What an exciting start to the season it has been for the Old Filchonians Under-nines Junior Development Squad. The first match of a new season is always a fascinating one, with the crowd and coaches wondering whether any of the players remember their techniques, the rules, or which end of the bat to hold. It is also the best gauge for seeing just how much your children have grown since last August. Bare ankles seem to be very much de rigueur this season, while parents shuffle about uncomfortably, trying not to appear tight-fisted to the other parents, but secretly thinking ‘there’s another year in them pants yet’.
Bert Jr. has come to this match straight from the rugby season, during which he spent most of his time standing and watching what was going on. Now that standing and watching is what he should be doing, he has taken to rugby tackling his fellow fielders during the matches. He is one step away from becoming a decent all-round sports boy, that step being to know which sport he is supposed to be playing and when.
The first match was a very tense affair. Filchonians batted first, but tight bowling limited them to 269 in their 16 overs (look up the rules of U9s cricket). So now it was over to the bowlers, who are of course the same people as the batsmen. A middle four-over spell was especially tight, with one bowler finishing with the remarkable figures of two overs, two maidens, two for minus six. It all came down to the final over, with Filchonians having 17 runs to defend. As a senior member of the team, Bert Jr. was entrusted with the ball. I really need to have a word with the coaches about the level of trust that can be placed on Bert Jr’s shoulders. So, in finest Cricinfo style, here is the commentary on that last, decisive over.
15.1 Five runs. A mistimed massive swipe trickles into the leg side (obviously), and is nicely fielded as the batsmen take a run. The crowd are getting quite vociferous – “Don’t throw it – run it in” – but the ball has gone for four overthrows anyway. Now what’s going on? The umpire is coming over to tell the parents and coaches to shut up and let the boys play. Now the parents are shuffling around staring at their feet.
15.2 Four runs. A well-flighted ball on off-stump, pitching just full of a length, massively swiped to the boundary (square leg, obviously) for four vital runs. Will this bowler ever learn that a ball that only bounces once will always risk a boundary?
15.3 Five runs. Chaos in the field! Another massive swipe to leg, another single, another pick up, another four overthrows. The umpire is watching the parents closely now, but all they are doing is shaking their heads in unison and muttering swear words to each other. Three needed now from three balls.
15.4 Dot ball. That’s a better length from the bowler, reaching the batsman fourth bounce. The batsman takes a massive swipe at it anyway, but misses and the ball goes through to the keeper. Amazingly, the keeper does not hurl the ball at the wickets. Wild applause from the crowd at this unusual restraint.
15.5 Wicket. Gone, got him this time! The massive swipe was never on to that ball, and the ball rolls under the bat and onto the stumps. Six needed from the last ball now.
15.6 One run. A massive swipe into the leg side is carefully fielded, and a desperate yell of “Nooooooooo” from the boundary prevents the overthrows. The match is over. Filchonians have won by four runs. The umpire is coming to have another word with the crowd, who are dispersing quickly.
So a tight finish to the match. The teams shake hands. The coaches call for volunteers to collect the boundary cones. The parents try to get the kids into the cars because it’s a school night and it’s already past bedtime and mum is not happy about these late nights as you should see his behaviour the day after cricket. The players, against all instructions, are in the bar buying crisps. Man of the Match goes to someone’s dad for that final, match-winning shout.