So, I’ve caved. As the least sporting Australian I’ve ever met (even my female flatmates have spent more time martial arts classes), cricket is finally growing on me.
Of course, it’s a special team that accepts me as a player.
The type that needs bodies. Last year’s recruitment e-mail (see 6 April 2004) for the college team read:
“While some may chose to spend the summer lazing beside rivers and quaffing champagne, the more discerning amongst us elect for the greensward and the thrill of clattering wickets. To feed this passion there exists the Trinity Hall MCR cricket team. This august collective has a long and proud history of sending players boldly into competition, to be thrashed soundly by the other team.
“You too could be part of that tradition.”
Having sallied forth into the field, principally for the Pimms and scones at tea-time, I’m developing an affection for the game. If no talent.
That said, I detect a thread of improvement. I’ve even purchased some whites (slacks and shirt, a mere 15 quid at the cheapest sport’s stores 70% off sale) so I don’t visibly lower the tone.
In a bout of enthusiasm for self-development, I even went into the nets before today’s game to sharpen my skills as a tenth man. Which came in handy.
We opened bowling as the other team had only summoned seven players to our field, and as we were overstaffed with fielders I volunteered to sit out the first 10 overs at the scoreboard and rotate on at half-time.
(Not actually scoring, mind; just puddling about with the metal numbers.)
When the sixth wicket fell, our captain called out: “Doug, do you want to get some pads on and get out here? Let them finish batting?”
I responded a little alarmed to the opposition: “Um, I’m not sure you want me batting for you.”
“Well,” said the batsman then returning to the pavilion, “it’s not like you can score negative runs.”
Looking at the board, I saw the merit in his phlegmatic words. Their position couldn’t really be worse. Eight overs, six wickets, 15 runs.
I went to get my pads.
“Now, no rush,” said my fellow batsman, “it’s just you and me out here for 12 overs. Take your time.”
In my defence, I was last man out, blocked what would have taken my wicket and (more through luck than skill) left the others alone. For the visitors, I was part of one of the more successful partnerships – five runs, not that I scored any off my own bat.
Facing those of our team who genuinely can bowl was a bit scary at first, but like a good ninja assassin I just relied on my training. “Eye on the ball, top hand over, angle the bat down, step into it,” I muttered. They also took it a little easy on me.
From Andrew’s hand ball still whistled, literally hummed cheerfully, as it sailed by. The balls were curving a lot on the bounce, which saved me as often as it made trouble, frankly.
Fielding in my usual habitat (the boundary), I even managed to stop the odd ball that came my way, and caught one rather neatly on the bounce.
Not a bad way to pass an afternoon. Especially when your team wins its second game in a week.