The stinging palms, the ‘it can’t be broken’ finger, the furtive glance at the weather, the ‘it’s probably going to rain tomorrow, you might as well have another pint’, the ‘how long does this bloody game last?’ queries from your significant other: it must be the start of the village cricket season!
I’ve been away from the village cricket game for four years, at least from the perspective of this blog. In the interim period my enjoyment of the game waned. I moved jobs, moved house and have had a child. The meandering afternoons spent standing in a field fell by the wayside.
But… there was always a part of me wanting to return, which I did in 2017. We have moved to Thames Ditton, so I joined the village side there. I’d been playing for Englefield Green for just over 10 years, but the one hour drive in M25 traffic has been replaced by a five minute walk to the end of my road.
My debut was a near total disaster. The Sunday skipper asked if I could bat, I said that I’ve got a bat, so he put in me in at no.3. Out I went at first drop for my first game for my new club. Down came the ball on leg stump, perfect for a nudge to square leg and a nerve settling single. If only I’d hit the ball… up went the finer, off I trudged. Still, there was no danger of raising the expectation levels too high.
Which, bizarrely, is what happened on a Sunday game for a friend’s team, Concorde Cricket Club. Happy to fill in on a sleepy Sunday in Send, I went out at no.7 and made 37. It steered us towards a winning total and restored my faith. The only issue is that they now think I’m good at cricket.
So, like all over excited amateurs enduring the long, cricketless winter months, I went out and got a new bat. Clearly, it was the tools which had been letting me down all these years. I did score a 37 last year, so I’m clearly about to peak… My Black Cat Shadow arrived in February.
And it’s a beautiful thing. 2lb 9, it fells light as a feather yet powerful as an ox. I was genuinely surprised by how good it was during its first outing. It was making my timing look sweet and when you hit the ball, it stays hit.
It has left me with nowhere to hide. I can’t blame the tools this season as I’ve got the near perfect blade now. If things don’t turn out as I hope, I might have to concede, reluctantly, that at the age of 33, this England call-up is never going to happen. No matter how bad England’s batting actually is, I remain some way down the pecking order.
Weather and selection issues pending, I’m hoping to play my first game of 2018 this weekend. I’ll come back with scorecards etc. as the season goes on. As far as a target for the season goes, I averaged 7.3 in 2017, so the benchmark is low! I’ll be aiming to average 10 in 2018. Of course, a good start could see that change and with the right tools in place, who knows? I won’t be able to blame a Black Cat for my misfortunes this season.
By Miles Reucroft