Thursday, 12 March 2015


He had previous: legside short stuff from Adam Sanford

3rd place: 73 vs Himley, Staffs Cup Final 2003 

It goes without saying that it’s gratifying to play well in a cup final. And it’s equally obvious to affirm that it’s ultimately pretty futile when playing well adds up only to defeat, particularly in a game you seemingly had in the palms of your hands 40 overs in. Such was the case with the 2003 Staffordshire Cup final, a north-versus-south clash at home to Himley of the Birmingham League. 

Heading toward what would have been a very buoyant tea break, we had our visitors 205 for 9 with three or four overs left and a West Indian Test bowler to finish things off. At least, that was the plan. As it turned out, Adam Sanford came back and bowled a series of legside wides and ill-directed bouncers – we were slightly against the clock in terms of completing the innings before the cut-off point (6 runs per over you fail to send down in time), and his shorter run didn’t help him find his direction – so our opponents, who had knocked us out at the semi-final stage the year before, were able to post a daunting 245. It was a huge swing: they had the mythical momentum; we were deflated, thoughts snagged on what might have been… 

Things got worse at the beginning of our reply, too: a pinch-hitter experiment failed (Grizzly Adams) and our best two batsmen were dismissed cheaply (Iain Carr and James Cornford). We were in deep, 40-for-4-sized trouble when I faced my first ball. 

Himley had a decent attack: Tim Heap, who played 28 games for Staffordshire, opened the bowling with a canny seamer called Jim Mayer. They were backed up by former Worcestershire stalwart Stuart Lampitt and Stuart Wedge, an ex-England U19s seamer who had two years on the staff at New Road.

Having said all that, truth be told it’s not the toughest situation to bat, psychologically speaking: you know both that on a personal level you can’t do much worse than what’s come before, and that the team has almost certainly blown it. So, you focus, play the ball, and hope to restore some pride. 

Stuart Wedge
I remember two things about the start of that knock: immediately feeling in good nick – balanced, aligned, assured in my footwork and movement – and immediately copping a huge amount of abuse (in dulcet Brummie tones) from a fired-up opposition who were right on top, and knew it. Such is the game. 

My first scoring shot was to turn a rare half-volley (on middle stump) from Mayer between mid-on and mid-wicket for four (timing it well enough not to need to run), usually a sign you’re playing well. “C’mon then, you gobby fuckers”, I thought to myself, refocussing. My next half-volley, probably another 10 balls later, was dispatched over mid-wicket for a one-bounce four, back leg folding up behind the back of my thigh, earning me a prolonged chirp from Staffs bits-and-pieces man, Chris Tranter: “Looks loike woi’ve gorra flam-in-GOW arr 'eeear, lads”. Alright, big gun. 

I was grooving. In my bubble. Everything washed over me like a tropical shower, and under a game September sun I shared a couple of steady partnerships with Andy Hawkins and John Myatt, just about keeping us in the game (at least, judging by Himley’s slightly more concerned demeanour), the high point of which was an assault on a fairly average, though accurate leggie called Chris Pearce. The situation determined that he had to go the ‘d’. 

Having looked at an over from the non-striker’s end, I got to face Pearce, ready to push the accelerator. He floated me up a googly around off stump, which I threw my hands through and slapped over extra-cover for six, over toward where the new scorebox has since been built. A couple of balls later I got in a bit of a tangle running at a leg break that drifted outside the line of my pads; again, I thrust my hands at it, flicked hard, and was amazed to see it go for a flat six over mid-wicket (against the spin, of course), the ball bouncing back onto the field from the scotch pines. Oosh! In his next over, I once more shuffled down the pitch, this time to a ball that was in the slot, which I sent clean over the old scorebox and into the copse at the back of the pavilion with a slow, rhythmical swing. Buzzing. 

Stu Lampitt

By the time I charge-pulled Lampitt for a fourth six Himley were starting to get a little bit worried. However, I promptly nicked off to the same bowler – trying to run him to third man to keep the strike – and that was pretty much that. Their celebration told me I’d played well, and a couple of the lads I passed on the way off said as much, not something hard-nosed Brum teams were particularly disposed to doing. 

