Cricket, as they say, is a great leveller. In no other sport can you go from zero to hero and back again quite so dramatically. You may score a blistering century one week, but a big, fat duck so often follows in your next innings.
On Saturday, my band of merry men continued our bid for promotion by dismissing the opposition for 116 in our penultimate league fixture. Our hopes of victory were high as we tucked into platefuls of sausage rolls and doughnuts – come and join us, Andy Flintoff! – during the tea interval. The wicket, however, was sporty to say the least, and it was essential we got off to a solid start. Fortunately, "Drives", my vice-captain, was back from his golfing holiday to resume his duties at the top of the batting order.
Drives, you see, is our very own Denis Compton. A former professional footballer and minor-counties cricketer, he has scored over 25,000 runs for the first XI – and will happily recount every single one to anyone who cares to listen.
This season – which, he vowed, would be his last – has coincided with the form of his life, a summer even Sachin Tendulkar would be envious of. Having scored two league centuries in the seconds, he moved up to the firsts and added another ton to his CV. At the ripe old age of forty-something, he is averaging 75 in the twos and 41 in the ones. So it was good to have him back.
We strode out to the middle in confident fashion, convinced we would both score unbeaten 60s to see us home by 10 wickets. As always, I took first strike and managed to scurry to the other end off the fifth ball to set us on our way. Drives took guard and looked around the field in the same confident manner which has served him so well for 30 years. But reputations count for very little in second XI club cricket.
The young fast bowler ambled in off his unfeasibly long run-up and sent the ball down on a good length. Drives, ever watchful, pushed forward. The ball struck the middle of the bat – and lobbed straight to short extra cover, where the opposition's captain held the catch and took the plaudits for his inventive field-placing. Drives was on his way. First ball: 1 for 1. Yours truly in a mild state of shock at the other end.
Worse still, we still needed 116 for victory. We got there in the end, though, reaching our target with four wickets to spare. The Nurdler top-scored with 49, by the way. So I should get a first-baller next week, then...