The Bedouin Cricket Club

Even by the measure of unreconstructable itinerants, it was an especially makeshift shower of Bedu that trickled irregularly into the toytown countryside of Warnford on a still, rasping day. A perfect selectorial storm of the Ashes, league cricket and the start of the summer holidays had reduced us to 10, including some unaccustomed to wasting their time on cricket – Phil, Richard and Rick.

They were cheerful, amiable and unperturbed by what followed, but then again it was a setting where even the severely willow-averse might fancy a go, if for no other reason than to participate in the folksy, drowsy summer ritual sketched in John Major’s unimaginative imagination, much as one might feel compelled to strap on the bell pads and the handkerchiefs and start prancing around in front of an accordion on May Day.

The Hogs’ ground is etched into the side of a gentle hill and shaped like a small feudal holding, with a pavilion that has the air of a swinging Tory grandee’s ‘hunting lodge’ and an integral scorebox on top. The Bedu flag was set beneath that of our hosts, which was much bigger. The horizon wobbled in the heat.

Naturally, the Hogs won the toss and chose to bat. The openers started well, partly because we only had eight at the time, while Juneed settled into an epic Anderson-esque spell that went right through until lunch. At the other end new recruit Ryan was getting the ball through nicely but struggling to straighten up his line.

In a neighbouring field, the longhorn cattle hymned primitive chorales in approval of the strokeplay of an aggressive opener who harangued the legside.

A little after Phil and Rick arrived we had our best period as Juneed bowled in tandem with Sandy, winning back some control with a full length and swing, and the new recruits fielded enthusiastically and effectively, if not without the odd pratfall. From four down however, the Hogs pressed on.

After a pleasant lunch, the batsman continued to tuck into some friendly post-prandial speculations, although Mansell was unlucky not to pick up both batsman with some elegant flight. Our heads went down and the fielding became a little ragged before Paul Williams picked up a couple spearing in his left armers, including a sharp stumping from Sandy as the batsman fell over reaching for a wide one. The Hogs declared at 265-7, three wickets for Juneed.

I opened with the Mufti, modelling flannels and Lobster Anglais. He negotiated the first over comfortably but adjudged the bowling ‘quick’. He was perhaps unlucky to be given lbw for a ball that looked a little legside. I was dismissed by the same man shortly after when an innovative appeal for bat before wicket was upheld, although I don’t doubt he would have got through legitimately in time. I marched off to claim my birthright of a prolonged moan and a warm beer (a bitter, naturally). My mood wasn’t improved by a quick blast of Boycott trampling through his dismal rhubarb patch with the usual charmless truculence as England struggled for breakthroughs.

This bowler was one of the few I’ve encountered in the flesh who actually gained momentum from a long run-up rather than losing it, and was the only player on either side to get any lift out of the wicket. He made up for a lack of swing by aiming at our toes most of the time. It was too much for the supposed cricketers, never mind the pagan day-trippers; he kept running in for over after over, the leg stump kept having to be retrieved. The Hogs were in no mood to spend any longer in the heat than they had to.

Ryan faced up bravely and hit some nice shots that found the field. Sandy , meanwhile, after hitting a cover drive (!) against the pace, took a shine to the slow wobble on offer at the other end and compiled a sprightly 28, including four offside boundaries, before he was caught at slip driving at a wide one. Juneed was the only other batsman to look comfortable, before somehow managing to get caught at square leg.

Last man Rick was cleaned up for a golden after being in danger of getting timed out. We were all out for 60 odd, 6 wickets for the quick quick, 3 for the slow quick. We retired for tea, sandwiches and scones served in the Cornish style (jam first).

As pastings go, it could scarcely have been more agreeable. After more sandwiches and tea and warm beer the Bedu said goodbye to their genial hosts and retreated, still feeling that we had participated in something worthwhile, even if in the role of sacrificials,
bell pads and all.

Bedu man of the match: Sandy for 28 a stumping and two wickets.
Hogs: D Selmes.