‘One-day cricket mania is sweeping Australia … beer cans flew, drunks fought, and women bared their breasts.’ Sydney Sun
‘Middle and leg, please,’ said Jack.
‘Find it your flaming self,’ said the umpire.
Jack felt sick. Nine wickets down, and he was the last man in for England. There were 624 runs still to get, and only ten minutes in which to get them. Could he do it? Jack felt sick.
He gave himself guard and looked round the field. The Australian fielders snarled back and continued throwing lager cans to each other; the dying evening sun glinted on the ring pulls which littered the outfield but the light was still good enough to read the advertisements tattooed on their chests. Jack glanced at the enormous electronic scoreboard. It said: ‘Miss Australia Lager will commence her streak in five minutes’ time.’
‘Play!’ called the umpire.
The ground trembled slightly as the Australian fast bowler started his run-up. He was a tall man, heavily built but smelling elegantly of Third Man aftershave, with pistol holsters dangling on both sides. As he ran past the umpire something fell from his pocket to the ground. It looked like a bottle of Australian wine. Nuits St Bruce.
‘No ball!’ shrieked the umpire.
A red blur flew from the bowler’s hand, struck the pitch and reared up to hit Jack on his All-Round Vision Plexiglass Space Helmet. Jack sank into unconsciousness, and moments later woke up in his comfy bed in Stevenage New Town, his teddy bear in his hand and his British Home Stores duvet on the floor, where he had kicked it in his sleep. Thank God, it had all been a dream!
‘Wake up,’ said the umpire, leaning over him. Jack opened his eyes. Oh my God! It was Stevenage that had been the dream. It was Sydney Cricket Ground that was real.
‘623 to get, and eight more minutes, you pommy bastard,’ said the umpire, not unkindly.
The fielders were shouting raucous insults at him in a foreign language now, Australian probably, and the first flakes of snow were beginning to fall. Small earth tremors had made cracks in the outfield, which would make boundaries harder to get. This time the fast bowler approached the wicket on a 500cc motor bicycle; amazingly, Jack managed to get an edge and the ball flew past extra cover.
‘Run up, you chaps!’ called the English captain from the pavilion steps. He was felled by a well-aimed beer barrel. But Jack and his partner were running well between the wickets, for the Australian fielders, hopelessly drunk by now, were unable to focus enough to find the ball. By the time they had run 400 runs, the stumps had been thrown down three times, but only by lager cans.
Ten minutes later, with time added on to complete the ball played, England had run all 623 runs and had won a famous victory. As Jack left the pitch he raised his bat, partly in triumph, partly to fend off the crowd who were closing in on him. Later he was given the Man of the Match title. It had never been awarded posthumously before.
Moreover, The Times 1982
Best by Miles (published 2009)