Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Glorious Sound of Leather on Willow

When they talk about the Olympic legacy of people trying new sport, I'm not sure this is what they had in mind...

On Thursday evening, we were in the pub - me, child 4 and the intrepid granny - for the weekly quiz night, along with the singing, dancing doctor and Il Presidente of the village cricket club. Each Saturday during the season, our village turns out three teams to play in the Nidderdale League for this is a cricket village. Disaster was about to strike. There were enough players for two teams but not enough for three. Not fielding a third team would mean a deduction of six points and would put them in danger of relegation. Il Presidente was a man on a mission. He would not let this happen.

The singing, dancing doctor has two sons who are brilliant at cricket but are currently away on a World Challenge trip to the Far East so, in his sons' absence, he bravely volunteered. Cue the arrival with classic timing of my beloved. He had been on an all-afternoon lunch and had wisely arrived back from Leeds transported by bus and taxi. He was very relaxed. When asked if he would turn out for the village third team, he smiled and willingly agreed. If we'd asked him to do the Olympic pole vault, go bungee jumping, no doubt the answer would have been the same. Then, surprisingly, number 4 child - the small, beautiful one, volunteered too! Excitedly, with only one bar of signal in the notorious mobile phone black spot which is our village pub, Il Presidente texted the third team captain. Job done. Ten players so no deduction. They didn't have to win, they just had to turn up.

Fast forward to Saturday morning and the realisation of the task ahead had hit. Number 4 was kitted out in number 3's old whites whilst he was playing for the second team that afternoon. My beloved was promised kit by the team captain and off they went, with some trepidation to our next door village where the third team have their home ground. Intrepid granny and I followed in support.

We arrived to find that the singing, dancing doctor was dressed in his number 2 son's kit and looked the part which, coupled with his sons' own aptitude for the game, had convinced the skipper to put him in as batsman number 3. He went in (looking fabulous!), got a run and got out (still looking fabulous and so excited he hadn't got a duck!). Then other proper batsmen went in and were out but a half decent score was accumulating and things were looking up.

Then the legend that is Wilf who is a septuagenarian and normally bats, if at all, at number 11 went in at number 8. Not for long, sadly though runs were still mounting up, and suddenly he is walking off and my beloved is walking out to bat - 37 years after the last time he had done so. I worried: would he have a heart attack (fortunate that his doctor would be present) or split the captain's trousers which were snug to say the least!

He faced the first ball, he looked the part, he hit it ... over the boundary for four! The crowd gasped. The proper batsmen commented on his timing, "he's still got it" and he continued to amaze us - actually running between the wickets, but only singles. Then the last proper batsman at the other end got out and suddenly the small one, helpfully padded and helmeted up by the skipper strolled out to bat with her father.

"Will they be nice?" screeched intrepid granny who was assured by our captain that they would. Fielders crowded round the bat and she hit the ball. In fact, she went on to double the singing, dancing doctor's score before putting up a catch. The fielder sportingly apologised to the small one and she led, long hair blowing in the wind from under her helmet, the fielders and her father back in for tea. Number 4 out for 2, my beloved 11 not out and a total score of 140. Respect!

They didn't win, they didn't get a batting point but no deductions and the third team live to survive another day. Later in the pub, number 4 has been invited to play for the village ladies' team and play in a girls' cricket tournament in September and my beloved was asked if he could play next Saturday. Mercifully he can't - not least because he may not be able to walk tomorrow.

Proud doesn't even begin to describe it. And number 3's team won. A day to remember.

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