After such a memorable day, where on earth does one start? How can one possibly put quill to paper in a manner that does justice to such heroic exploits? Let us commence with a bit of Greek mythology. The legend goes that Sisyphus, king of Corinth, was punished for his deceitfulness with a lifetime of rolling a gigantic boulder up a hill. Zeus, unhappy with Sisyphus’ hubristic belief that his knowledge surpassed his own, enchanted the boulder into rolling away from Sisyphus before reaching the top, condemning him to an eternity of fruitless struggle and interminable frustration.
Just like old King Sisyphus, us mere cricketers all have our own boulders. That elusive ton, that 5-for that never materialises, or that screamer in the field that we’ve never taken are all part of the trials and tribulations of being a BUCS cricketer. We all resign ourselves to that Sisyphean fate when we spoon one to cover on 10, and think maybe the baggy will be ours next match, that next time we’ll dominate the bowling and keep it together long enough to notch up three figures.
To this effect, our very own vertically-challenged Liam David just happened to be reading ‘The Art of Centuries’, an insight into the psychological and physical mind-set required to tackle this milestone, a ‘how-to’ book of sorts on how to get that boulder to the top of the hill. It was in BUCS Midlands 4A that he would attempt this feat, albeit not as steep a hill as Premier B North, but a hill nonetheless, with a boulder that kept on gaining weight with his teammates’ expectations and playing your penultimate game for the club.
The running theme for the game came from the unlikely source of Jack Jewson, that “Staffordshire are just 2 Bedfordshire players and 9 bodies.”
Having won the toss and decided to bat, Stephenson and David opened up, with the former greeted first up by a gentle leg stump full-toss, gratefully dispatched to the mid-on boundary by Stephenson. Suspicions were confirmed: this was a truly 4A-calibre opening bowler, and surely two batsmen that were Head & ShouldersTM above the rest of the pack. True to Jack Jewson’s prediction, Staffordshire’s other opening bowler was to be significantly better than the rest of his team’s bowling outfit, bowling with pace and accuracy. Dangling one on a length outside off-stump, Stephenson had a tickle, and was caught behind for 9. In came Gujar, who admittedly had a disastrous start to his BUCS career; for the computer scientists out there (Connor Hobbs), a binary code sequence going roughly like 1,0,0,1. Despite this, he had seen an upstart in his fortunes with a sequence-breaking 6 and a 20+1 against Worcester 3s.
His early strike rate of 9 suggested a man digging in, but the reality was repeated wafts outside off to the gun bowler, which fittingly painted the portrait of a man whose dazzling strokeplay in the past would have brought him a wealth of boundaries, but whose lack of nick meant he was failing to connect.
Thankfully, he was in the presence of an inspired Liam David, in the mood for dispatching much that was thrown at him. Crunching back-foot drives through the covers, relentless late cuts past a tired short third man, and imperious pull-shots all ensured that the UWMCC score kept ticking over, and the metronomic regularity of one-bad-ball-an-over was dealt with. The 99-run partnership was broken fortuitously when Gujar [27 (58)] played and missed outside off, waited, and somehow had a heads gone thinking the ball had gone for byes, ventured out his crease, and got stumped in the process. Patel, confident of the anchor at the other end, went all guns blazing first up, miscuing one to mid-on first ball, which was instantly shelled for a single. Eventually perishing to the same shot, he was back in the hutch for a 10 off 14, with UWMCC stuttering on 151-3. Sittampalam entered to the fore and instantly looked busy, nicking singles and relegating the bulk of the scoring duties to the main show of Liam David.
Staffordshire’s bowling tightened up, as David pottered along from 72 to 96 exclusively in singles. David broke the shackles and launched one over mid-on for 4 to bring up a majestic ton off 103 balls, a masterclass of attack and defence, opportunism and concentration, and Shinji Kagawa-esque hovering between the wickets. Hats off, baggy on. With the tiredness kicking in, and the milestone in the rearview mirror, David teed off, launching the leg-spinner over his head for 6, followed by two slog sweeps over midwicket for the same result. Sittampalam eventually perished in the acceleration push, stumped for a quickfire 20 off 19. David in the meantime reached his 150 in no time, his third fifty coming off 21 balls. Berserk. Pongo. David. Maybe he will find a career in writing books about transforming baby hundreds into daddy hundreds?
As David perished for a mammoth 155 off 135 balls, UWMCC’s tail unfortunately failed to capitalise on the strong platform that he set. Barclay took an agricultural heave at a straight one, with his timbers rearranged for 10 off 13. Larkins [2 (6)] joined Beauclerk and was quickly given his marching orders, stone-dead LBW to the offspinner King. The expansive Fern replaced him, and fell to the same fate, missing a straight one, LBW for a golden. Beauclerk [7 (16)] never truly threatened to evolve into Booclark, and was caught at mid-off trying to up the rate. Stileman [7 (15)] and Tolson [6* (3)] added some crucial final runs to the total, with the former well caught in the deep, leaving UWMCC all out for 288.
As the 4s’ highest total for the season, the captain was suitably content, although the mini-collapse at the end scuppered any hopes of breaking the symbolic Spartan mark of 300. Credit must go to the Staffordshire offspinner King, who finished with tidy figures of 6-41, providing some mini-landmines for the #youfours bandwagon along the way, and wrestling back some momentum in his team’s favour.
