Hello. I suppose if you’ve made it into this corner of the internet, you’re here for a reason, rather than having my cricket column forced upon you on the back pages of Sports Monday.
That being the case – and if it isn’t, well, it’s a bit late now, I’ve started so I’m going to take a Magnus Magnusson attitude to this – I’m going to take a couple of liberties.
I’m going assume you know something about the game and I’m going to assume that you like it.
And if you do, then I hope to god you’ll get in touch with support for what I’m about to write – I need ammunition.
See, you love the game and I really love the game, but there are people in my life and in yours I’m sure, that just don’t get it.
Wives, girlfriends, partners, non cricket playing friends – baffling, I know, but some of them just don’t understand.
The reason I particularly need ammunition from you good folk right now is because I’m writing this from a very specific place in which I spend a lot of my time in the summer months.
Last weekend at Airedale Cricket Club we had one of those spectacular couple of days that are rare, but so very cherished by the weekend cricketer – a double header. We played Haworth West End away on Saturday and Haworth at home on Sunday. For most of us, it’s the closest we’ll get to the feeling of what it’s like to be a professional, playing the game day in and day out.
And by God it’s wonderful.
Except for one thing.
So there I am, Sunday night. A cracking game with Haworth (although I do have lots of gripes about it, but maybe I’ll save them for another time) saw us bat first and see out all 45 overs of our innings.
Haworth chased down our score, hitting the winning runs from the final ball of the 44th over.
Now. This meant an 89-over game and a late finish. We came off the field in not so much the blinding light that Henry Newbolt wrote of in Vitai Lampada, more a disappearing, gloomy light that you get used to when you play cricket in Yorkshire in May.
Opposition hand’s shook, scoreboard cleaned, changing rooms brushed, roller and mowers put back in the garage, I picked up my mobile phone and saw I had eight missed calls. From the missus. This, as some of you will know, is not a good sign.
“Where am I? Err... cricket? I told you I had two games this weekend.”
“But, but I’ve explained to you that I have no idea when games finish. It’s impossible to say... No, the other week when we were bowled out for 31 and finished before 5pm is really unusual... I didn’t realise you were hoping we could do something else today... No, I know that cricket takes up Saturdays, but this was a cup game.
Come on, weekend cricketer, I know you recognise this conversation. I also know that, bluster and brag all you want to your team-mates, you are equally pathetic on the phone when faced with an irate missus who is ‘sick to death’ of how much of your weekend cricket steals.
And what do we do? We cheat on our true love. We go home to the angry missus and we pretend that playing every Saturday is a bind, that we wish cricket didn’t take up so much of our time, that next season we’ll probably have a summer off, that we will even happily miss a couple of games next month to make it up to her and all the while our heart’s secret is that cricket will never be banished from our souls.
Last weekend’s... discussion was made all the worse by the fact that I’ve had a bit of a fallout with a friend over something that demonstrates the level of obsession us weekend cricketers feel for the game.
Two months ago my best friend won the lottery. I know, sickening.
It wasn’t an amazing amount, but it was enough for him to take ‘the lads’, the group of schoolfriends who grew up together, on holiday.
Vegas and Miami were possible destinations, but for some weird reason he’s ended up plumping for Marmaris in Turkey. When he was booking the holiday I made a perfectly reasonable, polite request, that we try to go away over the space of one weekend, which would mean me missing only one game.
This, did not go down well with Ben, the words. I think the words, ungrateful, little, something I can’t write in the Yorkshire Post, free holiday and get what you’re given may have been in the email he sent in reply to my request.
He has booked the holiday so that I miss two Saturdays and therefore two games, next month.
Am I being ungrateful that I’ll miss two games, but get a free holiday? Let me explain why I’m a bit conflicted at getting a free holiday but missing two games.
Last Sunday’s game against Haworth, I did not enjoy. Again, I think I’m going to keep my powder dry on that one (my next column for Sports Monday on June 6 will deal with discipline and playing the game in the right spirit). The game on Saturday, against Haworth West End, was wonderful.
It was one of those games full of moments that you cherish when October arrives and you sit down with your team-mates and several pints to look back over the season.
First, when we were batting, our stodgy opening bat Trevor Cox got a bouncer. We’ve all watched the professionals how to deal with such a ball. You drop your hands a swerve out the way a la Athers or Nasser, or you duck under it like Graham Thorpe.
Trev, not the quickest of cricketers, did neither. He instead dealt with it the way Kevin Keegan might a head high cross. He headed the ball, deliberately. As the clank of leather on Trev’s helmet rang around the ground we fell about laughing. Trevor couldn’t see the funny side.
A few overs later we were still chuckling over this when Trev pulled a ball high into the air towards deep square leg. Harry, a talented young Haworth West Ender who would bat beautifully a couple of hours later, got his hand to the ball – almost.
Our lads, sitting on a bench outside the pavilion, watched as the ball sailed high in the air, Harry pedalled backwards, hit the fence that marked the end of the boundary, and disappeared over the other side. Us, the fielding side and the spectators, spent the next five minutes falling about the place at the sight of Harry disappearing over the fence, a surprised look on his face.
These are the moments, along with the feeling of taking a catch, hitting a boundary, or splatting the ball into the stumps, that weekend cricketers live for.
And you know what? The wrath of the missus is worth facing for these moments and you know what else? These are also the moments that I would happily miss a holiday for. You know I’m right.
I better call Ben.