While the opening weeks of the 2012 County Championship season have brought continued glory for champions Lancashire, in the Ted’s Roofing (All your roofing needs met, by Ted) Mid-North Cestrian Third Division Championship League West, Old Filchonians Under 11s have made a somewhat less impressive start.
Bert Junior was an U9 player last season; this season he is in the U11s. And that is very, very different. Hard balls, pads, gloves, helmets, and what Bert’s younger brother Ernie likes to call a Willy-Saver, plus actually being out when you are out – all combine to create a genuine step up in difficulty. Add in the fact that some of the bowlers have been playing at this level for a year, and the fact that some of the opposition had beards (and one drove the team minibus to the ground), and you can see the extent of the challenge facing the young man.
Bert opened the batting and was the eighth wicket to fall, only four runs short of being top scorer.
I can tell you’re all impressed. Sadly however, the rest of this match report does to that statement what Madagascan Toilet Weevils do to a beautiful mahogany loo – eat away at it till only the shit remains.
Bert started at the non-striker’s end. After the match I explained to him the advantages of non-striking, about how it was the duty of every good batsman to get to the non-striker’s end at the first opportunity. And stay there. Especially against bowlers whose first ball is a head-height beamer and whose second ball sends middle stump cart-wheeling over the boundary. 1 for 1 after two balls – not the best start, but a fabulous position compared to the 1 for 3 we were by the end of the over.
But now it was Bert’s turn to face. The bowler turned at the end of his run up, still too far away for Bert to actually see him. As the thunderous roar of his footsteps grew louder, Bert stood, small, motionless, peering over the top of his pads, bat held tightly, helmet hiding whatever expression was set on his face. As it turned out, the expression was probably boredom. The ball thudded into Bert’s pads, plumb in front, but no umpire in the world is going to give a little lad out on debut with the score 1 for 3. Especially not if the umpire is the Filchonians’ coach.
The rest of the over progressed along similar lines. Some hit the bat, some hit the pads, but all didn’t hit the stumps. By the end, with the score still on 1 for 3, Bert was something of a hero among the crowd. Steadying the ship, they said. Something of Boycott about him, they said (I had words). Just what we need at a time like this, they said. When he was out for nought ten overs later, ‘score some bloody runs’ is what they were saying. You just can’t please some people.
But Bert didn’t care. The smile on his face when he took his helmet off would have left even a Yorkshireman with nothing grumpy to say. He had gone into battle and had returned in triumph. Unlike almost all of his more experienced teammates, he’d batted for more than one over. And to top it all, with the opposition needing only 12 to win there was every prospect of an early lunch.
“Cricket’s brilliant, Dad”, he said, and I couldn’t help but agree.