12.5.2002 Yapham

Match won.

Winner of the toss unknown.  Casuals fielded anyway.

Yapham 121 for 8 off 40 overs.

Casuals 123 for 3 off 26 overs and 4 balls.

Bowling:  Crossland 0-32 (9); Harris 1-29 (11); Hunter 4-18 (9); Wilson 0-13 (5);

Davis 0-13 (3); Smith 1-6 (2); Windale 0-4 (1).

Batting: Wilkinson – 22;  Walker – 11; Wilson – 1; Hunter – NO 52; Knight – NO 18.

I arranged to e-mail a draft of the Stainborough report through to the match skipper, club secretary, scorer, and guardian of the season’s statistics, one Bill Crossland.  He also doubles as Yul Brynner.

‘Bill, will you look at this?  I would hate to contravene club policy.  Will you make sure it gets through committee?’

‘They’ll ‘ave what we write.’

This was straight talking, so I dutifully e-mailed my report.  Unfortunately Bill found difficulty opening it, and it seems his flare for figures and organisation doesn’t extend to IT or spelling.

‘DAve, are you uuusing an old version of Word? jMore recent ones save with the file extension  .doc, rather than .word which yours does. Net result I still can’t open it!! But I’m sure it’s breathtaking!’

The next was better,

‘Finally opened it and its a cracker – well done, a good start to your new career!’

Which was nice.

Sunday, match day, did not get off to the best of starts for me.  Wickets pitched at two o’clock and I’m happily on my way to Bridlington, and still would be if I hadn’t  seen a sign informing me there were only five more miles to Driffield.  I haven’t a clue who won the toss, but as we are fielding when I get there, can I safely assume we lost it?  Six overs had been bowled and they were already one wicket down.

I park at deep squarish third man, where Rupert’s standing, allegedly fielding,

‘Ah, the scribe,’  he says.  Oh, Bill must’ve passed round the Stainborough article.

Now the Oxford definition of scribe includes “person who writes or can write”.  I can join up letters so OK there then.  Next is “ancient or mediaeval copyist of manuscripts” and “ancient Jewish maker and keeper of records”.   I’m a little uncertain about the ancient, and Jewish is definitely out.  But I’m happy with writing some sort of permanent account.  The final definition is “pointed instrument for marking wood or stone” which loses me completely.  Mmm, I wonder.  What are people expecting from my pieces?

I’m told to field next to the hawthorn bush.  Sam Wilkinson does these wafting movements, bit like one of those blokes that guide aeroplanes around airports with big lollipops.

‘Which hawthorn bush, there are several.’

‘Just go to fine leg and if you see a red ball, pick it up and chuck it at the idiot with the big gloves.  Come back in two hours when you’ve finished.’

Its a thoughtful spot from where I can assess our strengths.  We’ve ten men this week; who’s missing from the memorable winning draw at Stainborough?  Dominic Ford – got a fifty yesterday against Honley; has he gone to watch Norwich AFC at the playoffs in Cardiff?  Roy of the Rovers and Burge are not here.  Who is?  The skipper’s brought half of Upperthong with him by the looks of it.  Then there’s Rupert Smith and Marc Davis.

Since the farmland around Yapham is really flat, there’s nothing to break the wind.  At three thirty the sun goes in and its cold.  A series of requests follows,

‘Sam fetch us me sweater.  Its third on the left.’

‘’arry gerus me sweater, will yer?’

‘Tom, yes, will you, good lad.’

For a short while, it rains cricket pullovers.  Last time I came here, the sun shone all afternoon, and there were cows grazing on the boundary.  Has the foot and mouth has put a stop to that?  Still you don’t need cows ambling behind the bowler’s arm, do you?

After 18 overs they’re 58 for 1 and looking comfortable.  We’ll soon change that, thinks our skipper.

‘Thanks Bill, have a blow.  Rob, next over down the hill please.’

‘Well bowled Bill, unlucky.’

There’s a hush.  Rob marks his run and stands waiting, twenty yards behind the stumps.  Suddenly the team are baying,

‘Come on Rob, fire ‘em in.’

‘Give ‘im your throat ball.’

‘Let ‘im ‘ave it Rob.’

And he doesn’t disappoint.  Whilst most of the deliveries pitch just in the batsman’s half, there are also full tosses, yorkers, wides, and those you can’t trust, not quite on a length.  Such variety demands breathless concentration from both batsmen and fielders, especially the keeper.  Wickets fall.

