The Nurdler | James Fitt

I strode out at 11.30 to take first strike. I shuffled back at 11.31
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The Independent Online

Opening batsmen have a number of duties to fulfil. They must give the rest of their side a solid start, preferably by seeing off the new ball, so the stroke-makers in the middle order can play their natural, attacking games.

This task is made all the more difficult by the opening bowlers who, armed with a rock-hard cherry, are desperate to draw first blood by knocking over your stumps or – better still – by knocking you over with a well-directed bouncer.

The pressure on opening batsmen is immense. Should you fail, the No 3 will blame you for exposing him to the new ball, as will Nos 4, 5, 6, and 7 when the scoreboard reads 20 for 5.

The one thing batsmen dread more than anything else is being dismissed without troubling the scorers. And heaven forbid if you get out to your first ball faced, as a chorus of quacks from the fielding side will signal your departure.

For openers, however, this fear is multiplied tenfold; get out to the first ball of the match and your day is pretty much over. This, I am ashamed to admit, happened to me last week.

My club hosted their annual Cricket Week, and the highlight was a visit from The Club, or the MCC, to give them their official title. We beat them on their last visit, two years ago, so they were out for revenge. Their skipper won the toss and elected to field. I had scored some runs the previous day and was feeling in pretty good nick, so I strode out to take first strike bursting with confidence.

Having marked my guard, I looked around the field, confidently. I got into my batting stance, confidently. The bowler trundled in. I put my front foot forward, confidently. My left elbow brought the bat through, confidently. The ball struck the outside edge and, almost in slow motion, I turned to watch it travel straight into the hands of second slip, who took the catch far too confidently for my liking.

At 11.30am, I left the changing room convinced I would not return before lunch. It was now 11.31am.

Oh well, at least I had four hours or so to drown my sorrows before I had to take the field. Funnily enough, I don't remember much else about the rest of the day.

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