The Hendricks XI: Live to Die Another Day (In Oxford)
And so the epic saga continues. Just when the dream seemed to have burned out and disintegrated into ashes without even a ceremonial urn in which to house them, the Hendricks XI have risen again. Like the fabled Pheonix, our once proud and majestic rabble of poorly coordinated and shamefully unathletic cricketers has soared forth from the dully glowing embers, hell-bent on writing yet another gloriously shambolic era into the pages of amateur sporting folklore.
Much of the plaudits for this remarkable revitalisation must fall at the feet of our magnanimous captain, co-founder, and dashingly moustachioed rogue, Tim Saunders. A mere two years ago, the team seemed all but over, it’s rag tag collection of members doomed to wander the cricketing greens of England on their own individual adventures, never again to be reunited under the banner of one of the world’s finest gins. But after several unsuccessful attempts to resurrect the rumbling juggernaut that predatorily stalked the questionably maintained pitches of Warwick University for three years, persistence finally prevailed.
The long-suffering skipper was quick to assemble his entourage of mildly eccentric and highly delusional comrades, including fellow Hendricks member and current flatmate, the violently unpredictable but relentlessly loveable alcoholic, James Hewlett. It was a bright, chipper and wholly optimistic morning in early spring when Saunders bounded into the kitchen, face flushed triumphantly with the glow of impending success, announcing proudly, “James, there will be a Hendricks XI cricket tour this year!”, the enthusiasm in his voice positively ricocheting out of the room and down the road. Hewlett considered him from across the table with only the briefest of glances, before grunting incoherently and returning to his crossword and generous array of breakfast liquors.
Phone calls were subsequently made as a number of former Hendricks mercenaries soon found themselves under pressure to commit to a three day tour of rural South Oxfordshire. After a great deal of negotiation concerning match fees and sponsorship endorsements, the squad was eventually in place and musty, underused cricket whites were hastily dug out of retirement from the depths of wardrobes across Greater London. Accommodation befitting athletes of our immeasurable stature was secured, boasting all the essentials for any great cricket tour; hammock, trampoline and deck chairs were all well utilised, as was the lavish collection of breakfast marmalades. A series of unwitting opposition were lined up for three pulsatingly exciting fixtures, as the side prepared for a cricket tour of Oxford which, true to form, would see two of its games being played in West London. Time off work was booked, vehicles were secured, and, like a certain RnB superstar, we too were up all night to get lucky.
* * *
With the preliminary arrangements sorted, a hectic schedule of meticulous, punishing, and at times suicidal pre-season training was embarked upon, as each player took his own unique and often questionable approach to their preparation. Ajay Shah continued his time-honoured tradition of of getting thoroughly trolleyed on the local cornershop antifreeze (sold for £3.99 a bottle and optimistically marketed as ‘wine’), to achieve the potent level of wicket-taking, headache-inducing intoxication that has served him so well in seasons past.
Saunders and fellow co-founder Henry Wickham relocated to a luscious, sprawling vineyard in Northern Spain to rigorously prepare for the tour by sight-seeing and occasionally pretending to surf. Ross Quest, ever the professional, travelled to the heart of Oxfordshire itself, to turn out for one of our eventual opposition, the Bodlean Library cricket team. His stunning performance was littered with all the trademarks of vintage Hendricks gamesmanship, with a series of relatively expensive overs being followed by a simple dropped catch, capped off by a majestic second ball duck.
Simon ‘Fielding All-Rounder’ Minchinton decided to take some time to focus on his batting, spending many a long Sunday evening down at the Battersea Park cricket nets, attempting to perfect an ambitious and somewhat unorthodox variety of front and back foot strokes. The end result was a touch less impressive, as he seemed mainly to inflict severe damage on his own stumps, not so much ‘re-arranging’ the furniture as decimating it on numerous occasions. All the while he calmly assuring us that it was a “tactically calculated move” on his part.
Emerging from the seedy, murky underworld of financial consultancy were robustly-built all-rounder Will Pitt and former Wales international basketball star Alex Ryan. Both celebrated for their big-hitting style, they stand out conspicuously in a team where many players celebrate hitting the ball at all. Rounding off the ensemble were renowned sports journalist Tom Metcalf, taking a break from his fastidiously analytical viewing of professional sport to indulge in more casual spectating of unapologetically amateur sport, and James ‘Big V’ Hewlett, a man who has recently taken his legendary love of intoxicating liquors to a new high by indulging in an almost unbroken cycling of dizzying cocktail consumption since the turn of the new year.
