No. 39: Pre-Season Matches

Its cold. Oh its so, so cold. And its windy. You’re wearing three jumpers, two tops and if you are under a certain age, a ‘base layer’. And you are still really cold.

“Why am I here?” you ponder, gazing longingly at the warm clubhouse and spectators, watching from the bar or their cars, heating full blast. Thwack! The ball is smashed right at you. No ‘half-efforts’ here. Like an icy missile, it hits your hands. Without expression, you throw it to the bowler, and this miserable cycle repeats.

Welcome to your first pre-season friendly.

It sounded a great idea in January. The skipper rang round, “Fancy it?”, fired up by highlights of England’s winter tour and daydreams of run-a-ball hundreds, “Yes skip, dead keen”, comes the reply. Thwack. Ouch. The cycle repeats.

And it’s not just fielding. You went out to bat, invariably behind a couple of lads from the team below, faced four balls, got hit on the arm and promptly got bowled. By a junior. Bowling? Forget it – too short, too full, seven an over. You’re too rusty – this season is already a nightmare. Miserable.

But its not miserable. These are some of the very best days of the season. Rocking up in the changing room, the jokes are flying, good and bad. “You’ve wintered well”, is the standard welcome to anyone of a certain stature, handshakes aplenty, smiles all round. You admire new kit and swap tales of your winter. Camaraderie is rarely this high. You’re back with the lads and its fun.

And that new season excitement is still there. You’ve not ducked out (just yet), and those new whites are oh so clean. That new signing, the world beater, looks like a bit of class, and so does the new Aussie. There’s something just great about the first game of the season.

The ball comes. Thwack. Urgh.

Miserable.

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