Odds & Ends

After Stumps: Study of Social Patterns

IT IS EARLY evening in June. A keenly fought cricket match has just resulted in a close finish, at any rate, as close as a margin of eight wickets permits.  Inside the pavilion, students of the human condition and refugees from the local parole board congregate in the centre of the building to enjoy the revels.

From the left dressing room comes laughter and levity interspersed with vain pleas for match monies and shouts of “stop doing that with the soap”. The opposite chamber is enlivened by the sound of bats with thick edges passing through windows with thin glazing, dialogue that makes ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’ seem like a Jackanory script, and the piercing screams of a teenage colt being boiled alive because he’s unable to read the instructions in the showers.

These petulant tantrums are put down to the artistic temperament (i.e. bad losers). They cease after a while and both sides frequent the bar— though in separate camps divided by a demilitarised zone, which could comfortably petition Korea.

This uneasy truce lasts until about 8.30 p.m. when a major crisis erupts: home players are required to do a bar stint. The variety and ingenuity of the excuses proffered would make rich material for a Ph.D. thesis. Has . . . . . really got a granny who has died three times? Does . . . . . really go to Plymouth Brethren prayer circles? Despite these rats deserting the drinking ship, the bar survives amid an ocean of horizontal bodies and abandoned kit.

Now approaches the maudlin hour when post-mortems are analysed in slow replay and it is generally agreed that one questionable leg-bye turned the game: wholly forgetting that their number nine who scored 60 not out began his innings by handing a white stick to the umpire.

At eleven o’clock the bar shutters descend like guillotines and so to the end of another genteel paramilitary exercise.


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