As ever, Hartfield is about 15 degrees colder than Brighton. I’ve forgotten to pack a jumper. The drive there is actually very pleasant as we talk about Jerry’s bum. I get slightly jealous – “we used to talk about my bum” I think to myself. Again, Wig hasn’t even bothered to turn up to watch, let alone play. Sometimes I think he doesn’t even care about me. Not even a reminder to ‘pack a jumper as it’s always a bit nippy at Hartfield’.
We only have 10 men. If men is even the right word. I look around the changing room and wonder when was the last time any of us got laid. Not recently I’d wager. We really need to get a win under our belts soon just to salvage some sense of personal pride, to feel, for a brief moment, a small, pathetic swell of masculinity.
We are to bat first. Jerry’s pre-match ‘knock-up’ inspires little confidence, but he starts very well, sending three to the rope before falling for fourteen. After brief flirtations with batting from Biffo and our Chair, I am joined at the crease by our skipper. Perhaps conscious we are a man lighter than our opponent, and burdened, as ever, by such a great percentage of our self-esteem being tied to achievements in low-level amateur cricket, we proceed perhaps a little too cautiously. Their off-spinner is good, but we should have taken his seven for more than thirteen. Still, he claims no scalp so it’s hard to equate which of us returns to our empty homes the alpha. Perhaps there are no winners on this field of battle?
Benny’s first scoring shot is a big-boy sixer over fine. His chest puffs out a little and suddenly he appears a touch taller. If any women under the age of 87 lived in Hartfield he would surely have seen a surge of female interest congregate around the village green.
I double my focus. I’m owed a ton here after last season when I was playing so well until DC ran me out; “It’s a good job I’m so laid back”, I think to myself, that I barely even remember it like it was yesterday. Long story short, I do get a fucking ton. Maybe this is all worthwhile. “Has this made me feel good?” I wonder, “Am I a functioning man?”
Just try to enjoy the moment; experience it rather than analyse it. Does it have to mean anything? The hits feel good. I know that much. I put one sixer straight. I say ‘I’, the best ones always happen before any decision is made, before any thought intervenes. Oh to live in that world outside of oneself for longer than these brief moments.
The more consistent enrichment comes from the collective. The partnerships with QB and Double drag us to respectability. Double lashes two fours from his first two in that easy way only he masters. He urges caution in our end-of-over conversations but I worry about my strike-rate; if it drops below 120, can I really post those kind of stats on my Tinder profile later and expect them to cause any kind of commotion? We reach 183 from 35.
As Pull-Out (HatRick) had yet again hard-bailed after a classic soft-confirm, we were assigned a teen fielder by the locals to fill the hole left by our missing eleventh player. A fine ruse they played on us too. Every time the ball went near him he grinned widely, simply let it pass by him to the boundary and flicked the Vs at whoever was bowling. At one point, whilst smoking a cigarette, just to rub our noses in it, he took a one-handed flying catch just to prove to everyone that he was actually a brilliant fielder. Beware of Hartfieldians bearing gifts I guess.
Stu and Robbie H bowled very tidily, the former doing so even whilst falling on his face. The openers were of course brilliantly economical as they always are. Everything was proceeding as planned – Biff had pouched a catch like cricket players do, Jerry had taken a stumping. Alex had even dived to his left at backward point to save a certain boundary! By the time we realised we’d fallen for the old sub-fielder swindle – possibly the oldest trick in the book – it was too late. The game, somehow, was on. Revisited as a bowling duo, the Bumbo-Newland partnership, this time, was sloppy. Too many runs were leaked. Previously engorged appendages returned to their usual, diminished dimensions. Could Daddies Double and Diamond rescue the situation and bail out their flailing beta-boy teammates?
Almost. An incredible joint-spell yielded 5 wickets and very very few runs. No other men could have gotten us any closer. The home side, 9 down with 2 balls left, got a lucky inside edge and ran the single they needed. The teen boy let out a howl of laughter and made ‘wanker’ gestures at us as we left the field.
“Is this where I come to feel peace?” I wondered, “Is this game my solace?”
Once home I post a picture of myself, bat flung over broad shoulders, next to a scoreboard that reads 106, onto several dating apps and social media sites.
This gets like from me Dom! Well batted buddy!
You’re in! But then you were out. I’d swipe right….or left, or what ever it is, Dom. Not much consolation I guess.
And in the interests of playing this fixture again, we were very grateful for the lovely young man who so generously gave up his afternoon to help us out in the field.
Stop worrying. You are a catch. If not a catcher!
Where is this memorable photo?