It is a rare thing to describe your own suicide to its conclusion, but that is what I shall do. Perhaps it is all that I can do, because there is no other way to describe my dismissal against Instonians last Saturday.
We were in trouble already. Azeem Ghumman had bunted a long-hop to deep mid-wicket in the sixth over, picking out the only fielder within a radius of fifty yards. Steve Lazars then guided the next ball – another long-hop, this time down the leg-side – to Andrew White at leg slip. Yet my own downfall made Azeem and Steve look like victims of brilliance.
It was the worst delivery that I will receive all year, a slow and looping waist-high full toss that should have been planted into the hedgerow. Instead, I aimed an effete flick at the ball, a non-shot and the wrong shot. Maybe I lost the flight of the ball, maybe it dipped. Maybe I am in fact useless, since exotic creatures without opposable thumbs could have done better. Whatever the case, I got a leading edge and I lobbed a simple catch to cover.
Nobody said anything, there was no send-off, or at least none that I heard. In one of John Boomer’s photographs – yes, the moment was captured – the look of shock and pity on Jordan McClurkin’s face perhaps said enough.
I was later shown how to bat, first by James Kennedy – one of his better innings in quite a while – and then by Neil Russell, who set about our bowling with the kind of savagery normally reserved for thieves in Arabia. Sure, we bowled nothing better than throw-downs to him, but the striking was fierce and the punishment severe.
In seven years, we have never won at Shaw’s Bridge. Indeed, we have taken some fearful beatings during that time, even when we were a ‘good’ team. I don’t know what the Instonian motto is, but they may as well inscribe this on the lintel of our changing-room: ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’. At least this time it was over quickly.
During the week, somebody questioned the approach I take to this blog. Why the comic tone, the arched eyebrow, and the self-deprecation? The answer is that when you are this bad at cricket it is not self-deprecation but honesty. Moreover, when you derive such little enjoyment from the sport and when you dread each Saturday, the only way to endure the situation is by laughing at it.
Such is the case with my current position in the NCU’s fantasy league points table. According to its calculations, I am statistically the second worst player in Ulster. But we knew that already.
I spent last Friday night in Eglinton, commentating on the latest interprovincial match. It was cold and wet and only twenty-two overs of cricket were played, but there was enough to enjoy. Rankin then Thompson both thrashed it, breaking slates and losing balls, and Shannon followed suit; had he been given the strike in the dying overs, the Knights would have won.
There could have been no cricket at all, but the umpires wanted play and the groundstaff worked extremely hard to dry the oasis on the square. In the circumstances, the crowd was healthy and the bar was packed: there are probably few better places for this type of match.
This weekend I am going to Bready for the three-day match between the Warriors and the Knights. All vitriol about the commentary (and there seems to be a fair amount of it coursing through the province) should be directed at me, not Ian Callender.