The relentless blaze of afternoon sun baked the dry circle of green situated inexplicably in the middle of miles and miles of corn fields. The air was thick with hope and sweat and Deep Heat and I scanned the unforgivingly flat horizon of Cambridgeshire countryside in vain search of some small corner of modesty and found none. To my left, team captain Francis was disrobing with gusto and a distinguished member of the Queen’s Royal Hussars was already down to his underpants (blue) to my right. It seemed there was nothing for it but to wriggle into my whites right here in the open. This was not the first time I had found myself semi-naked in a field and, God willing, it won’t be my last, so I took a deep breath and cast aside my attire in favour of cricket wear.
Following an embarrassing incident during the last match, I had spent most of the week fielding enquiries from concerned people (some of whom I don’t know very well) regarding the welfare of my groin. I put said groin through its paces with some vigorous physical activity on Friday afternoon and it held up remarkably well, however I was still worried about the occurrence of a repeat injury – not least because of the pain, but equally due the humiliation involved. In preparation for today’s match, I had bolstered my groin with a hearty pub lunch beforehand, which seemed like the best precaution.
Back row – Sam, Posh Tom, David, Adam ‘Posh Smith’ Smythe, Francis, Adrian, Simon
Front row – Tim, Martin, Major Tom, my good self
Despite misgivings about my own fitness, Rain Men had high hopes for the game. We had the rare advantage of having not one but two star players at our disposal – Major Tom and Posh Tom. Both gifted all-rounders, their appearances are limited by Major Tom’s frequent ‘invading of defenceless third-world countries’ and Posh Tom being very busy, as posh people often are. The exemplary bowling of both Toms occupied the opposing batsmen while the rest of us were able to enjoy a largely untroubled fielding experience by admiring a passing kestrel and ruminating on amusing cloud formations. There were occasional bouts of foraging for lost balls amongst the surrounding chaparral, which brought an acceptable amount of low level drama to proceedings. After the first 30 overs, we retired for tea with our rivals on 146 for 6 and Rain Men feeling unusually confident about our turn in the crease.
Our 30 overs began so well, some of the team opted to take themselves off to sunbathe or chatter with the thronging masses of picnicking spectators.
Posh Tom & Sam mingling with the crowds
Before long, our star performers were padded up and striding onto the field. Observing the scorching double-Tom action in the crease, it became obvious that none of the rest of us would need to bat, so Tim and I decided to create a Sunday evening ITV series, ably assisted by the assembled creative genius of David, Adam ‘Posh Smith’ Smythe and Sam. Tucking into the remaining sausage rolls, we outlined a humorous cricket-based detective series, featuring a hapless cricket-obsessed investigator who shows complete ineptitude for the sport but ironically has an uncanny knack for solving murders, despite having no interest in crime whatsoever.
Just as we were making real headway with this, it was announced that we had won. I can’t tell you how we did this or what the score was (that’s cricket for you) but everyone was very pleased. There was a small amount of hugging, even. Going to the local pub after a match is mandatory, but this time we were able to celebrate our glorious victory, rather than pick over the rancid bones of defeat.
Victorious Rain Men!
And – just for the record – my groin is absolutely fine. You can all stop asking about it now, thanks.
(With thanks to the photographic skills of Francis Peckham – Rain Man extraordinaire)