“Cricket is a team game played by individuals”
– Geoff Boycott.
The seventh annual Metro Man Festival of Mind, Body and Spirit rolled up the ramp into Luppitt and found themselves being asked to bowl on tufty green pitch, perched in the middle of a rock hard field recently shorn of hay, surrounded by short boundaries and thick, prickly hedges.
With the Undertaker relegated to the subs bench, the Overlord opened the bowling with Rikki. You can’t fault Dave Day’s commitment as he had worked his guts out for the team just the day before, all part of his complex intoxification-detoxification-intoxification-intoxification programme.
Luppitt’s approach to batting at home was simple and straightforward: hit it over the hedge, and Rikki soon found himself watching the ball launched back over his head towards Taunton before coming up with the perfect reply, shaving Welsh’s leg stump next ball.
At the other end the aptly named Pullman started to devour anything short and offline, and even Dave Day found himself looking up and over his shoulder as the aerial assault began. It was clear that if we were going to take some wickets then the way to do it would be to do what the Mighty Greys do best: catch the ball.
Catching The Ball
Being an innovative crew, the Mighty Greys displayed a number of ways of tackling this thorny issue.
- When the ball is at its apogee, make sure you are at least five yards away from its landing site, wave both hands above your head to distract all around then fall to the ground as it lands at a safe distance from you. Grin at lot at the spectacle you’ve created.
- Look directly at the ball, and realise that its direction of travel is towards you. Assume that, as it went over the hedge on previous occasions, it must obviously be going to do the same this time as well. Act in the spirit of the Italian number 17 and, with considerable courage, stand utterly motionless as the ball lands at your feet and thuds into the hedge behind you.
- Raise both palms in front of your face and, as the ball rockets towards them, point your little finger at it and wince in pain as the ball pushes your distal phalange over your middle phalange. Pick up the ball with the other hand, throw it in and relocate your finger bones.
- Guess the trajectory of the ball correctly then lie on the ground at the centre of its estimated landing point. From a reclining position allow the ball to smash into your ample stomach before letting it roll into the crook of your arm. Stay motionless just long enough for the batsman, umpires and the rest of the team to wonder what happened. Retrieve the ball with your other hand and try and kid the fast approaching team that you took it cleanly the first time. Win PSM and wear your gut bruise with pride for at least a week.
- Wicketkeepers have a technique all of their own. One currently in vogue with the Greys is to let it ricochet off a part of your body and let Delbert catch it at first slip instead.
The latter method did for Pullman for a classy 57, but there was another Pullman waiting in the sidings*. If his brother had eaten well, this one gorged on the Mighty Greys like a man told that the Luppitt tea had been hijacked by the Honiton Hoodies, knocking the first ball of Chiefy’s first three overs back over his head. “Use the facilities” became “Use the spare”.
He was caught in the deep by a digitally remastered Delbert for an aggressive 82 off 55 balls, including five 6s and eight 4s, leaving the Greys facing 210 to win off 40 overs.
After two nights without sleep and two hours in the midday sun poking their heads in hedges, the Mighty Greys were wilting at the thought of chasing over five an over for a couple of hours. Luppitt, seizing their chance, tried to finish us off by pulling out their secret weapon: the Luppitt tea, a precious cargo brought to the ground with a great fanfare of vuvuzelas, cushioned on a gold plated ox-drawn cart, surrounded by a team of outriders on tractors and Combine Harvesters.
You cannot really call yourself a Greysman until you have made the pilgrimage to experience this. A wonderful woman called Lynne (who has now refused my hand in marriage for seven seasons in a row on the spurious grounds that she is already married) wakes at three a.m. in the morning and, singing arias from Puccini and whistling with the larks like a scene from Snow White, hand milks the cows and collects the freshly laid eggs that form the centrepieces of this visual extravaganza.
Luppitt’s next cunning ruse was to open with two slow bowlers, taking the pace off the ball and forcing Biff and Jerry to do all the work while several kilos of quiche, sandwiches, scones, jam, cream and chocolate cake and gallons of tea sloshed around inside them. Biff fell to the first change bowler, soon followed by Jerry, uncharacteristically steering the ball straight to gully for a carefully crafted 37. Me and Alex didn’t trouble the scorers much (this cliché is obviously nonsense – there’s loads to do when someone gets out, eh Rob?), and at 70 for 4 from 17 overs the Mighty Greys were Behind The Rate.
It is TWENTY SEVEN YEARS since Jonny Woodford first walked to the crease for the Greys, and it was a heart-warming sight to see him doing it again at Luppitt. Any doubts that he had lost it were soon dispelled when he revealed his trademark pulls and sweeps down the hill to the long boundary in front of the pavilion, interrupting Ian on the way to his fifteenth trip to the tea table.
At the other end, Delbert showed you don’t have to be built like you work on a farm and live exclusively on Luppitt teas to clear the hedge as he sent one soaring over mid off’s head. Turning his tea into raw energy, he creamed 22 off the 27th over crunching fours in all directions, scattering the field like beercans at a Greys Metro Man disco. Between them, Colford and Woodville put on 80 in 11 overs and when Jonny was caught at Cover we were Up with the Rate. 60 needed off 12.
It took a while to wake Dave Day from his slumbers on the boundary and assure him that he could return to his dreams of Dwarf Cricket Porn when he had the early night he had promised himself earlier. He carried on the partnership with Del where it had been left and, standing as the Square Leg Umpire, I had the deep pleasure of watching what I think is his best ever shot for the Greys, a perfectly balanced front foot swing of a straight bat to a good length rising ball, scorching the ground to the long off boundary and deep into the hedge. They put on 50 from eight overs until Dave was bowled for 32 from as many balls, somehow failing to fend off a straight now.
Ben Newland may be called Quiet, but his Sound System certainly isn’t and the Mighty small people scampered the winning runs, leaving a dejected Luppitt with nothing to look forward to except England’s impending thrashing of Costa Rica and next week’s tea.
Coming in at the 14th over, Del helped himself to 82 not out from the next 22. But, and this was asked at the time, apart from making the lasagne, taking two catches, making a 50 in Sidbury and winning the game for us when we were all knackered on Sunday with four overs to spare, what did you really contribute to the Tour Delbert?
*Bet only Alex gets that one.