Cambridge MCCU v Surrey, Fenner’s, Wednesday 11th May 2011
It isn’t often that this blog attends a match taking place in front of the eyes of the world’s press (in this case, a small camera crew from what, I think, was probably Look East (or whatever it’s called these days)
– and Derek Pringle, of the Telegraph, who now has something of the appearance and general demeanour of a jovial but slightly bored circuit judge. Mike Selvey was presumably there too (he wrote about it in the Guardian the next day), but I think he must have been sheltering in the pavilion.
Even more unusual that the world’s press, and a sizeable crowd, had come to see one man. As the scorecard put it – “We have been fortunate enough so far this season to welcome a number of returning Ashes winners to Fenner’s … and today it is the turn of Kevin Petersen …”. Not so overawed by celebrity, I see, that they felt obliged to spell his name right.
The first time I saw Pietersen play (for Notts at Grace Road in 2003) I was unwittingly seeing what most of the crowd had come to see today – an astonishing display of hitting that smashed more than one of the windows in the Meet. My principal feeling at the time was irritation with the Leicestershire bowling, and a premonition that Pietersen could well cause England some problems in the future (at the time he was an overseas player, you will remember).
The other story that was waiting to be written was hubris undone by nemesis, in the shape of a slow left-armer. Vic Marks, in the Observer, had already predicted the assassin-to-be, the England under-19 man, Zafar Ansari.
A wicket had fallen when I arrived, but, as the second wicket stand grew, the jocular possibility dawned on the crowd that this pair might selfishly bat all day, and we might all have to go home without having seen Pietersen at all. But not so. At about noon, the demiurge descended from Olympus, standing tall and rotating his mighty weapon.
As luck would have it, he was facing the other slow left-armer (one P. Best) in his first over. By lunch, he had survived a promising-looking LBW appeal and hit two straight sixes off the pesky SLA, which I didn’t so much see as hear – the crack of the bat followed by a distant echo as it smashed into a wall.
In the first over after lunch (at 1.45), just as I was inserting some more batteries into my camera, nemesis indeed struck, in just the form predicted by the Sibylline Marks.
Five minutes later a crocodile of excited schoolboys were led into the ground and settled down along the boundary to watch the Great Man in action (something to tell their grand-children).
At 2.15 the Cricket Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph ambled back into the ground (from the pub) and resumed his seat in a little tent of the sort that is usually used for judging prize marrow competitions at village fetes. About half an hour later he ambled off again – whether back to the Free Press or otherwise, I don’t know. I’m sure the two serious-looking types with laptops sitting alongside him filled him in on what he’d missed.
No sign of Pietersen for the rest of the day. Perhaps he was holed up in the dressing room making the acquaintance of his unfamiliar team-mates, or had decided to slip away to see what was on offer at the Fitzwilliam.
The real story, as we now know in retrospect, was Cambridge’s victory, and the real star (even if he missed Surrey’s second innings because he had to go on a field trip to West Mersea) was young Ansari. At least I’ll have no difficulty remembering when I first saw him in action.
And I do now have a new recruit pencilled in for my England XI c. 2017 – like so:
Whether that will seem any more accurate a prediction in 2017 than my thoughts about Pietersen in 2003 do now, we shall have to see. Though I should point out that it’s based on players I have watched recently, and so is distorted by my restricted view –