Beauclerk and Stileman opened up with the new cherry with the comfort of runs on the board, but struggled to find consistency, as they regularly served up some filth that Staffordshire’s Brown appropriately sent to the boundary. The other opener flicked a leg-stump half-volley in the air to Barclay at square leg, expertly taken low down for Stileman’s first wicket. 9-1. Brown, who looked like he’d tucked into a lot of buffet bowling in his cricketing days, had been a thorn in Warwick’s side in the corresponding fixture a year earlier, and carried on in the same vein, bringing Staffs to a rapid 62 after 10. Game on. Stileman peppered him with some venomous yorkers, the third of which he played onto his stumps, back in the hutch for 43. Phew. The Staffordshire number 3, King, fresh off his 6-for, stabilised the innings, along with Allcock, whose Notts Academy jumper suggested he was gun, but his continued miscuing of the ball hinted that those glory days may have been over.
4th year Tolson replaced his ageing companion (6-0-34-0), and provided the miserly accuracy that his predecessor had been lacking, with the odd movement off the pitch that had Liam David making orgasmic sounds behind the stumps. Larkins (7-0-33-0) plugged away at the other end, but the two experienced batsmen looked untroubled, with the score ticking along nicely for the Midlanders in a 20 over period where the game slowly drifted away from Warwick. Lenny Farkins, the trusty bowler Sittampalam had turned to so many times to provide a breakthrough, had failed to produce the goods. Who should the skipper throw the ball to in order to yank the match back from Staffordshire’s grasp? The answer was not ‘Darude – Sandstorm’, but Brad Fern, who immediately made an impact, with Allcock holing out to Tolson at deep midwicket, who sprinted round and took a fine catch in the gale-force wind.
Stephenson replaced Tolson (10-1-39-0), and the number 5 waltzed down the wicket to him second ball, missed it, and David did the rest behind the stumps. Fern (5-1-28-2) bowled the number 6 for 1 in a strong fightback from the Warwick outfit. The assurance of King, motoring along in the 80s, was such that the breakthrough was the most likely at the other end. However, the skill he exhibited to score in 2s and boundaries, nick a single at the end of the over and retain strike was something that scuppered Warwick’s attempts to make further breakthroughs, and always kept a Staffs victory on the cards with him remaining at the crease. King took a liking to Stephenson, punishing some half-trackers with some clean thumps over cow corner. He completed his fine century with a skip down the wicket and a crash over long-on for 6, which nearly genuinely landed in a different postcode (CV4 7ES if you’d like to find the ball mark). Patel, better known as Jay-[insert currency], was brought on to replace Stephenson (4-0-31-1), and S.T. Ruggled to find the regularity or breakthrough that his captain was seeking. However, much like Stileman’s earlier on, Jay-Peso (8-0-48-1) sent down a fast yorker that the number 7 played around, bowling him for 14.
Stileman, whose comeback spell a day earlier had been murdered to the legside rope, came back a changed man, bowling with real intent, accuracy and venom. King was finally deposed by Stileman for 130, as he lost his concentration, attempting a heave across the line and getting bowled in the process. Scenes.
38 needed off 29 balls. 3 wickets remaining.
Like a 4×100 sprinter that had run 3 of those legs and pulled a hammy in the last stretch, King was obliged to hand over the baton to his scratchy lower order to complete the race. Stileman struck straight away, with a caught and bowled that was vaguely reminiscent of Brett Lee’s one in the 1st 2005 Ashes Test, both for its athleticism, and the roars of the 28,000-strong crowd at Cryfield.
The number 10 proceeded to attempt gutsy Dilscoops and other such shots cricket purists would be appalled by, but still managed to get bat on ball and scampered through for some crucial singles.
26 off 18. 2 wickets remaining.
After some fine shots for 4 by the number 8, a late cut down to third man had Stephenson bombing down in pursuit, pulling out the full length dive to save the boundary, gathering it and Fedexing it through to David, running out the number 10 on his way back for the 3rd run.
Final over: 9 off 6, 1 wicket remaining.
After two singles, a quickly run 2, and a whale over cow corner for a one-bounce 4, the scores were tied, with 1 run needed off the last ball to complete a famous run chase for Staffordshire. The number 7, presumably attempting a tip and run, feathered one to David behind the stumps, sparking unbelievable scenes of delirium in the Warwick camp, having pulled off an unlikely tie. In the process, Stileman had secured his brilliant 5-for, finishing with figures of 10-1-60-5, and earning himself a fine baggy in the process.
The age-old adage goes that history is written by the victors. How then is history written in the event of a tie? I hope my humble scriptures serve as the transcript for such a memorable day. I can only assume that life is downhill from now on after such moments of unadulterated elation. As clubmen bow out of BUCS cricket, all we have to look forward to is getting a mortgage, having kids, and dinner parties where the guests say how much they and their kids enjoyed ‘Frozen’. When we will be old and grey, we will at least sit in our retirement homes with the knowledge that there are some young and fit men fighting for the #youfours badge out in the Cryfield trenches. Long may the spirit of that day live on. Long may the #youfours bandwagon roll on.
“The Art of Turning Babies into Daddies” by Liam David is available in all WHSmiths and Waterstones for just £12.99. Get involved on social media by using the hashtag #BabiesIntoDaddies.