He wanted his fifty. I knew it. They knew it too.
The only question was would we win first or would he get his fifty beforehand.
The only problem was they didn’t know the exact score. Fourth grade cricket has no scoreboard. And scorers (theirs) don’t always know all the rules.
I had just sauntered onto the field with another team mate. We were the new umpires (provided by the batting side).
I didn’t speak to any of them: tossers. Besides i had just finished a stint as scorer.
And so my first words were to my brother (he of the fifty quest). Two numbers I gave him : his and ours.
By then they had crowded him, closing in, almost jostling, wicketkeeper, slips, short leg, silly mid-off and silly mid-on : close-in catchers waiting for a mistake.
But none came.
They’d given up the smart remarks long ago. You see there are only so many swear words in the English language. And so few ways of saying that you’re hopeless. Rather than admitting that you’re beaten.
I reckon quiet is better in cricket anyway. More time to overthink and make mistakes. Or like these cowboys, not to think at all. Let alone do anything to change the game.
Because he kept on batting. Head up to see the ball, head down to play the shot, head up to follow the ball’s path, head down again. Four for his fifty. Two for the win.
Meanwhile I stood still holding my breath knowing one word from me could end it all.
Then I heard the scrape of boot on concrete next to me, the whoosh of the ball being let go, the gentle thud as it hit the coir matting then the faint crack of bat on ball.
My brother ran past me, grounded his bat and turned back without a word.
Two more for him. None for us.
All of a sudden there was a shout from the sidelines, everybody off, now.
But I had heard nothing. Their captain starting running off. I turned to speak to him.
What’s the emergency, I started to say: I wanted to add other words.
But by then he and his team like a pack of dogs had brushed past. Running off the field, packing up the gear and driving off in a cloud of dust. Leaving their score book behind.
I turned back. My brother was standing in the middle of the wicket, brandishing his bat high and yelling for them to come back. Only some of the words he used started with b.