Life as a village cricketer

The useful thing about being crap at cricket is that I can give you a blow by blow account of the seven runs I’ve scored this season. I can even give you a blow by blow account of the runs I haven’t scored, too; my pull to midwicket that was expertly cut off, depriving me of two further runs and a cut shot that my partner refused to a second to. These things seldom matter, but when they account for 42.9% of your season’s total, they do.

A familiar feeling…

My season’s opener came in Send for Concorde CC against Thames Valley Ramblers. The game ultimately finished in a draw, dwindling on a slow surface, slow scoring and against a rapidly setting sun.

I was sent in to bat at four and we needed over 50 from eight overs. In these IPL charged times that sounds like a cakewalk, but A) on a green wicket and a slow outfield it appeared all but impossible, and B) I’m not exactly Andre Russell, hitting every fifth ball I face for six – I don’t have my personal stats to hand, but having struck three sixes in my life, the ratio won’t be good. Still, with no danger a defeat given it was a timed game, we had to have a go.

My first shot of the season was the sort that really marks me out as a player devoid of technique, grace, shot selection or talent. With my feet set in concrete (I’ve clearly been watching too many England games) I aimed a short-armed jab at a wide delivery and, bat and head a million miles away from both my body and the ball, I completely missed it.

Two balls later, and to great relief, I was off the mark with a punch down the ground to long on. It felt quite graceful – a length ball on off stump, I met it with the full face of my Black Cat Shadow and it pinged off down past the bowler. I almost hit it too well, for a mishit may have opened the door to a second run. The Black Cat doesn’t do mishits, though.

The following over I got a shortish delivery which I pulled out to midwicket, but the fielder cut it off and I was restricted to two. I was then left with a cut shot in the next over which the sweeper ambled in to cut off, but my partner refused a second run.

The following over it was all over – an inswinging Yorker beat my attempted flick, brushed my pads and tickled my timber. It was a good ball and it was actually okay walking off knowing that I had been done by a good bit of bowling as opposed to being done by a dreadful bit of batting.

My second game came for Thames Ditton 4th XI against Kings Road Cricket Club. We were at home, playing behind where I live, so I was on familiar ground. This is the air I breathe every day and I was feeling confident going in, having cleaned up with pole position, fastest lap and race win at my work go karting event the evening before. Were the sporting gods smiling upon me?

No. No they were not. Once again put into bat at four, I got off the mark with a steer down to third man, two easy runs (some call this an ‘edge’, but I knew what I was doing…). We were 8/2 when I arrived at the crease and 32/3 when I departed. I managed one other scoring shot, a swipe back past the bowler which hit the stumps, but enabled us to get through for a single.

I was dismissed lbw when I finally felt like I’d got my eye in. Their first change bowler swung his first ball considerably away from me and his second started straight and tailed away. I was standing well outside the crease as the keeper was standing in Twickenham (so far back was he), but that wasn’t enough to save me. I’d been given not out when I was pretty plumb earlier on in my knock, so I can’t have too many grievances.

The 4th XI quickly subsided thereafter, all out for 85. The game was done 4pm, which at least carried the advantage of getting a seat in the pub for the Champions League final. Having batted as well as Loris Karius kept goal that evening though, there is much work ahead if I am to make my season’s target average of 10. I need at least 23 next time out, but I’ll take a 13 not out.

Graeme Smith said that cricket is all about failure, that you only succeed once every three, four or five innings. With two failures out of the way, the good times are surely just around the corner.

By Miles Reucroft

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