I’ve just spent a thoroughly enjoyable few hours at Guisborough Cricket Club watching a triangular T20 competition between the hosts along with York CC and Chester le Street CC – both of whom I played for during my undistinguished club career.
It was great to catch up with some former team mates; some after a gap of several years and after chatting to Simmo, Belly, Sticks, Johnny, Cess and Walt amongst others, I am going to dedicate today’s blog to all my mates back at Ropery Lane. This is the story of the “Philo ball”...
It was 1999, just one year before the introduction of the North East Premier League, most clubs had one paid professional... some were quite well-known names and one of those was Sunderland’s pro, the giant Barbadian batsman Philo Wallace, who had represented the West Indies at both test and ODI levels.
On the day in question, we were playing at Ashbrooke (Sunderland’s home ground and occasional Northern Rock office...) and Philo was drilling the ball to all parts. I was on the legside boundary and Chris (“Metty”) Metcalfe was at midwicket. He said he could hear the ball fizzing through the air, but seeing it was an altogether different proposition. As for me, I was actually quite happy for Metty to be in the firing line...
Very soon, it was time for a bowling change... but no one would come on to bowl! Everyone suddenly seemed to prefer the rugby ground end, or it was a bit too early in the innings... frankly any excuse would do... “Kirbs! Next over...”
Oh well that’s just bloody great. Not only was I going to be closer to the carnage; I was also going to be directly responsible for causing it...
Cometh the hour... I marked out my run up and asked the umpire “Deaf” Dave Armstrong if he’d stand up to the stumps (which is what I preferred when bowling left-arm round)... but he refused! Funny how his hearing improved when his safety was in jeopardy... Basically, such was his confidence in my ability that he’d taken the brave decision to stand twenty six yards away from Wallace instead of twenty-two.
Cheers Dave... “Pardon?”
My plan was to run in (confidently), deliver the ball (with guile), then get out of harm’s way. Step one was completed successfully; two was also accomplished and as the ball floated towards Wallace, I actually remember thinking to myself “he’ll be in trouble if he misses this...” (I still ran for cover). Wallace danced down the track (as expected), swung hard (as expected), but only connected with thin air.
The ball slipped through the gate and apparently hit middle and off stump (I didn’t see because I was hiding behind Deaf Dave by then). The celebrations were excellent; high fives all round (even the umpires joined in) as the huge West Indian trudged from the field...
0.1-0-0-1... Bowling Kirbs!
Sadly on a personal level that was as good as it got; I didn’t get another wicket, but I’m not going to let that technicality detract from a rare champagne moment...
Philo Wallace was my rabbit!!!!
All my own work... almost.