Seasons in the Sun (Part Nine): “Survivor Bowling”

L-R: Syed, AT, Heata, Bronty, Wellsy, The Charmer, Maestro, Caro, Josh, DK

L-R: Syed, AT, Heata, Bronty, Wellsy, The Charmer, Maestro, Caro, Josh, DK

Once again, The Benevolent Leader’s coin toss wisdom has extended through the week.
After batting all through a slow, hot day, the mighty Lower Plenty Thirds arrive at a mild, cloudy Mill Park College.

We’re defending 351 against a side that hasn’t made 250 this season – even I, with the trauma of repeatedly snatching defeat from the jaws of victory over the seasons, am putting this one in the book.

In an age of reality TV, The Leader has decried that today shall be Survivor: Bowling.
Currently, The Leader and I are established bowlers but our other four haven’t nailed down either their positions in the order or in the team. For Syed, Bronty, DK and Heata, it’s Showdown.
Given Catesy has taken seven wickets in the Fourths after returning from involuntary retirement, all contestants know he has been granted Immunity and will be in the team next game.

Contestant One, Syed, enters the crease. He’s a big bloke, offering The Leader something his competition lacks: genuine pace and intimidating bounce. As he delivers a scorching off-cutter to remove the Mill Park opener with his fourth ball, The Leader salivates hungrily; he has a team full of economical bowlers and now he has a Wild Card.
Indeed, The Leader indicates a hitherto unimaginable demonstration of affection: Syed runs up the pitch to request a short cover and The Leader obliges. The long-suffering Bronty, who would receive a kidney from The Leader sooner than an approved fielding change, is apoplectic.
“Well, Syed’s idea was actually a good one,” shrugs The Leader flatly.
“Do you have to run up and beg to get a fielding change?” asks The Charmer.
The Leader briefly considers this one but then decides not to get pulled into it.

Contestant Two, DK, enters the crease. DK is The Cleaner: any stubborn tail-enders are soon threatened by his steady, full pitched bowling.
However, opening batsmen are a different proposition: more patient, more practised, they shut him out and then pick off the occasional errant delivery. An on drive gently trickles through Wellsy and Bronty, the Burke and Wills of stopping quick singles. The Leader decides that a fielding change is in order.
“Maestro!” he barks. “You go to mid-on, Wellsy to short cover.”
I point out to The Leader that, with the Bronty-Wellsy-AT triumvirate on duty, the area between mid-off and cover may as well now be the Bermuda Triangle. He ignores this.
Hell hath no stubbornness like a bowling captain.

Contestant Three, Heata, stands at the top of his run. He whips in for his first ball, snaps through- “No ball!” -and a good length delivery is softly snicked through to Josh the ‘Keeper for a sterile catch.
This proves an unfortunate catalyst for Heata’s spell: French cuts, plays and misses, wild swings that land safe and then go for runs just to rub salt in the wounds.

Contestant Four, Bronty, holds the wearying ball in his hand, pushing his glasses up his nose. He’s one of the team’s few inswing bowlers, with an accuracy that he always denies exists. He slowly surges forwards, pushing at the air as if it’s thickening around him.
Aiming a foot outside off stump to allow his deliveries to drift in and cramp the batsman, he’s always frustrated by deliveries that don’t budge, or are too wide, or are too straight. The inswinger’s lot is not that different to a spinner’s. Bronty tries to attack the middle stump but can’t stop his movement, testing Josh’s footwork. The Leader, whose bowling premise is don’t-think-just-bowl, is bound to be unimpressed.
Bronty finally clips off stump as the batsman shoulders arms – “I was celebrating before it even hit the stumps” says Heata dryly.
An over later an inswinger strikes the batsman on the knee roll as he steps backwards, protecting his stumps. Bronty begs a roaring appeal.
The umpire slowly thinks, lips slipping in the breeze, before mumbling, “I think there were two noises.”
“He would have given it if he hadn’t been umpiring,” says DK innocently to Charmer.

Of the four contestants, it’s tough to say who will be safe come Selection Night.

