Cricket in Surlingame
by Kitley Wellington
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
The village ground was in a perfect shape for a weekend match. It just so happened that the construction at Yorkshire Cricket Club’s home ground had caused much distress and Surlingame had been kind enough to let them use the village ground until the construction was complete.
Consequently, the cricket ground and the pavilion were touched up here and there; the grass was given a nifty trim, and an innocent roller was approached with the task of flattening the pitch with a fervor that makes everything roll. The County Cricket Assoc. established a new caretaker, Mr. Joggers, a chump who would have been a perfect umpire.
Lord Beaverton’s team included his butler, Meadows; the wicked mechanic, Bellringer, who charged a shilling for a puncture and tore rubber patches with his bare hands; the village constable, Mr. Gould, whose regular waist expansion had distressed many a chair in the village, resulting in the procurement of new chairs quarterly at Her Majesty’s expense; and several others who worked on his estate.
The village team had luminaries like Rollins, Saunders, Rev. Beamsby, and the schoolteacher, Mr. Naismith, along with several other honest men of the soil who had played some form of cricket.
Lord Beaverton won the toss and elected to bat. Despite its being 25 years after his last match in blue, he was still a good bat, and opened his innings with a boundary through the square leg. Bellringer was down at the non-striker’s end, and had received a clear instruction to hold his wicket and withstand any temptations of breaking eggs in the nearby nests and the scoreboard alike. He did so, and the score went to 15 without a loss after 3 overs.
Seeing Lord Beaverton’s impeccable timing, the village team realized they needed to target the other end, and that is what was troubling Saunders, who was skipping the side. Bellringer was still at the crease despite missing a couple of lollipops, and for every ball that refused to unsettle him, he saw the whole match slowly dragging itself away from being settled in Surlingame’s favor, for Lord Beaverton could have easily scratched another 40-50 runs in 10 overs. He asked Dr. van BonkHorse, who was keeping behind the wicket, to sledge, as he took the ball in his own hands.
Dr. van BonkHorse, while on a regular day as humble as a tortoise and deeply pedestrian about maligning the opposition, was not altogether very pleased with Bellringer’s character and clutched this opportunity to his bosom. Along with the rubber patches, Bellringer, on several attempts, had tried to lacerate Dr. van BonkHorse’s mechanical abilities with his bare hands, giving him the much-needed incentive for this behind-the-wicket slander.
First ball was a grubber, and Bellringer jumped, thinking the ball was going to bounce, and the ball hit him on the thigh.
‘If you are wondering where the bat is, it is still in your hands,’ Dr. van BonkHorse said, and the slips and the gully giggled.
Bellringer looked a bit rattled, and he tried to hit the next ball over mid-wicket, but completely missed, and the ball ended up in Doctor’s hands.
‘Rollins here in the slip is wondering if you could play for his team in the next golf tourney at the Waltham Club.’
Saunders knew what his next ball needed to do, and he delivered a lifter that caught Bellringer by surprise, as any other delivery in the world would have, took a top edge and landed safely in the hands of the first slip, Rollins.
The rest of the innings was eventless as wickets leaked from the other end, and the scoreboard said 100 as the last wicket fell and the batsmen returned to the pavilion. Lord Beaverton stood not out at 65.
Although the villagers had known about Lord Beaverton being a blue, they had forgotten to get information on Meadows, who apparently had been in Shropshire’s reserved eleven before joining Lord Beaverton’s workforce, and that, even God knew, was their bloomer. The pitch was treacherous and the village team was 10 for 1 after 3 overs, and that’s when Lord Beaverton pulled his ace; he gave the ball to Meadows.
Meadows was an off-spin bowler, and with the aid of this pitch, he moved the ball in so quickly and so late, sometimes both and sometimes exclusively, that even a weathered batsman’s judgment would have gone for a toss. The only runs they could get off were from the alternate over, and even those overs only yielded 3-4 runs.
By the time they broke for lunch, the score was 45-6, and the outside roads now carried a sallow look about them as they convinced themselves to get ready for the driving toggle.
The village team gathered round the table, and Saunders spoke first. ‘We have to tackle Meadows. I don’t know how, but somehow. Doctor, any ideas?’
‘Oh, Geese! I don’t know. Get runs off the second bowler. Play for a draw. Spear Meadows while running at the non-striker’s end,’ Doctor said.
‘Let’s at least get to 100 first and then give them something to nibble. We should be careful with our bowling. I heard Lord Beaverton talking to the umpire and he won’t allow any sledging in the second innings.’
The teams returned to the field, but as fate often does when we are hoping it doesn’t, turning life into a sticky wicket; I mean, the village team suffered at Meadows’ hands, who turned in ball after ball wearing invisible oiled gloves, and soon his hand that turned the ball rocked Surlingame’s fate. They were all out for 85.
