Seasons in the Sun (Part 3): The Charms of Cricket

Anyone who claims that cricket is a boring spectator sport has clearly never watched with the Lower Plenty Thirds.

As we all watch our batting performances go from commanding to constricted and everywhere in between on Saturday against Diamond Creek, our concise play-by-play analysis remakes each ball anew.

The Thirds have had a shuffling of the line up for the first two day match of the season: Mantis has gone to open the Twos in exchange for Wellsy, while Captain Grumpy has returned from the Fourths, bringing The Charmer with him.

The Charmer is the owner of the best nickname at Lower Plenty. A bowler of slow, loopy medium pacers, Charmer is nonetheless a proficient wicket taker. It’s almost as if, as was once noted, he hypnotises the batsmen… like a snake charmer.
The extended metaphor reached its peak when one wag brought a flute onto the ground, hidden in his sock, and played it when The Charmer got a wicket. His team swayed like cobras and The Charmer hid his surprise well.

The Charmer’s selection brings the mighty Thirds to a total of five old blokes, including the Benevolent Leader and Bronty. Our slip cordon is going to be an Elder Communion.

.“Y’know, Trav”, I say to our 16 year old keeper. “You’re going to be the first ever keeper who has to fetch all the byes.”

We lose the toss and bat. This, according to Bronty, is a good sign because it suggests that Diamond Creek are a weak batting team looking to avoid an outright defeat. Or they’re a really good bowling team. Whichever.

“Right”, booms the Benevolent Leader in his pre-game address. “The main thing I want is that we’re one or two down at tea. Then, being consolidated, we’ll look to score and then really get going in the last ten or fifteen.”

The Charmer and Wellsy open the batting. I sit behind the scorebooks and the Lower Plenty Commentary Team takes the microphone.

We get off to a fantastic start. Wellsy’s flat pull shots are balanced out by The Charmer’s rainmaking cut shots.
They’re both helped, admittedly, by Diamond Creek’s slow fielders. To nick a line from Gideon Haigh, they don’t chase the ball to the boundary as much as escort it.

“We used to have a name for these kind of blokes”, grins Captain Grumpy. “Armaguard Officers.”

Captain Grumpy turns his critical eye to The Charmer’s batting as a poorly timed off drive rolls downhill for four.

“Y’know, last match I was batting with Charmer and he was going on and on, complaining about how his shots weren’t going anywhere. After a while, I just said, “Charmer, it’s ’cause you hit it like a bitch.””

We look up as The Charmer waves to us, pointing at something to our left. We figure it’s nothing and ignore him.
Next over, he’s a little more specific.
“Glare – off – windscreen”, he calls slowly.
We turn our heads to see a van wickedly twinkling on the on-drive boundary.
As The Benevolent Leader sees to the problematic and distracting car, Bronty sniggers.
“Batsmen. The cyclists of cricket.”
The Lower Plenty Commentary Team agrees. Well, we’re largely bowlers. Noble workhorses.
“We were once fielding at Greensy,” DK chips in, “and there was a barbeque happening the street over. And the batsman came up to the umpire and said he was getting distracted by their singing.”
Yes, batsmen, alright.

A new bowler comes on to try to halt our runs. He ambles in off two steps and delivers slow but precise inswingers. He lifts their over rate and drops our run rate, eventually having Wellsy caught behind for 36.

“This bloke’s alright,” muses Benevolent Leader. “No Fox, though.”
The Communion of Elders chuckles appreciatively as they remember the legendary Lower Plenty outswinger.
“I knew a bloke who batted against Fox”, recalls Wellsy. “He snicked one and was given not out. Fox didn’t look at the umpire. He just looked at him and said, ‘Walk or you’ll regret it.’
“I asked, ‘Did you walk?’ ‘Nope’. ‘Did you regret it?’ ‘Yep.’”

I once opened in a Grand Final that Fox was umpiring. Chasing 65, I made 15 off 60 after a collapse, taking us to the point of victory. Walking off, Fox muttered to me, “You bat like a bowler.” I took it as a compliment.

The Charmer gets going; reaching his fifty with what must be his millionth cut shot. Two Steps keeps plugging away, getting Bronty with a very innocuous half-volley.

The Benevolent Leader sails to the crease and Diamond Creek bring a spinner on from the other end. The Lower Plenty Commentary Team reconvenes.
“So they’ve put a square leg, short backward square, short fine leg and a leg slip in… I reckon we’ve got a fairly rubbish off-spinner.”
Rubbish or not, the scoring slows. We’ve underestimated the canniness of Diamond Creek’s field placement.

“I used to play juniors for Diamond Creek,” comments Nashy.
“You recognise these guys?”
“Nah, the guys I knew are all gone for being racists.”
I turn in horror. “WHAT?”
Nashy seems confused by my reaction.
“For the Spring Carnival.”
Oh.
Races.
Right.

