How do we lose at cricket? Let me count the ways…
It does not get easier. Four weeks into the season and we have suffered four defeats in four different competitions. This brings challenges on the pitch, and challenges for this blog. How to tell the same story, how to explain the same faults without becoming repetitive?
Such problems put into context the achievement of Marcel Proust in writing Remembrance of Things Past, which is regarded as a masterpiece of European literature even though it is essentially 1.2 million words about a biscuit (oh, alright, a biscuit and some paving stones).
Anyway, this week it was the turn of Civil Service North to beat us and they did so by 96 runs. Andrew Cowden and Regan West made centuries, piling on more than 200 for the opening wicket, before Coulter and Costain killed the game by the end of the third over of our innings.
The churlish part of me wishes to point out that we gave West three lives and Cowden four (I think, I might have lost count). This does not, however, detract from their centuries: batsmen who are reprieved deserve the runs they score thereafter, because a fielding side that misses chances does not deserve to take wickets. All the same, we should have done much better.
Of course, we could also have done much worse. From the position of 2-3, we were in danger of falling short of our total from Tuesday (and that would have been a performance for the ages).
Again, I made nothing and so I spent 49.4 overs doing laps, getting simultaneously frozen and sunburnt while reconciling myself to the reality that I will never be any good at cricket, not unless MCC introduces a law that awards runs for correctly answering general knowledge questions.
Steve Lazars, though, is actually rather good at cricket. He picked up where he left off at Comber and played beautifully. I cannot remember the last ball he did not hit for four.
Even so, in spite of the rare aesthetic pleasure derived from watching Steve hit the ball, the season stretches out into the bleak and lengthy future. The September light at the end of the tunnel is either very small or very far away.
Yet the most curious thing I have learned from the first month of the season, notwithstanding my natural pessimism, is that we are by no means certain to be relegated. Indeed, we have a few good batsmen, a couple of reasonable bowlers, and one very good if often unavailable player (McKinley) so we might yet win a couple of matches.
And winning two matches could be enough to survive, as it was in 2014. In fact, by winning three matches we could in theory finish sixth. So what does that say about the standard of a supposedly ‘Premier’ League?
Given the magnitude of my personal and our collective failures on Saturday, Sunday should have been spent in a dark room, nursing a ferocious hangover while listening to Leonard Cohen. Instead I went to Coleraine for the Warriors-Knights one-day match.
Coleraine was wet and dark and windy and miserable, and that might go some way to explaining why only 20 or so hardy souls made the pilgrimage to Sandel Lodge. I do not count as spectators the dozen or so caravan enthusiasts who had dropped anchor at deep extra cover.
The efforts of the club to produce 74 overs of cricket and its general hospitality were excellent: I was sufficiently overwhelmed by a surfeit of tray-bakes, cheesecake, and muffins that I forgot about the nightmare of the day before. I even forgave Tyler Blackett for his comedic defending against Arsenal.
A three-run win for the Knights sounds like a thriller, but the match was never really that close. The Warriors were strangled by the NCU’s spinners, while Rassie van der Dussen played the innings of the day, making 93 from 96 in difficult conditions.
The Warriors’ overseas player, Marco Marais, bowled only a couple of overs and fell cheaply. Was that was the difference? If so, could the inter-pros become a case of ‘our pro played better than yours’? Discuss.
We do not play in the Ulster Cup because the later stages of the competition – not that we would reach them – are played on Sundays. We do not, therefore, have a match this Saturday, but we play Waringstown in the Twenty20 Cup on Friday night and I’m then for Downpatrick, where the Knights host the Warriors in a three-day match. Reports to follow.