When I started playing for the Greys, during the Pleistocene, they introduced me to a man called Bob Golby.
“This is Bob the Bastard”, they said
“Why are you called Bob the Bastard, Bob”, I asked
“Because I’m a Bastard”, he said.
I’ve thought about that conversation many times during the past decades. At first I thought Bob was saying that he was just not a very nice person, bit of a hard nut and all that. He is, after all, the only person I’ve met who told me he went to football matches solely for the fighting.
But now I’ve realised what was really being said. Bob was identifying himself by his status, like a Samurai, or a Ninja, or a Jedi. He was a certified, qualified, initiated, card-carrying Bastard. The Greys was a recruiting ground for aspirant Bastards, and he was its master and guru.
Unwittingly, I had been chosen for this training too. I showed promise at first. They even sent me to the Greys finishing school.
So let me put this another way: The Greys are a bunch of bastards. Some are card carrying, most are still aspirant.
Take Jerry. He seems nice enough, collecting me from my home and taking me straight to Warninglid’s ground. But at the end of the day, when it’s time to sort the men from the bastards, he’ll be the first one to put his hand up.
Then there’s Ben. He a competent tosser alright, choosing to send Biff and Hatrick out to bat, but he knew he was giving me the kiss of death when he put me down at Number 4. Bastard.
And Mid Sussex District Council. They’re bastards too. They’ve never put loam on that pitch, never scarified it, never even rolled it.
Biff’s new opening partnership with Hatrick means they have developed Jedi levels of ESP. Biff swished at a wide one and missed. It flew off to the keeper, who also missed it. Hatrick called a single. Biff stood and practised his late cut until he realised that Hatrick was standing next to him, before legging it to the other end, Road Runner style. This doesn’t make him a bastard though. Hatrick might be.
Biff helped a few to the suspiciously short boundaries before he was bowled by a ball that didn’t bounce.
Hatrick got caught cheaply, and then it was time for the Box Office event as I picked up the Newbery for the first time since last September.
That Dominic. He’s a Bastard. The tall Mr Acton bowls his nagging left-armers at me and it clearly pitches outside leg before thumping into my pads above the knee roll. And then Zonk makes the Sign of the Bastard at me!
Roborbob the Bastard and Alexthebastard crunch a few boundaries until Alex gets bowled, uncharacteristically, by someone who isn’t a Bastard. He’s a Pratt, and it says so on his back. But there’s no Nasties this time. Maybe Pratt + Nasties = Bastard in Lid language.
Jerry the Bastard and Zonk the Bastard helped themselves to the second and third change bowling, Jerry hoisting the first full toss over the boundary for the first hornage of the day. Dom even ran a two, except the person at the other end didn’t move, so they scored none. They filled their boots, though, putting on 73 for the seventh wicket before Dom skied one from the trampoline end to the wicketkeeper. Alan Monsanto Man Bastard Gallagher and Jerry kept the men on the boundary busy, leaving the Lid to chase 230 from their 40 overs.
All the Bastards got to work over tea. I left my shoes off outside the pavilion and someone – I suspect all of you – got to work on loosening the spikes. Those who weren’t doing that were eating, stealing or hiding anything with cheese in, because I never saw any of it. You cheese-stealing, scoffing, hiding bastards. And I definitely spotted Dave Day through the pavilion window, heading for the square with a bucket of quicksand in his hand. Don’t think I didn’t Dave.
Nearby, The Half Moon emptied as both people in it closed up for the day, not even bothering to open for thirsty cricketers a few hours later.
Even though he’s a Bastard, it was great to see Robbie bowling again, seeing off their opener with a catch behind by Jerry from the bat-with-largest-edge-in-the-world. I think it was called the Big Bastard. Then he took three more, all bowled, leaving him with 8-3-24-4.
And when a ball from Robbie finds a low edge, it really spins hard, at about 3200rpm, trying to curl around gully. Gully is by far the most challenging fielding position, made even worse when you’re standing at the edge of the square on a 45 degree slope, with deliberately loosened spikes, next to a pit full of quicksand.
So I stumbled a bit. Not much but a bit. Slight misfooting. And there’s only reason they thought it was funny is because they’re All Bastards. Some of them even think Schadenfreude is a town in the Schengen area.
At the other end, Ben is swinging it into their pads, inducing a fine catch from Zak, until I clean bowled Mr Swinscoe. That’ll teach him for wearing three lids on his head, one on top of each other.
And so they were all out. Except they weren’t, because Mr Pratt, who isn’t a Bastard, was last man standing, so for a few more pointless (but boundary laden) overs he twatted away until Zonk did the decent thing and took out his middle stump. What kind of weird, fucked up bastardised version of cricket is that?
The Greys won by 137, meaning that at the middle of May, they’re still unbeaten for the season.
Back in the boozer, the Mighty Greys had a chance to show that they revere sporting excellence like Robbie’s bowling, Jerry’s assault on the midwicket boundary or Zak’s catching, Hatrick calling a six which just wasn’t, or alternatively put their hands up to the fact that they’re just a bunch of bastards. They chose the latter*.
But are they Golby–level bastards?
Would he have been found in the Constant at Last Orders doing the Beyoncé Haka? Possibly.
Would he have spent the rest of the week discussing the results of the Chelsea Flower Show?
Would he fuck.
*Except Biff, who sat on his hands at this point.