The ‘new look’ side, which broke with the tradition of most other new look sides by fielding virtually no new players whatsoever, were raring to go. The only exception to this recruitment policy was the team’s customary addition of one player of genuine cricketing ability; an absolute necessity at amateur level if one wishes to avoid any raw, humiliating poundings at the hands of more well-drilled opposition. The Hendricks XI has a proud, long-standing ritual of pressing reluctant but very affable casual acquaintances into service, who invariably stand in the outfield utterly baffled by the lack of athletic proficiency displayed around them as the rest of our wheezing, uncoordinated troupe flop around pathetically in an attempt to muster a performance at least partially recognisable as ‘cricket’.
In the absence of several previous occupants of this unenviable position, including ferocious all-rounder and heavy smoker Bilal Siddiqi, the trio of increasingly enormous and talented Gasper brothers, and astute fielding coach Jonny Sherwood, Hendricks were reliant on a new saviour to step forth and rescue them at every conceivable turn. This year, the team’s generous portion of cricketing competence was provided courtesy of the (almost) former Northamptonshire cricketer, all-round sportsman and sickeningly modest Simon Caunt. Indeed, Caunt’s one-man rescue operation began even earlier than expected as designated driver Henry Wickham managed to both misplace one half of his driving licence and subsequently turn up late for departure on the first morning of the tour, leaving our latest recruit to heroically pick up the pieces and shoulder transportation responsibilities on top of being, by a disgracefully wide margin, the team’s best bowler, batsman and fielder. Thus the stage was set for another bout of historic greatness.
* * *
Game One: The Bodlean Library
The setting for the tour’s long awaited opening fixture was the idyllic surroundings of suburban Oxford, at the pristine Jesus College ground. Located in the sleepy outskirts of the city’s legendary University, the relaxed and relentlessly pleasant atmosphere of an early Friday evening was surpassed only by the outrageously amiable and good natured opposition themselves. Indeed, many was the time that the ball would fly past fielders towards the boundary or a simple stumping was missed as the Hendricks players found themselves reeled into delightfully genial conversation with Bodlean batsmen and umpires alike.
The first in a series of reckless and wildly unadvisable appointments saw the baffling promotion of Wickham to the role of captain for the 20 over format. A man famed only for his near-perfect attendance record over the past three seasons, he had previously risen to the dizzying heights of kit-boy and, on the odd desperate Sunday afternoon, stand-in umpire; both were roles for which he was shamefully under qualified. True to form, his reign as skipper started fairly inauspiciously. Continuing the theme of somewhat haphazard time keeping, the Hendricks XI kicked off their opening game of the tour with just seven of what was, at best, only a 10-man touring party (for those less familiar with the rules of the game, this is one shy of the generally accepted cricketing convention of fielding 11 players). Not to be perturbed, the side took confidently to the field, having been generously lent a couple of substitutes by their consistently accommodating opposition.
Quest, a man who has occupied a plethora of roles over the years - occasional captain, frequent opening batsman, wicket-keeper, gangster, and stalwart, unrelenting womaniser - was, for the first time in the history of the club, handed the task of opening the bowling alongside the indefatigable Shah. Baulking at the suggestion, however, and truculently refusing to go along with the new captain’s orders, he consented only to bowl first change, and even then did so reluctantly. With good reason, as it turns out.
Thankfully the mid-innings arrival of Hewlett and Minchinton relieved Quest of his heavy burden, as Hewlett’s first over yielded two quick wickets and put Hendricks back on track. The dynamic duo, having been waylaid in a sea of traffic through which they had battled like noble champions, quickly made their mark. Some immaculate fielding from Minchinton went a long way towards compensating for the less than immaculate fielding of Shah, and wickets steadily began to flow. Or trickle, at least. Like a small, dirty stream heavily congested by discarded shopping trolleys and soiled prophylactics. Following a late barrage from the terrifyingly effectual Caunt-Shah Express, Bodlean were ultimately restricted to a highly respectable but eminently chaseable total of 131.
