Seasons in the Sun – Part 20 : Vesuvius, the Fly Ball Invertebrate and Finals Aren’t Logical

The old cliché about finals is “best team on the day.” Nothing that has happened during the season matters. Smashings, thrashings, nail-biters, heartbreakers? Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Except we all know, deep down, that prior meetings make a difference. The mental game starts in the favour of whoever won that first clash. And the Lalor Stars beat the mighty Lower Plenty Thirds pretty comfortably back in the home and away season.

However, we notice two things on arrival. Good news, there are only a handful of that team that cruised past our total so many weeks ago. Bad news, one of them is Vesuvius, century maker and “very ugly man” according to his very dry teammates.
“Five bucks!” he yells at The Benevolent Leader, expanding on the Stars’ fascistic all-club fines policy.
“What for?”
“Bringing your whites on a coat hanger.”
“Yeah, but why five?”
“Because it’s double for finals-”
“How is that five?”
“Home ground advantage,” shrugs Vesuvius.

The Benevolent Leader has plans on batting that are scuppered by the coin toss. I’m quietly pleased, as I’ll be working until two tonight, but Wellsy is mightily disgruntled.
“I’ll have to field all day and then tomorrow I’ve gotta leave early to pick my daughter up from a party in Euroa,” he grumbles.
“Wellsy,” magnanimously declares Captain Grumpy, today’s twelfth man, “I’ll take your spot, mate.”
“No,” Wellsy flatly refuses. “I will not have my daughter spend an hour and a half in the car with you.”
“Daddy,” squeaks AT, “that man stinks!”

“Alrighty boys,” grins The Leader in his pre-game address, “here we are! Nothing changes, but let’s enjoy this – at finals!”
“Do you want me up to the stumps to you, Catesy?” asks AT.
For Catesy’s expression, AT may as well have just asked if he would like to bowl without pants.
“No,” he snarls. “You absolutely may not.”

The Leader takes the first over. His fifth ball snicks something on the way through – AT dives but fumbles a low catch. Catesy and Wellsy clearly haven’t seen this as they surge forward from slips, cackling delightedly.
“It didn’t carry,” points out The Leader.
Wellsy and Catesy pause. “No… it bowled him!”
Thirteen heads turn to the stumps, which are indeed void of bails. The unfortunate batsman walks off with an expression that Mike Gatting would describe as openly baffled – he stops, starts and looks back constantly even as he crosses the gate. There’s no doubt about the next ball – a savage off-cutter chops through middle stump to an explosion of celebration: 2/0 off the first over against the most destructive batting side we played against this season.

Catesy stands at the top of his run-up (AT has retreated away from the stumps for the sake of Catesy’s searing pace and fragile ego) and begins to tightly restrict the Stars’ batsmen. At the other end, The Leader clean bowls another victim to a delirious reception and the score is 3/0 off three overs.

From over the fence we hear Vesuvius begin a most sincere phone conversation with Steve, one of the more memorable characters from our last match against the Stars, who is absent at his brother’s wedding.
“I’m telling you: 3/0. What d’ya mean ‘it’s impossible’, I’m watching it happen you stupid bastard! Can’t even get one through slips!”
I’m sincerely hoping Steve isn’t scheduled to make any speeches.

Meanwhile Catesy sends another maiden down, declaring “That’s my fifth in a row.” Bronty walks past the batsman having a mid pitch conference and over hears.

“How about you play a shot and get me off strike?” exhorts Adam the Opener to his partner in their mid-pitch conference. “The big bloke is swinging them both ways and has a lot of bounce.”
His partner replies, “That’s exactly why I am not playing a shot to the offie.”

The overs tick by and the Stars still cannot even get one through slips. Finally a shaky straight drive evades Bronty, whose attempt to stop the gentle ball with his shin fails, and they’re on the board. The Leader, his perfect figures blemished in his sixth over, puts that one away in the memory bank.

