The ugly Face of the beautiful Game

Mystics versus Callington at Callington, 3rd August 2006

Graham Sharland was not to know that a Guardian correspondent was hovering outside the Callington pavilion after the match, and he would have been surprised to read the following report under this by-line heading on the back page of the newspaper's sports section on 7 August 2006 in the unlikely event of his ever reaching the back page of the Guardian:

chanced upon a game. It was, I believe, one of those perennial 'school first eleven versus old boys' matches, and the pupils were giving the alumni a fair old larruping. When the fourth wicket fell - to the accompaniment of a venerable school chant which went something like 'Wait! Wait! Wait! Oh fucking hell, Charlie' - the Old Boys were in manifest disarray. But this, as they say, was an innings of two halves, and the second half belonged to the willowy skipper of the batting side. For a long time mutely partnered by a cripple (a war wound, probably), he crashed his own way to a century and took his team to a respectable score at the end of the forty overs. The next highest score was eleven!

Now friendly cricket, as we all know, is a game folded into a social occasion - and it was no surprise to hear the Old Boys swapping jolly memories of past pranks over tea in the spacious pavilion. They seemed a nice bunch, more of a credit to the school than the current first eleven, scoffing sandwiches and cakes in surly silence, broken only by sly allusions to personal prowess. (You boys, too, may grow up to be men, and learn something about sharing, rather than taking sole possession of, a game.) What followed was, in its way, extraordinary. Thanks largely to a century by a youngster who has just been picked to play for Cornwall, the boys polished off the game in scarcely more than twenty overs - and then they all went home.

My sympathy was all with the disgruntled Old Boy who made it clear that he wouldn't be putting his name down for next year's match. To him I owe the inspiration for the following guidelines to conduct guaranteed to tarnish the game of cricket:
1. Team game? What team game?
2. Opposition? Who cares?
3. We stuffed them!
4. Did you see my catch?
5. What's on telly tonight?

Peter Thomson

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