When I first read this memory of school cricket from Inbetweeners writer and creator Iain Morris, I did so imagining Will, dressed in perfect whites, skipping up to the crease, but then hang on, wouldn't he be the kid on the boundry failing miserably to cling on to the catch and instead helping the ball over the ropes for six with a header and a volley? Actually that kid sounds more like Neil, who'd doubtless be busy eyeing up a bird instead of concentrating on the game in hand. Come to think of it, the spin bowler definitely has some traits of Simon and you somehow know Jay couldn't catch a cold if he was naked on the North Pole.
There's a bit of all the Inbetweeners in this memory and most definitely a bit of all of us who have endured school games and amateur cricket (and perhaps a few current England test cricketers….)
"I love cricket. Always have, and so before I started secondary school my beloved grandfather bought me a bat.
Now, I'd played a bit at the local club, but mainly I had played with my dad and granddad down the park and whilst I didn't have the best technique in the world (despite owning a copy of Greg Chappell's illustrated Cricket Shots) I had a good eye for a ball and could hit it powerfully enough.
I spent a full day that summer going round every local sports shop with my grandfather, both of us asking questions, before we eventually selected a Duncan Fearnley. As he handed it to me I like to remember a tear in his eye, but it's more likely that the tear was in my eye. Certainly it's hard to think of him now - a slim, balding West Country sports fan and decent batsman who worked in accounts for Heinz his whole life apart from the 6 years he ended up fighting a war over three different continents - without a tear. I know he had great hopes for my cricket career, and I nurtured and oiled the bat all through the winter playing endless air shots with it indoors without ever subjecting it to a real ball.
I was nervous the whole week leading up to the first Friday games session where we would choose our sport for the summer. It seemed to me that the whole First Year was excited, and some of the more confident boys were already talking about how many runs they reckoned they'd score or wickets they reckoned they'd take that year.
I sidled up to one such conversation as the subject turned to bats. It seemed like fate because just as I got there my bat, the exact make and model, was brought up. I opened my mouth, about to brag, when one of the more confident 11 year olds piped up with;
"Piece of shit. Only for idiots and children. Not even really a proper bat".
And that was that. Friday came, I chose Tennis as my option (which i remain terrible at) and the bat never saw a ball. My grandfather asked me, with undisguised heartbreak in his voice, why I'd not taken cricket and I think I replied that "tennis was better". The first lie I'd ever told him.
Five years later, when I was in the lower sixth, opportunity knocked. Some bizarre A and A/S level scheduling meant that all of the first 11 cricket team bar two had exams that clashed with a match. Incredibly it was the same for the second 11 and all of the thirds (who were essentially just skivers who liked the outdoors anyway). The school needed five players to fill the team for a real, bona fide, potentially name on the honours board in gold leaf, first eleven cricket match.
I volunteered immediately, and because of the apathy of other more athletic teenagers, I was ‘selected'. It had been a few years since I'd held a bat, but I knew I could field (who can't?) and could also bowl a bit of spin. How I knew I could bowl a bit of spin was that I had tried bowling some medium / fast seamers in the nets and was told by one of the more popular cricketers that I was ‘a sort of failed spinner'. Good enough.
The game started and I was down to bat 11. Not ideal, sure, but at least I knew I'd get a bowl and we were fielding first. The rag tag assortment was doing okay but we couldn't shift the opposition's star opener, and so after a few overs I was thrown the ball.
This, I felt, was my big moment. A couple of cheap wickets here, people start to take notice, and the next thing you know I'm first name on the team sheet for my final year at school and my grandfather is watching beaming from the stands. And if he'd been there that day he would definitely have been watching beaming, because my first two balls went about head high to the keeper.
Two wides. The next ball the batsman had got his eye in and walloped it for four. I took a moment, and composed myself. This was a big deal and I did not want to blow it. The next ball bit, turned, and got a polite smattering of applause from my teammates.
The ball after that did much the same and suddenly I seemed to have the respect of the batsman. The next ball was a dot too, though there wasn't an awful amount of turn. In fact there was no turn, so the next ball was smashed to the boundary for a one bounce four. As I walked back to my mark the captain - one of the AS level avoiders - said to me that a good spinner shouldn't be afraid to get hit. Let the batsman go after you, I'll shift someone back there. And he did.
I remember every second of what happened next. I skipped (yes. what?) up to bowl, released the ball and before it had even pitched the batsman had started to wind up. It didn't turn, of course, and he swung through it launching it skyward to the cover boundary. To the exact spot where the Captain had just stationed a man. Or rather, a boy like me who was not a regular cricketer. I watched as the ball arced towards him. He held his hands in a loose cradle just above his head. His form was perfect. He was going to catch this. The ball descended right in to his fingers. And then right through them, hitting his head with a noise like a champagne cork popping before bouncing straight up about four feet. My fielder wasn't defeated (or brain damaged) though and alerted by the shouts of "catch it" (my own more a primal scream than a shout) he turned to look for the ball. As he faced the boundary, the ball descended again but this time his hands were not formed for the catch. The ball dropped past his nose, onto his foot - which was in motion - and he kicked the ball three feet over the rope on the full.
Six was signalled, and that was the last ball I ever bowled for the school.
I was however immortalised in the scorebook. It turned out that it was a school tradition to nominate a player who contributed the least to the match, and the team chose me.
Later that year my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, but being able to tell him that I'd not only played for the school first eleven but had merited special mention in the scorebook meant the world to me. Even if it was only as ‘Spare Wanker'. "
Iain is a writer and created The Inbetweeners with Damon Beesley, other writing credits include two episodes of Flight of the Conchords
Follow Iain on Twitter @iainkevanmorris
This memory was shared to support the work of the Sporting Memories Network, raising awareness of dementia and supporting older sports fans living with memory problems, dementia or depression.