The works cricket match
At all levels of cricket, there are matches that harmlessly subvert the conventions of the way the game is usually played. First class cricketers have festival games and benefit matches.
Festival matches should be worth winning, providing the victories be cheerfully sought. Festivals are a freeing of the spirit, a casting of work-a-day shackles.
Club cricketers have tour fixtures, cricket week games and the works cricket match.
I completed my 2012 season on a beautiful late summer evening last month at my club. Eighteen colleagues, one with his son, one ringer and I had played out our third annual company fixture. It had many of the features required of this kind of contest, most crucially that it ended with a victory for the Chief Executive’s team. The attire was as varied as the experience and ability. I introduced pairs cricket this year to avert mismatches and worse, injuries. In the spirit of inclusivity an incrediball was used for the overs batted by our female staff – none of whom had any cricket experience. We also had the novelty of the groundsman’s tractor being mended at wide mid-on/backward point for the early overs of the match.
As a cohesive organisation, we lack the spite and bitterness that can characterise games between colleagues. I can imagine matches built around hierarchy could be the worst – blue collar v white collar as an unseemly extension of first-class cricket’s Gentlemen v Players. We end up eating chilli and chips together passing much needed money across the club bar.
Generally,”proper” cricketers won’t look forward to these games. There’s little to gain and a lot of self-respect to be lost. We still haven’t managed to persuade our company’s sole county cricketer – a handful of JPL Sunday matches twenty years ago – to join us.
One of my club-mates tried to make the most of his company match last year. Davvy, whose running exploits will be known to regular readers, was batting with his Director. Davvy pushed the ball into gaps calling for two’s and three’s. After a couple of overs of this, Davvy’s boss was doubled over, gasping for air. “This is going to kill me”, he puffed. Calmly, Davvy responded, “I know. I want your job.”
Works matches can also provide a opportunity for ambitions to be realised. My Father had been a top-class club cricketer who, once retired, stood firm against pestering from colleagues several times each summer. On one of the few occasions he relented, my Dad agreed to be selected if I could play alongside him. On the day of the game, he upped his demands: Father and Son should be allowed to open the batting.
And so, on the 21 August 1983, D Smith and CP Smith, an all left-hand combination, opened the batting in pursuit of 143. I don’t remember very much of the occasion but, out of character with this type of game, we kept batting and batting. I had plenty of short balls on my pads to pull behind square and my Dad leant into straight drives. Our partnership never reached the proportions of father and son Chanderpaul, but topped the 100 mark, before my Dad was bowled. I followed soon afterwards. The rest of the innings was a procession and we lost the game.
A victory in a works match provides immediate enjoyment and a needle with which to irritate colleagues for a full twelve months. Much more enduring is the pleasure of a partnership that my father created and we then built run-by-run together.