We’re well into cricket season but that doesn’t mean we’re all as clued up as we’d like to be. If you’re not feeling too confident in your test knolwedge, our pals at Bluffers.com are here with all the tricks and tips to bluffing your way through a match…
You’ve exaggerated your cricketing past, you’ve bought some kit and you’re now deeply regretting accepting that invitation to play. You’ve rushed in where angels fear to tread. You might be forgiven for swerving into the nearest pub on your way to the village ground. A phone call to cry off followed by a few restorative pints is probably the sensible option. But the beer might actually embolden you. After all, it’s only a village game, you will tell yourself, and didn’t you once deceive David Boon with your slower ball and tonk D’Oliveira back over his head? Well, actually no, but the ale has worked its magic and you’ve managed to convince yourself that you did.
Your faded cap, free of beastly insignia, may hint at many distinguished innings in the past, but having seen the opposition fast bowler, you’re now seriously considering the sweaty club helmet.
There have already been raised eyebrows that the former child prodigy who once got the better of famous professional cricketers has resisted offers to open the batting. Instead, realising the folly of your bluff, you’ve been arguing strenuously to go in at number 11 (also known as ‘last’ – a position in the batting order that suggests that little is expected of you). Your skipper is having none of it: “You may be a little rusty but let’s have no false modesty. I’ve put you down at six and please go easy on the bowling. I don’t want to be accused of playing a ringer.” The only remaining option, apart from slamming your fingers in the car door, is to face the consequences of your bluff. The good news is that most Sunday village sides seldom have more than one quick bowler. Indeed, most are, in varying degrees, really rather slow. (But beware of the invitingly slow ball; the temptation to come charging out of your crease to belt it into the pub car park has been the undoing of many.)
Walking out to the crease, you should at least look the part. Loosen your shoulders by swinging the bat a couple of times. All professionals do this, so you should too. Stride towards your fate like a cricketing god. Once at the wicket, survey the field by nodding at various positions as if committing them to memory. Then try to boost yourself psychologically by drawing on past successes. As these probably won’t involve cricket, look back on any other positive achievements in your life. If you don’t have any, convince yourself that this is your opportunity to redress the balance.
Now you’re in the right frame of mind, hold your bat in front of middle stump and say: “Middle, please, umpire.” This is called “taking your guard” and, depending on your umpire’s eyesight, ensures that your bat is firmly grounded directly in front of the stumps. One final look around and then you concentrate on the ball. Once it’s on the way, step aside with a flourish. If it hits the stumps, say “well bowled” and walk off smartly.
Misjudgments, even by those who’ve faced a Test bowler, are not uncommon at the start of an innings and can be forgiven. But it’s much more likely that the ball will miss the stumps by some distance. Your flourish may then look like a judicious ‘leave’, in which case you can try to hit the next one. If that hits the bat and finds a gap through the fielders, blaze away. It could just be your day.
Your teammates know that you were once a legend in Tasmania but, as you’ve had to explain several times, that was before the injury that ended your fast-bowling career. Despite this setback and the decades that have passed since, the captain insists that you have an over or two. You have one advantage. Word of your exploits has reached the opposing side and their batsmen are understandably nervous. Attack while you can. Position several fielders close to the bat and mark out a very long run-up. The batsman facing will be in a state of jellified paralysis (if there is such a condition). Having given him your meanest look, race up to the wicket and release.
Expecting a ball of lethal speed, he will be quite unprepared for the harmless lob that follows. With luck, it might be straight and gently nudge the stumps, dislodging the bails – in which case you will be engulfed by members of your team demanding a ‘high five’ (this is how modern cricketers applaud a wicket). If, on the other hand, the ball trickles uselessly past the stumps, rub your back, apologise to the bewildered batsman and continue the over, explaining that you felt a ‘twinge’ and that you’re now going to have to bowl slowly. Switch the field to extreme defensive mode by dispatching everyone to the boundary. Take heart; in Sunday cricket, it’s almost always the bad balls that take wickets. If your luck continues, your fielders will catch some of the mistimed slogs and you could end up with a hatful.
Bluffing at fielding is easier than bluffing at batting or bowling. Even the most lithe of professional fielders often struggle in later years.
Even so, it might be better not to attempt to throw ‘overarm’ as your clueless style will probably give you away. Catching is more problematic. A good catcher usually stays a good catcher. If the ball whizzes past you like a bullet, the best policy is to pretend not to have seen it. You can blame the sun (if there is any), a difficult background (cloud, trees), passing flying insects or failing eyesight. If the ball is ‘skyed’ and you look like being the nearest fielder to it, run like hell in the opposite direction and shout: “Yours!” By the time it lands, you will have distanced yourself sufficiently from the drop zone.
If you can get away with it, the best advice is to place yourself where the ball seldom comes. The less you see of the action, the greater your chances of sustaining the bluff.
The laws of cricket are rather like Serbo-Croat grammar – almost impossible to grasp. Just when you think you’ve got it, an exception rears its head. In particular, LBW is as slippery as a Slavic subjunctive or that bit about indirect objects and past participles. For example: a batsman can’t be out LBW if the ball pitches outside the stumps; unless he’s not playing a stroke, and then he can only be out if it pitches outside the off stump, and then only if the ball is going on to hit the wicket. You’d be better off learning irregular verbs in Serbo-Croat.
Luckily, there’s no need to worry. Many professionals don’t have much of a clue either. When umpiring a village game, simply turn down all LBW appeals unless the batsman is on the back foot and plumb in front of middle stump. If asked why, just say “missing leg” or “too high”. Whenever you’re asked to adjudicate – be it an LBW, a catch or a possible run out – the crucial thing is to appear decisive even though you’re probably wrong.
This is one area where amateurs can compete with professionals. Any harsh words that may have been said during the heat of battle are usually forgotten. Jugs of beer are manfully consumed and post-match analysis will blur into a kind of bluffers’ conspiracy. The batsman bowled by a rotten delivery will agree with the bowler that it was an unplayable ball. Tipsily, history is rewritten:
Batsman: Not even Boycott could have kept that out.
Bowler: It was my outswinger with some nip back off the pitch.
Batsman: There’s no shame in being bowled by a jaffa like that.
Bowler: None at all. And you were going well until then.
Batsman: I was especially pleased with that lofted drive. Did you see that the fielder never even got a hand to it?
Bowler: Super shot, that. I gather that you once played grade cricket in Tasmania.
The great thing about post-match pub bluffing is that you are absolutely safe in the company of fellow bluffers. Everyone just wants to carry on bluffing. “Same again please, Landlord!”
“It moved an absolute mile.” (Bowled.)
“It was a vicious daisy-cutter. Never bounced.” (Bowled.)
“It hit a stone and reared up at my throat.” (Caught.)
“A wasp flew into my visor.” (Hit wicket.)
“I thought the umpire said “no-ball.”’ (Bowled after an injudicious swipe.)
“It swung so much I did well to get a touch on it.” (Caught in the slips.)
“I heard the bowler was having a family crisis so I surrendered my wicket to cheer him up.” (Bowled, LBW, hit wicket, played on, caught, run out or stumped.)
“I lost it in the trees/bushes/crowd/freak typhoon.”
“The sun was glinting off a car windscreen.”
“These new contact lenses are hopeless.”
“I think I’ve done my hamstring.”
“The ball’s been tampered with.”
“I could feel it coming right just as the skipper took me off.”
“I should have had four wickets. There was a missed stumping and three dropped catches.”