Seasons in the Sun (Part 5): Late scratchings and run outs

Clever analysis and predictions are all the rage on Cup Weekend. But when it comes to foreseeing local cricket, well, forget it. Chaos reigns.

Every club in the competition has been struck down by families getting away for the long weekend. The bottom team can conceivably beat the top team when four or five players are suddenly unavailable. The mighty Lower Plenty Thirds are down to just eight starting players – Captain Grumpy has gone on holiday, The Mantis is on school camp, DK will be late and Bronty… well…

“Where’s your Dad?”
“Uh… he’s at a self-imposed home project that’s taken up more time than he anticipated.”
“What is it?”
“It is… the Open Garden Scheme.”

Amusing as it may be, Bronty’s decision to spend half of his Saturday showing Latin-speaking, skivvy-wearing wankers around our garden means that we are well short in the field. As The Benevolent Leader goes to take the toss with the Heidelberg captain, all fingers are crossed that he wins the toss and elects to bat.

No dice.

As Huddo and I are warming up to open, an ominous cloudbank comes hissing towards us from across the valley. Soon, it’s raining and blowing a gale. This is going to be a most testing day.

The Elder Communion are all putting on their thick woollen vests.

“You young blokes don’t have vests, do you?” grins The Charmer.
“It gets in the way of my fielding,” replies Huddo.
The Charmer is understandably baffled by this.
“It gets… in the way… of your fielding?”
“Yeah, because it’s heavy,” I explain.
The truth is, we’re students and vests are expensive. End of story.

On the plus side, we’ve just picked up a couple of subs to fill in the gaps in the field. One is Jika, our Club Assistant Coach who has just had a full knee cartilage reconstruction. The Elder Communion is looking particularly Elder today.
The other is Tony Balcombe, who is, in fact, the father of Louis, one of Heidelberg’s batsmen. The Balcombes and the O’Connors have been having net sessions since Louis and The Mantis met at rep cricket. I’ll give you the conversation that sums up Tony, a cunning spinner, better than any other:
“Y’know, I reckon I remember every ball I’ve ever bowled.”
“Really, Tony? I just remember my good ones.”
“Yeah, me too.”

So as The Benevolent Leader gives his pre-game speech, Tony skulks politely at the back.
“No fine leg today, boys. So we’re going to have to be super tight with our Zone 1 bowling and taking all the chances we get.”

Despite the Leader’s admirably conservative fine leg stance, he’s still packed the slips cordon with Elders. Today is clearly going to be a day of running and bailing out teammates for anyone with a Student Concession Card.

Working in our favour is that Heidelberg seem to have sent their Under 16s team to play. We don’t see a man until the sixth wicket.

The Heidelberg lads hold their ground well, not giving any chances even if the runs aren’t coming. None of them are good enough to dominate in Seniors but they all scrap well. Finally, a hurried leg glance from Scrapper gives us a run out opportunity. Jika is off like a greyhound, closing in on the ball… until his knee fails him at the crucial stage. He completes the final ten steps of the chase by sliding on his stomach like a furiously swearing penguin. From that moment on, he stays rooted to the ground in slips.

At the end of my spell we’ve conceded just 14 runs and are successfully filling time as DK arrives. The Leader sticks me at square leg. This is bad – not because of any fielding requirements but because there’s a baby magpie on the boundary who interrupts my encouragement with its Eric Cartman style whining.
“Let’s go, Noogs!”
“That’s it, Noogs, nice and full!”
Meem meeem meeeeeeem…

Noogs is trying intimidation tactics to unsettle a settled batsman: feigning return throws, finishing his run-through nearly at the crease, that sort of thing. But there’s something else that’s just not working.
“He’s trying to do an intimidating sneer,” I mutter to Trav the Keeper.
“Yeah, I saw that… just looks like a goofy grin.”

The Leader takes our first two wickets with straight yorkers, his bulky frame surging through the wind.

“Alright boys, they’re only doing one an over so we’re executing the game plan well,” the Benevolent Leader surmises as we huddle against that bloody wind.
As we return to the field Charmer taps me on the shoulder.
“I wanna bowl, can you drop a word in for me?”
“No worries.”

The situation is actually perfect for The Charmer’s hypnotic slow-slow-mediums: two established but super defensive batsmen trying to survive to tea. I pass this on to the Leader.


As the ball goes through to Trav again we pass it around. Charmer pointedly bowls the ball to Maestro at cover with the Benevolent Leader watching. Is it enough to convince him?

The over ends. The Leader turns to call to the scorers.
“New – Bowler. J – Mechkaroff.”
The Charmer is on.

