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Run out of things to say





I was watching the run out of Theunis de Bruyn in the final test against New Zealand. Outrage on social media had made me do it.

People were accusing de Bruyn and Hashim Amla, the other participant, of all kinds of things. So it was instructive to go back to the original footage and hear the Kiwi commentators. There was no outrage there. Only empathy. Fact of the matter is, if you've ever played the game, you know that disaster is always just around the corner.

At my humble level of club cricket, I used to see it on a weekly basis. I once watched two Old Grammarians arguing in mid pitch about the possibility of a run. The striker had hit the ball to the long on boundary, where it was fielded, far from athletically, just inside the rope.

The ball was then relayed back to the keeper (not many great arms in the teams I played with and against) and the bails were removed, while the argument in mid pitch continued. They could have run two in the time it took to return the ball from the boundary. But the non striker had a bee in his bonnet about an incident two overs previously, where his own clip to fine leg had produced a stentorian, "NO!" from the other end.

I can't remember who walked off after the run out, but the other chap was dismissed three balls later and the argument resumed in the dressing room. It went on for weeks.

Then there was the time I snared a fellow lbw on 95. He looked up at the umpire's raised finger in disbelief and then, very slowly, started to walk back to the pavilion. At which point, my own team declared, "Cappy! He hit it! Surely you heard that?"

I turned to the umpire. Apparently he and I were the only people south of the Thames who hadn't heard an inside edge. The muttering continued among my team. The departing batsman had just passed the square-leg umpire, who was casting a thunderous look toward the other umpire and I.

"Excuse me," I said to the batsman, "Did you hit that?"

"Yes."

"Then you'd better come back."

He took a fresh guard, I ran in again full of the joys of a wrong righted and he hit me back over my head and into the road for six to reach his hundred. There's gratitude for you.

Cricket is a sport that positively delights in almighty cock-ups. At Taunton in the late 70s a one-day game between Somerset and Gloucestershire had to be abandoned half an hour before play was due to begin. The groundsman was rolling the pitch for the final time, when the hand crank used to start the engine fell off the roller onto the playing surface. The roller went over it and pressed it into the pitch on a length.

Such a calamity would have made no difference at my club, where a hand crank on a length might actually have improved things. But the professional game takes things more seriously.

The groundsman was reprimanded, but they couldn't sack him. Why? Because in those days Somerset included in their ranks the great Vivian Richards and Ian Botham, two gentlemen who enjoyed hitting sixes into the River Tone, which ran behind the clubhouse at Taunton.

The groundsman had trained his dog to fetch balls back from the river. If they sacked him, they'd have to sack the dog as well.


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