Short pitch: Bowl off!
There were puddles on the square when we arrived. With rain through the night and into the morning, the game could have been called off at breakfast, if not at last orders the evening before. But we needed a result. It was a cup game and this round had to be completed today.
The visiting coach, showing a loss of confidence in his team, or more likely, fancying a Sunday morning in bed, had suggested a coin toss. His affection for his bed was clear when he arrived last, minutes before the tie-breaker was to take place. By that time the rules and the ‘what ifs’ had been agreed and percolated amongst the players and the parents, hunching in overcoats and stamping their feet, from cold, not impatience.
A set of stumps stood at the far end of one net lane. The bowlers run up was enclosed, too, not by netting, but the teammates and parents seeking a view. “Keep the ball dry. Keep it off the floor,” wise heads advised, although none of us watching had experience of this particular method of deciding a cricket match.
Bowlers from each team alternated – one delivery each. Two early strikes from our team, then one back from the visitors. The bowlers were trusting to their normal run ups, not thinking accuracy would come slow and steady. Around half-way through their order, an equalising strike. There were ‘oohs’ for close calls and only one delivery found netting before passing the stumps. Had there been a batsman, his front-foot play outside off-stump would have been tested.
2-2 after all twenty two youngsters had bowled. The rain returned as the tie-breaker moved into sudden death. Our second bowler had struck in the first round. Tall and lean, with a whippy action, his short of length ball skidded on the wet astro. Shaping for a good LBW shout in a match, it went on umimpeded to strike the leg stump half-way up. A 3-2 lead that would need an immediate response if the contest was to continue. The visitor’s ball went leg-side and the home team, our team, had a cup victory.
Hand-shakes, commiserations, photos of our double-strike star – on his club debut! Then back home by 10.20am. Back to bed, maybe, for the visiting coach.