It had been one of those weeks that all cricketers dread. Perfect sunshine for the first four and a half days while most slave their way through the working week, then just as the Friday feeling surfaces and thoughts of the weekend crept to the forefront of my mind, the clouds rolled over and dampened everyone’s spirits with a huge downpour.
With municipal park cricket, a Friday night monsoon usually means one of two things. Either the groundsman responsible for the park cancels the game or more often than not the pitch is hastily ‘prepared’ with some wobbly white lines for crease markings and a swift cut with the mower. As soon as the stumps are in the ground, it costs the home team £50.
This particular Saturday, however, was one of a handful of games played on a club wicket, against one of only two remaining ‘white’ sides in the league. The strip was evidently damp but the game went ahead anyway and the pitch, although slow, was a batting paradise compared with our usual surroundings.
It was no surprise therefore that our attacking horde of bat-swingers lapped up every opportunity to score. Even I cashed in, sensing that it might be my only chance to bat on a flat track. Going in one wicket down in the tenth over, I accumulated steadily found myself six short of a long-awaited maiden hundred at the beginning of the final over.
At this point, my inner Pakistani took charge and I crashed one over the long-off boundary to bring up the ton, then carved another 11 runs in a wholly surreal five minutes, finishing unbeaten on Nelson with the team 289 for 3 from our 40 overs.
Two hours later we had completed a 150-run win and, still pumped full of adrenaline I was at the clubhouse bar poised to buy the customary jug of beer in honour of my batting landmark. Then I realised that I was on my own. My ten teammates, most being Muslims and not accepting of alcohol, especially in such public surroundings, had jumped in their cars and left.
Feeling at a bit of a loss, I made my way back to the Elstow pub that is home to the village side I had abandoned at the beginning of the season. They welcomed me with incredulous banter in celebrating both my milestone and a win of their own.
The beer was not what was important. Paramount was – and always is – the post-match atmosphere at a club that is able to socialise and mull over the events of the afternoon.