So last night I was in bed watching an episode of Bad Education, as you do, and the episode was about the school football team and it got me thinking about the three years I actually played for my school. In Year 6 at Meadowlands and then Years 7 & 8 at Oaklands before we moved to the Isle of Wight and I attended Carisbrooke High and there was no cricket team there, boo. Hampshire and England spinner Danny Briggs went to Carisbrooke, I wonder if they had actually formed a team by the time he got there, they still hadn’t by the time I left but they might have sorted themselves out in the years since.
I laid back in bed thinking about all the games I played and you’d be surprised just how good of a recollection I have. At Meadowlands Middle they had never had a team before but the team was made up of both Year 6 and Year 7 pupils. Our first game was away at Denmead and despite being the youngest player on the team I took the bowl for the first over as no-one else had the guts to (or maybe I was our best bowler, one of the two) and my first over was dot, dot, dot, 2, wicket, dot. That isn’t a bad way to start. The wicket was clean bowled middle stump. Something I’d get used to.
You see I wasn’t a pacey bowler and at best I was military medium, however I knew exactly what I was doing and could move it off the seam both ways at will. At that age those types of bowlers weren’t the norm, guys with control who could bowl wicket to wicket and everyone thought they could slog me to all parts and no-one ever could. I would take wickets bowled constantly throughout my time. I think I had one caught behind and maybe an LBW but everything else was bails clattering to the floor.
We would lose at Denmead comfortably and lose again at Purbrook Park before our only win at Barncroft. This game was on an INSET day so we went into school in the afternoon just for the game. We smashed them but the biggest story from that game personally is that I hit my only boundary of my school cricket career and it wasn’t a four, oh no, it was a six. You see I was (and would still be) and genuine #11 but I hit one six at Barncroft (it cleared the boundary by inches at best) and that was my best performance batting wise.
So on to secondary school and I tried out for the team and made it. Again unsurprisingly I made it solely based on my bowling talent. We actually had a pretty good team and in Year 7 you’d play a lot of the schools locally before being split into A and B leagues from Year 8 onwards and we would go on to play in the A league.
In the last practice before our first game (at home against Horndean) I was bowling superbly and our teacher said that I’d be in the team and would be part of our bowling quartet. Good times. However when it came down to it whilst I did make the team, I didn’t bowl. Crazy. This isn’t me being big headed but more to do with the fact that there was no point me ever being in the team unless I was bowling as I couldn’t bat and with my dodgy arm and leg, I was never a great fielder. Having said that though I did take a stunning catch in the cover against Crookhorn I think it was, a cover drive creamed off of the bowling of Baker and I stuck out my right mitt and plucked it out of the air when it was destined for the boundary with maybe only one or two bounces.
Anyway we won both those games and then we’d do enough in Year 7 to make the A league in Year 8 (we lost at Warblington but were unbeaten elsewhere). I’d play every game and after that opening game I would mostly bowl out my overs nice and economically. Our set up was very simple. 20/20 games and Bennett and Baker would bowl the first ten and Harding and myself would bowl the second ten.
In Year 8 we got given the opportunity to go to Portsmouth Grammar School for a friendly as we’d impressed in Year 7. We lost at Warblington badly (just like we had done in Year 7 – clearly our bogey team). We were skittled out for 58 or so and we couldn’t defend it. In this game I got to bowl one over and gave up three runs and was given the hook because I was giving up too many runs. I distinctly recall how pissed off I was about this as I was our most economical bowler that day and that game would lead to a change, they decided to bring up a Year 7 bowler to the team to replace me in the bowling attack, I still played but again didn’t bowl, like there was any point in that but still.
The previous week we’d had our best victory, we went to City Boys and tore them apart. Bennett got five wickets and they were so arrogant they weren’t even watching their team bat, instead they were practising in their Sports Hall and batters weren’t ready to come out and bat because we were taking wickets so frequently. Baker took one, Harding took two in two overs and I took two in 1.5 overs to end things as we limited them to just 56. We would squeak home in a game we should’ve romped home with four wickets to spare.
We played PGS away and I played didn’t bowl. Again not amused because mainly there was no point me being in the team if I wasn’t to bowl and you know what, I was one of the best bowlers in the team and my record backs them up. Across middle and secondary school I’d average a wicket every 11 balls and my economy rate would’ve been well below three. That is a fine record. Although of note on the PGS game was the tea we got, seriously good food. Also the person who was doing the scoring was doing it as a detention punishment, I found that amusing.
