 and as visitors Slocombe have six slips and men all around the bat I edge one over the top of gully for four to bring up my top score of the season (4 not out).

22nd July

No play. The British summer unleashes its worst upon us on Friday night whilst we’re doing fielding drills and doesn’t let up until the following Wednesday.

Lost £20 playing cards while we waited for a break in the downpour.  My wife thinks I spent it on beer.  Not sure which one I’d get away with better.

29th July

Picked for the Seconds again as Johnno has to fill the side somehow.  Colin is back in the team now that Simon is captaining the Firsts, and he re-debuts with his customary 30 with four drops as we struggle to 145 all out (0 not out) on a very damp, green wicket at Castleton.

Turns out to be just my sort of pitch, as I pick up 9 for 22 and a run out as we turn the home side over for 51.  Johnno is shaking his head as we rattle through the Castleton batsmen.  What does he know that I don’t?

The price of a jug seems to go up every time I buy one and you can’t please anyone these days between cider drinkers, lager louts and bitter old b*****s.  It comes to £50 and I make a note not to take another “Michelle” this season.

Dredge breaks a finger dropping a catch for the Thirds as they lose again with a very inexperienced team and spends most of the evening buried in a pint (several pints) of Cider.

3rd August

I finally find out why Johnno was looking so downcast during our victory the previous week.  Apparently Simon had been chewing his ear about how I was just the sort of committed player he needed in the (substantially weakened) Firsts, and my performance last week was the icing on the biscuit.

So I debuted for the Firsts this Saturday, at Strensham, where I’d had such a wasted day in June.

Didn’t bat. Didn’t bowl. Lost by 150 runs.

Back at the club Johnno had gotten over it—it seems that my replacement, a 16 year old named Adam, had scored fifty and taken three wickets as they beat Strensham in the reverse fixture.

I don’t even get asked if I’m available next week.

Dredge has decided that he’s not going to be fit to play next week as his broken finger has “gone septic”, and asked me to captain the side in his stead.  I decide to accept just to spite Simon, who is already picking me in his side for next week despite the fact I didn’t do anything.

10th August

Now I remember why I don’t captain a side.

Dredge picked an eleven for me on Friday night, which was fine, even though I didn’t know all the names I assumed he had contacted them all and told them when and where.  Then, 9 AM Saturday I got a call from Johnno—Colin had apparently called him and couldn’t play because of work commitments, and the star sixteen-year-old Adam was sick, according to his Mum—asking for two players.

Fine—take whoever you want, I said, not knowing half the team anyway.

Johnno was cool with that and arranged for a couple of his son’s friends from school to come along and fill in.

I got to the ground in plenty of time, only to find that Jim, who normally does the Thirds’ wicket had had another row with Andy and had gone on strike, leaving me to cut, roll, and mark the wicket.  Good job I got there early, what with drinks and teas and cones etc to sort out as well.

An hour before the start, Johnno phones back to tell me he’s lost another player to the Firsts, but, not to worry, he’ll take one of these extra kids he’s arranged for me rather than mess my team up further.  I’m down to ten.

Ten minutes before the start my ostensible opening bowler, Dave, who is 60 but can still put it on the spot, still hasn’t turned up.  A call to both his home and mobile phones yield only the answering service.

So, I have nine. Eight of them are under the age of 15, which doesn’t help—what I’m going to do for Umpires when we’re batting is up in the air at this point.

Dave turns up with two minutes to go—I’ve lost the toss and we’ve been asked to field so I ask him to hurry up and get changed as he’s opening from the far end.  He looks at me askance and says he can’t bowl—hadn’t Dredge told me he’d put his back out and was only fit to bat. 

The stunned look on my face tells him that, no, Dredge hadn’t told me.

Bad back or no, he changed quickly enough and we got out onto the field.  I had no idea who was going to bowl, until Dave pipes up and tells me that Marky, one of the Under 13s in the team was a good bowler. 

With nothing else to try, Marky gets a shout and the new ball chucked at him as I make my way to the slips and vaguely warm up to bowl the second over.  As it turned out I had plenty of time to get loose: Marky’s first four balls were all wides, and I had a sinking feeling it was going to be a really long day.

Two balls later, I’m on my knees clutching my gonads—the opening bat edged one to me at slip and I must not have been concentrating as it went straight through my hands and into the aforementioned sensitive area. By chance it has stuck there and I get a hand round it (them) to hold onto the catch. 

Everybody (except me) is laughing and celebrating Marky’s wicket.  I’m dry heaving.

By the end of the over though, I’m feeling a bit more chipper.  Young Marky has picked up another wicket, one that didn’t require the assistance of my dangly bits, and the oppo are in disarray. I polish the ball on the back of my trousers and try not to wince too much as I contemplate bowling at the No. 4.

Soon indeed all seems right with the world. I pick up three wickets and Marky’s replacement—another 13-year-old—picks up two, and eventually we bowl them out for 103. 

Dave gets to open the batting regardless of his ability because I need him to umpire later, and it’s just as well.  By the time he’s run out for 25 we’re 44 for 7 and I need to get my pads on. 

Dave doesn’t hurry though, and by the time he’s changed and come out to take over the umpiring I’m in danger of having to bat without pads in order not to get timed out.  I sprint off and after three attempts at buckling my pads up the wrong way, I’m ready just in time to hear the ninth wicket fall.

Striding out to the middle as confidently as a man with a best score of four not out and a bruised set of knackers can, I take an off-stump guard and prepare to defend for the remaining 30 overs. 

Six overs later, Marky comes down to talk to me and asks if I’m alright—he’s picked up three boundaries and I’ve played at nothing that wasn’t on the stumps.

I reassure him that, yes, things are fine.  He doesn’t look convinced and spends the next six overs peering at me closely every time I leave a ball outside off stump or block one back to the bowler.

Eventually I get one that’s just too good for me and I’m given out LBW by the traitorous Dave, who I suspect of being bored and wanting to get in the bar given the alacrity with which the digit went up.

We’re all out for 85 and I shake the oppo skipper’s hand and tell Marky he’s done well, but all I get back in return is that I’m a useless f***er and if I’d bothered to play a few shots we could have won.  The oppo are carefully stifling giggles.

By the time I get in the bar and the other teams are back I'm copping flak from all sides about my batting and Dredge, who came along to watch the last few overs, is having a beer with the opposition and giggling along with them.

I tell Dredge someone else can captain next week.


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