Channel 4 5 May

By Mark Gilkes

Salmagundi call up Scott and Shackleton

Has a game of cricket ever been played in such cold weather? This correspondent has never before, as a cricketer, actually shivered while walking out to bat (excepting, perhaps, moments of wretched cowardice). James Tait, while scoring, could not even grip his pencil (which sounds like something to discuss on Kilroy, and which might actually be discussed on Montel, bearing in mind that the opposition was Channel 4). Applause goes to the players on both sides who held on to some stunning catches with numb paws.

The venue for this opener to the 2002 season was Barn Elms. Channel 4, who thrashed us mercilessly last year, has been creatively nicknamed in the past: Channel Porn was one soubriquet, until Channel 5 came along to poll dance its way into our hearts. Channel Bore was another. Would our opponents live up to either?

The usual first-match-of-the-season disorganisation saw both teams turn up with, remarkably, more than eleven players. By the cunning ruse of agreeing to allow the extra men to bat, Salmagundi contrived to get thirteen fielders on the pitch. The thirteenth man was 10-year-old Louis Monahan, who distinguished himself with some fine running and throwing, and by building a battlement of cut grass with which he hoped to capture the ball. A further feature of the early season forgetfulness was in the scorebook being absent, so this report will be as usual filled with fiction. However, these facts are indisputable: Mark Gilkes hit his first ever six after 17 years of trying, and Rob Pimlott, returning to the team after a 17 year sabbatical, hit one too just to show how easy it is.

With the skipper in absence, the caucus of ex-skippers in the Salmagundi side (that’s basically everybody except young Louis) decided to put Channel 4 in to bat. Deeply suspicious, on winning the toss, Channel 4 put us in. Ex-skipper Tait took it upon himself to draw up the batting order, with the scrupulously fair system of assigning position on the basis of whether or not and how often each player had attended nets. Ex-skipper Mark Gilkes was therefore surprised to find himself down at number eight, having faced bowling machine and professional coach on the previous Wednesday. It was with much amusement and seeming sincerity that Tait acknowledged his error when it was politely brought to his attention – but, having written down the batting order in pencil (specifically one of those with a rubber attached) there was simply no method he could conceive of that would rectify this injustice.

Salmagundi batted relatively solidly, and made a competitive 145. Their habitual spurning of the full 35 overs in favour of the more abstract and interesting 28.2 might have been influenced by the opposition having once been nicknamed Channel Bore – but for the fact, boringly, Salmagundi never bat out their full allocation. There were good knocks throughout the team, specifically from the openers and the number eight, with nobody making a duck – and there was also no streaking by any of the guys from Channel Porn.

So-called Channel 4 then batted solidly, with a 50 run opening partnership, and, as the openers moved steadily along, the game became a tight and tense affair, with it looking as if a Salmagundi victory was more likely by restricting the run rate than by taking wickets. The breakthrough came about halfway through, with Mike Fox getting a crucial LBW, but, although wickets continued to fall, they never fell at a rate alarming enough for Salmagundi hopes. The absence of any Porn was, however, mitigated by the absence of Bore, as the game went down to the last few overs, two wickets to get, or 11 runs.

Needless to say – needless because of the sophisticated deconstructivist reading of cricket report text that all Salmagundi followers inherently acquire, that is, specifically, knowledge that no correspondent ever makes any effort at suspense when we lose – it must now be apparent to bores and connoisseurs of porn alike that we won.

In the highlights section of the day were catches of such beauty and athleticism that one could legitimately refer to them (were it not for the presence of 10-year-old Louis) as pornography of the art and delicacy once seen only on Channel 4. Mike Fox took a one-handed diving catch down to his right at short mid-on; Jim Monahan pulled out a caught-and-bowled from an Exocet-like head-high drive; while Bruno Brewin caught a tricky spinning slice at point. Tait, moving in time-honoured slow motion behind the stumps, made an astute stumping when the batsman easily ground his bat in time, only for the realisation to eventually emerge all round that it was actually grounded six inches down the pitch. After all the early tight and intense bowling of the three Porn Movie Extras, Seorais, Bruno and James, it was Monahan Snr who finished with the special figures of 7 for hardly any off not much. As if these events weren’t enough to prove that Salmagundi will never be anything but interesting, Monahan also contrived to be out Hit Wicket in the most original manner of the last 17 years. Not for him the boring stepping back onto his stumps, or the clipping of the bails in the backlift…not even the frenzied gigantic thrash and 360 degree pivot to scythe stumps in all directions…no, Monahan, keeping as straight a bat as ever, standing tall and making only a slight reverse adjustment, managed to marmalise his bails with a forward defensive. Boring? Never. Pornographic? You decide.

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