Playing the game of cricket can bring such wonderful highs – that first fifty, first century, an unlikely run chase, the first five wicket haul. In idle moments, many a cricketer will day dream about the day when something wonderful happened. Of course, the trouble with such daydreaming is that barely has the pleasant memory got under way before something ignoble will push its way in. Ah yes, that is the very essence of cricket, the cringe making memory of sheer embarrassment at abject failure. The one that you keep hidden and mention to absolutely no one. Shannon Gabriel’s magnificently irresponsible shot to lose the West Indies a Test and series against Pakistan highlights the extraordinary ability of the game to thoroughly wreck hours of hard work. Effectively with one ball to survive given a partner unbeaten on a hundred at the other end to face the final over, he decided it was the perfect moment to attempt to launch one out of the ground. The silence from his team mates on returning to the pavilion must have been something to behold.
Thus, in that spirit, a celebration of all the truly stupid things we’ve done on the cricket field is in order.
Bowling out the opposition for 90 in a league game was a great effort. We were very pleased with ourselves. Wandering out to the middle to get the routine run chase under way there could be nothing but supreme confidence. Even more so when the bowler slipped in his action first ball of the innings and sent down the slowest, rankest wide long hop that could ever be imagined. It was therefore mildly disappointing to fail to smash it over point for fourm, and instead nick it behind to a wicketkeeper who only just managed to hang on to it before collapsing in giggles. We lost.
Arundel is a gorgeous ground, beloved of all who play there, whether it be for a festival or a tour match for the visiting international side. For club cricketers, the chance to play there is rare and coveted. Thus it was that we turned up for a friendly, looking forward to playing at one of the most picturesque grounds anywhere in the world. One of our number was particularly excited. He wasn’t much of a player, but loved the game dearly, and for him this represented perhaps the highlight of his cricketing career. As supportive team mates and friends, we naturally appreciated his excitement, and his nerves, and ensured that he could enjoy the day in every possible way.
One particular way we thought we’d help was to suggest to him that he opened the batting. Having never in his life even approached this possibility before, he was rather reluctant to say the least, but we reassured him that not only should he open as a special treat, but he should take the first ball. Although he was horrified by this, player after player told him not to worry, because the first ball is always a loosener and he could probably just leave it. Eventually, and doubtless in no way due to the bullying insistence of his team, he agreed. And out we strode to the middle. At this point, the pangs of conscience started to appear at the back of my mind, and half way out I said “Look Tom, it’s just you and me now, I’ll take the first ball if you like, you don’t have to”. By this point, part resigned, part angry, he refused, saying everyone was expecting it so he would.
Now, everyone knows where this is going, and sure enough, the first ball was perfect – pitched on off stump, moving away a touch and clipping the off bail. As he marched off the sound of stifled guffaws from the boundary could be heard. So far so normal, and an amusing item. Until his mother turned up as he was in the pavilion ripping off his pads and gloves. “He’s been looking forward to this for months, you know. I do hope I get to watch him bat today”.
Over to you for all yours.