January 21, 2014

What being thrashed does

It can be a lightning-rod moment, a realisation that the world is a lot bigger and badder than you might have realised

You're never quite the same after a massive hiding © Getty Images

The newspaper clipping is yellowing now and stuck in an old scrapbook somewhere, but the scorecard it contains still tells its story: a long-gone summer's evening and an Under-13s 20-over match, us batting first and scoring 80-odd (not bad back then, in the days when only kids' teams played 20-over cricket), our opponents Frensham CC batting next and all out for 7. The things I recall most clearly are the warm weather - never a guarantee in dear old England - and the fact that four of the seven runs were leg-byes, flicking off a pad and running past our keeper.

Many moons have waxed and waned since then, but you never forget a thrashing, whichever side of it you're on. I thought of it again this week when news arrived of an extraordinary game in New Zealand, in which former first-class cricketer and CEO of the Hawkes Bay Cricket Association, 42-year-old Craig Findlay, made 307 from 115 deliveries, leading his side to a total of 578 for 6 in just 45 overs.

His opening partnership with Bronson Meehan was worth 336 before Meehan departed third ball of the 24th over, and Findlay went after 33 overs with the score at 471 for 1. With a dispirited St John's College XI dismissed for 177, a glorious win came by 401 runs.

At least it appeared glorious until it transpired that the majority of the St John's College XI were 15- and 16-year-old schoolboys, some of whom had pleaded with Findlay to retire during his knock.

"He just walked away and carried on batting," a disconsolate St John's College skipper James McNatty, who had twice asked Findlay to consider walking off, told Hawkes Bay Today. "Nothing to be proud of in that game," tweeted Andrew Frame. "Tech should have declared at 300-1 at the 20-over break and saved face. I was playing on next pitch, almost got hit by two 6s. Felt for the St Johns' boys. Unfair contest, really."

"Some of those kids were 15 and completely demoralised," added Megan Singleton. "What a guy!"

The row took another turn when it emerged that Findlay had contacted St John's College's outgoing principal on the eve of the match to ask if he would consider dropping his side down a division. The principal declined, and the skipper's mother, Michele McNatty, told the paper that they had heard that Findlay had said he was going "to teach the schoolboys a lesson".

Findlay has taken the time-honoured stance of the battle-hardened cricketer, as the paper reported: "'I played hard so that's why I won a lot,' [Findlay] said, adding that was his goal as cricket boss to ensure the young built a steely resolve. 'To create champions you have to be tough. I'm not allowed to play and I have others telling me where I can bat and when not to play,' he said, adding it appeared the Bay was going down a slippery track to a 'PC world'."

As anyone who has been on the wrong end of one will know, the genuine thrashing can be a lightning-rod moment, a realisation that the world is a lot bigger and badder than you might have realised.

I've often wondered what the repercussions of one of the most devastating defeats of all time may have been. It came on December 4, 1964 in Lahore, at the conclusion of a three-day game between Pakistan Railways and Dera Ismail Khan. Railways batted first and made 910 for 6 declared. Dera Ismail Khan were then bowled out for 32 and 27 in a total of 28 overs.

The scorecard remains a thing of beauty, its contrasts never greater than between the figures of two opening bowlers, Dera's Inayatullah recording figures of 59-2-279-1, and Railways' Ahad Khan 6.3-4-7-9. Inayatullah also bagged a pair, while his team-mate Qaiser Khan was given out obstructing the field.

The last entry perhaps betrays the most relevant piece of information, that the callow Dera XI, from a small town 200 miles from Lahore, were all making their first-class debuts. It was to be their last first-class game too. None ever appeared again, leaving Inayatullah with one of the most plaintive player entries on all of ESPNcricinfo, a batting average of nought and a bowling average of 279. His may well be, statistically, the least successful career of all time.

The St John's College team has tasted some of Inayatullah's pain. The game may never feel quite the same again after their brush with Craig Findlay.

Jon Hotten blogs here and tweets here