As far as beautiful days for cricket go, this was high on the scale. Some sunshine, a rock-hard pitch, an outfield that was shaved closer than I could remember, two experienced blue-shirt umpires and the promise of a very competitive battle between traditional eastern suburbs rivals. What’s more, many of the players on both sides either go to school together or play in other competitions with and against each other, so there was the added spice of some little personal battles within the battle.
James Cleggett’s thumb flicked the coin, it didn’t land Sturt’s way and we got to bat first. It was settling time into the comfort of my well worn deckchair. 70 overs boys, take your time, the runs will come. A sunny summer’s day, a cool breeze. Easy to just drift off.
Interestingly this was the first time I had seen the legend of Reece Patterson in action. I had heard much from a variety of sources over the last few years. Big lad. Fearsome competitor. The ball he bowled to Wessel van Wyke confirmed he had some talent. Left arm fast, over the wicket, bowled him behind his legs. 1-0. Not the start we wanted, but we have been there before and recovered, so nothing to panic about. Yet.
Sean’s top edge to fine leg was only a few metres short of a six, but cricket is a game of centimetres, and unfortunately it wasn’t going to be his day. 2-1. My mind drifted to something I had read recently about the biggest holes found around the world. A 300 foot deep sinkhole swallowed a dozen homes in Guatemala in 2007 – killing 2 and causing thousands to be evacuated. The sinkhole was caused by rains and an underground sewage flow. I know that Ford Oval slopes a bit, but surely, we’ve been here before too and recovered. Plenty of batting to come.
The impact that a person’s name can have on their career can be significant. Dr Mollar – the dentist, Andrew Sewer – the plumber. Well W. Ferrari was very fast becoming a problem for us with a catch and then 2 more wickets to take out the rest of our top order. Firstly, James Cleggett bowled for 8 by a car no less. 3-19. And then Adam Clements, normally a run-a-ball strokemaker, was unusually subdued until he too was bowled. 4-35. I hate Italian cars. Loud and way too much testosterone.
The Kimberley Diamond Mine (also known as the Big Hole) holds the (disputed) title of being the largest hand-dug hole in the world. From 1866 to 1914 close to 50,000 miners dug the hole with picks and shovels, yielding 2,722 kg of diamonds. My mind was playing tricks. It was just a slope.
Sam Barnett had been furiously filling in the deepening hole that our top order had been digging, but his lone shovel was no match for them. He too succumbed after a 70-ball stay for 18. 5-48. Kennecott Copper’s Bingham Canyon Mine is the world’s largest open pit mine and is the largest man-made excavation on earth, stretching 4 kilometres wide and 1,320 metres deep.
The personal battle between John Bliss and his hill’s cricket nemesis Reece was one of survival first. Profit later. 39 balls of patience was a delight to watch. 1 ball of instinctive slash outside off stump wasn’t. Tea. 6-64. This hole was deeper than we had ever dug ourselves. It was breath-taking. And getting deeper by the minute. Against Sturt. In Soviet Russia, the ground moves you. Berezniki’s sinkhole began in 1986 and just grows worse with each passing year. It’s unstoppable. Currently it’s over 200m deep, 80m long and 40m wide. It felt like we were in Russia.
It’s surprising the health benefits that a home-made scone with jam and cream can have on the human body. Imagine what a whole container full could have on the few remaining batsmen we had left, let alone sushi, sausage rolls and watermelon. Whatever it was, it was profound!
Paparazzi Peter unpacked his camera in search of some good news after tea and without a word of a lie, the lensfinder captured a tripod in the middle of Ford Oval with rope hanging from its pulley. And winding the handle was a young diamond miner seeking redemption for a season of unfulfilled promise. James du Preez wound and wound for 102 balls of pure genius that saw him raise his bat for a half century and then some. His team of tail-enders included the industrious Tom van der Jeugd who swashbuckled his way to 32. His 62 run parternship with ‘Diamond’ James was instrumental in getting us to sea level and past embarrassment.
In a rare vein of form, Ollie Harms’ mix of classic stokes and bludgeon for 26 off 26 was a sight to behold before the car caught him off the legend’s bowling. It meant the momentum shift from disaster to respectability was firmly in our favour. Our climb out of oblivion had reached base-camp with overs to come. 8-171 had never been possible. And ‘Diamond’ Jim kept winding.
Every mountain climber needs a porter, and Hamish was as good as Tenzing could have wished for. Another 37 run partnership brought us to the summit and beyond. If Hamish doesn’t score another run this season he can dine out on the straight drive for almost six off the legend’s bowling. Attack is the best form of defence. Not out 19 off 23 and I’d say Hamish defended very well indeed.
By the time ‘Diamond’ James de Preez had finished winding that rope, the bucket held a glittering 208 runs. He had planted 62 of the biggest ones in there himself. Beyond Peter’s wildest dreams. The coach’s smile said it all.