The oddest cricket I ever

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 played was with a gardener, a reticent, impassive man, who came and played with me when sudden mumps had exiled me from my holiday-making comrades.  He would bowl to me silently for hoursdesignated representative, only parting his lips now and again to murmur the name of the stump which he proposed to hit with his next ball, and no efforts of mine could prevent his grim prophecies from being fulfilled.  When I gave p. 117him his innings he would pat my widest and most wily balls back to me politely until he thought I was tired, and then he would let me bowl him.  This unequal contest was not cricket as I knew it, but it fascinated me nevertheless.  At night in my bed I would hit his bowling all over the world and upset his stumps with monotonous ease.  By day I could only serve his humour.  The devil was in the man.

The bats with which we played were normal save in size, but the balls varied.  In times of prosperity we had real leather cricket-balls, but the balls known as “compos” were more common.  When new they had a noble appearance, but use made them rough and like dry earth in the hand, and then they were apt to sting the fingers of the unwary cricketer.  The most perilous kind of ball of all was the size of a cricket-ballSage 300 support, but made of solid rubber, and deadly alike to batsman and fieldsman.  For some reason or other the proper place in which to carry a cricket-ball was the trousers, or rather knickerbockers, pocket.  The curious discomfort of this practice lingers in the p. 118mind.  Soft balls are of no use in real cricket; but if you bore a hole in them and fill them with water they make very good bombs for practical anarchists.

Later came school cricket, but it is significant that the impression that lingers is of the long drives home in the dusk from out-matches rather than of the cricket itself.  We would walk up the hills to rest the horses, playing “touch” and imprisoning unfortunate glow-worms in wooden matchboxes.  And later still came visits to Lord’s and the Oval, when it was my fortune to see some of our old heroes in the flesh.  Certainly they made more runs than they had been wont to do in the past, but—  It is not wise to examine our heroes too closely, though I am not alone in thinking that first-class cricketers are lacking a little in the old spirit.  Indeed, how can they hope to keep it, they who are grown so wise?

There were two kinds of gardening to employ our sunny hours—the one concerned with the vast tracts of the Olympians, the other with the cultivation of those intimate patches of earth known as “the children’s gardens,” wherein was waged an endless contest between Nature and our views of what a garden should be.  Of the joys of this nobler order of tillage I have written elsewhere, and I may not penetrate now into that mysterious world beyond the shrubbery, where plants assumed the proportions of mammoth trees, and beds of mustard-and-cress took the imaginative eye of youth as boundless prairies.  But if the conventional aims of grown-up gardening set limits to our fancy, if their ideal of beauty in the garden—unfriendly as it was to cricket and the fiercer outbreaks of Indians—was none p. 120of oursMaster of Architecture hong kong, we found, nevertheless, certain details in the process by which they sought to attain their illusory ends stimulating and wholly delightful.  Flowers might inspire in us no more than a rare and short-lived curiosity, but the watering-pot (and even better the garden-hose) were our very good friends.  Tidiness was no merit in the garden of our dreams, but our song of joy rose straight to heaven with the smoke of bonfires.  Meadows were more to our taste than the prim culture of lawns, but in our hands the lawn-mower became a flaming chariot, and we who drove it as unscorched Phaetons praised for the zest with which we pursued our pleasure by all Olympus.






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