Sometime shortly after seven on the evening of Saturday 18th May, cricket died.
Elstow Second XI are playing at Woughton on the Green against Milton Keynes City. Under grey blankets of matted cloud in something approaching muggy May, just off the A421, near central Milton Keynes, an emphatically short, wide, loopy Nick Lewis delivery is left alone by the home team’s Geoff Silk.
Frankly every conversation I’ve had over the last twenty or so years in my time as a cricket lover, in an instant, was rendered utterly inconsequential. Those sneering Brit-baiting Germans on my travels I’d fronted up to in hostels the length and breadth of the Antipodes, the ardently disbelieving sceptic Septics, even those dissenting voices closer to home were, in that brief passage of play, proved ultimately, and heavy-heartedly, correct.
Big Lew’s delivery was so incredibly tempting, so invitingly slow, so eminently hit-able. Like a fat bird offered a second slice of double chocolate gateaux or a lonely, socially repugnant fifty-something offered a lithe, comely Thai mistress, it was a heaven sent opportunity that just had to be taken.
Silk, for reasons known to him, wholeheartedly resisted temptation. This followed a similar pattern that left the protagonist 39 not out from 1000 balls (ok, 100 odd really, but you get the idea here) and his team, after 44 mind-numbingly dull overs, 142 runs adrift of the Elstow score they’d been asked to chase. Two wickets down, replying to 219-8, MK City put the barricades up. Silk, through his dull-as-ditchwater, dour defence was the chief architect.
Try explaining this to a wide-eyed, keen as mustard young cricket fan making his debut in seniors cricket. Why should any self-respecting teenager not want to be sat in front of the XBox, experimenting with dubious pastimes or hanging aimlessly around shopping centres when this is the alternative on a Saturday afternoon?
Two and a half hours of watching some gentleman of advanced years block, press, dob, and leave his way through a salvo of deliveries in pursuit of five measly points for his team. Why would you bother?
Elstow tried and tried, but found Silk abrasive. A smart catch by Gary Flower at cover off the bowling of Alan Phillips brought about MK’s first wicket. James Tanswell snared the next two before, with overs, wickets in hand and time in the match, the home team, to the joy of cricket’s detractors the world over went about their ugly volte-face. Singles were turned down, twos turned into ones, punishable deliveries went unpunished all for the sake of a meagre share of a drawn match.
Elstow lacked sharpness through the absence of attack-leader Steve Russell, but Phillips, in the first game in his tenure as 2nd XI skipper, and his charges gave it everything in pursuit of their first win of the campaign. Indeed, earlier the batsmen belatedly got their season off to a flyer as the top order all made decent starts. Lewis top-scored with a joyful 42 runs, Gary Flower hit 24 and Pete Burraway 28 as Guraj Galsin, batting at three, vitally provided the backbone to the innings with a resolute 29. Yet Ravi Kalyan’s cavalier knock of 34 caught the eye with a hefty six that wowed the thrill-seekers and a four through cover that pleased the purists; all sealed with an artisan’s flourish.
The smiles faded from the Elstow team as the afternoon progressed. The elation and hope provided by Tanswell’s opening spell was systematically and painfully ground down by the home side as they escaped undefeated.
This afternoon, the game of cricket itself, however, lost badly.
Horner Shearing Man of Substance of the Day: Jimmy Tanswell. Some lower order hitting, exemplary fielding and a spell that produced, according to the man himself, “my best bowling figures since middle school.”
Clag Nut of the Day: Ravi Kalyan. A wonderfully entertaining innings was curtailed by a daft run out which was then compounded by a dafter run out decision given in a two over spell while umpiring. He will score more runs, he will take more wickets. He’s never umpiring for Elstow again though.
The Sammon Pie Light Moment of the Day: Al Phillips was warmly welcomed to his new role by nearly being decapitated by his right-hand man’s wild throw. The new skipper, stood at short-mid off and seemingly out of harm’s way, hit the deck as Lewy’s wayward shy thudded into his upper back. Cue laughter, for probably the only time in the afternoon during the MK City reply.
Et tu Brute?