Anyway, with none of their team having made 50, nor taken more than a 3-fer, I was given a fake pewter tankard as Man of the Match, augmented by £20 from my match sponsors – a proud, beaming Mr and Mrs Oliver. “There you go, son” they cooed, perhaps hoping they were contributing to my future well-being. Not so – in fact, the very opposite of that. See, I’d somehow managed to forget to eat properly for almost the entire day, a state of affairs that hadn’t been rectified by the time a few of the team found ourselves in the Butcher’s Arms, Forsbrook, necking whiskey chasers with pints of strong lager. 

After several such invigorating combinations, the pressure on my bladder built to the point where it sent a rather insistent message to my brain to the effect that it needed to be urgently relieved, preferably on the outside of my trousers. I made a beeline for the toilets – those hardy urinal cakes trying vainly to hold back the acrid stench of piss – but they were busy, and I didn’t have time. So, I hit the car park. Pretty much literally.

Unsurprisingly, my now swimming head’s collision with the cool night air combined with an unlined stomach to cause a sudden plunge into unconsciousness – although, not before I’d dropped my trousers and relieved myself, pretty much all of which avoided my garments. 

And there I was – lying flat on my back on the car park, trousers round ankles like a slave’s shackles – when my teammates came and found me an indeterminate number of minutes later. And there I was – lying flat on my back on the car park, trousers round ankles like a slave’s shackles – when the ambulance service found me and indeterminate number of minutes later still. I’d probably have felt embarrassed had I been conscious (I knew those drinks would prove useful!). 

Anyway, despite being almost completely unaware of anything except the woozy blackness that had engulfed me, I’m told I wasn’t overly keen on getting in the paramedics’ ice cream van, a view I expressed via the medium of wildly flailing arms. Quite rightly, they left me lying there on the car park of the Butcher’s Arms in Forsbrook (to die of hypothermia), trousers round my ankles. It was left for Longton Police to come and scrape me up. 

Butcher's Arms
...Next thing I know I’m in a cell, having vomited on my clothes. It’s now morning. I’m sporting a button-down blue jumpsuit made from j-cloth-type material – unrippable, just in case you have the urge to hang yourself. I didn’t, although I wasn’t overly chuffed with my circumstances: pukey clobber, small change, no mobile phone. Still, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. No, the duty officer was a familiar face – Dave Stones, no less! a teammate of several years at Moddershall. I’d have preferred him to look slightly more surprised to see me. 

After pecking at a pretty average English breakfast (watery tinned mushrooms like gobbets of catarrh), I needed to figure out a way to get back to my folks’ house. Lack of mobile phone meant that the only people I could call to ask to come and collect me – I didn’t really fancy sitting on a bus in my jumpsuit, clothes stinking away inside a Kwik-Save carrier bag – had to come from a very short list of numbers that I remembered off the top of my throbbing head. 

Addo didn’t pick up. So, reluctantly, sheepishly, I touched base with the folks – whose last contact with me had been to see me handed the Staffs Cup MoM award, remember – and Mum came to pick me up. I said my farewells to PC Stones, and with that I was out of the door, feeling (I guess) like prisoners do on their first day on the outside, blinking into the light, trying to shed as quickly as possible the film of shame that has clung to them. 

The journey home was taken in a heavily charged silence – that is, until Kath got what was on her chest off her chest. Earnestly, she said it: “Scott, you’re thirty, not sixteen…”

She was right, of course (both with the maths and the implicit meaning). I didn’t need to answer. There was no answer. The journey slipped back into heavy silence. 

Still, I’d played half-decent the previous day, so not a total disaster…  

1 comment:

Brian Carpenter said...

Some, er, 'vivid' detail there, Scott.

Piss, vomit, car park collapses I can take. Mushrooms like 'gobbets of catarrh', possibly not.

Seriously though, nice piece. One for next year's Wisden, I feel (he joked).