The next player in was a young chap – a bit rough around the edges. I hadn’t seen many cricketers take to the field in a singlet before, but I thought that as it was fifth grade, combined with the fact it was white, I wouldn’t say anything. He introduced himself as Stanley. I commented that it was nice to actually meet someone with a normal name, rather than a nickname like Spotty, Mailman or Cow. He then told me that he had just been released on parole, and that he was called Stanley cause he had cut up a shopkeeper with a Stanley knife. Stanley said all of this with a smile, but I decided to spend most of the time at the non-strikers end for a while.
Stanley swung the bat with great panache, and scored a quick 25 before being bowled attempting another boundary. It was just what the team needed, as our run-rate had started to drag. We had almost reached the half-way mark in our innings, and we needed to increase our scoring. Disaster struck us, however, as I nicked one just after I passed my fifty. It was a long-hop, and should have been an easy boundary, but I stuffed it up. I learnt back on my bat and nonchalantly pretended that I had missed it, but the umpire (Weezel, who I had met at training earlier in the week) still gave me out. The fact that second slip caught it probably made it a fairly easy decision, but the umpire’s chances of getting a bowl later in the day went downhill as quickly as his finger went up.
With my dismissal, both teams left the field for drinks. In my previous experience, it is usual for players from both sides to scull down energy replacement drinks or water in the designated five minute break. In fifth grade, they tapped a keg and the game stopped for around 25 minutes. As no-one else seemed to know the laws of the game, I agreed take the next stint as umpire, and I think both teams were annoyed when I finally insisted that we return to play.
I had held the team together with my 52, and unfortunately for us, the game now started to crawl. Now that I was out, our side would struggle, and I had a great deal of difficulty in maintaining my concentration whilst umpiring. A thirteen year old called Jeremy had replaced me at the crease. This was his first game, and he was so young he didn’t even have a nickname yet. He seemed a reasonable talent though, and I gave him a lot of coaching tips during his innings. Nonetheless, it was with some surprise that I heard the hooting of car horns to indicate he had reached fifty. As I congratulated him, he smiled shyly and commented that if he scored another two runs, he would pass me as top-scorer and get his name in the paper next week (the highest scorer for each team gets a quick writeup in the local rag). It was with some regret, therefore, that I had to give him out lbw the next ball. I admit that it is normal for the fielding team to actually appeal for an lbw, but this one was so plumb that I gave him out anyway. Jeremy seemed a bit upset, and claimed that he had hit it. The bowler said to me that he thought it came straight off the middle of the bat, but I said that it must have been an optical illusion. Even deep long-off, who fielded the ball, said he thought it wasn't out. How the hell could he tell from that angle? Anyway, I hope that time will give Jeremy the maturity to cope with disappointment - crying that much does nothing for the image of the game.
We ended up being bowled out in the last over for 181. Technically, we were only 7 for 181, but as we still didn’t have eleven players, we had to fold. It will be interesting to see how the opposition go in their chase.