June 2, 2014

So how was your cricket weekend?

Did it involve getting locked in a coffee-shop toilet, getting off the bus in the wrong place, and discovering the Bopara pose?

"And then you spoon a catch to midwicket second ball" © Getty Images

"Bounce is uneven," said the outgoing batsman. "Get forward and play straight."

"Nothing cross-batted," said the non-striker.

I'd watched wickets fall at a steady rate as batsmen were undone by a two-paced pitch on which some balls held up. It was clearly slow and a bit claggy. The first ball was a yorker on leg stump that I dug out without too much difficulty. Two balls of the over to come. Just block, I told myself. The batsman at the other end was on 30-odd and nicely set. Feed him the strike. The second ball was short and on my legs. "Smack it!" screamed a silly but persuasive voice at the back of my head. "The field's in; just get it over the infield and you're fine." So I leaned back and heaved into the leg side, was through the shot several minutes too early and spooned a dolly to midwicket. My scores this year, including the Sri Lanka tour, now read 0, 0, 3, 0. And it wasn't even a good 3.

It hadn't been a great day all round. First of all, half a bed had fallen on me as I tried to extricate my pads from a distant shelf in the spare room. Then I got confused with where I was being picked up and got off the right bus at the wrong place, thinking I was on the wrong bus, necessitating a fiddly tube journey that led to further delays as we crawled between Earls Court and High Street Kensington. Then, having arrived late and placated our remarkably patient captain, I managed to get locked in the disabled toilet in a Starbucks at Shepherd's Bush, having to pull the emergency cord to be extricated after smashing my shoulder against the door three times.

Other than the fact I'd managed to get myself out of bed in time to write the piece I needed to file for the Guardian before setting off, pretty much everything had gone wrong. It was like Frank Spencer goes to the cricket. And after all that, and a two-hour drive to Leicestershire, I loop a catch to midwicket second ball.

Still, if I've learned anything from watching England over the years it is that it's important to take the positives (and not to whistle in the nets).

And there was one. Late in the other team's innings, with a little pressure beginning to be applied (although they won easily enough in the end), a drive was clubbed to my left at extra cover. I dived and, with a sense of surprise, found the ball striking my left wrist. Even better, it spun under my body as my momentum caused me to roll over, so that I ended up lying face down with the ball in my right hand, allowing me to back-hand it from a prone position disdainfully to the bowler, as though I were always making plunging stops in the covers (in fairness, I think I'm pretty good at plunging - it's the stopping part I find rather more difficult).

In that moment, chest against the grass, arms braced, as though ruefully preparing to go into upward dog, I had a sense that this was the sort of posture and facial expression Ravi Bopara might adopt. It was an epiphany: I'd never previously realised that I was a fan of Bopara's fielding. Or, to be more precise, of his poses between fielding and getting up again. But I am. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that they're the most beautiful thing about English cricket right now (apart from Paul Downton's ease in front of a television camera, of course).

I've only got one more game before the World Cup takes me away for a month and half, a frustratingly truncated start to the season, although one, I think, with benefits. For obvious reasons I've been talking rather less about my average this season than last (63! Literally the most ridiculous statistic sport has ever yielded. 63! The knockers ask whether it's "just because of a lot of not-outs" but I reply, "You're not meant to get out." 63!), but hopefully by the end of September I can be qualifying those conversations by prefacing the stat with the words "since I got back from Brazil", as though everything that happened in Sri Lanka and in the first two games of the season was just an unfortunate warm-up.

Next week, we play away at Eton, scene of my famous (not only to me, but to anybody who came near me for about three months afterwards) 39 in a match-winning hundred partnership last season. Surroundings that provoke happy memories, perhaps, will inspire me. But I'm putting my faith in something me concrete than that.

Last summer, I realise, in every innings I wore under my cricket shirt a white t-shirt with Times branding I was given in Fresher's Week at university (yes, that was in 1995; so I'm frugal - what of it?). Next week, assuming I can find it under the bits of dismantled bed in the spare room, that goes on.

Also, last summer I never wore a cap to bat in; in Sri Lanka and on Sunday, I proudly wore my red Authors CC cap. Although it looks nice, it clearly doesn't work. Batting bareheaded, I'm sure, is the emergency cord that will break me out of the Starbucks toilet of poor form. And if it's not, at least now I have Ravi poses to fall back on.

Jonathan Wilson writes for the Guardian, the National, Sports Illustrated, World Soccer and Fox. He tweets here