Next over, Catesy entices a tentative cut shot that DK holds at point: 4/1 after 12 overs. Into our ecstatic celebration walks Vesuvius, looking like Blackbeard with his furious expression and ghosts of a hasty cigarette curling out of his lips. Catesy’s second delivery visits a different post code, letting us know that it’s game on.
“Alright,” says The Leader, consulting his bowlers in a brief war room discussion, “put one out at cow corner for him?” “Yep,” agrees Catesy.
Vesuvius gambles with two more boundaries evading our sweepers and an edge falling just short of Charmer at first slip. Then, it’s one punt too far: he doesn’t quite get the distance on a slash over mid-wicket off Catesy and Jacko holds a straightforward catch.
“Heart and soul gone, boys!” exclaims The Leader, his wildest dreams folding in front of him.
“Nervy on that one, Jacko?” grins Catesy.
“Well, I had to counter for your off-spin, Greg,” Jacko shoots back.

The Leader and Catesy continue to hound the Stars’ batsmen, isolating Adam the Opener who is yet to succumb. An edge floats past Charmer at first slip. He didn’t have the best of mornings.

Whilst the drama unfolds, I stand at square leg sweating that every short ball Catesy bowls will be a subsequent pull and dropped catch. I’m not helped by some kids playing with a beach ball on the boundary – if I get a skied chance, odds are it’ll roll onto the field and slip me up underfoot.

Just after drinks, Catesy finds an edge straight through to AT to take his third and push the score to 5/28.
“Lucky you weren’t up to the stumps,” Jacko points out innocently.
“That’s another nail in your coffin,” sneers Catesy to Bronty.
“What have I told you?” he replies indignantly. “Old blokes are supposed to stick together and white ant DK and Sheldon!”
“No, I’m in it for myself.”
As Captain Grumpy later observed, you’d position yourself nowhere near Catesy if you were in the trenches.

6/50 at tea, with the best case scenario evolving. As both teams walk towards the W.A Smith clubrooms, we watch the Money Shield match between the Stars and Mernda, which seems to be getting increasingly personal.
“I’ve always thought White Line Fever is just an excuse for being a shit bloke,” opines Captain Grumpy, who has spent the morning patiently counting dot balls in the score book. Twelfth man duties.
“Do you have White Line Fever?”
“No, I’m just a shit bloke,” shrugs Captain Grumpy. He once was dismissed by a hat trick ball, causing the bowler to run around with his shirt pulled over his head à la soccer celebration. Unfortunately, he veered a little too close to the departing Captain Grumpy, who gave a short, sharp whack into his unsuspecting face.

Charmer goes to his wife Grace with a look of general disgruntlement, who has arrived carrying Little Charmer.
“How’s it going?”
“Good, we got ’em six for.”
“Did you get any catches?” she asks hopefully. Unfortunately for Grace, Charmer’s teammates are nearby to fill her in.

By the time play resumes, many of the Lower Plenty Vets have arrived to watch (many others are watching the Seconds). One is Lutty, who has been receiving some unwelcome attention in the Elder’s discussion of who is the worst runner in Lower Plenty’s history. Lutty has, to his credit, brought a spreadsheet with him as evidence of his innocence. “…that one wasn’t my fault, that one was Bowie’s fault, that one was Peter Rice’s fault, those didn’t even happen… so by my count I only have 23 run outs,” he surmises, convinced that he has proven that he was wrongfully accused of 32 career kills. Unfortunately, 23 run outs still makes him the captain-coach of the Worst Runners XI. “It is almost impossible to forget such perfection,” sighs Mick Mash.
“Those decisive calls, the look of horror and anger on your teammates’ face, the majestic way you would turn your back on him and start practising leaving balls…”

With his second ball after tea, DK traps Cutter with a swerving yorker and we have our seventh. This brings Griffo, a man who, by his own estimation, “had a huge one” on Friday night, to the crease. Griffo begins with all the subtlety of his hangover: two fours either side of Huddo at mid-on get the ball rolling on his innings. Soon Huddo himself is feeling the wrath: energy conserving slogs down the ground bring a few more boundaries and it looks like Griffo and Adam may be putting together a decent partnership.

