London Sports Blind 8 Sept

By Mark Gilkes


Lower Sydenham. It’s not an instruction but a place. Here we met for the annual Salmagundi Gardeners fixture against London Sports Club – a blind team who present us with the opportunity either to dramatically increase our averages, or our despair.

For those who wonder at blind people playing cricket, here is a quick explanation of the adjusted laws. The game is played with a large ball, something like a size four football, which has ball bearings in it to make it rattle as it rolls and bounces. Bowlers must first ask the batsman if they are ready, and then call the word “play” as they bowl. The ball must either bounce once or twice before reaching the blind batsman, depending on whether the batsman is deemed partially sighted, or is of that special kind known as a “total” — which on evidence might refer to their level of commitment but is in fact, for the purposes of the game, an acknowledgement of how utterly sightless they are. When the totals field they are allowed to catch the batsman off one bounce, and again they show total commitment by surrounding the bat and, usually, taking catches in the manner of having the ball smack them in the face and then expertly clutching the ricochet to their chest. They then make diverse masculine comments like, “The pavilion’s in that direction, big boy,” and, “You should try hitting it next time.”

No Salmagundi has ever insulted the London Sports Club by assuming it is an easy fixture and LSC has often returned the compliment by winning. Salmagundi batted first on this particular day and if you are wondering just how many catches it’s likely a blind team will make, it may be worth saying at this point that Salmagundi suffered seven — yes, seven! — run outs. You see, blind cricketers might have a little initial difficulty in locating the ball but, once they’ve pounced on it, they have absolutely no trouble in getting it in extremely quickly and accurately. Mark Gilkes can attest to this because the slightest hesitation on going for a second run on the first ball of his innings resulted in a very tight call. Gilkes thought he was in but, on looking to the square leg umpire, realised the game had commenced without one and the decision would have to be made by other means. Simultaneous to this came a highly confident assertion from the blind fielder who had backed up the throw. “That’s out!” The finality of the assessment was, as they say in Sydenham, total — causing Gilkes to walk on the tone of voice alone.

James Tait top-scored with 28, running himself out by underestimating the power of the LSC throwing into the wicket. Shortly after, Jerome Monahan ran himself out by underestimating the power of example. Will Towers scored a stylish 25 and was caught off the face (not bat, fielder). Steve Mariani returned to the Salmagundi side after some years of absence and proceeded to make a fine 22 not out in addition to umpiring and keeping the score. There are some in the Salmagundi ranks who, given the tasks of umpiring and keeping the score, might have manufactured for themselves a century, but not Steve. Only 9 extras were conceded, making the ask an interesting 109 runs.

The LSC innings commenced with Jerome Monahan taking a total blinder at short gully. This may be inappropriate language considering the context but the description is apt: Jerome’s closeness to the bat demanded a lightening reaction as the ball flew past his ear. Such plucking of guided missiles from ear high sky is the sort of athleticism which wins great praise everywhere — but here the LSC boys do them with their eyes shut. With another catch and an LBW when he came on to bowl, Jerome was already staking a claim for the man of the match award, but there was one player on the LSC side who had other ideas, such as smacking the ball back over the bowler’s head and sweeping to the boundary with regular aplomb.

I have been asked by Christopher Packham to include in this report a particular moment of skill by Jim Monahan. Chris’s request for attention to be drawn to Jim’s expertise is probably an attempt to have me forget the run out chance which fell to Chris. It went something like this: I was keeping, and both LSC batsman were suddenly inexplicably standing right next to me, leading me to feel it was within my duties to scream, “Bowler’s end, bowler’s end!” several times and with gusto. Chris responded by chucking the ball at me, subsequent to which I recommended next time he throw the ball to the bowler’s end that was the end the bowler was bowling from. Jim’s big moment, not to disappoint Chris, came when, on preparing to bowl, he dutifully made the call as the laws require to the blind batsman preparing to receive: “Ready bowler?” Several of us looked at Jim to see if he was, but by then the ball was leaving his hand.

Later in the evening, on receiving a request from Rob Pimlott to write up his Munchausenesque history of having received a speeding ticket whilst on a horse and a parking ticket whilst on duty as the driver of a London bus, I replied that I do not do requests, but, having now acceded to one from Chris, it’s only fair that I publish Rob’s assertion that the reason he failed to hold onto the chance that came his way was because a hard, leather (red) ball is much easier to catch than a large, soft (white) one.

Adam Wood. It’s a name, not a prediction. This comment was aired on Sunday, and has been published previously, but, unless I am to mention erratic bowling (many culprits), which I won’t, there is only his tedious journey round the M25 from Chesham to record how total is his commitment.

The other stars of the day were Will Towers and Louis Monahan, both of whom bowled expertly, Will with pace and accuracy, Louis with great control of a ball that was significantly larger in his hand.

The LSC batting scores were 0, 1, 6, 3, 0, 0, 1, 0, and 1. There was also a terrific performance of 47 not out. This, and we don’t need absentee accountant skipper Erik Samuelsson to work this out (who, I was told Sunday evening by the traumatised Scot James Tait, is possibly of Faroe Island stock — is this true and were you laughing like a bobble-hatted goalkeeper on Saturday?), means that somebody would have needed to score another 50 if London Sports Club were to win.

Well, somebody, or, rather, some bodies, did, because there are 50 runs in the extras column and Salmagundi Gardener’s unequivocally lost.

“The pavilion’s in that direction, big boy.”

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