Six Leg Byes

A much calmer day met us this morning and Jackie and I had a relaxed time before lunch and driving to Becky’s flat to give it a good clean in anticipation of her return home tomorrow.  Hopefully our daughter will be pleased with the result.

We then took Flo to the hospital where we were all delighted with her mother’s progress.  Flo had not visited yesterday because she had been taken to see ‘War Horse’, an arrangement which had been made months ago.  She therefore noticed a huge difference from the post-operative state Becky had been in on her first visit.  Becky was up and about and even led us to the ward day room where we could all sit comfortably.  She looked remarkably well.

On the way from the flat in Mitcham Jackie was overtaken on the inside by a small motorbike bearing an L sign and a pizza parlour’s name.  Beware the pizza deliverer.  They all carry L plates and obviously acquire the bike with the job.  What lessons do they have, I wonder?

Passing Mitcham cricket green, as we always do going to and fro Becky’s, Jackie asked me if I was aware what an historic ground this was.  I responded with the tale of Len Heddy and Ethan Swaby which took place sometime in the 1960s.  I explained that I had never played for a team good enough to compete with the then very strong Mitcham Cricket Club, but that I had played once or twice against one of their stars.  Most clubs at that time introduced guest players for mid-week games.  This is how Len got to play for my club, Trinity (Battersea – now Oxley) and Ethan was loaned by Mitcham to our opponents.

I only ever faced one bowler faster than Ethan Swaby.  That was Keith Boyce who, whilst playing for the West Indies was turning out for Essex County second eleven as he was earning his residential qualification to be able to represent the county fully.  He delivered three balls in my direction.  I didn’t see any of them and the third one bowled me.  To me, Ethan was much more frightening, because he employed a lethal bouncer.  A bouncer is a ball which after hitting the ground climbs high and is generally aimed at the batsman’s body, throat, or head.  There is no point in bowling a bouncer unless you are really fast, otherwise it comes through quite gently and should be easy to hit.  Consequently, at the level I usually played in, you didn’t experience too many bouncers.  I therefore never learned the sensible art of getting out of the way.  As will be seen, neither did Len.  On the day in question I received one of Ethan’s fearsome specials.  I saw it come out of his hand; I saw it hit the pitch; I watched it come straight at my nose; somehow I brought the bat across, made contact, and watched it rocket to the boundary.  I can still feel the draft of air created by my bat coming across my face; I can still hear the smack of bat on ball; I can still feel the hairs standing up on the back of my neck when I realised what a near miss I’d had.  This was of course in the era before everyone wore protective helmets.

A bit later on Len came out to bat.  Miraculously I was still there at the other end.  I need at this point to explain a couple of cricketing terms for the uninitiated.  A leg bye is a run made after some part of the batsman’s anatomy has been struck by the ball and ricocheted off into the field.  Usually it comes off the batsman’s pads, or leg guards.  A six is scored when the ball is hit over the boundary ropes without bouncing first.  Now, the boundary is quite a long way, and for the ball to clear it without bouncing it needs to be helped on its way by a hefty clout, invariably involving a cricket bat.

So now we have Len, a new batsman quaking at the crease, and Ethan, having had a rest, a refreshed bowler straining at the leash.  Ethan tears in and releases the ball.  From the safety of the other end I try unsuccessfully to watch it through the air.  I see it rear up from the pitch; I see it strike Len on his unprotected head; I see it fly off into the distance; I see Len drop like a stone; amazingly, I see Len stagger to his feet, apparently uninjured.  We all rush to his assistance, but he is, indeed, fit to carry on.

We then thought about the ball which was being thrown back from the boundary by a spectator.  Incredibly, the umpire was signalling six leg byes.  The ball, which had bounced off the so aptly named Mr. Heddy’s head, had cleared the boundary without bouncing.  I have never known any other instance of six leg byes in all the years I have been playing and watching cricket.  Had I not witnessed it I would never have believed it.

After the hospital visit we brought Flo back to Links Avenue for one of Jackie’s tasty penne pasta meals and eventually returned her to her own home.

11 responses to “Six Leg Byes”

  1. I never heard of that either. I played on the green risking my life in my studded boots crossing the road to bat. This would have been in the 80s playing for Dulwich. Went past the other day and the Burn Bullock pub was shut and covered in scaffolding. Hope it’s not going the way of so many other pubs.

  2. […] me of the story of the catch, another occurrence in a cricket match which I featured in ‘Six Leg Byes’. What happened was that Keith Boyce, a phenomenal West Indian Test player, hit a skier (a ball […]

  3. Great story. By coincidence I had the same Keith Boyce experience as yourself but in my case it was Sarfraz Nawaz who after playing for Northamptonshire stepped down to village cricket. From the pavilion waiting to bat I watched him take just a couple of paces before each delivery and felt confident that it would not be so difficult to face him after all. How wrong I was. The first delivery I faced was past me and in the wicket keepers gloves before I had even twitched. The second I lunged forward got an outside edge and it raced to the boundary when I was really only hoping for a single. The third ball removed middle and off. Three balls and I didn’t see any of them!

    I used to run the office cricket team, I wrote about it here…

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