The Hendricks reply began in typically lackadaisical fashion. After prodding and poking his way ponderously to four, Hewlett soon found himself sent back to the pavilion by Umpire ‘Trigger Finger’ Wickham, who was quicker on the draw than Dirty Harry reaching for his .44 Magnum after hearing the sickening thud of ball on pads. Quest, keen to make amends for what some would describe as a “delightfully eccentric” bowling performance, set about the Bodlean bowling with renewed vigour. Dispatching a series of elegant cover drives and sumptuous pull shots to the boundary, the great man soon found himself at his half century, gracefully retiring while completing his 50th run, not even breaking his gait as he jogged past a bemused umpire on his way off the field.
Saunders was in similarly scintillating form. Returning to face the side whom he had briefly captained during the previous season, who in turn described him as one of their greatest acquisitions in their extensive club history, he did not disappoint. In front of a modest crowd, the temporarily displaced skipper unfurled a dazzling exhibition of strokes that guided him serenely to a 50 of his own, prompting a deluge of applause from the game’s sole spectator as well as a highly anticipated beard trimming session later that evening.
Following match etiquette, Saunders too tendered his half-century retirement, leaving Hendricks more than a little unsure as to where further runs would arrive from. Fortunately, Tom Metcalf arrived just in the knick of time.
Appearing like a nomadic wanderer on the boundary edge in an epic scene worthy of The Classics, he strode confidently to the pavilion dressed impeccably in beige chinos, suede shoes, and crisp new formal shirt. Swaggering with fully deserved bravado down the steps of the club house, he then broke into a dignified jog as he crossed the threshold of the pitch to the sounds of rapturous applause and relieved team mates slapping him on the back as he made his way out onto the fresh green playing surface which had been eagerly awaiting his arrival. It was as if it was the moment he had been born to live; the culmination of his very being.
Sadly, however, Tom was jolted awake shortly before he could begin envisioning his astonishing match-winning performance, as his heavily delayed train finally rattled into Oxford train station at ten to nine in the evening. The fact that this stylish apparition was sighted a mere 15 minutes before Hendricks comfortably cantered over the finish line with time to spare shattered any dreams the young man may have been harbouring of making such a glorious entrance in his first game for the team in over two years. He was, however, able to join in the raucous celebrations of an opening day victory which had been achieved against the expectations of everyone involved.
A swashbuckling cameo from Alex Ryan, in which he crashed his way to 23 from just 12 balls, saw off the remainder of the Bodlean attack and negated any late fightback from the plucky Librarians. The winning runs were hit, not for the first time in Hendricks history, by Simon Minchinton, who finished on a stately 1 not out, his sporting pride firmly in tact. For the time being at least. Even more surprising than the result was the fact that the entirety of the squad had managed to successfully negotiate the long, perilous, and at times nigh unnavigable journey from north London to the Oxford periphery. The mood was understandably high.
A decadent post-match celebration followed, which saw the exultant Hendricks outfit slide into a dignified drunken stupor after sipping liberally from the heady goblet of success. And gin. There was a decent amount of gin. Shots were dished out for particularly poor performances, both on and off the pitch, with Shah bearing the brunt of the damage. Loud discussions of tactics and strategy raged well into the night as the drinks continued to flow in an absurd and unwise marriage of flavours and spirits, with Quest being told at one point that he needed to “Irish up that wine” if his unorthodox choice of beverage was to be at all taken seriously. The day finished satisfyingly with players slumbering peacefully while irate countryfolk penned indignant notes to their new temporary neighbours, outraged that their secluded upper middle class existence had dared to be infringed upon for the weekend.
Game Two: Kingstonian 4th XI
In the lead up to the team’s second game, debate was rife among the players as to the potential quality of the opposition. On the one hand, they were a fourth XI, unlikely to boast the hostile bowling attacks and bludgeoning batting capabilities of first and second XIs. On the other hand, any club capable of fielding four whole teams naturally inspired awe and terror in equal measure among the Hendricks cohort, who have frequently struggled to field just one complete team on a shockingly regular basis. In spite of a resounding opening triumph, the Hendricks XI, never a side to shy away from making radical changes, resolved not to rest on their laurels. For the tour’s second fixture, the management team took the highly controversial decision to recruit an eleventh man to the squad, thus bringing them up to a full compliment of players.
A lengthy and painstaking scouting operation was quickly put into full effect, with a selection panel drawn up to determine who the lucky new player would be. Following a fastidious search during which a number of promising young candidates from various up-and-coming local teams were considered, a choice was finally made.
