Seasons in the Sun (Part Sixteen): Slow Day in Greensborough

“I have a job for you,” says The Benevolent Leader upon arrival at Greensborough Park. “Bronty was supposed to pick up the scorebook at training on Thursday and forgot. Can you go pick it up?”

A less than ideal way to start the most important match of the season for the mighty Lower Plenty Thirds, but I don’t say that. Dutifully, I drive down the road to our clubrooms where I find the scorebook and some gathered stalwarts, one of whom is Wellsy.

“Are you going to the ground from here?” asks Wellsy.
“Yep, just getting the scorebook.”
“Can you give me a lift? I’ve loaned my car to Sirra.”

So Wellsy and I return to the carpark, Wellsy briefly detouring to pull his kit out of his car. I ease out of the carpark, over the patchy road works and towards the exit –
“Oi! OOIII!”
Oh. I’ve forgotten Wellsy.

So, Wellsy and the world’s worst taxi driver return to the ground – Wellsy knocks back my request for a fee – and learn that once again The Leader has won the toss and elected to bat.

“Now this,” declares The Leader in his pre-game address, “is what we play cricket for. Big game, finals on the line – this is a quarter final. These games are what cricket’s about. Remember, just go about it the way we always have. This is a slow ground so we need to push singles and bat our overs.”

He’s dead right about one thing – Greensborough Park, home of St Marys Football Club, is as slow as Wattle Glen was fast. Since Charmer and Wellsy will favour the Jack Nicklaus observation that “air offers less resistance than dirt” against Riverside’s bowlers, this should be an interesting day.

“Reckon it’ll get to 35?” I ask DK pensively.
“Nah, too much cloud cover,” he replies. “It’ll be so sticky.”
“I prefer the dry heat,” agrees Macca, who, along with Huddo and Steansy, has joined us to replace Catesy, Nashy and Jacko. “You’re kidding, humidity’s much better,” I argue.
“I’m from Mildura,” says Macca. “Every summer day is a dry 44.”

As per The Leader’s usual initiative, Charmer and Wellsy are sent out a few minutes before the scheduled start. I settle in next to Riverside club legend Ritchie to man the scorebook.
“Aye saw Charmare is in good farm?”
“Charmare… he med a cen-tree, dinnae?”
I’ve finally gotten my head around the unexpected Scottish accent.
“Yeah, Charmer, a century… mind you, it was at Wattle Glen, really quick ground, like an ice skating rink…”
Thankfully, the first ball is delivered and our awkward conversation is on hold. Wellsy takes hold of a short one and turns the ball into a Plenty River ritual sacrifice.
“New ball!” calls Jared, the Riverside captain.
“Aye don’t think Deeemian’s going ta teak the wicket,” observes Ritchie. “Aye think it’ull be Caple.”
Caple steers himself towards Charmer and delivers a short one. Charmer leans back, preparing to upper cut one over slips, but he’s misjudged the off-cutter: the ball is on his gloves and then in the Riverside keeper’s.
“Yeh, aye thought so…” murmurs Ritchie.

The Leader joins Wellsy at the crease and begins to push singles. The Riverside field is close and the bowling the most disciplined we’ve faced all year so quick bursts are the best bet. The Leader also honours his order to bat the overs, keenly watching every ball and leaving the ones he doesn’t have to play… as well as a straight one that he probably would play if he had his time over. 2/22 off a fair few.

Wellsy continues to get his runs the hard way as AT joins him. He then shows considerable faith in Bronty the Officiating Umpire. With Wellsy’s widely disputed dismissal of Bronty against North Eltham still fresh in our memories, Wellsy shoulder arms to a good length that hits him on the knee, if outside the line. A faint hearted appeal goes up and we hold our breaths to see if Bronty is in a vengeful mood… but the moment passes.

Watching this drama is Lutty. At the start of the season Lutty led Wellsy by around 800 runs for his career – as Wellsy’s form turned golden, Lutty turned up during his innings more regularly and we watched him like he was Lee Harvey Oswald. His altruistic offers to umpire against Wellsy certainly aroused suspicion. Bronty evidently decides that he can’t trust himself because he requests a change of umpire. I decide to jump in before Lutty can charge on with his finger already up like a lance.

