The last day of the cricket season had arrived. The under-17’s Bankfoot cricket team in the Bradford League had completed a less than moderate campaign finishing just three places from the bottom of the table. Winning or losing the last game of the season would have made no difference to the finishing position, but with hindsight, that is no reason for my despicable unsportsmanlike behaviour that day.
I opened the batting for that team along with a good friend of mine, Richard. We had privately battled all year to end the season with the best batting average to the point where, to us, the contest had become more important than the fortunes of the team. Before that final match started, I led Richard with a batting average of 20.5 runs per innings compared to his 20.1. We went out to bat together and even shook hands before we started; I guess the opposition must have thought that a bit odd!
Within just a few overs, Richard had smashed the ball around and had already scored 30 runs before I had even scored 5. This was a disaster; at this rate, he was going to overtake me in the averages. As a team player, I really should not have become so excited when he was caught by the slip fielder. Richard walked over to me before leaving the field and said in a desperate act of reverse-psychology mind games, “Well, it’s all yours.”
I mentally worked out what I needed to do to claim the best batting average for the season, I either needed to score more than 30 runs or score 10 runs but not lose my wicket. It is shameful to admit that I opted for the latter option and defended my way through the next 15 overs, attempting to make sure that whoever was at the other end of the wicket took most of the strike. In short, I played in the style of the great Geoffrey Boycott for the entire 20-over match and scored 15 runs, thereby winning our contest. Of course, the team ended up losing the game because we barely scored any runs, but at the time, that didn’t really matter to me.
The end-of-season club awards ceremony took place a few weeks later, not just for the under 17’s but for all the age brackets and teams that played for Bankfoot CC. That year, it was an organised fish and chip supper for all the players, both junior and senior, and some family members. The club chairman started his speech while people were still eating and shortly afterwards, he announced the winners of the various awards. My turn came around, I was called up to receive a small trophy for the highest batting average for the under 17’s. I was given a round of applause, walked over to the chairman, shook hands, received my award and returned to my seat.
30 seconds later, a lady approached the opposite side of my table and held her open hand out to me. I smiled, stood up and shook her hand. She said to me, “Very nice, well done and all that, now will you pass me your dirty plate?” Sweet Lord, she was only trying to tidy up. Deep embarrassment took over, and I’m convinced my face went a dark shade of beetroot red as all my mates laughed their bloody heads off.
As an epilogue to the story, the team sheets and scorecards for the first five matches of the following season looked something like this: