The final game of the season. At the start of the afternoon, my team, the self-styled Prozac XI – or Welwyn Garden City 2nd XI, to give us our official title – lay in fifth place in division three of the Saracens Hertfordshire League, one place below promotion. The equation was simple: we had to win.
Unfortunately, we were also relying on the sides occupying the third and fourth positions slipping up. Our destiny was out of our control. Nevertheless, if we didn't win and pick up maximum points, a solemn and sober evening would follow, regardless of results elsewhere.
My plan for the day was simple: win the toss, stick 'em in, bowl 'em out, knock 'em off, drink strong lager and pass out sometime on Sunday morning.
Things began badly. I lost the toss. Our opposition, who also needed a victory to have any chance of avoiding relegation , took the field. As I strapped on my pads, nerves began to take hold. This was it. Nineteen weeks of stress were almost at an end. Yet we still had everything to play for.
As my fellow-opener, "Drives", and I walked out to the middle, the pressure was building. Fortunately, a moment of clarity struck me as I took guard. I calmed down and focused my thoughts. "Let's face it," I thought to myself, "this is 2nd XI club cricket, for heaven's sake, not the first day of a Lord's Test match." It didn't work. This was my Lord's Test.
I got off the mark first ball, a nervy push through cover. The nerves lifted and I began to play my natural game. So, a number of wild swishes later, I was on my way with 13 runs to my name. Bollocks.
Fortunately, our middle-order batsmen didn't follow my lead and batted sensibly on a difficult wicket to record 191 for 5 off our 53-over allotment.
When the opposition went in to bat, their innings went by in a blur. Before we knew it they were 60 for 6. Our seam bowlers were on fire. We fielded like demons. Even Big Ted, our free-scoring No 3 and least mobile of movers, covered the ground as if possessed by the spirit of the South African genius Colin Bland.
A seventh-wicket stand of 60-odd then held up our charge for victory. So the tension was beginning to get to me even before I brought myself on to bowl. An lbw award in my favour soon changed my mood, and wicket No 9 quickly followed.
But the overs were counting down, and only two remained when the final wicket fell. The relief was almost tangible. We'd done it.
We didn't go up, however, missing out by four points. I didn't mind, though – whatever the outcome, we'd done our best. And another season came to an end. Still, April's only just round the corner....
The Nurdler returns in the spring. Starting next week, the adventures of The Hoofer: an old park-footballer returns to the game with new hopeReuse content