The Bedouin Cricket Club

It was Pelham Grenville Wodehouse who observed - or at least observed that somebody else observed – that everything in life which is any fun is immoral, illegal or fattening.

It was Russell Garside who observed – if you want something illegal go to the Mill Fields in Clapton. On this blustery Bank-Holiday Sunday it was treated to as fine a display of gentlemanly raiment and lady-like elegance as it is ever likely to behold. Be-hooded youth looked on in astonishment, and hooked up their Lonsdale ‘pants’ in homage to Messrs Jinxy, Booth and Gillham in particular.

We may come to the immoral and fattening later on.

RWT Gillham was protecting himself from the elements with extra Brilliantine. He had cursed the coming of the day as he lay exhausted in the arms of some swing-dancing lovely, and he made the Gentlefolk of Hackney pay for this imposition on his love life with some swingeing stroke play at the top of the order. After Keith Flannery’s brief cameo, Gillham was supported by Fin Robertson, who grew in stature with every miniature of Beefeater Gin he consumed. Both perished in the thirties. Gillham bamboozled by King’s spin. Fin speared by a Gannon slinger.

It should be noted that Umpires Horsman and Murray officiated with panache. The former called the first delivery of the match a ‘no-ball’. Confused fielders looked at each other. How unusual for a spinner to over-step? Thank heavens Umpire Horsman had the sense to stop the perfectly amoral Phelan from ruining the whole occasion. Skipper Phelan had the audacity to begin bowling without offering the official a description of his bowling action! Rumours of a tip-off are sadly unsubstantiated.

At one stage the several children present were endangered by Sandy Balfour’s typical run-scoring arc – a 2 and a half degree angle sweeping from deep midwicket to cow corner. Some of the less refreshed adult spectators formed a human shield in front of their offspring. Martin Delafaille guiltily admitted he had told his children they were going to Disneyland, and had later explained to them it was sadly burned down. Now this arrow shower of Balfour boundaries threatened to ruin their day further.

Reg Price and Adam Mansell pushed the Bedouin total forwards with a useful mid-innings partnership of 27. Both were raised in the badlands of North Hertfordshire with skipper Harrison, and had rarely seen an arena as well-appointed as this Hackney playing field. Indeed, the last time they batted together was for ICL second XI in Caldecot, South Bedfordshire in 1993. If you are ever in Reg’s adopted city of San Diego, stop by for a small Jose Cuervo one mild Pacific evening, and he will talk you through that partnership. Ball by ball.

During a useful spell of slow bowling from Greg Ford, Price was magnificently caught at leg gulley by John Booth for the day’s champagne moment.

Dan Kennedy was brought on to bowl, and his tight off spin looked like restricting the Bedu to a disappointing total. But in marched Will Bowley. When he is at the crease the world again becomes wary of the right equipment falling in to the wrong hands. Whereas Balfour had threatened merely a few tots and the vintage crockery laid out for tea; Bowley attacked all areas of the park. Harrison tried to accompany him but was clean bowled by Shelley-Smith, looking as if he’d been poured in to his whites and had forgotten to say ‘when’.

And so tea was taken. And what an interval this was! Gourmands tucked in to quiche, cake and lashings of scones with cream. No scouring-pad Sunblest and tired cocktail sausages for this cricketing tribe.

This year Bedouin tribal funds were found to be a particularly small sum. Special guest TV’s Finlay Robertson did the after-‘sangers’ speech duties, and scandalised the interested listeners with tales of his bizarre sex life, as they patiently waited for his judgement on the cake competition. He managed to get in an overlong driving anecdote about getting the speedometer confused with the clock, and the faster he drove the later he thought it was … before he was ushered from the podium. He was later in a less ‘emotional’ state and awarded the title of Best Cake to a pear and almond tart.

At the resumption, dashing Cheshire cove Pete Jones bowled with nagging line and length, diagnosing Shelley Smith prior to putting him out of his misery early on in the Hackney reply. At this point a long stoic partnership between Pete Williams and Tony Duckett saw off the opening bowlers. They then got themselves in to stalemate with change bowlers Price and Mansell, and the game stood still for a few moments. It was curiously reminiscent of the sexual tension between the four principal characters in TV’s The Good Life.

After Juneed Martin Asad was run out by Harrison, an appeal went out to police and members of the public for information on Sean Graham’s whereabouts. The Bedouin Vice-President, unknown to the Mufti, had sent along his special envoy, Steve Horsler. Steve explained that Sean was last seen drinking Red Stripe on the Goldhawk Road in a feathered and beaded carnival outfit.

A replacement he may have been but it was only Horsler, and The Undertaker, who could stop Ben Sudell from winning the game for the Men of Hackney. Sudell’s innings a facsimile of Will Bowley’s for the Bedouin – all nonchalant pick-ups, and destructive drives – he was unlucky to be snared by the ‘taker on 97. With him gone, so was the game. The Bedouin win by 7 runs.

- Roger J Harbinger QC Bar (retd.)
The Mufti would like to thank all who made it such a fine occasion, especially cooks Faye, Ben K, Catherine, John, Beatrice, Claudia, Rory, Oscar, Ben S, Pia and Susi.
The Garden Party