Everything can change at any moment, suddenly and forever (Paul Auster)
The medium pacer with the nagging line and length is getting on the batter’s nerves. The bowler is too good for him. The fifth ball beats him and right on cue the bowler follows through with the stand-and-stare routine while the batter practises the shot he really meant to play, but of course playing it properly was way beyond his pay scale. One ball to go and I’ll be at square leg thinking about what I have to do at work on Monday morning (bad practice, we are trained to give the same concentration while standing at the batter’s end as we do at the bowler’s end. But when the keeper is standing back I have found that square leg provides the perfect habitat for a spot of R&R).
As the sixth ball of the over is delivered, fate conspires against me. The ground is situated close to an A road and even on a Saturday there are enough wagons and testosterone-fuelled bikers to edge the decibel scale north. This ain’t no quaint village green, it’s a hardcore concrete jungle with a cricket ground.
There is a loud appeal for caught behind as bowler, keeper, slips, long leg, tea ladies and two old blokes walking their dogs go up in choreographed unison that could have been directed by Busby Berkeley. The problem for me is that a truck driver who is hurtling down the A road chooses that very moment of the alleged offence of bat on ball, to sit on the horn. If he had forgotten his lunch box when leaving home, or stopped for cuppa in one of those makeshift snack stops on the A road (usually with a corrugated roof emblazoned with the word ‘Tea’s’ – yes I am aware the apostrophe is misplaced), I would have been in the perfect situation to make a decision. But at this precious moment I was entrusted with making a judgement when the only evidence to give the batter out was the near orgasmic pleading of the bowler and keeper (with the greatest respect to the two fellows, hardly DNA material).
The batter stands and hopes and of course I’m having none of it. How the hell can I hear anything with the Grand Prix on the A road? ‘Not out. Over bowled,’ I announce. My colleague, walking in from square leg points to his right ear to confirm he couldn’t hear anything. Cue the the tiresome guilt tripping of the batter who is out for a few more soon after the incident and is given a less than polite send-off peppered with gerunds along with advice on how to get rid of the evidence on the edge of the bat.
The incident has no influence on the game’s outcome. But the same finger of fate is at work after the game. Approaching my car, I encounter the wicket keeper and team-mate about to set off. The wicket keeper eases the passenger window down. “Thanks umps, hope to see you later in the season,” he says in tone of voice that suggests he might not actually mean that he hopes to see me later in the season.
And purely for quality control purposes, I ask him with a faint smile: “Did he really hit it?”
“No idea umps, couldn’t hear a thing.”
At least Dick Turpin wore a mask.