I take my sport seriously. Most people who play do. But me, I am the sentimental type when it comes to my performances. I still have all my goalie gloves from previous seasons, I have loads of newspaper cut outs, I keep my old bats, trophies, you name it. I guess it is a bit sad really, but I love them and I wouldn't be able to get rid of them. They are all links to some of my best memories, the kind of memories I am really proud of because it was something that was all me and something that I was doing to the best of my ability.
What I love is that everyone who is really keen, and plays every weekend, perhaps the sentimental type like myself , will always look back and remember one performance when they think 'that was me at my best'. The day when it was just just their day, their time to stand out and they felt invinsible. There may be a few, but I think there is always one that stands out.
I remember mine and I could talk about it forever, so I thought why not take a trip down memory lane and talk about it for the millionth time.
It was during the yearly cricket festival, I think I was about 15 at the time. It was our last game of the festival and we were already not going through to the next stage. This was strange to us as we had a very strong team. We had previously won the trophy before and it was still the same team, player for player this time round too but we just never really got going. Normally, it would be a bit of a nothing game, but the team we were playing that day, both sides never really got along.
Both of us were amongst the best in the county, top 5 I would say and we all knew the oppos players from various county matches, trials for county but mainly heated games between us before. There was a slight history between us and after playing each other a lot, we just both really wanted to beat each other !
Skip the first half, we bowled them out for 131. With their batting line up at the time that was a really good effort and we pretty much thought we would win very comfortably. 132 in about 50 overs ? Easy !
So Easy infact we thought 'it's the last game, lets reverse the batting order !' Slightly arrogant perhaps, and yes we wanted to win desperately, but the bowlers who had barely batted all week fancied it so we thought no harm done, if they mess it up the stronger guys will take it home anyway.
So there I was, the number 3 going in at number 9, my brother, normally in at 5, was in at 8, our opener in at 7 etc etc. The only person who didn't move was our number 11, simply because even in a batting order that was comical, he was still just that bad to not deserve a promotion !
It was a collapse. It went from bad to worse very very fast. It was the natural order of things. Our new found high order batsmen were out in no time and by the time our actual batsmen were due to come in, everyone was panicking a bit even though it was as expected. Our batsmen were coming in and still only had about 90 to get, but it just seemed to be one of those days. Our normal 2 openers both got ducks, and it was only when our best batsmen was run out when he was looking comfortable did everyone think we'd blown in. So I stumbled in at number 9 wondering what had actually happened and how I was in so quickly. I wasn't even expecting to have to pad up !
I was in with my brother, he soon went and so did the number 10. So there it was. Me and the guy in our team who just flat out did not want to bat. It was basically all over there and then. It was 58-9, and we needed to get to 132. There was no chance of it happening.
At these times, you just have to go with it. I mean, if we did happen to do it, I was going to have to do everything to not let this guy face. So I had to face every ball if possible. I was already through the stage of horrible nerves and was actually feeling fairly comfortable, I was more uncomfortable watching our number 11 cower away from the ball. It was agonising watching these as good as county bowlers miss the stumps by an inch 5 balls out of 6, and the one that was on the stumps would get edged through the slips for 4 !
It was miraculous that we had put on about 20 odd and were still going, and I could sense the worry in the opposition with every run scored. I was 'in the zone', thinking about nothing else in the world but how to win. I was in my element, playing the innings of my life and loving every minute of the pressure. By the time we had got to the 100 mark, I actually felt for the first time we could win, and so did everyone. The fielders were getting so restless and agitated, and the spectators were watching more intently than I had ever seen. The whole team, who normally after they have been out will do their own thing, maybe watch a little here and there, were all sitting by the ropes, hands on the pitch and cheering every run. It was an intensity I don't think any of us had really experienced before.
Once we had edged closer and closer and got more nervous, we were about 10-15 runs away and I hit my favourite shot ever, even now, this crunching coverdrive into the sunset. A shot I struggle with normally. From that moment I just knew we'd do it, it was absoloutely amazing hearing the cheers of my team thinking 'oh my god we can actually do this'.
When it came to the point of 1 run to win, there was no suspence. It was a simple flick off my hip and a dash over to the other end. Everyone ran onto the pitch and celebrated like mad. I was the star of the show and was overjoyed.
I only finished with 37 not out that day, the number 11 finished with 17 not out. I have got much higher scores than that before, 50's and 100's included, but that will never be beaten in my eyes. The best bit was a few months afterwards when the club created a new trophy based on that performance called the 'saving the day award' which will remain one of my most prized posessions.