An occasional look at the lower
reaches of cricket.

1. Padding Up
Shambolic. There are other words to describe preparations for the All Stars first match of the season, but none so polite or succinct. Where is it? When is it? Richard, our stalwart selector has done his best to rouse anyone who might be interested, but come the day we are a motley collection, mainly old faithfuls and their friends who happen to be ‘over for a few weeks’ from Australia or Nicaragua. Never mind the Nicaraguans, it’s the ones from Oz you need to watch. Experience suggests that they have a way of pinching the number one slot for the rest of the season, which is bearable if you bat three or four, but life and death if your regular berth is eleven.

The nearest that any of us have been to practice during the cricketing winter has been Radio Four, or for the really dedicated, Sky Sports. Previous seasons have at least offered the opportunity of five minutes in the nets before the first game, but there is not a vestige of netting visible on the vast acreage that we call home. ‘They wear out the grass’ would seem to be sound enough reasoning if there were not enough grass for at least three matches to be played concurrently. It certainly suggests an optimistic outlook, since we are reliably informed that every blade will soon be covered by the tower blocks of new college halls of residence within the year. He has domestic problems, our groundsman, so he retains our sympathy. In the absence of nets, the more enthusiastic members amuse themselves with working out the purpose and method of operation of a curious new device with the unlikely name of ‘slip cradle’.
Perhaps we didn’t quite master it, for by the time Paul, our reluctantly self-elected captain, has tried to find out who we are and what we do, the only half decent wicket keeper present has dislocated a finger. Hello Accident & Emergency, goodbye All Stars. But this unhappy event does have the virtue of solving the selection problem by reducing our number to the standard eleven. Quite remarkable this, to have a full team for the first match, our traditional opener vs the ever youthful College of Further Education. The result is meant to be traditional too – a win for the CFE.

A new keeper is elected by a ten to one majority. Nothing personal, but once a common victim is sensed the rest are united in self protection. We call it teamwork. The hapless Ronnie is strapped into his pads. Win or lose the toss, Ronnie is ready for action. His only instruction regarding his new role reveals the skipper’s hitherto unsuspected grasp of tactics. ‘Forget catches and stumpings and all that, just stop the ball.’ It certainly simplifies the task ahead. Dear Paul, he is wasted in the caring professions.

The match proves to be a surprise. Despite sub-zero and overcast conditions it does not rain, hail or snow, the CFE have clearly underrated us, and the All Stars win handsomely. The script demands that it should be Ronnie who emerges as our hero, and lo, it is so. Mindful of broken fingers, he flings every part of his body except his hands in the way of the ball, and then scores an outstanding eight runs, the last of which takes the All Stars past the paltry CFE total. Hugs and kisses all round (we are nothing if not supportive) and everybody makes themselves available for next week. Here comes summer.

There are a couple more stories in the series and they are as much fun to write as the games were to play. A second story is a click away- Youth Policy. Anyone interested in reading more please get in touch. DJW