Well, not my first exactly, but the first time I was selected to play for the school – a ‘proper’ match, if you will.
I was beside myself with excitement at the prospect. I’d only ever been picked to play for the school at rugby and, at the time, I didn’t realise that that was much of an achievement. I was, you might recall, a year ahead of my age group at school and it never really occurred to me that I was being picked to play in the same team as kids a year, sometimes two years, ahead of me.
Cricket was another matter. It was something that I had been dedicated to for years, practicing in the back garden, playing against my friends in the field behind the house, and attending Friday night nets at the school. Even my parents could see how keen I was on this particular sport and Dad would even come to help out at those nets, despite it not being a game that he had any interest in.
In retrospect, I now know that I was probably selected for this game as a reward for all of this, and for my father helping the school out. They were probably more worried at the prospect of losing his assistance on a Friday than they were at me giving the game up. At the time, though, well, what a thrill!
I don’t think that anyone had seriously expected that I would get into the team that year, and I didn’t own a pair of white trousers; in fact, I didn’t own any white shoes either, and played in red training shoes. That wasn’t an issue, as it wasn’t uncommon for children to simply remove their school tie and play. It was about the only time that I didn’t have to worry about getting my kit together before a game.
And then, on the big day, it rained. Thank heavens that the school had an artificial pitch, because we were able to play a fifteen-over a side game once the drizzle stopped. It the game had been rained off I have no idea what I would have done, the disappointment would have been so great.
Sadly, the only thing that I remember about the game is that I bowled two overs and that about every other ball the umpire was threatening to no-ball me. Which upset me greatly, as I was pretty sure that I wasn’t likely to be bowling no-balls off of the four pace run up I was using. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t bat – I think I was padded up waiting to go in next when our overs ran out – and I have no idea if we won or lost. Even so, it was a start, and the next year I played all but one game, more than anyone else.