The Bedouin Cricket Club

There are no lengths, it is said, to which the Bedu will not go in search of the perfect camel. What else can explain the early morning text received by the Mufti. “Yeah, mate,” it read (for Sean, even hungover, eschews the formal and prefers the argot of the street (or, in this case, a park bench north by northwest of the Brighton Pavilion). “In Brighton (I think). Could be Bournemouth. No, wait there’s a bird. I’ll ask her. Shit. Who tied my laces together? Yeah, anyway. Like, um, where were we playing today? Hello? Hello? Shit. Oh, it’s a text. Hello, darling. Listen, Rob, got to go. Hey, darling, wait up. Give us a hand with these laces. Hey! Hey? Shit.”

The dangers of thinking aloud on text could scarcely be clearer. Fortunately the Mufti are well versed in these matters.

“Oxford. 2 pm. Bring beer,” was Rob’s response. We’ll gloss over the last part. Rob is normally the soul of brevity and precision and this tautology was as unnecessary as it was uncharacteristic. But he held little hope that Sean could make the three day trek across the parched lands of Surrey in time for a 2pm start at the Christchurch ground, Iffley Road, Oxford. Fortunately the fruit of the Bedu loins litter the caravans of north London and Cal was summoned from his sleeping quarters to complete a strong Bedu line up.

Strong we thought until the Men in Black (Dougal and Martin) (Martin? Who’d have thought it?) appeared wearing the type of dark glasses reserved for those nursing serious headaches and a beer in each hand. But still – strong enough that the Mufti (after a hurried call to Mumbai) looked unconcerned at losing the toss and being put in to bat. The Captain Scott’s XI, consisting of interchangeable men of stout proportion and cheerful disposition, took the field with an unbecoming confidence.

“They’ll see,” muttered the Mufti as Elliot played around a straight one and watched his stump cartwheel in the direction of the Isis. Sandy soon followed, playing inside one that cut back a little and Rob began to suspect that not even Fin’s characteristic warm-up routine had struck fear into the opps. And indeed, while Fin bats, hope lives. Sadly he and Dougal followed and the Bedu were four down for not a lot. They say that a kind of madness infects those who live too long in a land without horizon and the Christchurch ground, which ran for miles in every direction, seemed to have infected the team with a collective death wish. AB and Cal didn’t last long either (though few will forget AB and Dutton taking a gentle single off a shot that could easily have accommodated 4 or 5). Fortunately there are those amongst the Bedu who have wandered longer than most in the arid uplands and so it was that television’s Tim Dutton and The Keeper of the Well (in Dutch, van der Pump) decided to do the honourable thing and ...
  • stick around a little and
  • score some bloody runs.

But those runs were not easy to come by. The Scott’s crowd, more used to ice, bowled well and fielded enthusiastically and with Dutton’s camel hobbled at the knees the score advanced in slow singles. But there is nothing like a partnership to instil confidence and by the 30th over boundaries began to replace the painful singles. When the Keeper of the Well fell, CP came to the crease and set about a weakening Scott’s attack. His top score of 33, along with Dutton’s 28 (50 at normal running) were the best scores of the innings although in fact the Mufti had saved the best for last. Keeping himself to the end, Rob and Martin (again, really?) played a flurry of lovely shots. Your humble correspondent remembers one off drive in particular when the ball appeared to flow from the bat like cream from a jug.

But sadly the Bedu’s time were up and they were left to enjoy their teas (duck, rice, no cheese) wondering how to defend a total of 169 for 9 off 40 overs.

The answer should be simple. Get AB bowling at both ends and keep him there. Sadly this is not allowed under the Laws of Cricket and the Bed had to make do with him at one end. His figures of 8-3-1-8 bear witness to an outstanding effort that kept the opposition both honest and edgy. At the other end Junaid bowled well, but cost more. It was only when TD, showing no sign of his earlier hobbling, came on from the Pavilion end that wickets began to fall. Two were caught and bowled, but two were to stumpings that would not have looked out of place amongst the very best that the IPL has to offer. CP, swooping like an Assyrian on the fold, had the bails off in a flash and the umpire had no hesitation in sending the batsmen packing.

But three bowlers do not an attack make. Tim and Sandy were a little more expensive and the Explorers reached their target with both overs and wickets to spare. The Bedu, however, were not too despondent. It had been a hard fought game, played in the right spirit and not even the hunger pangs caused by the absence of dairy product could alter their enjoyment. After a few slow ones at the Cricketers Arms the Bedu packed their caravans and headed for home.

And of Sean? It was only the next day that he made it to Oxford to record his memorable
match report which explained the insuperable advantage enjoyed by the Antarctic Explorers.

Moby Dick