Anyway we played Horndean again in the cup in Year 8 and I didn’t play, I was off school that day and we put in our worst bowling performance of the season, giving up well over 100 runs in the 20 overs but coupled with our worst bowling performance was our best batting performance. Champkin, Moss and Connolly all scored highly and we’d go on to play St. John’s College in the semi-final. That day had been wet and we all suspected the game was postponed but we heard nothing so went to the minibus at the end of the school day and waited, and we waited, and we waited. Our teacher didn’t come so after 15-20 mins or so a couple of us went to find him, the game was somehow on and we got in the minibus and went down to St. John’s playing fields.
When we got there, we saw no minibus and thought again the game was off because we were seriously late, yet a few minutes later Mr Marron came back and said they were on their way and we went into the clubhouse and got changed. Again the Year 7 kid was in the side (Sutherland) so again I was in the team only to bat (lols) and field. It was the perfect wicket for me to bowl, it was wet and I bowled it wicket to wicket nibbling off the seams, I’d have torn through that team but I digress (can you tell it still bugs me?)
We batted first and scrambled to 80 odd, which wasn’t a great score but defendable. We bowled well and had them nine down going into the final over and they needed four to tie and five to win. A tie would mean they would qualify for the final as we were all out in our 20 overs (I was out first ball, stupidly batting at #10, the fact someone was deemed worse than me at batting is quite something but I missed a full, fast straight one and off stump disappeared behind me).
Baker would bowl the final over and it went one, one, dot, one, dot. So the final ball and they needed one to tie and two to win. Full pitched delivery, dug out but straight back to Baker, he had time to turn and run at the non striking end and take off the bails but instead he turned and threw at the stumps and missed and we had no-one backing up and they scrambled through for the tie and we went out based on having lost more wickets. Gutting.
My last game and we went out to a posh school having been so close. On a personal level too going out having not bowled was just as gutting. Still wait, what is this? I’d suit one once more? So yes, the cricket teachers/coaches of Years 8, 9, 10 and 11 were asked to select the best players for the Staff v Students match and Year 8 got two players and I was selected along with Baker. So I was deemed one of the best two players despite not being called upon to bowl in many matches, yeah that made sense.
The staff v students game was on the last Saturday of the school year and it was a 20/20 game but the rules were slightly different, every player bowled two overs (bar the wicketkeeper) so I came in and bowled my first over, neat and tidy and then came my second over – and this one would be my last ever in a competitive match. I started dot, dot, dot and with three balls left in my career I took a wicket, nick behind. In came the headmaster, now the rules of this game were that first ball you couldn’t be out, so you could come in and have a big slog for a ball, so first ball to him, I hit middle and off and everyone cheered but of course he wasn’t out due to that rule, I just turned and trudged back to my mark (not that I had a mark, I just arbitrarily decided where I would run in from on a ball-by-ball basis – I never had the pace to worry about no balls, I was always way behind the line). My final ball I chugged in and pitched one up, he dug it out but it went low and hard to mid on where Baker was fielding, it was tough, it was low, but it was catchable and he got both hands to it but couldn’t hold on. I was that close to ending my career with a hat-trick and the headmaster too. Damn.
Somehow I was inked in to come in and #8 in this game and I actually scratched around and scored eight off of about 15 balls and it was a relief when I got out as we were in a run chase and we needed someone better than me batting. We went on to lose by one run. Gutting. The game though was changed somewhat when the headmaster was given out LBW but said that he wasn’t out and refused to go, he’d go on to score 50 odd when he given out for something like ten.
So yeah, a blog that no-one will read and no-one will care about but it was fun to write. That win at City Boys will always stick out because we as a bowling unit tore them apart. I’ll always be miffed that I was underutilised as a bowler in the team and that game at St. John’s…we should’ve been in the final. It is weird that I can pretty much remember the whole team despite having maybe only spoken to one of them in the past ten years. I moved school and my cricketing days were in my rear-view mirror. I wonder how the guys did in subsequent seasons and whether Sutherland kept playing for both his year and our year. Also it scares me just how much of this all I can very clearly remember.
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