The Bedouin Cricket Club

Chris Petter takes a delivery from John Newton. Evans and Harrison are the alert fielders.
The icy wastes of West Norfolk are at first glance, no place for a Bedouin. On first encountering this strange place one imagines the Bedouin visitor, used to warmer climes, shivering and pulling his striped kibr closer to his body for warmth.

Yet Norfolk and the home of the Bedouin offer many interesting parallels. Both are accused by those ignorant of both places of being flat, featureless and desolate - yet both offer a kind of strange beauty to the sympathetic eye. Equally both are distinguished by patriarchal societies based on close family groups of unclearly defined relations.

So it was, in this curious, foreign-yet-not-foreign land that the Bedu pitched tents on May 20th 2012 to do battle with Castle Rising CC. The Undertaker and RWT Gillham were both late. The latter claimed brashly he could navigate to his native county by starlight in the Bedouin style - and became hopelessly lost in Hitchin, searching futilely for the A10.

The Undertaker was no good, the further he got from London, the worse his usual symptoms became. He only perked up slightly when a piece of subtle misdirection drove them through the centre of Cambridge, allowing him to treat his colleague to a brief but learned discourse on the architecture.

He and your correspondent (for 'twas I) thus arrived late to find Mufti Phelan and John Evans already with pads off. Somewhere in the distance, across the flat wasteland, a group of men played a game vaguely reminiscent of cricket. Except everyone was wearing about three jumpers, and Ben Sudell was perfecting the art of the forward defensive by managing to be in position about 3 seconds before each delivery reached him.

It was tough going for the Bedu, the wet, Norfolkian surface as foreign to them as the dusty wickets of India are to any English visitor. Luckily for all concerned, Mufti Harrison and Dan Hayes played doggedly, and with increasing elan, to take the score over 100. Unfortunately for the visitors, a low, sticky Norfolk wicket generally means a lot of LBWs, something not keenly appreciated by Petter C and Browne A, visiting antipodeans who may be forgiven for (wrongly) assuming that they had been unfortunate victims of overzealous umpiring.

Then it came to tea, a glorious affair that warmed the hearts of all concerned, with a preponderance of cake rarely seen in metropolitan cricketing circles.

Thus it came to pass that the Bedouins would field, defending a meagre total of 144.

We must spare a thought here for Browne, A. For so long the workhorse of various north London club seam attacks, he had quit playing the previous season. The sight of this former colossus limbering up brought a nostalgic tear to the eye of more than one spectator. They know their cricket in Norfolk, and one could see that here was a rare beast from a more glorious age. Browne ran in slowly, creaking as he began, like some wonderful old relic from the age of steam gathering pace to make the run from Kings Cross to Kings Lynn, via Cambridge.

At the other end, Bedouins debutant Chandler swung the ball alarmingly and soon Castle Rising were 4 down, two apiece to Chandler and Browne.

The icy winds continued to blow from the North Sea, with nothing between us and Siberia to take the edge off it's chill. Harrison patrolled the leg-side alone, peering at the batsmen suspiciously like some lone Fin regarding the Russian border, knowing no amount of Realpolitik could defend it if the enemy let loose.

The introduction of the Undertaker reversed the local curse of the LBW decision, and soon three fresh manikins representing unwary Castle Rising batsmen adorned his belt. The game was turned and the Bedouin's for the taking.

Some words of appreciation should be paid here to Bek, the Castle Rising skipper, who played a stubborn lone hand for his team. Nervelessly ignoring the Undertaker, shouldering arms to Browne's rising deliveries outside off, and peppering the boundary with the Mufti's vanity bowling, he survived unbeaten till the end. Quite how he didn't make fifty was beyond all who saw it, but it was valiant, manly stuff.

The reintroduction of Chandler saw a final stand broken and the match won for the Bedu. Retiring to the local pub, fine words were spoken of the men of the match, awarded for the deeds of Dave Bek (Castle Rising), and the fine Victorian engineering that created Andrew Browne (Bedouins).

(As an interesting postscript, I also learnt that as a young man, the Castle Rising skipper had mistakenly collected my father's autograph at a benefit match, thinking him to be famous due to his standing next to Wilf Slack at the time).
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