The first to go was a stout gentleman in his fifties, who we learned later had a rather loud broad North Yorkshire accent.  He had little or rather, no backlift, and pulled a long hop to Bill at short midwicket, who I think saw it rather late.  I must have fallen asleep when the next lad went, but you can get out of touch down by the hawthorn bush.  Rob’s last two victims were clean bowled, stumps splayed about,  bails all over the place.  4 for 18 off 9 overs.  Mind you, there was his Chris Cairns slower ball.  You know, the one that the batsman think is going to knock his head off, so he ducks to avoid it only to see it dolly gently onto middle stump.   Well Rob’s is nothing like that.  His is a slow no-ball that gives a good impression of a hand grenade.  The batsman has no need to get involved and its a lottery who fields.

Rob’s spell removes the heart of their batting and they slump to 96 for 5 off 33 overs.  Rupert has kept the other end going, despite looking like a man who is bowling his first overs since least season – oh, what was that? . . .  he was?  Ah, that explains it then.  Skip makes a bowling change at both ends.  Marc comes on with his hitchkicking run and little wobblies whilst Greg stands at the bowling crease and pops up deceptive lazy drifty outswingers.  Greg’s first ball goes for four.  Sam does some more aviation semaphore,

‘Shall I move out deep, skip?’  Pointless question as he’d already got there.

‘Yes, Sam.  I didn’t realise he was going to bowl crap.’

Its a good job Greg’s not over sensitive.  His second and last over is a wicket maiden.  What a reply.  What a trooper, what? . . . he was?  Oh, right.  They finish on 121.

I go and get my notebook, you know the one that all writers carry at all times.  Everyone is relaxing on the boundary edge.

‘Do you really need all that paper, Dave?’

Bill, computer whiz and lexicographer in residence, makes a request,

‘I notice we had a cowboy genre last week.  Can you do us a Caribbean one?’

Is he serious?  I wonder if he didn’t like my reference to ‘the older craggy bald mildly embittered leader rides off alone into the sunset to who knows what more adventures’.  Most people would be pleased to be compared with Yul Brynner.  What would he prefer?  Slaphead who bowls a bit.

I’m not sure what Caribbean genre is, but its the tea interval.  Beware making even the slightest faux pas whilst around the Casuals’ membership.

‘Where did you get lost, The Sovereign?’

‘Haa, Haa.’

‘I knew someone who was going to Liverpool and finished up in Hull.’

‘Oh, did you?’

‘My wife rang me at home once to ask the way.  She was due in Edinburgh at lunchtime and had got lost.  Where are you ringing from?  Birmingham, she says. She’d only gone the wrong way on the M1.’

‘Hum,’ and so on and so forth.  Its a traffic jam of getting-lost stories, one on top of the other.

Then Marc wanted the Yapham report to be precise,

‘You missed the best bit.  I took a spectacular catch.’

‘After an equally brilliant delivery,’ adds Jim – beautiful coiffure for one so hairless – Harris.  This was corroborated by the chairman.  I was beginning to realise that some people are going do anything to appear in the match report.  The pressure was beginning tell, unrelieved by the skipper as he saunters about,

‘Dave, will you open for me, please.’  Very polite and formal, just as I’m enjoying a ham sandwich.  How can I refuse?  For the second time this season I’m to go in first.

So far I’ve inferred that match reports must contain a record of achievement.  Players must thus do some heroic cricketing deed to get a mention.  Will my journalism inspire them?  Might they even have a net?  I doubt it.  How else will they get into print?  By their unstinting devotion to ineptitude and unremitting commitment to mocking the aforesaid.  Unfortunately, so far this season, I’ve been my own best material.

Its our turn to bat, and I have a new partner.  Sam Wilkinson, he of the mood and movement school of field placing.  He’s sturdy and rubicund.  I’m sure I’ve seen him on GNER posters depicting the front at Skegness or perhaps it was on adverts for baby soap.

He faces first and their opening bowler is Flint.  Not quite back to the cowboy genre, but its close (James Coburn was in both).  Now Flint is handy.  Medium fast, accurate, moving it away from the right hander.  Sam likes to get driving off the front foot, so its a series of playing and missing outside the off stump.  Enter loud stout North Yorkshire party who is fielding at slip,

‘Keep it there Lenny, he’s doing his best for yer,’ suggesting that Sam might in some way be trying to hit it.  Well its sarcasm, isn’t it?  Neither of us thrive at that end, but there’s the odd glance for one and leg byes.  The other end is more fruitful and Sam’s off drive brings him four boundaries, before the inevitable – caught behind off Flint.  This brings Rupert to the wicket, a left hander.  Flinty promptly begins to move it away from him as well.  Quite a talent, our man Flint.  Its Rupe’s first game of the season and he scratches and jumps around, well confused.  His only scoring shot is off an inside edge, or it may have been the bottom of the bat, which did several Chinese cuts before scooting down to fine leg.  He’s Flint’s second victim, caught behind – I’ve already run myself out three overs ago.  Rupert is all praise for Flint,

‘You won’t come across better bowling than that this season.  I enjoyed that.’

