Author: Laurence Elderbrook (page 1 of 3)

Laurence Elderbrook fights and defeats nerves

I have concluded that it is irresponsible to open the batting. I am a gifted, match-winning batsman and to expose myself to the vagaries of the new ball is to introduce an element of chance to proceedings when a fair fight would always see me prevail.

This is why, on my next outing as a cricketer errant, I inform the captain that I will be batting at five. By side-stepping unpredictable early movement, I give myself the best possible chance of delivering for a team in need.

Ironically, today’s pitch is a flat one and the team quickly advances to fifty without losing a wicket. They are building a good platform for me; I mustn’t begrudge them that. However, my appearance at the crease may be some way off, so I instruct my squire, Darron-with-an-O, to purchase me a small glass of gin such that I might while away my time until I am needed.

The score grows. The wickets do not fall. I savour a couple more gins lest this interminable wait have some fraying effect on my nerves. Anxiety has met its match in Laurence Elderbrook and I conquer it easily.

At the fall of the third wicket, an onlooker has the temerity to ask whether I am able to bat. Does he not know who I am? I take the only option available to me in such a situation. I let fly a huge bestial roar and strike him on the side of the head with my gin glass.

One of the great challenges of being a cricketer errant is that in many ways one is always an outsider. Over the years I have grown used to members of the opposition taking against me for spurious reasons, but my fleeting appearances as the star player on a team can on occasion breed resentment among even my own team-mates.

That is what happens here as one of the dismissed batsmen – doubtless ashamed and suffering some sort of inferiority complex – sides with my foe and attempts to strike me. With cat-like reflexes I feint to the left, deftly upending a table in the process so as to distract him. Grasping a glass from another table, I instruct Darron to warm-up the motorcar and inform the room that they have forfeited their right to my presence with their boorish behaviour. To drive home the message, I launch the glass at my foe and exit the room.

Later in the week, I return to the ground. Resplendent in my cream flannels, I urinate on the clubhouse door with the serene dignity afforded to only the very few.

Laurence Elderbrook confronts a new challenge

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Life as a cricketer errant continues to be wearying, but it is the path I have chosen and a path I will continue to walk. This week my squire, Darron-with-an-O, must have asked at more than a dozen clubs whether any team required a dashing opening batsman to make up the numbers before he found a taker.

I exit my motorcar and stride into the clubhouse. Resplendent in my cream flannels, I look immaculate. Darron points me in the direction of the captain and I shake him firmly by the hand. He seems pleased to have been gifted an eleventh player and thanks me for offering to help out. Sadly, the pleasantries end there, for he also informs me that my new team will be fielding first.

I take the only option available to me. I let fly a huge bestial roar and march back to the motorcar. When Darron appears, I instruct him to return inside to claim some of the victuals prepared for the lunch break.

As I make the most of this sustenance, Darron asks me whether I will be returning to the ground when it is our turn to bat. I give him a withering look and start the motorcar.

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Laurence Elderbrook refines his method

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Chastened by my uncharacteristically ineffectual performance the previous week, I resolve to prepare properly. Before I depart to find a team in need, I carry out my exercise regime to get the blood pumping. I essay twenty to thirty mad gambols followed by a series of naked frisks.

Once this is complete, I summon my squire, Darron-with-an-O. I do this by repeatedly striking the wall that separates our two abodes while calling out his name. Within moments, he is at my door. I hand him my bat and we immediately depart in my motorcar.

After a long morning, we eventually track down a team that is a player short. I inform the captain that I will open the batting. Primed by my mad gambols and naked frisks, I am ready for action and do not want to let my body cool.

The opening bowler is a lanky sort. I assess his gait and examine how he holds the ball. Clearly he will bowl full and swing the ball away. I take guard and pick the gap I will penetrate.

As the bowler runs in, I am awash with confidence, but his delivery stride rather takes me aback. He is left-handed and I had prepared as if he were right-handed. As his arm comes over, I try and work out how the way he holds the ball with one hand will impact on how he bowls with the other. Just as I correctly conclude that he will bowl straight medium-pace, the ball strikes the stumps.

I take the only option available to me. I let fly a huge bestial roar and march off the field, whereupon I gather Darron and immediately drive home, snatching some victuals which have been prepared for the tea break as I walk out.

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Laurence Elderbrook embarks upon a career as a ‘cricketer errant’

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It strikes me that if I am to become a cricketer errant, I will need a squire. I walk next door and ask to speak to Darron-with-an-O. When Darron appears, I inform him that he is my squire. We immediately depart in my motorcar.

We swiftly settle on a routine. I steer the motorcar and Darron directs me. Whenever we arrive at a cricket club, he exits the motorcar and heads inside to ask whether they are short of a player for the day’s fixture.

We try five different clubs before I am needed. Darron retrieves me from the motorcar and I introduce myself to the captain. I inform him that my name is Laurence Elderbrook and that I will be batting at three. He mutters something about gift horses and curses a man called Alan for dropping out at the last minute. You will not miss Alan, I tell him. You will not miss Alan.