The Leader shows the Survivor contestants how it’s done by taking 3/3 and cleverly dropping a regulation slips catch off my bowling to preserve the current match situation.
“Can I have a second slip?” I ask politely.
“Can I have a different first?”
Truck, the Mill Park captain, begins to dispatch any half-volleys I bowl over midwicket. As tea falls, I consult Bronty for advice.
“Keep it full,” he replies. “We’ll put a bloke out at cow-corner and cut him off. He’ll either dry up or go out.”
Wellsy offers the probable approach that Truck will be taking; an impossible total, a shaky middle order, a captain’s responsibilities. We plan accordingly: enticing bowling, a challenging field. The sandwich table becomes the war room. Our strategies are sorted. Truck will dry up or go out.

Syed, brought back into the attack, stands waiting and glowering at Truck as The Leader refines the field. He hammers in, leans back and…. releases a rubbish short ball that floats up for the pull. Truck swings, top edges and is held at fine leg by DK.
“Well,” I mutter. “That was incredibly easy.”
The rest of the day is a real slog – the Mill Park lower order shows considerable determination to make it to stumps. In particular, a skinny bloke called Raheel reinvents the rulebook, charging short balls and leaping sideways for half volleys, scoring runs on parts of the ground that the ball never normally visits. It becomes as infuriating as it is fascinating: how do you defend something that you have never seen before?

Raheel’s weirdly effective, effectively weird style brings up his 50 – The Leader decides on a similarly left-field bowling change.
AT – one of those guys always wheedling the captain for a bowl with neither the belief nor the hope that he will be approved – stops warily.
“You’re on.”
The majority of us have never seen AT bowl, but we can guess that we’re not about to see a short, bald Dale Steyn rip up the crease.
After two consecutive no-balls, that much is confirmed.
“Good start, Glenn Trimble,” encourages AT’s comrade-in-arms Wellsy.
But then a softly ambling half volley is skied by Raheel. Sitting under it is Wellsy, who holds the catch to complete an unexpected successful experiment.
“How am I going to explain to everyone ‘caught Wells bowled Tenni’?” explodes The Leader.
Incredibly, AT isn’t done; the following deceptively harmless off stump ball is driven straight to DK, who holds another catch.
Suddenly, the mighty Thirds are alive. Some men are born great. Others bowl slow-slow mediums and have hat tricks thrust upon them.
We crouch in around the bat, waiting with bated breath.
AT thunders in, ripping a thunderbolt at his victim that slowly turns, fades down leg and bumbles off the pitch.
Ah well. Fun while it lasted.
Two balls later, AT entices an outside edge that Bronty snaffles at first slip. The Survivor contestants are quietly fuming; their wickets have been held up in the post and arrived to the wrong person.
The Leader, looking to close out the match quickly, throws the ball to young Maestro for his first spell in the Thirds. Maestro cruises in, whiteboy fro bouncing hypnotically, and the ball is on its way. Then it is hit back uppishly.

When later asked to recount what happened next, many onlookers insisted that a white Michael Jordan had materialised on the field. Bronty, standing at short mid-off, launches himself skywards to snatch a stray whisper of the ball’s seam with one hand and complete one of the most physically improbable catches cricket has ever seen.

Survivor: Bowling has revealed no obvious winner. It’s taken a surprise fifth contestant to break through and suck up those stray wickets.
“Hey Charmer,” I ask. “How many would you have taken if you’d bowled?”
“The Leader said I was going to bowl after Josh,” he replies straight.
Relegated to after the ‘keeper. That really is something.

Lower Plenty 4/351
Wellsy 165
AT 82*
The Benevolent Leader 79

Mill Park 205
Raheel 53
Truck 30
The Benevolent Leader 3/8
AT 3/12
Syed 2/33


About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.


  1. Loved this Callum. You may not be improving as a cricketer, but your improvement as a writer is great to see.
    When you started this series, I wondered if you could sustain it beyond 3 or 4 weeks. The mark of a good writer is that he makes a mundane subject (sorry Benevolent Leader) constantly interesting. Your creativity and use of language and metaphors – week on week – is brilliant.
    Loved the Survivor metaphor and “hat tricks thrust upon them”, but I reckon “their wickets held up in the mail and delivered to the wrong person” is even more original and creative. Cheers.

Leave a Comment