Every summer weekend, in every village and local park, thousands of amateur cricketers don their whites. The weather may be threatening rain, the team a frankly last-minute selection –but a day’s fiercely contested club cricket, from the fast bowler’s first ball to the post-match beer, is a timeless, indestructible tradition.
Award-winning writer Gideon Haigh is one such cricketer, and keen member of the Yarras, a club side in his home town of Melbourne, Australia. Now he has written a hilarious diary of his team’s season, a portrait of club cricket that weekend cricketers everywhere will recognise.
Here, then, are the salt of the cricket earth: the amply-proportioned Womble, who wields a 3lb bat, usually in the direction of cow corner, and doesn’t so much chase a ball as chaperone it to the boundary; One Dad, the Christian fast bowler who celebrates his wickets with a hearty ‘Hallelujah!’; and mysterious Space Cadet, who ‘seems to place the ball according to the signs of the Zodiac’…
This is a club where sides do not get picked but move into alignment like celestial bodies, contending with pitches so waterlogged the bowler has to detour round puddles of sawdusted slush, and light so bad that fielding is only possible by sonar. A modern-day version of England, Their England, Many a Slip is that rare thing, a genuinely funny sports book, and a shows a new side to Gideon Haigh’s talents.