Mondays Column – Local Knowledge

Printed under Matt Jones name (with my photo?!) and re-titled – ‘Coming to Grip With Bouncers’.  The young lady in the story is based on a real girl, and she not only taught me how to bowl pacers, but how to fight as well.  She was very versatile… and dangerous.   Gb

Local knowledge can save you a lot of hassle, time, effort and energy, be it in foreign countries, the workplace, out fishing, or practically any place humans will venture.  But in particular, local knowledge is a must wherever backyard cricket is played.  Backyard cricket was pretty big when I was a young tacker and I had a finely honed knowledge of every blade of grass on the stretch of lawn out behind our lemon and mango trees.  If you were able to bowl the ball into the small divot on the off-side of the crease it would magically turn almost at right angles and smack into the rusty tin drum that served as our stumps. 

Occasionally we Philip Street kids would go on tour to other backyards, and those ‘away’ games were more fiercely contested than any Ashes Test.  From time to time disputes would arise over some of the dodgier local rules which often resulted in all in brawls that were inevitably broken up by parents, neighbours, passing motorists, or riot police.  But, it was an invitation to a backyard in West Gladstone where we given a vital, and painful lesson in local knowledge.    

“You fellas scared by fast bowling?” some kid asked.

“Nope,” I replied glibly.

“Goodo,” he said, and tossed the ball to a girl who was standing nearby.  

History will record my unfortunate reaction:  “She can’t bowl, she’s a girl!”  The young lass in question smiled and asked sweetly, “Just one teensy little over?”  Shaking my head I recall grumbling, “Oh, alright, get it over with then.”  As I made my way to the crease I was surprised to see that all the opposition had formed up in the slips leaving no-one in the outfield, and that the wicket keeper, was standing on the far side of the neighbouring yard.  Shrugging, I gave the ground a few hearty slaps with my bat and decided that a distant mango tree would be a suitable place to smack the first ball.   

“Wanna see it again?” she asked, strolling down the pitch.  The fact that I hadn’t even seen the first ball should have made me think twice, but no, I had to be a hero.  “Yeah, I’ve got me eye in now,” I muttered. 

“Great, now she’s angry!” cried one of the fielders, and he slipped inside a nearby chook pen.  The rest of his team leaped the fence and took up positions behind the keeper.  As she raced towards me, I focussed on the ball with grim resolve.        

I was helped to my feet while someone dashed off for an ice pack.  An hour or so later my mates lifted me onto my pushbike and we wobbled home.  Local knowledge quickly became common knowledge, and soon, only the most suicidal batsmen in town would face her. 

But the humiliation gnawed at me, and when the next cricket season resumed, I returned to face my nightmare, covered from head to toe in borrowed protective gear.  Imagine my delight at discovering that the young lady’s chest had magically expanded during the footy season, which had not only made her much more attractive, but had also slowed her bowling speed!  She was still demonically fast, but not that fast, and I even managed to get an edge to a couple of her bouncers.  Eventually she grew bored with trying to maim me, and wandered off to do some girlie stuff, which mostly entailed violently thwarting her latest boyfriends’ constant advances. 

As news of her retirement spread, those batsmen she hadn’t hospitalised or permanently maimed, rejoined us.  Sometimes she would come over to watch us play, joined by her boyfriend, who was obviously obsessed with trying to get to grips with her newest bouncers.  Watching that poor wretch getting belted about taught us that some attempts to acquire certain kinds of local knowledge was definitely not worth the risk.

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