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ONE OF THE BEST EXCUSES IN VILLAGE CRICKET

Written by Blake Jones

In 2020 I saw the best excuse for not giving 100% over the orange rope; we don’t get white lines around here.

Chris, a capable all-rounder who plays for us reported a knee “niggle” to Jed, our Saturday skipper towards the end of last summer. It wasn’t a big deal; he bowled a lot of overs with his right-arm medium-fast with the new ball in 2019 but made a transition to batsmanship for 2020, so he would be able to field, and it wouldn’t be a problem while batting.

He limped to his COVID-secure changing spot as the old knee was giving him a bit of gyp, and this sense of pain was further compounded when we lost the toss and had to bowl. It is worth noting that winning the toss and bowling no matter the conditions is Jed’s favourite pastime bar the Exmoor ales; losing the toss actually felt like a minor victory.

Chris had informed everyone that he could only take the field if he stood in the cordon, so he eased his way into proceedings at second slip. Our new ball pair weren’t as threatening as usual, with Toby going at 3.73 an over. Pressure builder, my bottom. My economy for the innings was an ugly 11, and as I was only trusted with one over in the innings (I tend to bowl 4 overs of looseners to settle; leg-spin is an art), Jed was looking around frantically for options.

We do have a lot of guys who can bowl good overs at our level but when your frontline bowlers are disappearing to all corners (risky including myself in there, we have no other senior leg-spinners) it takes real strength of character to pull through the pain barrier and run up the hill for the team.

However, this is amateur sport and dignity is ultimately the most important thing; surely no one would actually risk an injury and bowl some overs, bearing in mind he had a football season to stay fit (?) for.

Chris started to wave his arms.

Without an operation, without intensive sports massage, without any physiotherapist attention, or indeed any indication that he was going to come on from his captain, Chris’ knee was healing in front of our very eyes and suddenly, we had another guy to turn to when the chips were down.

A few practice deliveries at midwicket in between balls, and we just knew then we were witnessing a Herculean effort for the shirt.

By this time, I was long out of the attack and at second slip; I alerted Jed who fields at first about what I was seeing, and he did confirm that it wasn’t a symptom of 0-11-off-one-over-itis and Chris really was expecting to get a go here.

He passionately reassured us that he was good to go, so purely for our own entertainment Chris came on the next over. The best that could happen was that he aggravated the “issue” and had to spend the rest of the season in an enforced recuperation period, so we took the possibility of him mopping up the tail as a bonus.

Unfortunately, neither desirable outcome panned out. He bowled 8 overs for 38 and got one wicket. The funniest thing was seeing him try to keep up the façade in between balls; he was clearly running in and bowling with no problem, but he just had to limp in his follow through. I only wish I’d bowled better earlier in the innings so his hopping could have served as footmarks for me.

He was bowling a lot slower than he did before, but this was largely down to not having bowled a proper spell in a calendar year. We still made sure to tell him that he was thumping the keepers’ gloves hard and that he was looking a real threat on a typically spiteful home pitch.

As far as I remember, there weren’t too many antics in between overs; in fact, he looked sprightlier in the field in the middle of that spell than he ever had for us before. It was a truly commendable effort, but he must be the worst actor that I have ever seen.

He went at nearly 5 an over but in the face of adversity he bowled a selfless spell that led us to victory in the end; we chased down 169 with 6 wickets to spare. There was personal redemption of sorts for me as I ended not out on 54, but Chris’ injury problems will forever be what I remember that match for.

We are about to get going again this year and I hope that he feels some minor pain in his thumb or something before he hits a chanceless, match winning century to decide the league in September. The odds are fairly good considering he’s now a batsman.