Day 4 – Aust Vs Orcs.
“Clean up the Worcester lads early,” Coach2.0 concluded at breakfast with The Captain and Wicky. “Work the bowlers.”
The bowlers toiled all day full of intent, but the game fizzled like a bunch of dud firecrackers on Guy Fawkes, all pop and whistle, no bang. A draw. Worcester 5/267. No one minded. It was not Guy Fawkes; no disappointed children, no fallible dads or fizzling Dukes. No marks on the shirtfront. No clouds in the sky. No swing or spin as much as might allow.
The folded chairs packed up, the midday spectators departed leaving a huddle of autograph hunters gathered around a clutch of players to mark the effort of four days. The wicket, staked, rested under the groundsman’s care. The curtain fell, the car park reclaimed its dust. No momentum lost; none gained. What value shall the autograph retain?
The Worcester’s invited us to a special evening at an old manor house to a feast of local fare – small game, a side of venison, assorted vegetables and polite conversation. Conventional yet full of West Country yarns, odd dialect, and friendly repartee about our prospects with the Duke on a supposed shirtfront at Trentbridge. We prattled on for an eternity into the evening’s falling night.
The young Worcester prankster who held us out today produced a box of assorted flashlights and challenged the teams to a game of spotlight to cap the evening. No takers of course. Trapper and I ‘chose’ the pen lights. Darren ‘chose’ the Battle of Britain searchlight bolted to concrete foundations in the courtyard. We turned on every light in the upstairs drawing room and drew back period curtains with the support of the British Heritage volunteers to watch the circus.
The Worcesters appeared masked as the English XI. The boy Root had noticeably enlarged cheeks and thighs, and a thickly black beard. Swannie used his laser penlight to spot the trundling Aussie (Coach?) with the game Duke only to find his own shadow in a circle of light pelted by new Kookaburras. There was a lot of tit for tat bruising, occasional oaths and whistling as the combatants sorted things out.
Eventually, the two teams split into bowling and batting hit squads dispensing justice indiscriminately to friend and foe alike. The English top 4 copped a hiding in the parterre led by Puff and the Test quicks from both teams.
The stranded all rounders and wicket keepers, padded up and helmeted, held the beasts at bay long enough to gain the safety of the courtyard and a yew tree sapling. They were later found shirtless and shivering inside a hastily electrified garden fence linked into the mains, protected by small sign from Sarah: ‘Deselected’. Prof stood by to prevent unnecessary accidents.
Back at the hotel, Puff produced the masks of the Top 4 and a few other personal trophies – a spare tooth from Cook, a Worcester jock strap initialed JPLT, Root’s beard and a tube of ‘ECB Swinging Gel for Dukes’ – from his pockets. We examined them all closely over warm milk and cookies. The Freak and The Natural took the gel for further analysis.
A fitting end to an untidy draw.
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OUT NOW – The Ashes Files 2013. The secret applications file that Cricket Australia assembled when they threw applications open to all comers. Ebook available at amazon now.
COMING SOON: Coach2Coach – The story of Australia’s chequered prepartion for the 2013 Ashes, as told by The 17th Man. (Available 7 July 2013)
© 2013 Dave Cornford, Jeremy Pooley & Jock Macneish