In the end it proved to be an easy decision, not least because there was only one individual whose weekend was not already booked up on such short notice. He also had the added advantage of living only a five minute drive from the regional Hendricks compound. Enter Charlie Wickham-Smith, a taller and more youthful version of a certain ferociously incompetent Hendricks mainstay. Attempts had been made to secure the services of Simon Caunt’s semi-professional younger brother, but shockingly he had better things to do on a Saturday afternoon than turn out for a team of hopeless delinquents. A great deal of hope was placed on the assumption that a hearty private school upbringing on the rugby pitches and rowing lakes of Berkshire would somehow translate into success in the cricketing arena, which the incumbent recruit hadn’t graced with his presence for the best part of a decade.
Despite a decent portion of the team once again arriving conspicuously late for the start of the game, the Hendricks XI were quickly into their stride, bowling tidily and fielding with a hitherto unrealised level of athleticism. Economical opening spells from Shah and Pitt yielded no wickets but starved the batsmen of runs, allowing Caunt and Hewlett to capitalise as the game ebbed and flowed intriguingly. Accomplished catches were taken by Pitt and Quest, unfurling themselves lazily like cats stretching in the afternoon sun, while Wickham Jr chipped in by taking a wicket in his first ever over for the team.
Shah later returned to clean up the tail. He would have been back on sooner but captain Saunders managed to mistake the square leg umpire for our opening bowler, spending the better part of three overs imploring him to send a couple more down from the Pavilion End before he realised his error. When finally the errant bowler was located lurking in the outfield, Hendricks closed the first innings with aplomb, restricting their determined hosts to somewhere in the region of 142. If memory serves. Which it frequently does not.
Opening the batting, Caunt was extravagantly destructive in leading the Hendricks response, playing the opposition with almost embarrassing ease. Following a highly productive time at the crease, he mercifully elected to retire himself after reaching a second consecutive 50 without even breaking a sweat. But if the Kingstonians thought their suffering was at an end, they were sadly mistaken. Caunt’s departure merely brought forth the tasmanian ball of pulsating energy that is Simon Minchinton. After another well constructed innings of 1, he quickly decided his welcome at the crease had been irrefutably overstayed, so, like a party guest delicately gauging the mood of his courteous hosts, he quietly slunk away, leaving only the scantest trace of his brief time in the middle. Clearly his extensive time in the nets of central London had served him well.
His demise in turn allowed Wickham Sr to play a highly efficient innings of four, which, in one fell swoop, doubled his all time scoring record amassed across his first three seasons at the club. With victory all but assured thanks to the unimpeded progress of Caunt and opening partner Saunders, who anchored the innings in customary fashion, Will Pitt ensured Hendricks took a commanding second win in as many games by ruthlessly depositing the final few balls into the shrubbery and hedgerows of the otherwise placid London suburb. Ably assisted by his ever-watchful sidekick Metcalf, the side romped home in splendid fashion as celebratory flapjacks were swiftly produced from Hewlett’s apparently bottomless pit of home-baked comestibles.
An attempt to present a bottle of Hendricks gin, a post-match tour tradition for the club, to a team of devout Muslims with was met with an understandably blank response from the hosts. A willing volunteer eventually stepped forth to take on the mantle of gin consumption for the evening, and with that the triumphant band retreated into the night, relocating once more to their pastoral paradise.
After being handed the unfortunate title of ‘Worst Batting Performance of the Day’, Minchinton was obliged to treat the rest of the side to a compensating ‘performance’, of some description. Following the thoroughly disappointing efforts of Quest and Hewlett the night before, when they mercilessly butchered Fleetwood Mac’s classic ‘70s anthem ‘Go Your Own Way’, expectations were set understandably low. However, the young would-be-crooner raised the bar effortlessly, producing a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Michael Buble’s ‘Haven’t Met You Yet’. Or possibly ‘Home’. Or even ‘Lost’. It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between music that all sounds exactly the same. Either way, Minchinton’s sultry vocals had the lighters out and grown men weeping uncontrollably. Excuses were hastily made as the team dispersed shortly after, citing a range of eye-based medical conditions and “extreme fatigue” that saw them retire to their respective bedrooms.
Game Three: Hillingdon Manor
The final stop on the magical, whistle-stop tour of south-west London saw the Hendricks XI arrive in time for the Hillingdon Manor Cricket Club’s much anticipated 180th anniversary. Promises were made of a lavish barbecues, ebullient funfairs, and debauched, hedonistic celebrations that would put the recent Rio World Cup to shame. What we found instead was a stray dog licking itself contentedly and an elderly man watching the aforementioned dog with vigorous enthusiasm. Nevertheless, the stage was set for a final showdown of titanic proportions, in which the Hendricks XI would look to seal a historic 3-0 tour ‘whitewash’.
