My summers aren’t filled with attending festivals or discovering who I really am in South East Asia. For you see, my summers are spent waiting for the weekend to come around so I can stand in a field for six hours, dressed all in white and chase a small, red leather ball around.
For those “inner city” cricket players (god forbid, there aren’t too many of you) or simply for those of you who have always wondered what the appeal of cricket is, or simply for you poor souls that have accidentally started reading this article, allow me to take you on the journey of a mid-summer Saturday afternoon through the eyes of the village cricketer.
On a cricketing Saturday, you can usually afford a lie in as most games start after one o’clock. If your team does not have a designated club member who provides the tea every week, then expect to wake up early. If you’re smart, you opt to provide the less time consuming items, such as sausage rolls, pork pies and scotch eggs, all of which can be purchased pre-packaged from your nearest supermarket.
If you left it late replying to the weekly club email, then you will unfortunately have to get up at the crack of dawn and face the earth shattering task of preparing the sandwiches. The classic combinations are usually tuna and cucumber, ham salad and cheese and pickle.
However, if you want to earn extra brownie points from the opposition and your teammates, then beef and horseradish and coronation chicken are usually most welcome. You just have to ensure that the sandwiches don’t get squashed or become soggy. If there is one thing that is guaranteed to piss a village cricketer off, it’s having to eat a squashed egg mayo sandwich after spending a tortuous number of overs in the field.
Fortunately, if you’re playing away from home then you don’t have to worry about preparing the tea. Instead, you have to focus on finding a cricket ground in what will probably be the most rural area of the country you have ever visited.
The most rural ground I have played on was in a village called Sheepscombe (which sounds an awful lot like sheep’s cum, but I digress) where in order to get running water in the pavilion, the players had to manually pump water up the hill that the pitch was situated on.
In terms of actually playing cricket, this part of the afternoon usually turns into a farce. If you are a top order batsman, be prepared to accept that you gave your wicket away by trying to heave the old, wily opening bowler into the next field over cow corner, only to find that he rearranged your middle stump, bowling you cleanly. Also, when batting, expect a bit of sledging from the opposition wicket keeper. However, due to fact that you’re playing cricket in the countryside, the sledges will be neither funny nor witty.
Feel free to use a tactic of mine to combat the country bumpkin sledger: just remind him of how inbred he looks and speculate on the possibility that his sister may well also be his mother. If you are a bowler, no matter how good you think you are, any wickets that you take will not be as a result of your own skill. You will usually take a wicket as a result of either the bloke at the opposite end wielding a cricket bat for the first time or as a result of a dodgy wicket.
An example of this was during the 2013 season when I was bowling for my local village team Wickwar in a harmless Sunday friendly. Now people in South Gloucestershire know me not as Lewis Hill, but as the Wickwar Express.
Think Rawalpindi Express, but less quick, more sweary and more agricultural. Anyway, during one particular match I bowled a full length ball which hit the batsman in the ear.
The next ball I bowled hit pretty much the exact same spot, but instead of bouncing high, kept very low indeed and practically rolled onto the stumps. Suffice to say the batsman I had just dismissed was not best pleased.
Arduous chores of the day will include putting out enough seating on the boundary for the opposition to sit on, collecting in the flags that mark the boundary at the end of the game and having to suffer the sight of the fattest bloke on your team towel-drying his bollocks with one leg up on a chair and the other one on the ground. At the end of the day though, expect both sides to come together in another sport that we Brits are fond of too. Drinking.
The conversation over a pint of the local ale will quickly evolve into a post mortem of the game. The conversation will usually include several outlandish statements. My personal favourite was when we were bowled out for 48 but concluded that we were definitely the better side.