Hearing Stiffkey were coming but short of players, I volunteered to play for them and the rest is, as they say, history.
David F sold me to the visitors with tales of my bowling prowess. I and the more discreet Jerry Greggain ran out on the sun-blasted Spring Lane outfield, amongst our one-off team mates and watched as ‘our’ opening bowlers were comfortably dealt with by the ever improving GCC batting line up. I waited my time. I checked the overs gone on the board. I bided my time again. Fourth change and I was on. First delivery: spot on, on a perfect length just outside the off stump and clipped delicately by Lawes Major for four to fine leg.
And then it got worse. Three overs of nonsense later, the visiting captain was over polite as he thanked me for my efforts. I watched as Lawes, Dawkins and Wray all went to fifty and retired. I had, though, talked myself back for one last hurrah that had me give up running in and instead to bowl slowly. A slow, looping, Embureyesque delivery on off stump had Wray swing across the line and club the ball over the by now tea-laden marquee. The accompanying GCC cheer morphed mid-flight to a breath-held expectancy as the ball landed inches from Matt Jones’ much-loved MG Midget. My rarely lost confidence blanched completely when, before my next delivery, I saw Matt move that much-loved MG out of range. GCC ended at a comfortable 271 for 4, my four overs going for an unrewarded and deserved 33.
Over a lengthy tea Dawkins over-generously told me my bowling to him was “quite good, really”. He’s at Addenbrooke’s these days and his tone resounded of bad news delivered in a bedside manner. It didn’t help.
Stiffkey’s batting was held together by Jackson’s man of the match 67. He, too, went to retire on reaching 50 but Wilson S, the GCC captain, gave him the option of staying. He stayed but the Grantchester sun was no place for a redhead of a certain age. His main support came from Hunter’s 33, while the remaining 71 runs were split nine ways.
But enough of them, let’s get back to me. Having failed as a bowler, my batting at 10 was no surprise. That I was to bat with only four deliveries to go was. This had Grantchester all too enthusiastically ‘crowd the bat’. I had never been so popular among my GCC colleagues. None was more than ten yards away while AP, at very, very, very short leg, could have tied my shoelaces together. Wilson F(in), with three wickets already, now showed a rare work ethic and came steaming in. A play and miss, a chip for two back over his head and then, off the game’s penultimate delivery, my off stump. Was that me they were cheering as I left the field? I was genuinely touched. Jerry top edged the game’s last delivery over the keeper’s head. At least we weren’t all out as the Stiffkey reply closed at 171 for 8.
Another excellent, sunny afternoon of cricket played in the true spirit of the game.
Grantchester had won by 100 runs and I’d started the day with a certain degree of cricketing credibility. That credibility now is, as they say, history.