Having been put into bat first, Tom ‘The Wall’ Metcalf nobly marshalled the opening partnership alongside an ever consistent but irreparably gloomy Ross Quest. After a patient and measured batting display that saw him edge thoughtfully to what would have been a personal best tally of 25 runs, the hapless batsman would eventually, and tragically, fall one agonising run short of a much coveted quarter century. An inconsolable Metcalf cut a tragic figure as he wailed mournfully, prostrate with grief, on the boundary edge, doomed to play out the rest of the innings as a forlorn onlooker.
Another historic moment soon arrived as Ajay Shah, a man notoriously uncomfortable at the crease and who has been successful in avoiding all but five balls during his lengthy time with the club, shuffled awkwardly out of the pavilion. Reluctantly promoted up the batting order, runs soon stated to flow, much to the surprise of team mates and batsman alike. Greed soon got the better of him, however, and after attempting to plunder one too many quick singles after hitting the ball straight to a fielder he was ignominiously run out. Recriminations were flying when Shah left the field, as he placed blame squarely with batting partner Metcalf. Following an in-depth inquiry Metcalf was later cleared of all charges and Shah’s accusations were struck from the record, while a small out-of-court settlement for libellous damages was also agreed upon.
The situation continued to worsen as Wickham Jr. was dismissed for a second ball duck and self-proclaimed ‘pinch-hitters’ Pitt and Ryan played with all the aggression and reckless abandon that pinch-hitters usually play with, but sadly none of the runs. With a middle order collapse well under way, it took the seasoned, methodical batting of Hewlett to steady the ship, as he attempted to rebuild the innings with the seemingly immovable Metcalf. Despite a highly commendable series of forward defensives from both batsmen, their rather circumspect partnership lacked the run scoring impetus usually required to win cricket games, and lamentably both were soon back in the hutch as well.
Thankfully, due to the topsy-turvy batting line up agreed upon for the tour’s final game, a rear guard action featuring both Caunt and Saunders proved enough to haul the side to something approaching a respectable total, despite Caunt’s admirable decision not to deposit the bowling of some fairly promising if slightly undeveloped 10 year olds to the boundary ropes. When Saunders eventually departed after a typically assured innings it brought Wickham Sr to the crease, still on a high following the muscular four runs he achieved in the previous fixture. After blocking his first few balls using an inspired combination of legs and torso, deeming the bat largely unnecessary at this juncture, the stage was set for an explosive finale.
Eyeing up the boundary - an optimistic move for a player who had previously never managed to propel the ball within even 40 yards of the rope - Wickham composed himself, waiting for the bad ball to put away. And put away it most assuredly was. When a wide full toss was sent down in the final over, he rocked back gracefully, resembling a young Ian Botham at his most destructive, before clattering the ball back high over the bowlers head, watching it soar majestically towards the heavy roller parked just the other side of the long-off boundary. As the six was signalled by the dumbstruck umpire, a series of carefully placed pyrotechnical displays were initiated and a gaggle of Bollywood dancers flocked onto the outfield, gyrating suggestively to the pounding rhythm of Panjabi MC’s worldwide bhangra hit ‘Mundian To Bach Ke’. The triumphant batsman held his bat aloft, saluting the crowd, who by this time were on their feet cheering uncontrollably as though the game itself had just been won.
Ever the gentleman, he allowed the following ball to careen unopposed into his middle stump, as the chivalrous batsman produced one of his trademark ‘aggressive leaves’, giving the opposition spinner a much-deserved five wicket haul. Minchinton arrived for the end of the innings, graciously electing to run himself out on the last ball, ensuring that Hendricks simultaneously batted out their 40 overs while also finishing 182 all out.
With a famous victory in sight, however, the pressure finally started to tell. After almost three days of heart-pumping, back-breaking, electrifying cricket, the once mighty Hendricks XI looked all but spent. Perhaps a long weekend of casual exercise had proved too much for our hardy warriors. Or maybe the heavy teas of cold pizza and decadent triple fudge chocolate cake had finally taken their toll. Either way, cracks soon began appearing in the formerly smooth and burnished facade as previously reliable bowlers suddenly found line and length difficult to master and misfields crept into the game with increasing regularity.
