Chapter 7

It was quite a nice day for cricket, sunny and not too hot. I clumped out across the field, clumsy in my pads (how do I ever manage to run in these things?), and took up my position beside my wicket. The bowling was from my end, and there were still four balls of the over to go. The first one went flying down the pitch, very fast, and the batsman at the other and, whom I recognized as a Nottingham ticket collector, somehow got his bat to it. Up in the air it went, straight for the boundary. A couple of fielders were running after it, they’d never get a catch but they’d stop it before the boundary, so it wouldn’t be a four. The batsman was running, already half way down the pitch, so, clumsy or not, I started off too, and we made a run. Could we get two? No, the ball was already being thrown back. Stay put.

            Since we had changed ends, that now left me facing the fast bowling, at least for the remaining three balls of the over.

              And here comes the first one.

            I never even saw it.

            It shot past me like a canon ball, somewhere on the off side of the wicket. Even the wicket keeper almost missed it.

            That was one ball I’d survived, and, believe me, from now on I would be playing defensively, not trying to make runs, it would be enough just to manage to stay there. In fact, that would be plenty.

            Oops!

            I wasn’t thinking. The next one came before I was ready for it.

            I swiped the bat at it, and somehow connected, driving it straight down into the ground. Defensive? I later heard somebody say they would describe it as a self-defensive stroke.

            One more to go and then I could get a rest while the bowling moved to the other end at the end of the over.

            At the other end of the pitch, the bowler was coming in on his run-up like a wild man, over came his arm, and –

            “NO BALL!:

            The umpire’s shout meant the bowling was faulty, and you could smack it as hard as you liked, but you couldn’t be got out from it, no matter what. So have a go!

            The red ball was coming for me like a rifle shot.

            ………………………….

It was all white.

            Or maybe, no, grayish.

            I was looking at a ceiling.

            Oh, I was looking down.

            I began to look around.

            I was in bed, in a small room.

            It looked round a bit more. Somebody was holding my hand?

            It was Joan.

            I began to speak, to see if I could do it, but Joan got in first. As usual, she came straight to the point.

            “There, darling, you are in hospital. You got hit on the head with a cricket ball, and they thought you might have a concussion. You’ve been out for two or three hours.”

            I tried talking.

            “I don’t remember a thing about it. I remember being in the cricket match, and I remember batting. Against very fast bowling. But I don’t remember getting hit.”

            I thought a bit more.

            “And have I really got a concussion?”

            “No, they don’t think so, but they’re going to keep you here overnight, just to see.”

            In fact, the next day, when I got back home, my memories of that final over and the final ball that knocked me out were very hazy. Still, it was all a complete accident. The bowler had apologized, and explained that his foot had caught in a rough bit of turf. Nevertheless, I could remember that back in the days of bodyline bowling at least one cricketer got a fractured skull when the ball hit him, so I could hardly complain. It could have been a lot worse.

 

Comment by the Murderer

            Of course I was the bowler, and of course it wasn’t an accident. I did it on purpose, as I’m sure you must have guessed. It was he having that long chat with Inspector Fry that did it. To tell the truth, it was more of an impulse than a thought-out plan. I didn’t want to hurt him badly, just get him to stop thinking about the death of the guard and the burglary, by giving him something else to worry about. Even with the rocket trains now entering the scene as a distraction, he’s been doing too much sniffing around. And I am a good fast bowler, so seeing him there before me, waving his bat round uselessly, well, it was just too much of a temptation. I could aim pretty well at his body, and, I hoped, maybe even at his head, and nobody seemed to object to my excuse that my foot had slipped on a bad bit of turf, which, of course, it hadn’t. So at least he’ll be off my back for a day or two. As for Charlie Fry doing some investigation on his own, I wouldn’t put money on it. He’s too busy with crowd control for the football specials, it’s Frank who is the real danger. Or at least that’s how I see it.

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