Friday, 14 April 2017
My First Wicket
I remember the first wicket I ever got in a boys match. The team were short, so incredibly short that both my brother and I had been called in. My brother 3 years younger than the others and me a girl. The first time a girl had ever played in the boys teams for my club. But this game could help decide the league standings and the manager wasn't going to concede for no reason.
Lingo, our manager, who I never saw out of his shorts and flip flops even in the cold evenings of junior cricket, was young. Must have been younger than I am now. But he had faith in this muddle of youngsters that we called our team. He got us on his side with a wide grin, banter and a kick about before our cricket match instead of the normal warm up.
I had been training with these boys for a few months. The club had decided that to extend the girls we would be in the nets with the boys. There was no question of whether we should be welcomed there. The boys saw as other players, but this was not true of our opposition. That evening as we arrived at our home ground the opposition were less than impressed that they would be facing a girl. In fact their chests puffed as if they knew they already had the game in the bag.
It wasn't until late into the game that I was called on to bowl. Just when the game was getting tight. When the match could have swung either way and either side could sense victory. The pressure was on. As I stood at the end of my mark I felt everyone watching me. That's the funny thing about cricket, the individual performance within a team game. The limelight being on you even though you stand on the pitch with 10 teammates.
The moment of watching myself bowl it etched in my brain even now. I can remember the batter standing ready and the long, deep breath I took before I ran in. The keeper and first slip clapping their hands together in encouragement then settling themselves into position. The ball looping through the air and the twitch of movement as the batsman made his decisions just the split second too early. Bat curved upwards and away from his body so the ball jumped into the air. The dive forwards the fielder made to clasp his hands under the ball just before it hit the ground. As he rolled to protect the precious ball from spilling I had realisation of what had happened. I had the scoring batsman out. I had the opposition out and I had won the match for my team.
Then with the elation that hit so did my teammates. Boys who I only vaguely knew. Had met only a few times in my life came running towards me with grins gripping their faces. The rain of high fives and hugs came quickly. Players running from all parts of the field to converge here. To share the celebrations between me and the catcher. And in that moment I was accepted. I became part of the team. I had proved that I could do it.
These boys became my teammates for the next 4 years and beyond. I trained with them and played games every week. I could recognise each one by the way they stood from the other side of the field such was our closeness. I grew up with them, they became my other brothers.
But then life happens. People drop out of cricket for all sorts of reasons. School work too much, real work takes priority and some lose the love for the game. I left the club for another and now I hardly speak to my former teammates. But I have a bank of wonderful memories both on and off the pitch that all started from this moment and this wicket.