Their opening bowler was a big bugger – he was well over six foot and built like the proverbial brick outhouse. It is always difficult to face a bowler you have never seen before. I have always liked studying the technique of the opposition players on tape before facing them in a game, but I was going into this innings completely unprepared. He looked like he could chuck them down pretty quick, so I mentally prepared myself by repeating the mantra “Don’t hook”.
He lumbered in with all the speed of a ZX81. He rocked back and with a huge shoulder action, launched the ball at approximately the same pace as Trevor Chappell bowling underarm. I had enough time to look at the specific gap I wanted, rehearse my shot and re-adjust my thigh pad before the ball got to me. As it was the first ball of the innings, I carefully nudged it towards square leg, rather than smashing it out of the park as I would have under normal circumstances. I set off for an easy single, but was passed about a quarter of the way down the pitch by Spotty, who was screaming “there’s two in that”. I somehow managed to make it back again for two, but I think I pulled both hamstrings and few muscles I didn’t even know were still muscles.
Spotty’s calling made me halt the game whilst we had a quick mid-wicket chat. I asked him as politely as I could what the hell he was doing. Spotty said that this guy was the quickest bowler in fifth grade, and be buggered if he was going to face him. I re-assured him that if this guy scared him, perhaps he should consider a different sport (like writing romantic poetry) as this guy was slower than 56k dialup connection trying to access Youtube. Maybe I shouldn’t have called him a yellow cowardly streak of pidgeon poop. For some unknown reason though, Spotty started crying and walked off the field. You just can’t win them all I guess. There were a brief pause while the next batsman got Spotty’s pads and bat, and then we were ready to resume. I introduced myself to the next batsman, whose name was Mailman (not because he always delivered, but because he was always unreliable, late or lost).
The bowler stumbled in for the second ball of the match. It was short outside off-stump, with four written all over it. Unfortunately, it must have hit a rock or something, cause it bounced more than I expected, which meant that I got a slight top-edge on my attempted cut shot and it went straight down the throat of the fly slip. It was in the air for a fair while, and the fielder circled under it uncertainly. Luckily for me (but not for him), he muffed the catch and it hit him fair between the eyes. It ran away for a boundary, so the overall result was fair enough. The other advantage to us was that they were now down to 9 fielders, as the fly slip had to be carried off. The sight of blood always makes me feel ill, but it wasn’t mine so I didn’t feel too bad.
The next few overs saw me continue to bat well, with Mailman providing good support. The other opening bowler was even less dangerous than the left handed giant. Nonetheless, as the senior player, I felt it my responsibility to protect Mailman from the new ball – the lack of fielders meant that I could steal a single off the last ball of each over quite easily. Mailman was a little presumptuous though – after the tenth over had finished he asked if he could actually face a ball himself. I explained that cricket was about partnerships, and he was providing great assistance to me and the team. We were none for 40 after these ten overs, with my score being 30. There were also ten extras, all byes, which is evidently pretty normal for this grade. There were no wides as yet, but this was about to change.