Stumps

Stumps

Stumps, yes. Firmly planted.
Newly arrived at the wicket,
I can now take my guard.
Last man in
with everything to play for.

“Middle and off. Please.”
I hold the bat steady, upright,
and the man in white
nods his head, counts
the coins, or stones,
he has in his pocket
and wonders when he can leave
his post and go to tea.

I stand, there, right-handed,
and the field adjusts.
Then I change hands,
keep the same guard,
now middle and leg,
and stare at the square leg,
now a short leg
who glares back fiercely.

The man in the white coat
tut-tuts in despair.
I know he knows this isn’t done.
It’s just not cricket.
But then, he’s not the one
batting on a cloth untrue,
with a twisted cue,
while the bowlers bowl
with elliptical balls.

The field changes over
to a left-handed stance.
I think about changing over again,
but I’m sure there’d be an appeal:
wasting time, a nasty crime
at this stage of the game,
though many do it.

First ball, a long-hop,
and I clobber it for four.
Three runs to win,
four balls to bowl.
I block the next ball.
The one after is short.
I cut it away past gully
and call for two.
I make it home safe
but my partner is run out
at the bowler’s end.

We lose by one run.
“Serve you right,”
says the man in the white coat,
racing towards the pavilion
for a pee before tea.
“That just wasn’t cricket.”

I walk slowly back,
stiff upper lip,
ramrod straight bat,
and no time at all for this
sticky dog wicket.


Comment: I wonder how many of my followers will have understood a word of what I have written. Never mind. You can always enjoy the painting. Oh the mysteries of what used to be England’s national game and a wonderful source of metaphor and image. A double-header on the weekend. England vs the West Indies. I wonder if it will be that close?

Click here for Roger’s reading.
Stumps.

Quack!

Quack!

A duck, in cricket, means the batter has been dismissed without scoring. The 0 resembles a duck’s egg, and hence score of naught is known as a duck! A golden duck means the batter has been dismissed first ball, without scoring, a sad fate indeed. A King Pair is first ball in each innings of a four innings match (two per side).

My cartoon shows an English cricketing duck carrying his bat through a golden shower of life’s purple patches. There are several clichés and double entendres in this title. First, of course, the ignominious duck. Carrying his bat: this has a double meaning (a) to literally carry a cricket bat, as this duck is doing, and (b) to open the batting and carry your bat throughout the innings, un-dismissed, although the other ten wickets have fallen around you. To carry your bat for a duck is as near as impossible as it can possibly be. A golden shower: alas, we are all now familiar with the pornographic version. Some will be familiar with the myth of Jupiter descending as a shower of gold. The golden shower here also represents the shower of golden ducks that has currently descended upon the English cricketing team. Purple patches can be good. However, a purple patch of golden ducks is only good for the opposition bowlers, if you are on the batting side.

England top order quacking and creaking into history of the duck: this article in Tuesday’s Manchester Guardian cricketing section will explain the makings of current duck history for all who are interested. Equally interesting are the double meanings (a) within the verbals of the above cartoon and (b) within the visuals of the drawing itself. For example, the golden duck holes / eggs pecked in the bat, the mingling of gold and purple in the shower falling, the duck eggs woven into the batter’s shirt…

So, here we go, swinging low, swinging to miss, and swinging into history, where batter itself is a neologism replacing batsman as a non-generic term for those who bat, much as bowler, the man, not the hat, is a non-generic term for those who bowl, or fielder for those who field. Now, what on earth are we going to do with ‘gloveman’? Glover, perhaps, or wicket-person, or a return to wicket-keeper, or just a limited keeper? Language is so lovely and the mixture of language and cartoon is is doubly good, as long as everyone is bilingual and can entendre.

Summer in Wales

Summer in Wales
aka
Cricket, lovely cricket!              

Summer in Wales is always as I remember it: glorious days of sun and sand and blue skies and warm winds … and especially the sun on the beaches with the water sparkling and little boys and little girls playing cricket on the dry wrinkled sand packed hard when the tide goes out and leaves the land stranded … and uncles and aunties bowl under arm, not over arm, so the little ones could manage to score lots and lots of runs … and I remember us, standing breathless between the wickets, or at the wicket, if there was only one set of stumps, or a picnic basket stood on its side, or three pieces of driftwood, with sea-weed for bails, and what are bails, you ask?

              Well, bails are the sea-weed that is draped over the driftwood that stands as stumps. And we guard our stumps with the cricket bat that somebody has brought and we bowl with wet tennis balls, because nobody will risk a red, leather ball on the sands, with the wet tide standing there, waiting for the ball to be hit at it, or into it, and it’s cold, but not that cold, and when uncle hits the ball, right out so sea, someone has to run after it, then dive, and then swim after it, and if it’s real runs you want, then uncle runs two or three quite quickly; then the aunties tell him to stop running so fast or he’ll have a heart  … so he slows down and trots four or five; then he walks six and seven; and when you throw the ball back, he’s walking eight or nine; and then the dog intercepts the ball, catches it in his teeth, and starts running around with it in his mouth and everyone is trying to catch the dog except my uncle who is now limping very, very slowly between the wickets, but he’s already up to eleven or twelve; and then the little ones start crying because “It’s not fair!” Loud sniff! Then uncle stops in the middle of the wicket and sits there, waiting for somebody to run him out; except everyone is tired, except the dog, who is tireless and completely energized, and now the centre of attention; and nobody is going to catch him;  and finally uncle walks to the wicket and he lifts the piece of seaweed with his bat and everybody appeals, then he’s finally “OUT!” because officially he’s hit his own wicket and that’s illegal and now the game can go on once more, with everyone happy and God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world …

And the dog has dropped the ball right at the edge of the waves and is barking furiously at the incoming waves as time and tide march up the beach and sweep us and our memories all away.