9PM Friday 11th June
After loosing the inaugural Friday T20 tour game on the last ball, when an edged run took Tale Millers to victory, The Mighty Greys returned to the Hayloft tour house and filed into the garden one by one, Biff holding a gun shaped thermometer to each of their heads as they passed through the gate.
Bish was the last through. Having scored the maximum allowable 25 for the Greys in the T20, for now he was a Greysman ’til morning. Tomorrow he would become the opposition captain for the second match at Sidbury.
The Mighty Greys stood to attention, masked up in full N95, socially distanced in the garden of Hayloft. Biff stood, shoulders back, proudly and uprightly. His baggy grey cap on head, clipboard in hand, and wearing a high visibility tabard with “Mighty Greys Covid Safety Officer” emblazoned across the back. Since being elected Covid Safety Officer at the 2020 zoom AGM, Biff had taken to the role with great purpose and gusto. The 2021 Greys tour was the culmination of months of planning and endless reams of risk assessments, but now the big moment had arrived and it was the time to check everything was in place.
Biff: “Greysmen! Present your lateral flow tests.”
Biff inspected them one by one. All negative.
“Right lads. You all received the protocols weeks ago and had clearly defined roles. Let’s check that everything is ship shape.”
“Eeyo. You were in charge of circulation”
EO: “Yes Biff! One way arrows have been stuck on all walkways, masks will be worn at all times when not eating or drinking. I will be stationed on the main door to make sure that no more than 6 people are in the house at any one time. There will be no vertical drinking or dancing.”
Biff: Excellent Work.
Ben, You are in charge of the music..
QB: Yes Biff! The volume knob has been locked off at the 9 o’clock position to avoid raised voices and ensure social distancing can be maintained while talking. Every 6 minutes the music will be stopped, I will blow a whistle and everyone must sanitise.”
Biff: Good thinking!
Hatrick. You were in charge of the drinks team..
Hatrick: Yes Biff! Dave Day has developed an ordering app with 6 layers of drop down menus to navigate before you can choose either a Hophead or G&T. Everyone must register and use 2 factor authentication: a unique username in the format of (first name)C**t! and a 16 digit PIN number. You will be logged out every 20 mins and have to re-enter all your details.
Chiefy and Ricky will be doing the table service. We need everyone to remember that they can only touch the trays, so you have to pick up the glasses yourself. Keep track of your glass at all times. If anyone else touches it, it must be safely destroyed.
… and finally, I have ordered slimline tonic so that nobody has too many G&Ts and slips up on their social distancing.
Biff: Well OK, but that last one might be going a bit far. But nevermind.
Diamond Dan, What have you done with the furniture?
Diamond: All communal tables are divided into cells by perspex sheet, and every second seat on the sofas has been taped across with biohazard tape. 5 separate tents have been erected in the garden to sleep the 5 people who can’t go in the massive house.
Biff: Great work chaps. I think I can sign us off at Covid safety level 5. I know tour is a little different this year, but that doesn’t mean it will be any less fun. You just need to think really carefully about the risks before you do absolutely anything at all, and if possible, don’t do it. Remember it’s Hands – Face – Space…. And ventilation……. and try to avoid touching anything. Also Try to avoid breathing in as much as possible… or out for that matter.
Right now it’s time to relax.
Bish sidled over to QB, making sure to maintain a 2m gap.
Bish: Hey Ben, What do you think about doing a 15 over test match with 2 innings instead of the usual 30 over game?
QB: Yeah, that sounds OK in principle, but I think the Covid risk assessment only covers a 30 over game. I’ll have to run it passed the Covid safety officer.
Biff overhears as everyone else is whispering very quietly.
Biff: I’m on it guys. Leave it to me to assess the Covid implications.
Biff retires to the games room, which this year has been converted into Covid situation room for the duration of the tour.
He returns a hour later with a revised 24 page risk assessment.
Biff: I think we can make it work. If anything it will be even more Covid safe with extra sanitisation breaks between innings.
The captains touch elbows. That’s settled then.
With everyone settled and covid safe, the Greysmen gathered around the outdoor table for story time with Ricky before bedtime…
Ricky: “Now, Did I ever tell you you about the time I got lost in a network of secret tunnels under Wembley Stadium? “
The Greysmen shake their heads reverently.
