Today is my last day of sharing work from the Runs on the Board commission. As with many projects I get involved in I write many more pieces than get used/published. These are the stories that didn’t get into the book due to space constraints, but I’m still proud of the way they capture my experience of witnessing the passion of over 50s cricket in Yorkshire.
Law 13-Wisden 1963
In cow corner the calf and his mother stood staring into the distance, waiting for the fruit to be struck onto the short, already cropped, grass. Above them the scoreboard clicked the overs, marking the changing day. No strikes disturbed them. Slowly, over the innings, the calf and his mother turned to stone.
Law 31-Wisden 1963
As we get older weeks pass by faster. Six suns rise, six short days, the linseed soaked atmosphere spinning Sol out of sight. The following week the six suns rise from the other hemisphere. The year carries on until a solstice strikes the turned wooden trilithon, heaves it from the dried out earth and the year begins again.
The Semi-retirement of Gunter Chain
Law 8-Wisden 1963
He is taking it easier these days. At one time, in his prime, he measured fields and moors across the country, dividing the land for men to render in coloured inks on thick parchment. Now machines do that, the maps living in the 1’s and 0’s of the digital world. Surveyors have no need of his links on commons and meadows. Instead, each weekend, he checks the distance from wicket to wicket in grounds across the county. He is glad of a job he enjoys in a land changing too fast for him to keep pace.
The Spirit Of The Game
Finding the Spirit of the Game wandering lost through the woods the cubs took him back to the den.
Unsure what to do they gathered the grandfather foxes, who walked in circles around the faint and translucent shade.
Taking the initiative the first grandfather fox gave the Spirit his sight, still keen, so he could tell the difference between a Yorker and a Doorsa.
The second gave his sharp, pointed claws to dig in so the Spirit could hold his ground, or gain purchase and run.
The third gave his hearing so the Spirit could hear snicks and death rattles alike.
The fourth gave his grey and scarred pelt to keep the Spirit of the Game warm while he waited at deep leg for his turn to bowl.
The fifth gave his instinct so the spirit knew when to move under a catch.
The sixth gave his whiskers so the Spirit could sense the narrowest of gaps to drive the ball through.
And all gave their tails, six in total, so anyone who met the Spirit of the Game would know his great age, and the wisdom that came with those years.
In Japanese folklore fox spirits, or kitsune, can appear as older men. They gain the ability to grow more tails when they reach 100, and are noted for having as many as nine.
Law 35-Wisden 1963
The past is close here. Third man stands with his feet in the terminus of the gully, shoes damp from the standing water in the base. Any rubble from Morzinplatz is long forgotten, now buried deep under the pitch, filling the scar quarried into the earth. The wrist spinner runs up. His watch flashes, arm the pivot of the Weiner Riesenrad, and the ball streaks down the pitch like a shaft of light in an Innerestadt doorway.
Set in post war Vienna The Third Man is a classic British film noir, starring Orson Welles.
Time and Tide
Law 11-Wisden 1963
Draping their nets in the corner of the field the fishermen wound up their clockwork arms, escapement wheels clicking in their joints. They launched small, balled, fish into the depths. Later the nets would shelter upturned boats used to protect the trampled grass from the dark, bubbling ocean of the June sky.
Rule 45.2-Wisden 1963
Outside the pavilion there is a gentle mumble of conversation from the spectators. The zip of his kit bag sticks for a moment, before parting its jaws. At the bottom, underneath his gloves waiting like swollen field spiders, he finds his watch.
The strap is made of cracked red leather, stitched with white, thick twine. The dial is not circular. Instead it is shaped like a long extinct ammonite, extended or contracted by holding a tiny handle on the end. Hours are absent, the face marked with the numbers one to thirty, the space between each numeral divided into six. The later numbers are obscured as the handle is grasped and the dial telescopes in on itself. On the face two numerals sit edged in gold. Turning the crown they move up from one to eleven before returning to one again.
He straps the watch to his wrist, hides it below the swollen gloves and walks out to open the batting.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these stories, and thank you for reading.