By Andrew Frame
As you read my article this morning, I shall be preparing for battle. It is a fight I have been taking part in every summer for the last four years. It is long, hot, fun, frustrating, exciting, boring euphoric and occasionally painful. It is cricket.
Hawke’s Bay has some of the best cricket grounds in New Zealand. Napier’s McLean Park has probably the best international pitch in the country. The fantastically, slog-festingly England vs. Blackcaps one-dayer here in February 2008, I think, its greatest example. 100 overs, 680 runs and the match was drawn to boot. Well, “to bat” technically. What a day!
Neighboring Nelson Park is a date palm encircled jewel (hence some of New Zealand’s highest ground fees) on summer Saturdays. I even have a soft spot for the often maligned Frimley Park in Hastings. You heard right, there’s something in Hastings I actually like!
When you say “I play cricket” people usually ask “Are you a batter or a bowler?” I’m a fielder.
I’ve only ever bowled three overs for my team for a grand total of no wickets for 26 runs (albeit with a catch dropped off the last ball of my second attempt). Which gives me an economy rate (for the statisticians) of: “Rubbish”.
My batting is seldom better. My bat was 4.25 inches of willow wide and I could only ever hit a ball with the edges of it. I had been told by others who had used my bat it had “a really good middle” and I had indeed seen them hit balls into different postcodes with it. But after three seasons I still hadn’t found it. So, I decided to go the way of the bad tradesman and buy myself a new bat.
With a career top score of 10, I usually stick around long enough to get a run or two and several ball-shaped bruises. But I am slowly improving. In last season’s big final, I was run out for two. I was miffed. I had a late season century in the making. If my batting partner hadn’t been a lawyer I would have sued him for wrongful dismissal.
So this is why I’m a fielder. I stand around, chew gum, get a tan, stop or chase the odd ball that comes in my general direction. It’s a hard life with the occasional flash of brilliance. My second catch last season was a stunner. You should have seen it; because I certainly didn’t. The ball left the bat about a foot off the ground and that’s exactly the height it arrived to me, fifteen meters away, a split second later to be (surprisingly) met by my hand, which (even more surprisingly) grabbed and held the catch. Cue stunned silence around the field, quickly followed by various versions of “(insert expletive here) He caught it!” Gee, thanks for the moral support, guys.
In true tabloid fashion, I almost didn’t make this season. Playing indoor netball for my work over winter, I managed to fracture my little finger in the first quarter of a game. But I was strong. I played on through the pain. Like a netballing Buck Shelford, I caught, passed and shot goals one-handed. Ironically, it improved my game remarkably. And we won by a respectable margin.
A week later when the specialist was examining the x-ray, I asked how this would affect my upcoming cricket season. He told me I should be fine providing I strapped the finger up before playing. “My son is a very good cricketer and he has broken virtually all of his fingers” he said. Thank goodness I’m not a very good cricketer!