Ricky: “I’m a bit dyslexic see, so couldn’t read the sign for the bus stop…. Lost for hours I was….. Every twist and turn seemed to take me deeper and deeper underground, that was until I stumbled upon a mysterious meeting point deep within bowels. It was there a peculiar apparition appeared to me; an old crone, or what appeared to be…”
Ricky in falsetto: “My dear Young Ricky, you appear lost my boy…”
Ricky: “What is this place Old crone? He..He…”
(Ricky punctuated every sentence with a deep bellowing laugh.)
RiF: “This, young Rickster, is the ancient lost London underworld” and a wisened hand panned around. It had long pointed finger nails.
RiF: “Anything in London is accessible through these ancient passages but only with the help of guide with the knowledge, such as I…”
Ricky: Oooh really! That sounds brilliant. He He
RiF: “BRILLIANT it is… BUT address me as *crone* again, boy, and you shall languish lost in the underworld for evermore, for although I have the appearance of a witch, I am in fact a young boy of great athletic skill and prowess, the greatest Croatian footballer of a generation.”
Ricky: Oh really?!! He…He…
“Yes, REALLY!” The old crone screeches
(Now talking in rhyme)
“… and if it is your guide, you wish me to BE,
you must use these pronouns three,
I’m to be addressed as HIM, and HIS, and HE”
“Or, just Luka if you prefer.”
“Fair dos” I said… and, good to his word he led me to the bed chambers of the young Queen and Princess Margret for a bit of … He…He…He…”
I called him filthy Luka after that! HO, HO, HO!”
(Ricky roars with laughter.)
A shocked, open mouthed Dombo rushes to place his hands over young Dan’s ears “ERRRR… Toxic masculinity klaxon Ricky! There’s young delicate ears here!”
“Get your hands off him Dom! Social distancing!” yells Biff.
“…and tone down that laughter Ricky. Think of the aerosols!”
Biff: “… Dan’s not even old enough for his first jab yet. You can deprogramme him when the pandemic is over.”
Dom bows his head “Sorry Biffo.”
Biff: “You know my views on this. Covid. Safety. First. ALWAYS! I was elected through official club processes, a binding decision at an online AGM to keep this club Covid free. No-one gets as much a sniffle. Not on official Greys duty. Not on my watch.”
“Yes Biff.” Says an admonished Dom.
QB stretches and lets out an exaggerated yawn “Time for bed I think. Big game tomorrow”
The Greysmen take it in turns to scuttle off to bed so not to cross each others paths.
The next afternoon the Greys arrived to a Sidbury ground in finest fettle ever. Blazing sunshine, a cracking wicket and newly painted fences.
The skippers agreed that the Greys should bat first as Bish had to start the Covid Safe BBQ in the last innings.
Biff didn’t last long but it mattered little to him as the strong UV of the June sun was zapping any chance of Covid transmission.
Hatrick (33) and Dom (43) set about their business with alacrity and boundaries began to flow. Both were caught by Bish, Dom spectacularly so.
Dave Day made an unbeaten 12, including a 6, which was more than enough activity for him for the day.
TMGs made 110 for 2 in their first 15 over innings.
In the first Sidbury innings, The Greys bowled brilliantly, with skill and discipline. Special mention goes to Chiefy’s 2 for 9 off 3 and Eo’s 1 for 6 off 2.
Sidbury made 82 for 7.
TMGs opened their second innings with Alex (13) and Grey’s debutant Jim, who played some beautifully cultured shots on his way to 27. QB came in to make his highest ever score for the Greys, an unbeaten 30 which included a PSM winning 6 to cow corner. Young Dan (10) hit a couple of good 4s and Chiefy (9*) hit a cover drive 4 which had the crowd purring.
TMG 2nd inning total: 107 for 3, Combined total: 217 leaving Sidbury a stiff target of 136 from their 2nd 15 overs.
Sidbury made a good fist of it with a captain’s innings of 35 from Bish, and a brisk 22 from Salter, but with wickets at crucial times from Ricky, Young Dan (2 for 10), and QB (this time bowling leg spin) (2 for 25), Sidbury pulled up 15 runs short.
That just left a blissful hour or so of drinking beer in the warm late sunlight, meat eaters enjoying burgers, while TMGs had forgotten to bring the Linda McCartneys for their vegetarian contingent.
…still nobody got Covid.