The batsman took a trouser splitting stride forward that instantly took the pace off the ball and it squirted out sideways from under his bat.
Indeed, if he had take a bigger stride he could have shaken the bowlers hand as he ran in!. The bowler himself, a rotund fellow with reddened face, mopped vigorously at his brow as the ball was returned to him and, with resolute stride, began the long march back to the start of his run up.
His captain turned and watched the retreating figure until it was a mere dot in the distance. Then it turned and with deliberate slowness began to walk back before breaking into a lumbering run that covered the last few yards. A swift turn of the shoulders and the ball was delivered inducing an edge that flew over slips head and ran away to the boundary.
“Ah, you’ll get him next time!” Was delivered in the Dorset burr but the bowler merely scowled and said nothing as he watched the ball pass from fielder to fielder until it was once again safe in his hands.
He started off again, his captains endorsement ringing in his ears.
He wandered in again and this time the ball eluded the bats edge and landed, with a heartening thud, in the wicket keepers gloves. Another scowl. Another “You’ll get him next time!”.
Wearily he mopped his brow as the cloud cover broke and the pretty little ground was bathed in warm sunshine. He glanced upwards and his scowl deepened for the change in conditions would not assist his bowling and he muttered something under his breath as his captain passed him the ball, eliciting a raised eyebrow and a gentle shrug of the younger mans shoulders.
In again. This time an edge and the fielder threw himself forward to cling on to the ball before it struck the emerald green turf. Howzat!?. Slip cordon and wicket keeper up in unison, all eyes upon the umpire.
“No ball!” Says he, arm outstretched. He says it again and the scorer sitting behind the boundary rope raises an ancient and withered hand in acknowledgment.
The bowler, eyes narrowed, turns and gives the umpire ‘the look’, the one that would make lesser men quake but the umpire is oblivious to such things as he chews ferociously upon a piece of gum. The bowler turns once more and stomps past the masticating judge, ‘the look’ increasing in intensity as he passes.
Ball once more in hand he glares down upon it as though this red orb, this inanimate object, is itself to blame. He takes it in his hand and rubs furiously at his trousers, endeavouring to keep shine upon the ball, all the while threatening to separate the fibres that hold his whites together, such is the fury of his rubbing.
Satisfied he gives a loud ‘harumph’ and trundles in again. The batsman takes an optimistic swing and the ball heads heavenwards. A dozen pairs of eyes look upwards and then down again as the poor unfortunate who is closest wanders too and fro beneath the rapidly descending ball.
The ball lands. Hands grasp it but it slips out again as if it is alive. It squirms free and as though in slow motion, the grey haired gentleman thrusts out a hand, more in hope than expectation and the ball bounces off his wrist to land with the echoing thunder of doom, at his feet.
Bowler, face as red as the ball he has bowled, gazes steadily at the man who has dropped his prize. The umpire signals over and the fielding team, heads bowed, move to their appointed positions. The captain, no doubt young and full of optimism, puts a friendly hand upon his bowlers shoulder, “You’ll get him next time!” He days with a friendly squeeze.
The bowlers reply is unrepeatable.
“Careful” warns the umpire, “there are children here”. The bowler looks around him at the watching ‘crowd’, the ancient scorer, two elderly gentlemen walking their dogs and a young mother with a child, no more than two, toddling along the boundary rope.
He turns back to the umpire and with withering glare says, “Aye, and he’d have caught the bugger!”.