It’s the Bowlers’ Bar at Lord’s two weeks ago. ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ is in full swing on the jukebox. It has been a long night. Balloons and empty glasses litter the place. MATTHEW HOGGARD, a dishevelled old bowler in an out-of-date tour suit, is holding court at the bar.

HOGGARD
‘Ave a sup on me. Gi’em all a sup. And gi’ them ECB hoodlums a sup.

(We see two other men, PETER MOORES and JAMES WHITAKER, standing near Hoggard at the bar, raise their glasses in salute.)

HOGGARD
It’s grand bein’ home. Cheers.

(ALASTAIR COOK enters with a glitzy WAG. Hoggard looks up and sees him.)

HOGGARD
Ey up, Cooky! Look at thee, all grown up an’ ont town. Ey, sitha Cooky. Cooky! EY! COOKY!

COOK (to MOORES and WHITAKER)
Oh blast, I forgot you were having a shindig for him. Best go say hi.

HOGGARD
C’mere!

COOK
Hello Hoggy, are you well?

HOGGARD
Get thissen over here, I’ve not seen thee in six fookin’ years. Jesus H Christ. Tha looks gradely.

(Cook walks over and Hoggard, too aggressively, grabs Cook around the neck. Cook doesn’t like it.)

COOK
Watch the suit, it’s my airport suit!

HOGGARD
Watch the suit? Ey, I’ve known thee since way back. Don’t go gettin’ all maungy on me, lad.

COOK
That’s fine. Just, please, no piddling with my plums, Hoggy, ok?

HOGGARD
Cooky, if I were piddlin’ wi’ tha plums, I’d tell thee to c’mere and shine me ball.

(Cook’s smile turns to a glare as he realizes Hoggard is making fun of him. The men at the bar are roaring with laughter. His girl is looking glumly at her shoes.)

This kid were great. We used to call him Spitshine Cooky. Swear to God. Ee ‘ad these dry ‘ands, mek that nut look like a fookin’ ballbearing, ee could. Champion polisher. Like Len Ganley at t’Crucible.

COOK
No more shines, Hoggy.

HOGGARD
What?

COOK
I said no more shines. Maybe you didn’t hear about it, you’ve been away for a long time, they didn’t go up to Headingley to tell you. I don’t shine balls any more. I’m England captain now and my job is to win games of cricket for England.

HOGGARD
Oh, give over, mardy bum… I’m pullin’ tha plonker a little bit, is all. Don’t get chuffy about it.

COOK
Sometimes, you know, it doesn’t sound like you’re kidding, Hoggy. I’m just trying to win games of cricket for England.

HOGGARD
Cooky, I’m kiddin’. I’ve not seen thee in ages an’ I’m ticklin’ thi tackle, and now tha’s gettin’ all pissy. Sorry, lad, no offence, eh?

COOK
No, I’m sorry too, it’s ok.

HOGGARD
Up yer bum.

(He pulls his glass to his lips, reconsiders, puts it back on the table.)

HOGGARD
(Deliberately) Now get over ‘ere and shine me ball.

COOK
(Exploding) You ruddy, ruddy sod!

(Moores pushes Cook away from Hoggard and gets him to the door)

HOGGARD
Aye, aye. C’mon lad!

COOK
(being pushed back and out of the door by Moores) Peter, he’s gone too far! I’m just trying to do my job, which is winning games of cricket for England, and I’m finding all this criticism quite hard to take, to be honest with you. Something needs to be done!

(Cook leaves with the WAG)

WHITAKER
(Conciliatory) Hoggy, Hoggy, I’m sorry, Alastair is still learning and he doesn’t always get things right. But we still believe he will get it right the majority of the time. He has our 100% support. He doesn’t mean any disrespect.

HOGGARD
No disrespect? Is tha mad? Teach the soft get some fookin’ manners. Hey Mooresy, what’s right is right. Am I right?

MOORES
I’ll have to have a look at the data.

HOGGARD
I mean the kid’s over ‘ere, we’re all utched up and lovey dovey, and two minutes later ee’s got monk on.

MOORES
Well, I’ve got a huge amount of respect for Alastair as a player and as a captain. He knows the England captain should always be robustly debated but I think you were a little harsh in your criticism of him.

HOGGARD
Oh give over. ‘Nother Pedigree, gaffer.

(Time passes. We see the last people outside cricket leaving the bar, as Cook re-enters. Hoggard is drunkenly ranting to Moores.)

MOORES
It’s changed now. You’ve been away for six years, everything is different.

HOGGARD
It’s about respect, is what it’s about, Mooresy. I won fookin’ Ashes in 2005. 16 wickets at under 30.

MOORES
The data looks good, Hoggy, I’ll give you that.

(Hoggard senses trouble and looks around to see Cook. Moores grabs his arms from behind, Cook draws his inner steel from his jacket and, frenzied, stabs Hoggard in the chest over and over again.)

MOORES
Get the door!

COOK
(almost crying) I’ve won a lot of games of cricket for England! I won an Ashes series, I won away in India! I’m proud of my achievements as England captain!

(Whitaker pulls a kit bag from behind the bar to transport Hoggard’s body.)

WHITAKER

This is really bad. What are we going do with him? We can’t just dump him out on the Nursery.

MOORES
Don’t worry, don’t worry. No one’s going to care – he’s not from the right sort of family. Come on, let’s get another sheet to wrap round the body. We need an extra cover.

COOK
Ok, I’ll take Trotty out of the slips.

 

Richard Marsden