Magazine article The Spectator

Field of Disaster

Magazine article The Spectator

Field of Disaster

Article excerpt

Imagine running into Ava Gardner and Betty Grable during their heyday and having the two most divine and sexiest women ever invite you into their bed - and afterwards being sworn to secrecy. Something to that effect (although nothing to do with sex) happened to me last week. I shall call it the scoop that dare not speak its name. And I will give no hints, except to say that I'm no A.N. Wilson.

What I will tell you all about, however, is the cricket match between Badminton and Lord Worcester's team, the greatest Greek cricketer ever batting 11th for Bunter, although I never got to hit. In a one-day, 40-overs match, we had a respectable 176 in our innings when we stopped for tea. Alas, I was quite tipsy from lunch, and when we took to the field I was responsible for a series of disasters. Twice balls went through my legs and both times I fell chasing after them. In the meantime, Shahriar Bakhtiar, the world's greatest Persian since Darius, was performing miracles as bowler; ditto Mark Shand and Simon Mitchell.

Then catastrophe. Our bowler Ben Elliot, suffering from love pangs and, as a result, as intimidating as Shirley Temple, quickly got the Badminton team within range by distributing sixes to all and sundry. With the penultimate ball and our opponents needing two runs, fearless captain Bunter ordered the infield in and that's when the s- hit the fan. The ball was drilled straight at me and my place in cricket history - at least in ducal houses - was mine to catch. Instead, I became the laughing stock, missing the projectile completely in a poor imitation of the Artful Dodger.

Although deeply embarrassed and in need of premature evacuation, I did stay for dinner chez the Worcesters, getting progressively more and more drunk. Shand was so disgusted with me he refused dinner and jogged all the way back to London, 80 miles or so away. Johnny Parry, another team-mate I let down, asked if my uncoordination derived from Greek-style onanism, known to render strong men legless. Bakhtiar wondered what the result of the Battle of Marathon would have been had I fought on the Greek side. It was the worst day of my life, but I made sure I didn't feel it until the wrath of grapes hit home Sunday morning. …

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