Not that it was all doom and gloom. Ross Quest still looked the sprightly 25 year old that he actually is, deep, deep down, hidden under all the lovably cantankerous layers of premature middle aged peevishness. A sensational catch off the bowling of Hewlett was backed up by some valiant diving efforts in the field which left his dainty, well-manicured hands looking a touch worse for wear. Gargantuan efforts from Hewlett and Shah saw them bowl a record breaking 8 consecutive overs apiece, ably supporting by the as-ever frustratingly faultless Caunt, while Metcalf also picked up his first wicket of the tour. Minchinton continued to spiral acrobatically across the outfield, stopping the ball time and again with a balletic combination of flawless twirls and pirouettes that would humble even the great Mikhail Baryshnikov, who coincidentally was spending a thoroughly enjoyable Sunday afternoon watching amateur cricket in south-west London.
However, let down by some questionable fielding late in the day, Hendricks languished and Hillingdon continued to press on for the win. Particularly at fault was the abysmal Henry Wickham, deftly balancing out his minor heroics with the bat by comically attempting to field a straight drive with his feet before shamelessly backing away from a catch in the deep, perhaps deterred from trying to take the chance by Tom Metcalf’s efforts two overs previously when he had elected for the less conventional method of holding a high, spiralling ball by first deflecting it off his lower leg. The results were mixed, leaving Metcalf to contemplate his technique whilst also nursing a severely swollen ankle, which quickly took on an angry shade of puce.
One sensed the game was up when captain Saunders chose to bring on Wickham from the ‘Corrugated Iron Fence End’ (as it was creatively dubbed by Caunt). In much the same way that Arsenal fans would hang their heads in dismay when Nicklas Bendtner was thrown on in the 75th minute with the Gunners trailing 2-0 (which happened with depressing regularity during the Danish international’s time at the north London club), so too did the Hendricks contingent realise all was lost when Wickham’s painfully slow brand of non-spin bowling was deployed with seven overs remaining. Sensing the impending doom, Shah mercifully did his part to bring a swift end to proceedings, ‘accidentally’ knocking the ball over the boundary rope with Hillingdon requiring four runs for victory.
Despite a somewhat disappointing final day defeat, the tourists ended in good spirits, aided by the shrewd purchasing of several good spirits from the bar. The traditional post-match shots were quickly allotted, leaving Wickham considerably less sober than he had been at the end of the game. Fortunately neither designated driver had performed poorly enough to warrant any alcoholic retribution, so the journeys home remained catastrophe-free. Triumphant tour captain Tim Saunders led the way with the celebrations, offering out imported Cuban cigars as if they were discount confectionery purchased from the local off licence. There was even an impromptu performance of the universally acclaimed stage production ‘Charlie Hendricks and the Siberian Tiger’, first performed during the much-touted Warwick University Arts Festival, featuring the original, magnetic lead cast of Will Pitt and Tom Metcalf. Standing ovations were given, encores demanded and gratefully received, as all the while the cricket itself slowly faded into the distant shadow of memory.
* * *
With the night winding down and the tour sadly at an end, I was once again reminded of the poetic wisdom of my good friend Pharrell Williams, known to all of you simply as ‘Pharrell’. In his mutli-platinum-selling disco/funk crossover written with legendary house music pioneers Daft Punk, Mr. Williams implores us all to remember that “We've come too far to give up who we are, so let's raise the bar and our cups to the stars”. As we meandered leisurely back across the well-trodden outfield towards the Hillingdon recreational ground car park, it was these words which swam serenely through my head.
The poignancy of the moment was only slightly dented when an inebriated Tim Saunders stumbled over rather inelegantly (in sharp contrast to his effortlessly stylish batting technique) while wearing a pair of batting pads which he assured us were “easier to wear than to carry” despite the fact that they had now slipped down to his ankles, leaving him largely incapable of walking. In the waning light of a balmy summer’s evening, the shaky-footed captain having been hauled unceremoniously back to his feet, the curtain descended on a quintessential scene of idyllic English suburban life, the tramp discretely urinating into a shoe notwithstanding. It capped off a rousing return for the battle-hardened Hendricks XI, and with ludicrously ambitious excursions to the West Indies and, even more preposterously, Yorkshire, planned for the following season, the future once again looks tremendously bright for a team who once had to tell an opening batsman which way round he should hold the “racket”.
He still opens the batting on occasion.