Seasons in the Sun (Part Eleven): The Needle and the Benefit Done

Sometimes it’s all about knowing how to get the best out of your teammates.

As the mighty Lower Plenty Thirds convene at Beale Reserve, we have a red hot chance of knocking off top side Montmorency. We’re chasing 190. All we have to do is bat the overs and we’ll get there.
“Wellsy and I are opening,” proclaims The Benevolent Leader. “Then Deery, Jacko, AT, Macca, Bronty, Catesy. You three,” he says to Heata, DK and I, “sort yourselves out.”
I decide to shoulder a bit of responsibility. “I’ll go nine.”
Heata’s eyes flash. “Why?”
“Well – ”
“You,” he interrupts, “are not a better bat than me.”
I squint in confusion. “Heata, I remember your last innings. I’ve never seen someone work so hard for a duck.”
“You,” he retorts, “are not better at anything than me.”
I shrug.
“You’re not better than me either,” adds DK. I don’t even reply to this. In DK’s last innings, he wouldn’t have made contact if they’d bowled him a beach ball.

For the first thirty minutes, it doesn’t seem to be a contest that will matter. The opening bowler for the finest club in E-Grade runs in, leaps and…
“Wow,” mutters Jacko. “That. Is… Gentle.” The floating delivery then beats the fumbling keeper and goes for byes. The next 10 overs pass with Wellsy effortlessly lofting balls over square and The Leader feasting on tentative half-volleys from the other end. In between, the Gloved Sloth who is the Monty keeper repeatedly lets through byes.

Then, Beanbag comes on. Beanbag is over six foot tall with the big, soft body of his namesake. He stands a metre from the stumps, sweating as he prepares to bowl.
“He’s first change?”
“I thought he was a sightscreen.”
The sneers are rife. Oh, how wrong we are.
“I don’t like spinners,” confesses Deery. We all scoff at this – Deery is a good batsman. What can a guy called Beanbag do to unsettle him?

Beanbag’s fourth ball leaps devilishly, raps Wellsy on the glove and is taken at first slip. Deery walks out hesitantly and tightly takes guard.

He wasn’t kidding about not liking spinners. No, check that – he was being conservative. Deery lets the ball hit him as a general rule. If he has to hit it, he prods, pokes and fidgets. I’ve seen him bat smoothly, intently and comfortably against quick bowlers. Against Beanbag, he looks like a mannequin.
“Putting on a clinic!” cackles Jacko, filming Deery. From the other end, a second spinner called Obi emerges. The field is brought in. The maidens build. The misses build. The pressure builds. Finally, Deery desperately swats one up to midwicket and his torment is over.

To his intense displeasure, Jacko doesn’t find the going any easier. A packed onside field waits as Beanbag delivers teasing short balls right in the slot. We get to six consecutive maidens. Then seven. Then eight. The Leader attempts to break over the top and holes out to mid-off. This is getting unpleasant. AT walks out and nothing changes. Nine maidens. Jacko is trapped by a straight one and bobbles a catch so gentle that the Gloved Sloth takes it.
“Geez, I bagged Deery a lot,” he says as he walks off. “But that is tough.”

Macca walks out. This is his first knock in the Thirds but with his 40 weeks pregnant wife watching on the sidelines, he’s probably a bit distracted.
On the sidelines he said the best shot to Obi was to hit him over mid wicket. An arm ball  hits him on the full in front of middle without a shot being offered. Heata, officiating as Central Umpire, huffs in frustration, decides that there is no way to pardon him and sends him on his way. Macca is as lbw as you can get.

Bronty stands at the non-striker’s end as AT, our last dependable batsman, charges Beanbag and is stumped. AT looks pleadingly at The Benevolent Leader, umpiring at square leg. “You stamped your passport before you got back,” replies The Leader flatly.

Catesy walks out with the parting line “Let’s see if we can have some fun.”Just before tea, he pops a catch to short cover, joining the AT Club of Optimism as he awaits The Leader’s official sentencing before departing.

We go to tea at 7/94. Beanbag and Obi have bowled 30 overs for 7/40. “Right,” says The Leader. “We’ve still got plenty of overs and guys who can bat.” He peers briefly at Bronty. “So let’s go for them after tea, because Beanbag’s off.”

Bronty, as he irritatingly reminds his family, needs runs to hold his spot. Now, with his team in unprecedented crisis, he steps up. Picking quick singles, slapping boundaries off medium pacers, he builds the run rate, turning momentum our way.

He’s supported by a tenacious partner who finds gaps in areas that the ball never usually visits. A partner who slashes boundaries with the venom of a man whose batting reputation has been slighted… Yes. It’s Heata.

Our total climbs as Heata hares between the wickets and attacks the bowling. When he falls for 22, he’s taken the score to 8/150 and sown serious doubts in the Monty minds. My humiliation isn’t complete: DK comes in and increases the pressure. Bronty’s confidence rises and DK hits runs himself – a superb sweep and a lofted straight drive take us past 160. But then… Obi. He comes back on, delivers a kicking good length ball and Bronty pushes a catch.

The game is over. Bronty walks from the field, arms folded over his head in self recrimination. He’s top scored but fallen short.

It’s not all bad. We’ve underperformed and still hit a relatively decent good score against Monty. More importantly, we’ve found their secret to victory. Next time we’ll be ready and we’ll win.

The contestants of Survivor Bowling have all lifted their games. Syed was promoted to the Twos and bowled well. Heata bowled better and batted really well. DK returned to last year’s form and Bronty top scored.

Oh, by the way – I came in between Heata and DK, made a second ball duck and effectively cost us the match. A man is prisoner of his words and master of his silences.

Montmorency 189
Snelson the Younger 60
Georgie 44
Snelson the Elder 33
The Benevolent Leader 3/21
Sheldon 2/27
DK 2/28

Lower Plenty 161
Bronty 36
Wellsy 31
Beanbag 4/24
Obi 4/43

About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.

Comments

  1. Good one Callum. Your writing has improved apace of your batting. That final line is Cormac McCarthy-like (I know because ERegnans taunts me with him). We are moving you up the order.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Callum love your , Lower Plenty 3rds stories

  3. How were you dismissed Callum?

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Keep it going Callum.

    I’d just like to be master of my domain.

  5. Callum O'Connor says

    Thanks Swish – hope you had a good festivus

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