What a strange and disquieting way to enjoy oneself.

Our skipper is standing as umpire.  Would it be too unkind to say that the answer to the question ‘who ate all the pies?’, would be him?

Overheard on the boundary,  ‘That’s the height of impossibility.  Can you see?  Skip’s managed to get the umpire’s coat buttoned at the front.’

‘Must’ve lost some weight.’

I relieve him.  The Upperthong duo of Rob Hunter and David Knight, right and left handers, are in together.

Rob’s batting is successful and consistent and, like his bowling, its mean and moody.  I would say though, that as the ball arrives, he is a tad immobile.  The back foot is firmly rooted and any movement is restricted to how far his front foot is up the track.  Then there’s that little problem of not using the bat.  Our man Flint bowls one at full speed right onto Rob’s left big toe and he’s pulled his bat away.  He’s smack in front,

‘Owzat!!’

‘Not out,’ I shout.  I’ve found, that when giving my side not out, its best to do it quickly and loudly, conveying a confident and thorough knowledge of the LBW laws.  I’ve been on the wrong side of Rupert’s MCC decisions enough to give my fellow sufferers at least one chance to redeem themselves.  Between overs Rob and I have a frank exchange of views,

‘Rob, you’d best get some bat on it, or I’ll be giving you out.’

He looks straight at me.  His eyes widen ever so slightly.  And that’s it.  I expected a bit more response.  A thankyou maybe?  Has he heard me?  I repeat my advice.

‘Hey, man, wasn’t it going down leg side?’

Now this lad wasn’t getting the point was he?  He is a PhD student in business and computing and I was going to have to spell it out for him,

‘You only get one chance, alright?’

As I walk back to square leg he nods darkly and prods the wicket with the toe end of his bat.  Still, he keeps his cool and his wicket and gets a well-earned 52, ably supported by David Knight’s 18.  The fielders are forever changing as each batter takes guard, one left handed, the other right.  This is accompanied by a running, in his case ambling, commentary from North Yorkshire stout party that could be heard in Bridlington.

‘Come on lads, left hand, keep thinking.’

‘What you doing Lazer, right hander?’

There’s always one.  We overhaul their total within 27 overs;  a tame conclusion.  Rob finishes with a fourfor and a fifty; man of the match.

This at least, is an accurate account of what took place, dutifully recorded.  But I do have in mind a more literary element.  Will I join the great cricket writers, extolling the virtues of the summer game?  Where does God come into it and what about the British Empire?  Is cricket is a metaphor for all that is honest and wholesome?  An antidote to the cynicism of the 21st century?  Who am I writing for?  The players, the supporters.  Hmm . . .  what would Rupert say?  Why am I having a vision of something large, brown, steamy and extremely offensive?  Hmm . . .  so its finally come down to this – struggling for inspiration up in my garret and wondering what Rupert is thinking.  Sad.

After the game, we visit the opposition’s local, bolstered by the arrival of those two kind and caring ladies, Mrs’s Jagger and Priestley.  And they’ve brought their husbands with them, how thoughtful.  I sit next to Greg, our Chairman.  Would I get a sensible direction for the Casuals’ journal?

‘Is there a Casuals’ policy or anything?’

‘Like a mission statement, you mean?’

‘Yes.’

‘No.’

‘Oh.’  This is going well.

‘The Casuals were set up specifically to give hopeless cricketers a game.’  My goodness, I hadn’t realised, its a refuge for uncoordinated middle aged dreamers who haven’t got gardens and pimply faced blind youth whose parents want them out of the way after Sunday lunch.

‘Oh, by the way Dave, the Stainborough article should have ended, “and the following morning there was snow on Holme Moss”.’

So everybody wants to get in on the act.  They want to shape and influence the growth and development of the journal, as well as its content.  Pompous professors of sociology with no toys call it reflexivity.  Now there’s a word for you, Bill.   Even my private life has been affected.  Rupert collars me at choir practice,

‘Dave you haven’t e-mailed me yet.  I want to read the article and send you the pictures I took in the pub, and at the BBQ.’

‘What BBQ?’  I missed a lunchtime do?  Shoot.

And blow me, on Wednesday this week, if I’m not on Leeds Station and if Marc Davis isn’t lurking on platform 2,

‘What you doing here, Dave?’

‘I’ve a conference at The Queens Hotel.  Its an awayday, bit of a kip.’

‘It’ll give you chance to write up your match report.’

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