I regret it more or less instantly. There are few things more morally paradoxical than umpiring your own side in a do-or-die match: every yorker is a potential lbw, every half volley a caught behind waiting to happen. Thankfully, AT and Wellsy get through a tight spell from a bloke called Corcoran. They discuss the course of the match in between overs like cricketing connoisseurs:

“I expected that fourth one to be a short ball, he was just building some consistency…”
“His brother was always a fine bowler, excellent variation…”
“They’re fielding’s been very good…”

Matt Preston would have applauded them delicately.

With just a few overs left before tea, Wellsy mistimes a pull and is brilliantly caught by Jared at mid-off. It’s all we can do to stop Lutty joining the celebratory Riverside huddle.

To the crease comes Macca, who already shows his discomfort in the Melbourne humidity.
“Christ, I wish the clouds’d go,” he bemoans as he tries to pull his shirt from sticking on him.
He’s sweating more within minutes; a moment’s hesitation on AT’s calls sees him making desperate slides that I can safely say no one else in the mighty Thirds would have made. AT decides to stick with boundaries when Riverside bring a spinner on in the hope that AT will create a chance by hitting out. AT half obliges, sending four controlled pulls to the rope. As a batsman who either leaves or edges spinners, I seethe with jealousy when AT commits to a cut then swivels his balance to instead hit through midwicket.

3/88 at tea.
“Right – evenly balanced,” surmises The Leader. “Now they really fielded well, so that’s something we have to remember. For now, we keep pushing the singles and if we’re in a good position with ten overs to go we’ll look to make a few runs.”

We’re all tucking into the afternoon spread when The Leader announces that Catesy – unavailable due to a meeting – has texted him.
‘”Hope match is going well. The red here is excellent.’”
The humidity lifts and there is more than a touch of wanker envy in the air.

Macca falls just after tea and AT decides to get going, cracking cut shots and pulls to the slow boundary with intent. In between, Bronty keeps AT on strike with singles down to fine leg and has two certain boundaries chopped off by some fantastic fielding. AT picks up a well-run two with a lofted straight drive.
“Aye think that’s his fifteh,” murmurs Ritchie as he taps the scorebook with his pen. I do a quick count – yep, he’s right.
“Should we clap him off a dot ball?” grins Charmer. I’m in favour of this idea but it doesn’t get any further support. Finally, AT settles it with another hammered cut shot that brings out the belated applause.

Unfortunately AT hammers a final cut shot straight to backward point. Shortly afterwards, Bronty pops up a slower ball to cover. When Mantis falls victim to another fine bit of Riverside fielding the score is 7/130. Steansy joins Huddo at the crease with 18 overs left.

“Who do you think’s going to take charge of calling?” chuckles The Leader.
It’s a good question. Steansy’s fairly diffident when it comes to calling quick singles but he’s a rank amateur compared to Huddo who, with his deep voice, constantly chilled demeanour and expression of permanent thought, is Lower Plenty’s answer to The Big Lebowski. So Huddo solves the issue by hitting fours. Steansy gets off the mark with a softly hit cut shot that spins mockingly around Money the Riverside Elder, who throws up his hands and calls upon the big blue sky to explain.
“You know what that is?” cackles The Leader. “That’s ‘hmmm, that didn’t used to happen and now it does’.”

Huddo biffs another boundary to take us past 150. Nonetheless, I pad up.
“Not showing faith in the tail?” says Charmer sternly.
“Nah,” I shrug, “this is my way of ensuring I don’t umpire again.”

Unfortunately, we lose Steansy and DK in quick succession. I’m in with one plan: bat out the last three with Huddo on strike as much as possible.

Off my fourth ball a cunningly edged block takes me off the mark. Huddo hits a boundary. Plan going swimmingly. Unfortunately I then face a maiden. Plan not going swimmingly. Huddo must bat.

So when he sweetly strikes a leg glance off the first ball of the second last over, I immediately look for two. Unfortunately I’m looking so hard that I don’t look at the square leg, who neatly throws in to the keeper for the most straightforward of run outs. All out 168.

“The Riverside blokes say they’ve defended 170 on this ground in a full day’s play,” says The Leader. “So of course we can defend this. But they fielded well and they pitched the ball up. We can do that.”

And we’ll have to. Bring on next week.

By the way – since the Battle of the Tailenders contest between DK and I started, whoever has gone in at 10 has lost. I hope he never, ever figures this out.

Lower Plenty 168
AT 57
Huddo 35*
Wellsy 29
Caple 3/30
Corcoran the Second 3/47

Riverside 0/0


About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.

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