As Lord Beaverton’s team returned to bat, it was almost 2:00 pm, and it looked like the match was already in their bag, or rather Meadows’ bag. As a result, they played an extremely careless innings, and were all out within an hour, putting 65 on the board, giving the village a total of 80 to chase. When they went in for tea, the village was 15-3, Meadows already having sent one in for a duck.
The forlorn brows at the village table sat cross, looking at each other, contemplating moving out of Surlingame as the last resort. As Saunders went to the kitchen to get some hot water to nurse his swollen pinkie, he saw a small box with Dr. van BonkHorse’s name at the bottom. It was the powder that the Doctor had given to Mr. Joggers for his drainage choke. Mr. Joggers had used some powder, as the salubrious drain showed off, while some of it still hung around in the box. As the kettle whistled, Saunders got an idea, and he loafed about the kitchen, waiting for the maid to arrive.
She was one of those vivacious girls who, seeing another human being, feels like sharing every single thing that had happened in the last fifteen minutes, even if it meant referring to people the other party didn’t give a rat’s about.
‘Father has been marvelous, hasn’t he?” she said.
‘Oh, Meadows, I mean. He is my father. He wants his tea in a bigger cup, he said. Needs some restoration, he does,’ she said daughtron-izingly, and began arranging cups in a big tray.
She put a big blue cup in the center and started pouring tea in each one. As she went to the cupboard to get the tin of biscuits, Saunders quickly slipped some powder from that box into the big blue cup and waited until it hit the bottom. As the maid returned to her post, he thanked her for the hot water and returned to his team’s table. All he hoped now was for the powder to work its wonders, and he registered a buoyant look with Dr. van BonkHorse with a twinkle in his eye.
‘Anything the matter, Saunders?’ Doctor asked.
‘Oh, nothing. I am a bit buoyed now. The wicket has stopped turning, did you see?’
‘Well, its not going to stop Meadows. Today, we will fall even for the straightest of his balls.’
‘A tea break is what we needed. I think we will be able to pull this off. Doctor, how long before your drainage mixture works its charms?’
‘Umm... I should say twenty minutes. Why? You got problems in your kitchen too?’
‘Oh, no. Just curious.’
For people not from the cricketing world, it might be good to know that the tea break is for twenty minutes.
The next fifteen minutes were the most anxious in Saunders’ life as he watched Meadows drink from the blue cup. Meadows having bowled the last over, the ball stood in Gould’s hands, and Saunders, who was at the non-striker’s end gave him a jaundiced look, as he shined it by scrubbing it against his white pants.
Naismith, at the upper end, wanting to capitalize on this over, started with a double, and then hit two boundaries in a row, much to Gould’s chagrin. Gould, for revenge is a saucy wench, took a longer run-up for his fourth delivery, with the intentions of a beamer, but by the time he released the ball he became so distraught carrying all the weight that the ball missed even the second slip by a mile and went for four byes.
The total had gone to 35 when the umpire signaled the end of over, and the ball was given to Meadows. Saunders, at the non-striker’s end, wondering if Doctor’s powder, like any of his other medicine, ever worked, looked with goggly eyes at Meadows as Lord Beaverton shined the ball for him while promising him a yearly bonus or two.
Meadows bowled the first ball and it bounced awkwardly just before Naismith’s bat, spun outwards and went into the keeper’s hands. The next two balls were fuller-length balls, and Naismith hit a single on the second one, and Saunders was on strike. The next ball took a nasty late turn, but Saunders saw it early and sweetly trapped it with his bat, the ball barely covering a feet, and as it is a gentleman’s game, and Saunders was as gentlemanly a gentleman could get, he went towards the ball, picked it up and flicked it towards Meadows.
Some generous, anglophile butterflies somewhere had flapped their wings, creating their familial effect, causing Meadows to grab the ball and try to gobble it whole. When he realized it was impossible to do so, he started nibbling the seam.
‘Hay! He is tampering with the ball,’ Saunders exclaimed, with his bat pointing towards Meadows, his screech causing Mr. Joggers to jog out of his slumber.
Having missed the action, Mr. Joggers called over the two captains to find out what had happened. Lord Beaverton might have been whimsical with his demand that Surlingame drive on the right side of the road, but he was someone who always called a spade a spade. After discussing with Joggers, and what everyone would have considered a rational decision, it was decided that Meadows be sent back to the pavilion and Lord Beaverton’s team were to play with 10 men.
Saunders wanted a straight victory to be awarded to them, but considering Lord Beaverton’s position as a village patron, he scurried off and resumed his position in front of the wickets. The game resumed with Gould bowling the rest of the over, and with his considerable help, the village team suddenly struck an uplifting form.
It was only 6 o’clock when the village team ran their 81st run to win the match, and peace flowed freely that night at The Governess as Surlingame celebrated their much-deserved victory.
As Rev. Beamsby walked down the main street the next morning, he saw Lord Beaverton’s car tromping along the left, and as he heard him say, ‘Hoy, Reverend!’, he reveled much in the fact that the match hadn’t left him cross after all.
Copyright © 2016 by Kitley Wellington