My team is batting first and I do not have long to wait before I am needed. The cricket is of a relatively high standard and the bowler is both fast and accurate. His second ball splays the opener’s stumps. He cannot expect to experience such success with his third ball. It is time.

As the ground falls silent in anticipation, I emerge onto the field of play. Resplendent in my cream flannels, I look immaculate. I take guard.

As the bowler approaches, I ponder the morality of my situation. As a freelance batsman, is it right for me to play to the full extent of my abilities? Would such an approach embarrass my team-mates, highlighting their inadequacies, or is it my duty to deliver all that I can to those who are in need of my services?

Just as I conclude that it would quite simply be a crime to deny the world an opportunity to see what is possible in this great game, I realise that the bowler has released the ball. My lightning quick reflexes immediately kick in, but the area where a player of my standard transcends others is by picking up length early, straight from the hand. My attempted leg glance is therefore a fraction out and as the bat face closes, it evades the ball which sadly goes on to hit my stumps.

I am nothing if not reserved, so I take the only option available to me. I let fly a huge bestial roar and march off the field, whereupon I gather Darron and immediately drive home.

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Laurence Elderbrook finds a new way to share his gift

Several seasons have passed and I fear that if I leave it much longer, my skills might begin to wane. I could spend another summer at my gentlemen’s club, laying wagers and sharing brandies with other Renaissance men, but there will be plenty of time for that later. Now, while I am in the prime of life, I owe it to the world to exhibit my skill at the noble sport of cricket.

But how? And where? Relationships soured at my old club, where I transcended my team-mates to such an extent that jealousy became inevitable. When the framed portrait of myself I had added to the wall of the bar was daubed with an unpleasant slogan, I took the sad decision to leave.

It strikes me that gratitude and appreciation fade with familiarity and this thought indirectly gives rise to an inspired notion. I will become a freelance batsman – a cricketer errant. I will wander the land and bat at three for any pitiful group in need of a calm, undemonstrative, yet domineering top order player with an extraordinary eye.

I look down at my handsome physique. Resplendent in my cream flannels, I look immaculate. But clothes hide a multitude of sins and I am aware that I am not quite in optimum condition. This will not do.

I immediately launch into my tried-and-tested regime. I essay twenty to thirty mad gambols followed by a series of naked frisks. Once complete, I am ready for action.

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Laurence Elderbrook imparts some wisdom

As the overseas professional (unpaid), my influence extends beyond the field of play. I am proud that I have brought a little something to my Australian club beyond my stellar on-field contributions.

I am not just the most important player at the club. I am a role model and mentor as well. I feel that the under-11s team could have benefited more from my expertise, but the youth team coach is infuriatingly closed-minded when it comes to my philosophy of liberated batting.

His loss, but unfortunately theirs too. Offers of private one-on-one tutelage have been firmly rebuffed by several of his brainwashed charges as well. More’s the pity.

But other than that, I have been a shot in the arm for this club. I have revolutionised their ways. As a measure of how far they’ve come, they used to have just the one bottle of gin behind the bar at any one time. Now they keep seven.

Feeling that my work here was all but done, I accepted the offer to sit out the last dozen or so matches of the season to allow some of my protegés a chance. I opt to assess their performance from the clubhouse, still resplendent in my cream flannels and looking immaculate, gin in hand.

In the last match of the season, one of our bowlers is ruled to have delivered a no-ball. As I rain blows down upon the umpire, I wonder whether the message is really going in. I take the only option available to a man in this situation. I throw back my head and let fly a huge, bestial roar.

Another valuable lesson imparted, I stride back from whence I came, pausing only to vomit onto the parched grass with the serene dignity afforded to only the very few. The players are dumbstruck. They admire my restraint. They admire me.

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Laurence Elderbrook gives a lesson in opening the batting

My memory of last night is a tad hazy. My knuckles are wrapped in bandaging and I think I must have thumped a table in delight when the captain announced that I was to open the batting today. For his part, the captain is missing this match after some sort of accident incapacitated him.

I compose myself in front of the mirror. Resplendent in my cream flannels, I look immaculate. I look the part.

Striding out to the middle, I quickly gauge the conditions and size up the opposition. Having watched the opening bowler deliver a couple of warm-up deliveries to a teammate, I can tell from his action that the first ball will be full and straight.

As the ball is released, I get into position and the ball strikes me in the chest. Perhaps I should have been even further forward. Clearly my movements are being impeded.

I disrobe.

The stand-in captain suddenly feels that I have already blunted the new ball and therefore asks several people to escort me to the dressing room.

I disagree with his assessment and take the only option available to me. I throw back my head, let fly a huge, bestial roar and slip from the men’s grasp.

I evade everyone for 10 or 15 minutes, but eventually I trip and am carried from the field by four men who take a limb each.

