The opposition captain, the aforementioned kangaroo shooter Paul Keeting, used the time-honoured method of deciding who should bowl next. “You look like you could sling them down a bit” he shouted at some well built guy in the outfield. Their team was obviously selected on a similar basis to ours, as clearly Keeting had no idea who this guy was. Scarily for us, the guy nodded happily, and said that he used to open the bowling a few years ago. The new bowler marked out his run (fifteen paces) confidently, and swung his arm around in a manner that suggested he knew what he was doing. Mailman and I watched all of this going on from our mid-wicket conference. Using my discretion, and thinking of Mailman’s request for the strike, I quickly suggested that we swap ends. Mailman agreed, and we simply walked back to opposite ends from the middle of the pitch. No-one in the opposition seemed to notice this changeover, and therefore Mailman prepared to face his first ball. This would give me a chance to see whether this new bowler actually represented a threat or not.
The new bowler sprinted in, jumped mightily in the air, and with a gigantic swing of his arm, let loose his first ball. I will admit that he was undoubtedly quicker than any of the previous bowlers, but the fact that the ball sailed over both Mailman and the keeper’s head without bouncing negated this fact a little. In fact, it was only a great save by the longstop (who caught the ball on the full outstretched in his left hand) that stopped it going for four wides. The bowler grinned sheepishly, and said that it slipped. I don’t believe in sledging, but I couldn’t help telling the bowler that it was, without doubt, the worst delivery that I had ever seen in my entire life. The grin disappeared, and the bowler stormed back to his mark. He sprinted in again, and whilst his second ball hit the ground successfully, it missed the pitch by about three metres. A really old fart (who must have been at least forty), who had been quietly sleeping in the slips up to this point in the game, just managed to get a hand on it and stop it going for more runs. The bowler looked a little despondent, so I apologized to him for my remark after his first ball, and said that I had clearly been wrong. He seemed to get really cranky for some reason when I said that his second ball was even worse than the first one.
The captain wandered over and suggested that the bowler slow down a bit. Another three wides followed, and we wondered if this over would ever finish. Then disaster struck. The bowler got one not just on the pitch, but actually on the stumps. Mailman was so surprised that he missed it and was bowled. Well, he was either surprised or just a really crap batsman. Mailman was replaced by a guy who introduced himself as ‘Cow’. I asked why he was called Cow, and he said that everyone thought he was udderly useless. Cow managed to survive the rest of the over, which finally ended with eleven wides and one wicket.
I deemed it prudent to hold the strike again for a while, and we got a good partnership going. I was nearly fifty when we had a near disaster. One of the those silly mix-ups that sometimes happen when you are running with a new partner happened. A combination of ‘yes’ ‘no’ and ‘wait’ saw both of us at the one end. Thinking only of the team, I told Cow that I was far more important to the side than he was, and gave him a push towards the far end. He valiantly made it to about mid-pitch before he was run-out. As he passed me on the way back, I commended him on his team spirit, but he didn’t seem to take it very well for some reason. I hadn’t given him that big a push really – after all, he did manage to get back on his feet before they ran him out.