As the village cricket team limbers up in the 'The Walnut Tree' for a new season, there are great hopes for their prospects this year. And with good reason. We have a team of consumate specialists.
For example, Clive 'Sweaty' Pitts is our fast bowler. His great gift is speed. Clive is a vacuum extrusion operator at the new Mid Kent Polyvinyls plant over at Clashing Green. His shift finishes at 9.30 pm, which is four minutes after the last bus from Monkley leaves. If he sprints like the wind and is lucky and the bus is late (which it often is), he can catch it, and so reach the pub an hour before last orders. When he misses it, determined not to lose drinking time, he runs the two miles to the village, flat out. He has been known to overtake the bus on the way. Clive's bowling action is purposeful and unvarying. He favours a long run-up, and the look in his eye as he thunders up to the crease says "You are standing between me and a pint; the choice is yours". Even experienced batsmen quail.
Middle-order batsman Stanley Pallet is ambidextrous. His batting is poor to agricultural, but by switching between left-handed and right-handed on alternate strokes, he quickly exhausts the outfield, who can cover as much as quarter of a mile per over just crossing sides. As a variation, Stan sometimes switches as the bowler starts his run-up, requiring him either to abort his run, or leave the fielders badly misplaced. As a bat Stan is particularly useful when playing for time. In the field, his ambidexterity makes him a demon catcher in the slips.
Then there is Ed Case, bouncer from 'Desdemona's' night-club on the London Road. Eddy's wicket-keeping benefits from his extreme size. Although barely 5'6", he weighs in at 19 stone and has hands like Sussex trugs. Very little gets past him, and when a rare ball does, neither batsman can see how far it has travelled, making the snatching of singles an act of faith. A look from Eddy often persuades visiting umpires that they were, on reflection, mistaken in not giving 'out'.
Rosie Legge's advantage is capitalising on the opposition's natural reluctance to launch their fastest deliveries at a woman. For Rosie is indisputably a woman. In fact, the prospect of sharing the changing room with Rosie is a significant factor in keeping recruitment up. There was some initial difficulty with the League, but they couldn't find anything in the Laws of Cricket which said that a woman should not play in an otherwise male team. In the end they gave way, saving face by insisting that she should wear some additional body armour at the crease. This exaggerates Rosie's already pulchritudinous figure. In the field, we place her at at mid-on in a loose shirt. Opposing batsmen are apt to roll gentle ground shots her way, just to watch her stoop to collect them, which sends their heart rates up and keeps their run rate down.
Even the scorer is a secret weapon. Darryl Wright became scorer by accident. Our Chairman, Brigadier 'Tommy' Gunne-Court, overheard him telling a friend at the Summer Fayre Dance in the village hall that he "would give anything to score, just once" and immediately instructed him to report for Saturday's match against Pratts Bottom, under the impression that he was doing the lad a favour. Darryl has never had the courage to wriggle out of it, and is now entering his third season. His mathematical illiteracy and short attention span have proved to be an unexpected advantage. He reacts so slowly, and puts the wrong numbers up so often, that opposition batsmen become seriously distracted by the erratic display on the scorebox, and play with only one eye on the ball. Darryl wears whites for away games, in the hope that girls will think he's one of the team. He hasn't worked out that, a) girls don't watch cricket and, b) he still looks like a knob.
Our first fixture is a pre-season warm-up against Boughton Valence, at home on the 29th. The tearaways from the estate drove all over the pitch in a stolen car after last week's rain, so the wicket is not at its best. Skipper Rob Staples tried to cut and roll the grass with the tractor at the weekend, but his wallet fell out of his back pocket and got shredded by the gang mower. It took him the rest of the day to sellotape £40 in notes back together, so the mowing never got finished.
What with one thing and another, Boughton don't stand a chance.