The Charmer’s airy cut shot finally brings him undone for 81. Two Steps is proving infuriatingly incessant.
Despite himself, The Charmer laughs as he walks through the gate.
“I was just thinking, ‘Oh, I must be close to a hundred…’”
Pride and a fall and all that….

Captain Grumpy, after his usual banter with the slips, charges down the pitch at Two Steps and is hit on the toe.
The umpire raises a finger and Grumpy ill-disguises his surprise.
“I tell ya, you young blokes,” he spits. “Next week, you’ll be hearing me say a few words to them… nothing more annoying than mouthy shit blokes.”
I’ve heard Captain Grumpy’s idea of ‘a few words’ before. The sheer intensity is as impressive as the quantity. Diamond Creek really don’t know what they’ve gotten themselves into.

The Benevolent Leader, sensing the need to regain control, bunkers down, denying The Maligned Spinner.
Actually, ‘denying’ is an understatement. Rather, he steps forward and collapses onto the bounce like a mountain. ‘You shall not pass’ has never been so emphatic.

Maestro and Huddo both fall for 6. This match is now in a decidedly boring situation at 6/144.
I step away from the scoring book and put the pads on.
I didn’t bat in either one day game. My current game plan could have come from the Gold Coast Suns: if you’re on strike, get off strike and get the Benevolent Leader on strike. Simple.
Nashy and the Leader put their heads down, working singles off The Maligned Spinner. Then they start hitting boundaries.
Just when it looks like the fun could really get going, a scorching Benevolent Leader drive rebounds off Diamond Creek’s mid-off… and runs Nashy out.

I’m in.
I run out, applying my belief that you should always be ready to bat well before the fielders are ready to bowl.
“Heads down, we still have ten overs. Backing up,” the Leader commands.
“They’re not attacking the ball, so really push the first,” I offer.

Thankfully, Two Steps has bowled his full spell so I’m against a fresh bowler.
His first is a slow inswinger and I almost flick it through midwicket for four.
A wider straight one drifts across me and I’m desperately close to slashing it through point.
A quicker yorker and he’s lucky that my straight drive doesn’t go the boundary.
End of the over and I haven’t broken my duck.

I still haven’t when The Benevolent Leader snicks a leg stump half-volley to the keeper.
“Bat the overs,” he orders before sailing off.

DK joins me. We’ve batted once before: he met me with the score at 9/139 chasing 151. He made ten runs and then I went out. I still owe him.
That plan starts well: I do my best to run him out when I ignore his call for a single.
I think of apologising. I will.
“Sorry, but you’re missing the ball. I want Trav out here, he can hit it.”
And I walk off feeling better.

DK is bowled trying to hook, bringing Trav to the crease.
“We have to be here at the end. And they’re not attacking the ball, so really push the first.”
Unlike The Benevolent Leader, Trav takes my advice with intent. A bump off the thigh pad and he’s away… but now he’s facing the last over. Another bump and I’m back on strike. Time for shots.

The bowler steers a straight one onto middle stump. I wind up for a colossal drive… which just plops in front of mid-off. We scurry through for a single.
I’m back on strike for the last ball. I wind up for a colossal drive… and slice a simple catch to Two Steps.

We finish at 204. If Bronty is right, Diamond Creek will be in trouble against our potent bowling attack.
The Charmer, meanwhile, recovers from his cut shot heroics by playing with his baby daughter. A Saturday afternoon legend.

Lower Plenty 204
The Charmer 81
The Benevolent Leader 38
Wellsy 36
Two Steps 5/31

About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.

Comments

  1. Callum – every time I read one of your pieces, I think “I knew a bloke just like that 30 years ago.” Our leading bowler trundled high turning donkey drops that seemed to hypnotise before the dismissal – just like the Charmer.
    I could hear Chips Rafferty or Bart Cummings using some of your banter. Great to know that not everything has been Americanised.
    Keep ’em coming.

  2. Callum O'Connor says

    Peter-
    Just thought I’d let you know that Charmer’s description as a Saturday afternoon legend is an amalgmation from your comment last week. Cheers!

  3. Dr Goatboat says

    Ah, the flannel fools back in action…..I am reminded of opening the batting with Rofey for old Ignatians….A3 or thereabouts….he was 80, I was 10…..a quick single…..the throw to his end curved and ran me out at the other…….to be met by curses and disappointment from The Salisbury fielders….. What a heartbreak game.
    Interested to hear how Diamond Creek fared….

  4. Malcolm Rulebook Ashwood says

    Fantastic as usual , Callum and PB is spot on you transport us to games and memories from well back always smile inwardly reading your weekly reports . Dr Goatboat Rofey who was elevated to a member of the Ad Uni FC Hall of Fame at Pres night last week I can imagine forward defence would not have been his strength ? Thanks Callum

  5. Great stuff. I love cricket stories, and especially the one in which a bloke brings a flute out, hidden in his sock. There’s rich narratives when cricket, humour and story meet. Thanks Callum.

  6. Well played Callum.

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