The under-11s team practising in the nets adjacent to the ground survey the scene solemnly. They admire my restraint in not admonishing the four men for their impertinence. They admire me. They recognise a great man possessed of the serene dignity afforded to only the very few.

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Laurence Elderbrook: all-rounder

Since being in Australia, I have once again been working on my bowling. A prodigiously gifted spinner in my youth, I shamefully neglected my art being as batting was my stronger suit.

However, the hard pitches here lend themselves to my wizardry and it pleases me to see batsmen perplexed by my variations.

Midway through the opposition innings, a partnership has developed. The captain has been trying to encourage some of his younger bowlers, but this is a man’s work.

Handing the umpire my cap, I smooth down my cream flannels. I look immaculate. I take the ball and eye the batsman. I have been analysing his game from my vantage point at deep square leg and I have identified several weaknesses. Now I will exploit them.

I take a couple of paces and deliver the ball, spinning it ferociously. It will pitch, beat the bat and strike the stumps. I can already see it in my mind’s eye.

But I have misread the pitch. Clearly it is much slower than I thought. The batsman leans back and cuts the ball for four. I let fly a huge, bestial roar. The game is on.

A bowler’s duel with the batsman is a chesslike game of cat and mouse and whoever blinks first gets to roll the dice.

I deduce that the quicker ball is what is needed here. I may be a spinner, but I have an arm like a runaway locomotive. I narrow my eyes and execute my plan.

It is a peach of a delivery and onto the batsman in a flash. His reflexes are too slow and the ball strikes him in the face, bringing forth a crimson gush of blood. I may not have his wicket, but I have his number now.

Criminally, the umpire rules it a no-ball and asks that I be removed from the attack on the grounds that I overstepped by 20 yards.

I kick the stumps at him and exit the field of play with the serene dignity afforded to only the very few. I feel I am a role model for the younger players, who, to a man, admire my restraint. Without question, they admire me and want to be me.

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Laurence Elderbrook acclimatises

Having arrived in Perth, I quickly find myself a cricket club. The grade system is meritocratic and I will have to work my way up from the bottom, but that should be no trouble for Laurence Elderbrook.

At my first net practice, few if any of the players appear to have heard of my exploits. Is Australia really so backwards? It would appear so.

Most of my new teammates don’t even dress properly for practice. Resplendent in my cream flannels, I look immaculate, but many of these chaps are wearing short trousers and sleeveless shirts that lack buttons.

I march into a vacant net and take my guard. As the bowler approaches, I wave him back with my hand. Something is amiss.

The bowler looks displeased but I have realised that I am thirsty and the matter needs attending to immediately. I instruct him to bring me a gin and tonic, but he refuses and I am forced to take the only option available to a man in my position. I let fly a huge, bestial roar and hurl my bat at him forcefully.

Some gentlemen who are waiting to bowl react angrily to this, despite the calm manner in which I have delivered the dressing down and despite the fact that it was entirely righteous.

As I am stretchered off by the paramedics with the serene dignity afforded to only the very few, I can see that I have impressed my new teammates. They admire my British grit. They admire me.

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Laurence Elderbrook departs

Laurence Elderbrook is beginning his Odyssey and Laurence Elderbrook will return as king of Ithaca. After an unexpected issue with my flights, I instead opt to travel to Australia by ship, the way all the greats did.

The long hours during the trip give me plenty of time to practise, so I mime drives in the nude in front of the mirror. Devoid of my cream flannels, I still look immaculate.

I find the experience liberating and feel that my technique is improving rapidly. This can only be down to the lack of clothing. Clearly clothing hampers my movements. I make a note.

Later in the trip, I plan an evening of cricket with a couple of fellow passengers. They at first seem reluctant, but I eventually manage to persuade them. I laugh heartily when one chap’s wife says I have browbeaten her husband into it. She admires my keen debating skills. She admires me.

I prepare for the match as I would prepare for a crucial league fixture. I drink gin for several hours beforehand so that I’m good and limber when the time comes to bat.

Glen is bowling. Derek is fielding. I heft my bat from one hand to the other. It feels good. I feel good. Glen’s first ball is full and wide. I aim a drive, but fail to make contact.

I feel restricted. I disrobe.

With the air buffeting my downy pelt and the moonlight glistening on my taut adonis flesh, I am ready.

I launch another drive at Glen’s next ball, but the humid sea air has rendered the grip of my bat slippery. The bat soars into the air, describing a high parabola with its destination being over the side of the ship.

I throw back my head and let fly a huge, bestial roar before exploding from my position. As I throw myself headlong to take the catch, I feel a hand on my bare ankle, hauling me back.

I choose to allow several members of the crew to drag me back to my cabin by my armpits, departing the scene with the serene dignity afforded to only the very few. A crowd has gathered and every last person has a look of astonishment on their face. They admire my restraint. They admire me.

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