Blasting off with chinos, chuckers and dodgy tins

T20 evening league
Menheniot-Looe (96-7) beat Teachers (about 70-7) by about 20 runs

On June 6 1994 I was sitting in the old members’ stand at Edgbaston, watching an innings which defied history and defined a generation. I was nine years old, and scarcely able to comprehend what was unfolding in front of me. Warwickshire’s Brian Lara was racing through the 400s, on his way to the first class world record which may never be beaten.

The moment he smashed the final ball of the match through the covers will be replayed and revisited for years to come. How wonderful for a young lad with a growing obsession with the game to witness such a historic moment. Unfortunately, I missed it. With Lara getting ever closer to the record, we had to leave because my younger sister had a piano lesson. I have never forgiven her.

The iconic image shows an exhausted Lara, arms aloft and bloodshot eyes squinting into the sun, the city end tins in the background showing numbers that have never been seen before or since.

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20 years later it seemed strangely fitting that my first victory of the season should finish with two teams exchanging sleepy handshakes in front of a broken scoreboard. Menheniot-Looe had definitely won this T20 evening league fixture against Teachers at Liskeard, but nobody was quite sure how, or by how many.

We batted first on an old fashioned sticky wicket. It was one of those surfaces where the bowler lets go of the ball and you have time for a cup of tea, a browse through the papers and a little snooze before selecting your shot. Our top order found it hard going, but thankfully Kieran’s unbeaten 30 – the maximum individual score in this format is some way off Lara’s 501 – helped us to a competitive score.

I joined Kieran just before he retired and shared a couple more partnerships with James and Malcolm. I faced a spell from one of their bowlers which was unlike anything I have ever seen before. Dressed in a black jumper and cream chinos, he ambled up to the wicket, paused, put his weight on to the wrong leg and hurled the ball in the vague direction of the other end. When cricketers talk about someone ‘chucking’, they usually mean he’s got a slightly bent arm. This guy actually threw it like he was either attempting a run-out or trying to cause an injury. Safe to say, most of his balls missed the target; he bowled five wides in a row before I managed to reach one. But when someone like that turns up your priority as a batsman is to avoid the embarrassment of getting out.

He was soon replaced with our own Zac, playing for the opposition as they were one man short. Having just got used to their gentle dobbers, Zac had that extra bit of pace and wasn’t offering any friendly looseners to his mates. He skidded one through to trap me LBW and then clean bowled our skipper Bill, leaping into the air in celebration. We wondered whether he knew which side he was on.

Our bowlers were much stronger than theirs for the most part. Kiwi Phil, the club’s new overseas player who has already inflicted a few bruises in the nets, bowled off a short run but was still too quick for the Teachers batsmen. Third team stalwarts Charlotte, Tom and Helena pinned them down, and I creaked my way through a couple of overs without causing too much damage.

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It was strange playing 20 overs a side. I felt I didn’t have enough time to stop and think. This can be an advantage – I enjoyed pushing the fielders for quick singles when I was at the crease – but things moved very quickly in the field. I tried to help Bill out with his field placings, which looks easy on TV but is much harder when you can’t see the big picture. When I came on to bowl I stupidly didn’t measure my run up properly and tried to race through my action. I hope more experience will bring less haste.

The general air of uncertainty wasn’t helped by the fact that the rickety old scoreboard collapsed and died while we were in the field. We were never quite sure how many runs, wickets or overs had passed, which I suppose I just adds to the unpredictability of short form cricket. Perhaps they should introduce it to the NatWest T20 Blast. “What’s the score, ump?” “No idea, lad. Just give it a whack and hope for the best.”

Sam Blackledge

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