Menheniot-Looe 3rd XI (135-9) lost to Launceston 2nd XI (139-3) by seven wickets
Recently I complained to a friend that I felt I was writing the same piece over and over again – plucky amateur makes up the numbers, enjoys himself, analyses it all too much and doesn’t contribute a huge amount. “Maybe you need a new angle,” he said. “You need some success.” Chance would be a fine thing, I thought. But on Saturday that’s exactly what I got. Sort of.
We turned up at Looe, looking forward to our first game after last week’s washout, to find a football match where a cricket one should be. The players, surrounded by a bigger crowd than you would find at a county ground, had kicked off late and were still going as our 2pm start time approached.
We lost the toss and batted, and were soon wishing the footballers had stayed a bit longer. A calamitous start left us on 12-5, and there was serious talk of being home by 4pm. “Cricket, eh?” said skipper Mike as he trudged back, one of five ducks on our lopsided scorecard. “Don’t it just drive you nuts?” Thankfully our numbers six and seven, Bill and Alan, found some sanity and got their heads down to share a battling hundred partnership. After playing himself in, Bill took advantage of some loose bowling to register his maiden half-century. He was so surprised he forgot to raise his bat to his cheering teammates.
I strode to the wicket with the score on 120 and about four overs left. I edged, skewed and plinked my way to eight, aiming a wild yahoo at the last ball of the innings. We scrambled two, the throw missed the stumps, I called for a third and was run out by a mile. It was Keystone Cops stuff. I sacrificed my average for the sake of the team, I protested, hoping we wouldn’t lose by a single run. We finished on 135-9, a veritable Houdini act given our calamitous start. Launceston’s opening bowler Rob Harvey recorded the staggering figures of six wickets for seven runs off eight overs.
Despite some tight bowling and keen fielding, we never stood much of a chance. Our first wicket came when one of their openers sliced a length ball from Helena Simpson to me at point. I peddled backwards and pouched it gratefully, my first catch for the club. I shelled a couple last year, and was keen to snaffle any chance that came my way. “I could see the fear in your eyes,” Mike laughed.
My bowling started off erratically as usual, a grab-bag of full-tosses, long-hops and Jaffas. But I settled into a rhythm, getting through my full quota of eight overs with figures of 1-36. The wicket was one to remember, a flighted delivery which drew their other opener out of his crease and secured a simple stumping. My first league wicket for the club. I continued to bowl at least one awful ball each over, but the longer I went on the more consistency I found. I wish I could say I knew where the ball was going when it left my hand – but it’s certainly more exciting this way.
Some late hitting saw Launceston cruise to a seven-wicket victory, but we pushed them hard all the way. We kept up the chat in the field, an inane but important way of building confidence. “Great bowling, Johnny.” “Top fielding, Tommy”. “Well chased, Pat”. (Some players just don’t lend themselves to convenient nicknames.)
When the wickets were tumbling at the start of our innings, Mike reflected on the club’s player shortage and the struggle to get three sides together each week. He blamed a “malaise” in young people when it comes to cricket, drawn as they are to the glory and riches of the other ‘beautiful game’. At the end, with the sun setting and the trees casting long shadows over the pitch, he gathered us in a huddle to say how well we had played and what a cracking day it had been.
Last year we endured some gruesome matches which were over before they had begun. This one started with a “here we go again” moment – but for once we showed some fight. We had lost again, but we had lost as a team. We walked away smiling, in high spirits. As we shook hands, it seemed to me that our players were happier than the guys who had just beaten us. It’s a funny old game.