In its second instalment, the ‘Secret Diary of a Village Skipper’ gives a fascinating and amusing insight into leading a club cricket side.
“Shall I wear cricket whites?”
– The question you don’t want to be asked by a new recruit who is supposed to be a ‘proper’ player
Why are fielders always looking for something better to do than field? In one game, the oppo needed some light relief from my dogged batting display on a tricky deck, when a Cadbury’s Wispa wrapper scuttled across the wicket as I was deploying my latest blockbuster. One fielder uttered “careless Wispa,” which kick-started 20 minutes of chocolate puns. “Put a bit of Aero on it,” square-leg said to the spinner. “Give us a Twirl,” slip said to extra-cover, who was gleaming with pride after a diving stop. “A wicket here would give us a Boost,” the skipper smirked. “Nice little Drifter,” the keeper extolled to the swing bowler. “Bowl a Yorkie” was the real low point.
A few weeks later, at home, a wedding took place in our pavilion. I have a few plane-spotters in the side, but stick a bridesmaid in a frock on the boundary edge and I’m constantly shepherding inattentive fielders. The shot of the day came when an elegant on-drive flicked over the rope and gently laid to rest underneath the bride’s dress during a photoshoot. “I’ll go,” chirped half the team in tandem, who were congregating on a nearby bench.
We entered the game with seven over-50s, plus two in their forties. Yours truly, the skipper, was the youngest by some distance. The average age was 49. My Dad’s Army looked even older in the sweltering heat – by far the hottest match-day of the season so far. This is the second team, the breeding ground of future first-teamers. One of them had severe stomach trouble and was as pale as the bride’s dress. I had to direct him to his position every time the right and left-hander alternated. The only position he had memorised was bum-to-bowl, face-in-hands.
One glance at the teamsheet and I knew the two youngest would have to field slip, making our ring field, in thirty-degree heat, mimic a scene from The Walking Dead. No arms, no legs, the sun having sucked the life out of them; zombies craving beer and a cold shower to bring them back to life. But it’s amazing what a few wickets can do. With four overs to go, the oppo needed six runs an over to win, with five wickets in hand. The best we could have hoped for was a draw. And then, bang, bang, bang, bang – four wickets in five balls. Our veteran spinner must have been conserving all his energy in the field for his hat-trick celebration – I’ve never seen him move so fast. Also claiming a five-fer and hitting his highest score for the club, he wasn’t going to escape without buying a jug. It required a wicket on the very last ball of the allotted 47 overs to claim an epic victory – a stone-wall LBW, which our umpire duly raised his finger to. Seriously, it was plumb … honest.