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‘Save your legs’: For what? Science? – the language of club cricket, part two

Phil Walker by Phil Walker
@Phil_Wisden 5 minute read

Phil Walker with more verbal shrapnel from the bloody battlefields of club life. Here we present the second part of our look at the language of club cricket. Read part one here

“Save your legs”

For what? Science? Your average cricketer walks a bit, stands a bit and sits a lot; you’d think after scoffing Big Val’s lasagne for tea, most reasonably well-proportioned human batsmen would welcome the chance to ‘work it off’ with a jaunty run through to the other end. Alas, his teammates would rather he celebrated a coronary than a cover drive.

“A red inker”

Nope, not a commie strokemaker from the highlands of Peru, but a rather more prosaic individual disdained in club circles as ‘The Guardsman of the Average’. Invariably a gentleman (never a woman) of mature years with an eye on his legacy, the old cove lives for the sight of that red inky asterisk spilling from scorer’s pen onto tear-stained page, right next to his name, after another day eschewing all notions of ‘the good of the team’ to retain, unrepentant to the last, his own wicket and burnished average, all the while telling himself: “The Book doesn’t lie! The Book. Does not. Lie.”


An encouragingly curt refrain posted from the office after the bowler lands three balls in a broadly civilised postcode; only rivalled in the pithy stakes by “Shot” (sometimes even offered by the oppo, in some mawkishly soppy display of ‘mutual respect’), “Bowled”, and of course, this devastatingly cool offering by the great Ridley Jacobs, whose chivvying of wallflower Test offie Omari Banks only ever stretched to one word, with that word being “Banks”.

“Let’s get through these”

One of cricket’s more pointless entreaties, this one’s a call to arms orchestrated by the keeper between overs to get his fielders into position as quick as possible. If successful, some weird mid-pitch ballet ensues, with criss-crossing fielders leaping like leotarded white swans across the sacred ‘length’ while in contrast, two dissenters move at a speed that would embarrass a New Orleans funeral march. The fact that the keen ones will already be in situ long before the batsmen have even begun their glove-punching trifle – and aeons before the square-leg ump has located his marbles from the depths of his crummy white coat – is neither here nor there. It creates a ‘buzz’, you see; or rather, a sense of exquisitely futile anticipation – and that, in the garbled mind of the Saturday clubber, is plenty good enough.

“Get on with it”

A petty whine from beyond the boundary delivered by the upstart City boy who’s in at No.6 (“Which frankly, is just low”) and who wants a piece of the pie for himself. The fact that it’s delivered in a tone of fake conviviality after the latest skewed pull to gully only serves to further undermine the poor bugger who’s already out there struggling to locate the sightscreen, let alone that hot red orb of worry heading his way.

“It’s just a matter of time”

Isn’t everything, ultimately?


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