The Charmer’s first five are tantalisingly wide of off. We can see the batsman restraining himself desperately. This looks promising.
The final ball is full and on off, the perfect change up. The batsman advances, then freezes: the ball is hanging in the ether, ruining his timing. He just taps it. Disappointing, really.
The Charmer’s day is done. We all scurry off for tea as it starts raining sideways.
The Charmer’s grinning his head off.
“I’ve gotta text Captain Grumpy and tell him I got a bowl before him.”
As if the weather hadn’t spoiled Grumpy’s holiday enough…

Four overs after tea, we’ve taken two more wickets through run outs. With a happy coincidence, the Senior Coach Dick Emery is there to see them. He’ll be happy with us. The second of them is Louis Balcombe, which allows Tony to scamper off the ground, his selfless good deed done, just as Bronty arrives.

“Please welcome… the President of the Open Garden Society!” the Leader loudly declares.
Bronty stands sheepishly at backward square regretting his life decisions.

Another communication mix-up between Scrapper and Scrapper #4 gifts a Maestro/Trav run out as our sixth wicket just before drinks. Jika points out that there are 12 overs to go and asks The Benevolent Leader if he’ll bowl himself. At this point, all the Leader can see is a vulnerable tail. “Yes. Yes, I will.”
It’s like Colonel Kilgore from Apocalypse Now has been reincarnated in a Lower Plenty vest: he surveys the field and declares “Smells like… wickets.

Heidelberg finally manages to get some runs going between Not A Scrapper and Not A Scrapper #2. The Leader gives me the nod to come back on.

First ball, the batsman drives uppishly to Wellsy at mid-off.

At this point, Wellsy has a brief moment of amnesia. Forgetting that he is fifty and an inept fielder, he takes a flying leap with one outstretched hand. Unfortunately he comes to himself as the ball hits his mitt. It goes down.
“Sorry Caro.”
“Don’t worry Wellsy; I didn’t think you’d take it.”
And I walk off feeling better.

As this seventh wicket stand reaches 50 runs, The Charmer bravely recommends a fielding change to the Benevolent Leader.

“Hey, you and Noogs should swap so we don’t have two dinosaurs standing next to each other – ”
“No. It’s good.”

Nonetheless, the Leader breaks a 53 run stand to take his fourth wicket and another run-out chance is calmly converted by Trav, who’s having a ripper day.

DK is the only junior member of the team to be wearing a vest. As the vest resists his attempts of wrestling it back on after the completion of his over, he demonstrates why the rest of us have foregone them… to the amusement of the Elder Communion.
“DK, there are three holes,” calls Bronty. “Try the middle one.”

Unfortunately for the Leader, just as it seems that he might be the only bowler to take a wicket, DK steps in to take the final two as Heidelberg begin to sink in panic. The last two wickets are difficult, swirling, high balls, which Maestro and Charmer take respectively. Heidelberg are all out for 114. We all run off from the bloody miserable weather. I almost feel sorry for Captain Grumpy. He’s banked his holiday on good weather and gotten stitched up. I feel sorrier for The Mantis, though: his camp is at Mt Bogong…

I check my phone. There’s a text from my mate Rhys.

can u come to poker? 
no im at cricket
y do u spend all saturday playing cricket

He doesn’t get it. Today, against the odds of the Cup Weekend, Melbourne Weather and the Coin Toss, the Lower Plenty Thirds came out on top. A great, unified effort like that beats poker.

go forth and fornicate thyself 
maybe I will

Heidelberg 114
Not A Scrapper 28
Not A Scrapper #2 26
The Benevolent Leader 4/16
DK 2/25


About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.


  1. The artist formerly known as Bronty says

    Callum hasn’t put the Wellsy drop catch into full context. Wellsy said he saw it hit high and thought it was going over his head. He pushed off one leg to catch the ball above his head ( thankfully he didn’t claim to be jumping off the ground, as that hasn’t happened since the years had a 2 in from of them). He said his brain was still trying to push upwards when the wind caught the ball and it fell to him at waist height. At that point part of his body was still trying to go upwards and his catching arm went towards the ball. The outcome. Wellsy looked like a clock with one arm pointing to 12 o’clock and the other to 9o’clock with one leg firmly stuck on the ground at 6 o’clock.

    No one was surprised when he dropped the catch.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Love your stories , Callum a good effort with not having 11 . Good luck in the run chase this Saturday

  3. Peter Fuller says

    I’m not a cricketer, so this suggestion is probably gratuitous. I wonder if a thermal undershirt would be an economical substitute for a vest, given that Melbourne’s spring weather means that you need some protection.

  4. The artist formerly known as Bronty says

    Peter, Callum does have a thermal vest and skins, however to wear them you need to plan ahead. However this is a challenge to our younger brigade

  5. Sue O'Connor says

    Victory to the Lower Plenty Thirds because of (in spite of?) the talent on the park.

    And I’m with you Callum. Why would anyone give up the delights of cricket in a cold thunderstorm for the option of having gardening types wandering around your rose garden that you’ve spent years and thousands of hours tending….

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