The Bedouin Cricket Club

About suffering they were never wrong, The old Masters: how well they understood Its human position:...

And as the scene for a crucifixion the old Masters could hardly have chosen a better paradise than the grounds of Ascott House, Bedfordshire, to which the Bedu decamped on the most perfect Sunday yet recorded in May. The sun shone on the green grass. The kestrels turned on a lazy thermal. Hawthorn blossom drifted across the fields. The cows chewed a thoughtful cud and on the distant hills a giant limestone lion guarded England, this England, against all and any intrusions into A Day Made for Cricket. it takes place While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;

On the A505 the great and the good and the not so great and the not so good of middle England travelled to their Sunday appointments. All over the country barbecues were being lit, divorce papers served, affairs consummated and ice-creams spilled. Were beer available on the national grid there would have been the equivalent of that moment following a penalty shoot out when ten million people put the kettle on and the lights flicker...

How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting For the miraculous birth, there always must be Children who did not specially want it to happen...

And yet even within this green and pleasant land dark undercurrents flow. Half of London is named after rivers, but when did you last see one? The Thames is just about open to the sky, but the others? The Fleet and the Kil-burn, the Hole-bourne and the West-bourne, all of which once rose in the northern heights where many of the Bedu pitch their tents and cascaded down the northern heights to join the great river in the south? Where are they now? Underground, that’s where, like the poor. Piped and channelled and forgotten, along with our memories and our desires...

But I digress. On the green fields of Ascott House the Ducklings (there seemed to be more of them than usual? Tony, please explain) gambolled without a care in the world. Even the Bedu seemed untroubled when Joe indicated from the middle that they were to bat first and that he, indeed, would take guard...

...skating On a pond at the edge of the wood:

Ice? In summer? With the temperature hovering (like Harrison?) in the late twenties. Ah, but it’s a metaphor, don’t you see. The pitch, the beautiful 22 yards, which looked truer than the A5 through Dunstable, in fact held any number of dangers to which the Bedu would in due course fall prey.

...They never forgot That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course...

There are those who think Auden refers to the crucifixion of Christ but...was there ever a phrase that so precisely captured what it is to be a Bedouin cricketer having an off day?

Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

Innocent, my foot. Those Shire horses in the next field had a mean and ugly gleam in their eyes and it is, on reflection, all too easy to imagine them each chained to some victim of a forgotten Inquisition, his entrails spilled and his screams dying in the void...

At 67 for 1 things were looking not too bad at all. Joe was striking the ball cleanly. Dan was scampering gaily. It was a hot day, a perfect setting, a timed game and the prospect of a fine tea. Bowley had swarmed up the drainpipe like a seaman after grog and the flag of the Bedu flew from the flagpole of the home dressing room. Harrison, unused to luxury, had photographed the toilets (he claimed it was for the website but older heads suspected it was to settle a long-standing IKEA based discussion with Susie), Jake had catalogued his many injuries and Juju had reminded everyone (how could they forget) that we are all made in god’s image only he is more so than most.

But then Hayes was out and Jake soon followed and, well...

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away Quite leisurely from the disaster...

Some people get to die on TV. One thinks of the fall of Ceausescu or the unpleasant cellphone images from Baghdad at the execution of Saddam Hussein. But others do it in the quiet of their own minds, on green fields and on perfect days.

...the ploughman may Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, But for him it was not an important failure;

And that, dear reader, is the uncomfortable truth, the one the old Masters so well understood. The unfolding disaster mattered only to the Bedu and – possibly – to their opponents whose cricket game was becoming shorter by the minute. With Jake and Dan back in the Pavilion the normally reliable Will took to the field and in the blink of an eye he returned, dismissed by a ball. And then Joe fell and with him any semblance of reason or ability or calm.

...the sun shone As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green Water...

Did it have to shine? Could there not have been some cloud cover? Something to suggest life or movement or threat. Something to provide some excuse for the sorry display of batting that followed? Please, god?

But god was not interested in the plight of the Bedu. Off the field panic set in as batsmen struggled to get padded up in time for the next dismissal. Juneed followed Bowley. Sandy hit his first ball to mid on, who dropped it. So he hit the second to deep midwicket, who caught it. Harrison was bowled. Steve lasted no longer and even the ever-reliable Duckman was done in by a cleverly flighted ball. Only the Undertaker, a ghostly Scream, remained undefeated as the Bedouin were all out, before lunch, for 93.

...and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

A word, therefore, about the opposition. It is difficult, sometimes, to witness the humiliation of others. Try watching Jeremy Kyle for more than 10 seconds. But the Jesters, a cheerful bunch of men good and true, handled it with aplomb by tucking into an excellent lunch, washed down – the mark of civilisation if you ask me – with coffee instead of tea.

In the field the Bedu did better, but it was a lost cause. Duckett pinged them in with the verve of old. Steve bowled straight and extracted unlikely bounce. The Undertaker found movement in the hot air and Chris P, swooping took a stumping to rival those of Iffley Road a year before.

But there was nothing to save the Bedu. Their waxwings had failed in the warm sunshine and it was left to the umpires (to whom many thanks for judicious decisions and unfailing good cheer) to make the man of the match awards.
Joe Phelan, for his excellent 43 and
Simon Butler from the Jesters, for his even better 37
In such circumstances it is invidious to do too much of a post-mortem, but for the Mufti’s sake the author would just offer this reminder of the code of the Bedu:
“The Bedouins emphasize cooperation, adaption, accommodation and family cohesion. Individuals are expected to show loyalty and responsibility to the collective, to place its good above their own and to follow the rules and commands of those above them in hierarchy.”

In other words, when Joe says bat all day... he means bloody get in there and bat all day.

Above: Jonny Bridcut bowls to Joe Phelan
Below left: The Beduin half of the pavilion
Below right: Harrison's photo of the plumbing
Further below: Jesters, Bedu and umpires mix after the presentation
Even further below: Jake Sharland takes guard
Bottom: Breughel's Icarus

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Account by Moby Dick