It’s a Funny Old Game

It’s been an intense week, so let’s switch gears with some light entertainment from Peter Drake …

As cricket fans we all know there are many reasons to love our wonderful game. For some it is the chance to test themselves  against a skilled and determined opposition. Others enjoy the sense of history and/or camaraderie whilst for some, the simple fact of being outside with friends is enough to justify the time and expense needed to play the game.

For me, it is all of these and more, but perhaps the most important is the infinite number of opportunities for humour, if not out and out hilarity.

Here are just two examples from many that I have either witnessed or been told about. Readers of The Full Toss will have many more…

Way back in the 1977, the newly elected US president Jimmy Carter paid a visit to the North East. During his stay he was taken from Newcastle out to Northumberland to take a look at Hadrians Wall, that legacy of the Roman occupation of Britain some two thousand years ago. There are several village cricket grounds within a short distance of the wall and as the president was driven past it occurred to him that he would like to see this mysterious game ‘cricket’ being played close up.

Players at one particular ground were amazed when a convoy of limousines drove past the entrance to the ground and astonished to see each vehicle in sequence perform a U turn, and then make its way up towards the pavilion.

‘Alf’ was batting at the time. As a Northumbrian farmer, he was short on sophistication; baling twine held up his whites, and he had a fondness for, shall we say, directness of speech.

The security detail checked out the pavilion for bombs or or potential assassins, then Jimmy emerged from his limo, accompanied by two heavies. He appeared fascinated by the game and asked lots of questions. Anglo – American relations were strengthened.

The captain of the batting side suggested that their guest might like to take a stroll around the ground to better observe the game from a different angle.

Jimmy thought this a good idea and set off with his entourage, pausing occasionally to take in this most English of scenes. The teams played on, indifferent to the presence of their VIP guest.

Then Jimmy Carter, president the most powerful nation on Earth and leader of the free world, made a big mistake.

He walked in front of the sight screen as the bowler ran in.

Alf, on strike, stepped back from his guard as though menaced by a dangerous snake a short distance from the crease. A hail of profanity and an angry waving of the bat followed.

An urgent whisper from the ‘keeper advised Alf who the miscreant was.

His reply was immediate and unforgettable.

‘Aah divvent ****ing give a **** who he is. He doesn’t walk behind the ****in bowlers arm when I’m ****in batting!’

He was right, of course.

There are some things that even presidents can’t do.

Copyright, Simon Taylor

Years ago, as coach of a junior team I once had the pleasure of a visit by recently retired county player who gave boys the benefit of his experience and expertise over an evening session.

He was very kind about what he had seen but made the point that any serious outfit would have a couple of sessions on the use of a runner for the instance of an injury sustained during an innings. We duly followed his advice and practiced for such an eventuality.

Perhaps it was a coincidence, perhaps it was inevitable that the next outing of the team saw not one but two injuries that required the use of a runner.

If one extra batsman on the square is cause enough for confusion think what four will do. Add in the fact that the four are excitable under 13 cricketers and you have, as they say, a recipe for mayhem.

It didn’t take long.  A push to midwicket was all it took.

In the heat of the moment, our injured on-strike soldier completely forgot that he was hurt and set off for the non striker’s end accompanied by his bemused assistant. On arriving, all four boys realised that something had gone badly wrong and that a run out was very much on the cards. As a result, all four set off, screaming instructions at each other.

Someone said later that it was like watching gazelle sweep across the Serengeti.

By now, most of the gathering of coaches, parents and spectators had started to add their thoughts, mostly at the tops of their voices. Those that weren’t shouting were laughing. It was pandemonium.

Panic had set in and all four were lost to the voice of reason. Back and forth they went. Four times? Five? I lost count. All I can remember is that eventually we ended up with the correct number of batsmen at each end.

As it turned out, no runout happened, the reason being that it is extremely difficult to throw straight when your eyes are full of tears…

Peter Drake


  • I used to play for a club that had a pub adjoining the ground and after an evening socialising with the locals it was decided that their bragging darts teams would put together an X1 to take us on during the day and in return we would would play their team at darts team in the evening, allegedly as friendlies.
    Once everyone had sobered up the competitive spirit came to the fore and even some practice ensued. Our captain invited the darts team to use our facilities and provided some makeweight bowling as most of the darters had not played since at school, whilst the darters entertained us by allowing practice against their ladies team, who were good enough to give us run for our money. The teams were then named and of course no one playing in the practice sessions for either was involved. However the mysteries of pitch preparation were unknown to the darters whereas there’s nothing much you can do to doctor a dartboard and most of our selected darts players had their own set of darts.
    The big day dawned and the darters having won the toss elected to bat. There were no rules about kit, so whites were not obligatory, though the groundsman insisted trainers were worn to protect his beloved turf. Our groundsman had prepared a good wicket save for an under-prepared strip on a length at each end which was slightly more grassy and remained unrolled. The reason for this became obvious straight away as our 2 openers, practiced at hitting a length, ran through the darters X1 with 4 retired hurts (hand injuries all). 3 of those 4 were to be in the darts team later. After less than a hour our openers had made the 26 required for victory, their bowlers trying to unsettle us with short pitchers away from the danger area. We then softened the blow with an afternoon ‘entertaining’ the darters in our Pavillion. Whilst our players supped heavily disguised low alcohol concoctions their team duly obliged with the real thing. Come the evening the results of our efforts almost pulled off a famous victory and although we lost a close encounter our annihilation of their cricketing pretensions meant we got the better of them overall. To this day I don’t think they suspected anything untoward, as back in the safety of our pavillion we toasted our groundsman well into the night.

  • Nice piece, Peter-Drake! Who’d be a youth cricket coach??!!
    J. Denby (“science teacher” and, yes, part-time “cricket coach”

  • Nice anecdote, Marc Evans! And nice piece, “Peter Drake”:)
    P. Teacher,
    All-year-round cricket tragic (autumn, winter, spring, summer)

  • One more from me…
    MANY years ago, our team went out to Holland for a few days of cricket and social.
    We were greeted by the Dutch captain who assured us that his team were “all looking forward to playing the crickets against the Englishmans”. He drive us to our hotel thence to a bar on the outskirts of Amsterdam where 10 more Dutch cricketers were there to greet us. The Grolsch flowed, the laughter was loud and the time passed…
    Four o’clock came and went, then five.
    It was carnage.
    Well after dawn it was agreed that we should retire for a couple of hours kip before heading off to the ground. We weren’t worried about the result as the opposition were in an equally poor shape. Worse, actually.
    At ten o’clock eleven very poorly Englishmen arrived to play a 40 over game in the hot sunshine.
    They were greeted by eleven Dutchmen, fresh as daisies and raring to go.
    Eleven Dutchmen we had never seen before…
    Peter Drake
    teacher playwright
    Hexham Northumberland

  • Is there going to be article about the ECB paying themselves 2.1 mil in renumerations when the organization is taking a loss?

  • Excellent article, and excellent below-the-line comments Looking forward to reading more of the same.
    Jonty Denby,
    “Queen Elizabeth High School” (class of ’82)


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