There are very few continents on which I haven’t made a complete arse of myself playing cricket (or otherwise). For instance, back in 2000 I collapsed with heat exhaustion (or alcohol dehydration and poisoning—depending on which ‘expert’ you listen to) on the Third Man boundary at a ground in St Lucia, West Indies. Three men had to carry me off the field of play to a nearby shady spot where I was doused in cool water and cooler Red Stripe. I took no further part in the match;
A Team Photo in Oman, 2009. Squad moral wasn’t always what it could have been following one of my more imaginative bowling spells. Pic taken the day after the local hosepipe ban was lifted.
In Nairobi, Kenya, suffering from lack of oxygen because of the high altitude (or from alcohol dehydration and poisoning—depending on which ‘expert’ you listen to) I momentarily lost my sight and lost all sense of direction. Instead of charging towards the batsman to deliver the fifth ball of my first over, I charged towards the square leg umpire who turned on his heels and fled, fearing that he’d be run over by this fat pink bloke approaching. I took no further part in the match;
In Adelaide my fearsome bowling was hit hit so hard and so often by a bloke who usually batted at no.11 for his club side, that a box of new balls had to be ordered, as no-one wanted to go into the spider/snake-infested bush beyond the boundary to find the three new red cherries which he’d deposited there. The bloke I’d put on the boundary to catch him ricked his neck watching the balls soaring fifteen foot over his head;
In Sri Lanka while playing at a local Prison, I tore a muscle/got cramp (depending on…) in my calf in the third stride into the run-up OF MY VERY FIRST BALL. Probably the heat or something. I took no further part in the match.
But on this morning of all mornings, when the world holds its knickers in anticipation of the start of another Engand vrs Australia Ashes series, and because I’m so excited about it I can barely walk, I thought I’d flick through the old photo album and share with you a few lolights of my once-unpromising career. Less Ashes Urns, more Ashtrays and Beer Bottles.
1992, The Daily Telegraph, vrs Devises Police Training School, Wilts. L-R (back row) R Shrimsley, R Savill, D Sapsted, T Butcher, M Smith, K Maguire, P Sherwell. Front row: P Stokes, N Bunyan, B Fenton, The Author, C Randall. Several of the above young journos went on to great careers in newspapers, magazines, TV, PR and literature. Some didn’t. No scorecards survive for this match. So I think we must have won it.
This is not a still photo of me bowling, it’s video footage, replayed at actual speed (and no, it’s not your poor broadband connection). The hallmark grimace is already developing. Somewhere in England in the early 1990’s. The umpire’s moustache may indicate the Liverpool area. The bails were later stolen.
A rabbit in the headlights. Stowe School, England 1988. Daily Telegraph Gentlemen vrs Players Cricket match (can’t remember which side I was on.) Christopher Martin Jenkins (pick that name up for me please, Deirde) and I had a nice chat as we walked around the boundary. He told me that he doubted if I would never make a club cricketer. Which was nice. And he’d hadn’t even seen me bat yet.
The Author, on tour in Dubai, and on the eve of a possible Test call-up, receives a good length ball on his off stump, attempts to hook it over square leg for six, and can only watch as the ball clatters into his castle. The keen-eyed will realise how slow the delivery must have been. Few batsmen are lucky enough to get the time to look behind them before the ball hits the wicket. (There is a version of this photo where I have photoshopped-out the ball. I look magnificent.)
A terrifying sight for any batsman. Or, indeed, for anyone. The four-pronged pace attack of The Fleet Street Exiles XI, take a well-earned paddle in the sea between humiliating defeats, Galle, Sri Lanka 2002. Please note : for once I am neither the fattest, nor the oldest in this photo. Just the shortest. (Also very pleased to see that I kept my purse with me at all times.)
The Author stops for a prayer and a swift large rum before going into bat in Antigua. West Indies, 2000. Here we see him trying to come up with a name for an idea he’s had for an irregular column on the internet.
**The phrase directed at me by the home wicket keeper as I took guard in my first ever match on foreign soil. Melbourne, Australia, 1998 (ish). The sad thing about it is that he was probably telling the truth.