Sounds good, right? An afternoon partaking in that most British of summer pursuits (a bit of cricket), accompanied by a seemingly endless supply of expertly fashioned G&Ts. And so it was… for the most part. But as I type this with shaking hands, sleep-deprived and barely able to remember how to spell my middle name (not even joking – I just had to check my driving license) I’m not sure I can – or should – recommend it. Let me explain.
A lovely gin & tonic
Sunday saw the last game of the season for my beloved Cambridge cricket team, St Radegunds. Tradition dictates that this is a jaunty family affair where all the team gathers with spouses, lovers, children and random strangers from the pub at Jesus College to play what is known as the ‘Vera’s Match’. A Vera is a double G&T – a shortened form of the rhyming slang ‘Vera Lynn’. Little did I know the rampant importance that gin would play throughout the day. But anyway.
Jesus College, Cambridge. (Spot the tiny fielder!)
Having met in the Champion Of The Thames on King Street at midday, the team was in high spirits (quite literally) by the time the game proper kicked off at two. We lined up along the boundary to be picked out one by one to join either the official St Radegunds side, or the once-a-season-only temporary side of the magnificent Vera Lynn Appreciation Society. I was selected to play for the latter. With each team boasting a rich variety of players of all ages (I think the youngest was five) and abilities, the focus was on fun rather than a final victory either way, although I’m pretty sure someone was keeping score for at least some of the match.
If details sound vague, that’s because I can barely remember anything. Everyone over the legal drinking age was required to imbibe pints of ale throughout the match. Play would be halted in order that glasses could be refilled. Not taking a pint out onto the field (be you batting, fielding, bowling or – hilariously – umpiring) meant you ‘weren’t a proper cricketer’. This seemed fairly reasonable to start with and I tried to pace myself, but as soon as someone noticed dwindling levels of beer an instruction to refill at once was issued. At fifteen overs when one would usually break for water and squash, double G&Ts were served. Liberally. I’d had about four gins before I even got my pads on.
It was quite wonderful swaying gently at mid-off in the afternoon sunshine, watching good-natured sportsmanship occurring in the crease and occasionally trying to catch a ball. Running became a bit of a struggle after a while, but no one was expecting too much so the odd wobble out towards the boundary – pint in hand – was perfectly achievable. Staggeringly, I even managed to take a wicket on the last ball of my bowling over, which is pretty good going even when I’m not three sheets to the wind.
After that, things get a bit hazy. I know I batted at number four and seemed to be out there for ages, taking some rather good balls from a teeny tiny bowler and generally running up and down a bit. A random chap ran me out, but I really didn’t mind as having a bit of a sit down was by now quite high up on my list of priorities. Now unencumbered by fielding duties, the Vera Lynn Appreciation Society had little do but wait to be called to the crease – and drink, of course.
And eating, too, but it didn’t matter how many sausage rolls I shoved into my little face, they were not enough to soak up the oceans of gin and ale now coursing through my veins, probably giving me a blood group that was now 70% proof. At one point we tried to cajole a group of non-English speaking tourists to join the game. They went away quite swiftly.
Still drinking at the pavillion
I’m not sure who won, or even if anyone was still keeping score. It was probably a draw, but the result was irrelevant as it became imperative that everyone got back to the pub as quickly as possible, because we had run out of booze. Obviously, the one thing we all really needed at this point was lots more booze. Now things get really sketchy. There was a lot of singing, I know that. I distinctly remember leading the throng in a rousing rendition of Invisible Touch by Genesis. There were other, St Radegunds-specific, songs that were sung at people and instructed them to drink gin very quickly indeed. These were very good songs.
Back at the pub
At some point, the pub closed. I don’t know when this was, but it was definitely morning. The chap who ran me out clearly still felt bad about the matter and invited my good self and a couple of others back to his place for some wine. He turned out to be a splendid fellow, actually, and we had a lovely chat about things I can’t remember before we spilled out onto the streets of Cambridge at about 6am.
No idea what this is, but it was on my phone
And so you find me now, trying to get on with my day (failing miserably) while watching Inspector Morse and wondering if I will ever see straight again. The moral of this story, if there is one, is probably not to drink with cricketers. Or ever drink anything ever again.
Until next season, obviously.