However, Griffo attempts to put Bronty’s next ball into New Zealand and skies it tremendously….towards me.
OK, I got this…I can’t drop three off my father in a season, who’s next to me, damn it, it’s Catesy the Fly Ball Invertebrate, I’ll have to take it, “THERE IT IS!”, it’s getting closer, I can’t drop one in a final, there’s so many people here, DK will mock me, that sky is really grey, I haven’t even gotten a bowl today, it’s getting closer – the ball lands and sticks between my hands and my throat – but it does at least stick and never mind that I fell over catching a ball that was on top of my head. Safe as houses and 8/91.

The Leader returns to close out the tail. Adam, having fought for over two hours for 46, flails a faint edge to AT and is on his way. The final tailender, his task already rendered impossible by his teammates, is bowled by a delivery that, the consensus agrees, he wouldn’t have hit if he had a barn door in his hands. The team that cruised to 250 against us last time has been knocked over, on the same ground, for just 112.

We did, however, just stagger to the finish line last match in our chase of 92 against a side nowhere near this good. So as Charmer and Wellsy walk into the breach once more, the mood is just a little still (except, of course, for Little Charmer, who begins howling as soon as Daddy sets off for work). We get off to a good start: young Stars bowler Luke, having never bowled to Wellsy, decides attack is the best form of defence and fires out a bouncer that is neatly removed from the ground. Hoping that it was just a fluke, he tries another which just sits up even better for another raking pull.

The runs flow but Charmer gets underneath a full toss and pokes back a return catch to Griffo. “Only one who’s happy is Little Charmer,” mutters DK as Little Charmer is returned to Daddy’s arms. “Y’know, I used to cry when my Dad came back, not went away.”

Jacko is brought to the nervy position of closing out the overs.
“Y’know, Jacko’s kind of like a Sound of Music character,” muses Big Chesser.
How so?
“How do you solve a problem like Jackson?”

Jacko has just about every shot, even the most elusive of all; the on drive. His method of dismissal is generally self-distraction: a rash pull shot, an uppish cover drive, a skied cut.
“It’s when you see that front knee go up,” asserts Bronty.
“If you could take a photo of that,” agrees Captain Grumpy, “it’s front page quality. And then the next shot’s him walking off.”

Jacko shows patience, leaving the short ball and just tapping his drives. He and Wellsy move well together, spreading the field and giving no chances until Jacko sweetly times a leg glance. By his own description, he set off as soon as he felt it out of the middle… and didn’t see the short backward square swoop out, calmly throw the ball in and run Wellsy out. The Leader curses furiously, stomping away from the scorebooks to pull the pads on. AT walks out to the crease. “He’ll make lots of runs,” predicts Bronty. “Failed last week and he won’t be here next week…”
Remember this prediction…

AT and Jacko weather the tense storm of the last few overs without shutting up shop entirely, reaching stumps at 2/44 with 69 runs needed on Sunday for victory. Logically, we’re in a fantastic position, but finals aren’t logical. We’ve proven that today already.

Lalor Stars 112
Adam 46
The Benevolent Leader 5/29
Catesy 3/30

Lower Plenty 2/44

 

About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.

Comments

  1. Finals are magnificent. 4/1 off 12 is magnificent.

    Many smiles and laughs in your words Callum.

    Looking forward to the denouement.

  2. I told you last week that you had got the bad one out of your system, and were certs this week. I was going to look for Lower Plenty Third XI on Betfair, but I figured I couldn’t dislike you enough to put that kiss of death on the team.
    Its going to be a big occasion when the Third XI and 500 Almanackers turn up for the premiership pissup.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Go the lower plenty , 3rds go you good things thanks Callum
    ( ditto above ! )

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