Friday, September 29, 2006

'Everything stops for tea...'

In the previous post regarding ‘time’ games, I overlooked a slight variable, which sometimes gets thrown into the equation - the ‘fixed tea’. You’ll often get this where several pitches share the same facilities, so that when you toss up you’ll be told that ‘tea is fixed for 4.45’.

The assumption is that declarations will be timed for the tea break, and for the most part the timing will fit with the plans of the captain of the side batting first, or he can adjust his team’s tactics to suit.

Obviously there are exceptions – sometimes the side batting first will pile up runs quickly enough to be able to declare well before the allotted time, giving them the opportunity for a quick crack at the opposition openers before the cellophane comes off the egg sandwiches. Alternatively, side 1 will be bowled out early – and then the chance for a few overs against a couple of batsmen ready for tea may well be crucial.

Sometimes, however, a teatime declaration just isn’t feasible for other seasons as illustrated in the following (true) story – a story that has achieved ‘legend’ status within my club side.

The Legend of the late Declaration

It was an away game in one of the charming idyllic towns along the Thames Estuary during the early years of the ‘Thatcherite Junta’.

Several of us got lost negotiating the Chatham one way system, so the game didn’t start until 2.30, and we were instructed of a ‘fixed tea at 4.45 because there’s a wedding reception in the pavilion tonight and the catering staff need time to prepare.’

Batting first on a green, painfully slow wicket, against accurate bowlers operating an overrate that can charitably be called ‘laborious’ we limped in at teatime on 73-8. As we walked off at tea (I was one of the not out batsmen) their team was justifiably bullish – comments about ‘this not taking much getting’ were being bandied around.

Over tea our skipper made the perfectly logical decision that 73 would be a suicidal figure to declare on and that we would bat on – hopefully to around 100. The two of us resuming our innings after tea wandered out to find their openers already padded up and raring for action. A few pithy words were exchanged and eventually we were able to continue batting for an ‘interesting’ spell of cricket.

The level of sledging from the opposition would have made Matthew Hayden blush. Additionally, defensive shots were met with groans, whilst every run was sarcastically applauded. Finally, after fifteen minutes of fun and games we were all out for 93 all out – leaving the opposition fifty minutes plus twenty overs to get the runs.

‘Let’s bowl as many as possible’ came the call from our captain. He’d figured, correctly, that run making was not easy, and that we had the ideal bowling attack – two metronomic opening bowlers coming in off five paces, and a variety of spinners and other steady medium pacers to keep things tight. If wickets started falling, we’d need to bowl as many balls as we could to try and force a win.

Every side will start off with enthusiasm – keeper and slips running to their places between overs to calls of ‘turn it round quickly lads’ and so on, but we managed to keep it up way beyond the normal time when reality sets in.

Early wickets fell as they found run getting as hard as us so that by the start of last 20 overs they were 26 for 4, and we’d already bowled nineteen overs.

So then we opened the game up! Our secret weapon was, and still is, a left arm googly bowler coming in off two paces and giving the ball enough air to pass over low flying aeroplanes. Other bowlers maintained control at the other end, but ultimately what’s accorded this game ‘legend’ status is the bizarre madness that overcame us in the field. We were determined, to the point of blinkered obsession, to bowl as many overs as we possibly could, so every trick was employed, even to the extend of moving into place for the next over as last ball of the previous over was being bowled - a very dangerous trick if you’re running straight towards the batsman from short mid wicket and the bowler sends down a long-hop…

We were changing between overs in a matter of seconds – eventually shaming the umpires into moving quickly. Few runs were being scored as the batsmen started to adopt the ‘rabbit caught in headlights’ look – stunned by the blur of perpetual activity in front of them.

Adding to the sense of drama, dark clouds rolled in

Wickets fell regularly and we ended up playing ring-a-ring-a-roses round the number eleven bat and daring each other to move ever closer so that by the last couple of balls our short leg was virtually reaching under the bat as the batman played a defensive shot.

The final score was 61-9, and we’d bowled a total of 46 overs – against the 42 we’d received. Our left arm googly bowler, normally used to figures like 10-0-65-3, had an analysis of 9-7-5-3….

The subsequent session with the opposition was heavily lubricated by the free bar on offer at the wedding reception.

The following year we visited the same ground to be met with an opposition skipper with a determined glint in his eye informing us – ‘tea between – ok?’ The ‘ok’ was little more than a punctuation mark, and not an invitation to debate…

1 comment:

harrowdrive said...

Now THAT'S how to play cricket!