Lashings v Crab? No complaints
If you bounced Devon Malcolm in a Test, chances are you would regret it for the rest of your life. What if you bounced him in a charity game? Joe Young decided to find out.
It was quite far removed from The Oval '94. These were the quintessential English surrounds of Abbeydale Park in Sheffield, where the celebrated Lashings World XI took on Crab CC for a good cause - to raise funds for the St Luke's Hospice. The Crab team, an assemblage of the city's club cricketers, was formed in memory of Tom "The Crab" Collins, a former club cricketer himself and a patient at the hospice.
After he took a knock on the shoulder from the seemingly harmless left-arm medium pace of Young, everyone wondered if Malcolm would respond in kind when he got the ball in hand. Did he seethe "You guys are history!" to the slip fielders?
A spectator announced he would donate £10 to charity if Malcolm - celebrated bunny with the bat - could hit a six off the last ball of the innings. The script was perfect. Young pitched it up, Malcolm took a swing and muscled it over deep midwicket. It was a postcard moment.
The game also offered a chance to see Henry Blofeld in the flesh. There were no double-decker buses or earrings in sight, but that wasn't going to dampen Blowers' enthusiasm. He did, however, spot a couple of pigeons. He also had another Henry for company: Olonga. The pair managed to hog plenty of attention off the happenings in the middle as they commentated over the PA by the sidelines.
For Crab's team of happy-go-lucky club cricketers, it was a chance to tell their grandkids how they square-cut Saqlain Mushtaq for four, or had James Marshall caught in the softest of dismissals. For the crowd, it was a chance to tell their disbelieving friends they saw Ian Butler score a century.
Self-deprecating humour was the order of the day. The slapstick fielding would have made the serious cricket aficionado frown, but nobody was complaining here. This wasn't serious cricket. This was a team of pot-bellied amateurs taking on an eclectic bunch of current and former internationals with a combined experience of about 350 Tests.
"I'm sorry I forgot to mention there was a bowling change," said Olonga at one point. "Well, they all have the same sort of shape." Peals of laughter followed, and the bowler in question turned around to acknowledge that the joke was on him. He wasn't complaining.
More commentary bloopers followed, perhaps more entertaining than the dropped catches.
In the first over, Blowers complimented Mohammad Yousuf on a glorious cover drive. It was Saqlain batting.
Olonga, after failing to identify a dibbly dobbly seamer, decided to name him Ginger Steps.
The pair couldn't identify what a particular spinner bowled. "Offie or leggie? We'll figure it out as we go along," said Olonga.
It was a matter of time before the guilt set in. "We've assassinated most people here, haven't we?" asked Blowers. Olonga replied: "I think I just saw a table of solicitors." Nobody was suing, though.
The two also took the mickey out of the each other for their less-than-stellar knowledge of local cricket trivia. When Olonga was asked how many Tests Sheffield's Bramall Lane had hosted, he replied 20. Five wides for that howler, Henry!
Olonga hit back when he caught Blowers out for being unaware they were at the ground where Michael Vaughan had learned his cricket. "I haven't got eyes above my head unfortunately," was Blowers' defence, referring to the "Home of the Michael Vaughan Cricket Academy" signboard behind him. Vaughan wasn't complaining (I think).
Ed Giddins, the former England fast bowler, took the mic for a spell, and did his bit to pump Malcolm up as soon as Young came out to bat. Chris Harris, who was bowling, had a hamstring injury midway through the over and rolled onto the turf, writhing in pain. The torn muscle miraculously fixed itself as soon as Big Dev took the ball to complete the over.
He fired in three consecutive bouncers, which sailed into orbit. Even Joel Garner couldn't have hooked them. Malcolm wasn't going to take another 9 for 57. Crab weren't complaining.
Earlier in the day, Marshall and Butler had hammered centuries to lift Lashings to 330 in 30 overs. One of Marshall's sixes cracked the windscreen of a parked Mercedes. The owner didn't seem to be complaining.
In the end, Crab were bowled out for 185, losing by 145 runs. A monumental mismatch. Again, nobody was complaining.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a former sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo