Thursday night, a ‘friendly’ (as far as these things are between two villages) for the local club: a mix of first teamers and 2nd teamers. Those who have spare time and whose bodies can stand up to more than weekend cricket. A 16 overs a side ‘thrash’ on a pitch that is…well… rutted and wet.
The captain calls me up to bowl 1st change. I rarely bowl: a shoulder twinge means that until 6 weeks ago, I could not bowl with any degree of comfort.
First ball, a loosener, is practically a wide, but the opening batsman with hungry eyes and an eager bat, pounces on it and sends it to the long off boundary. Standing on the boundary is a first teamer who miraculously catches it.
The batsmen have crossed. The next ball is surprisingly on target, and almost more surprisingly elicits the ‘death rattle’ from the stumps.
Two wickets in two balls, and suddenly the field closes in with a cry of ‘hat trick ball’. It is too wide and is defended. Another ball in the same over just misses a grasping square leg as it whistles to the boundary. 1-0-5-2: not bad- I can hide in the field now, my work done.
However, a few overs from the end the captain indicates that I have the last over. I am mentally calculating the score and hoping that they will win before that, or better still that they only need a couple; that way I won’t let anyone down or wreck my analysis.
The last over comes; 12 needed and the captain says ‘Your over’. The best batsman (a professional for another club) is facing. A few runs are scored and then I work out if I give him a boundary, he has to retire. Unfortunately the intended 4 becomes a 6; 4 needed off three balls.
At this point, I realise we have a chance and the new batsman rarely hits 4s. I bowl at the stumps and he edges; a slip would have caught it but he gets a single. I pause at the end of my run up; suddenly the world becomes very still. I run in and bowl at the other batsman’s legs, he strides down the pitch to hit me over midwicket and the ball goes between bat and pad, into the wicket keeper’s hands; the bails come off and he is stumped. We win by two runs.
This is why mediocre cricketers play; they love the buzz of being part of a better team, but they hope that their day- minor by anyone else’s standards- will come. 1.5-0-14-3 is not sparkling, although in the context of the match it is, but it represents my best analysis.
You feel good: a job has been done and you played your part. Then you begin to dream; even at the age of 50…maybe you could still do even better.