99 and IN


Michael hadn't played cricket for almost 20 years, having spent 13 of them living in Canada. Prior to that he had been a naturally talented sportsman, excelling in cross-country, rugby league, touch football and, notably, cricket. He played for his home town of Jamberoo and quickly progressed through the grades. As a bowler he could swing the ball when others couldn't. As a batsman he was no standout, but contributed well, particularly in one schoolboy game where he was awarded man-of-the-match. He was representing the South Coast against a Sydney metropolitan side. The South Coast team also included Brett Lee, who went on to represent Australia as a fast bowler. But Michael matched him for wickets and hit the winning runs in his 27 not out.

As fathers tend to do, I started taking him down the practice nets almost every afternoon. Despite his natural ability, I unfortunately attempted to change his run-up. I had noticed that the best fast bowlers of the world left the ground just before releasing the ball. I called it “the jump”. I insisted that Michael incorporate, even exaggerate, this action into his bowling. It totally ruined his effectiveness with the ball. I regret this so very much.

Anyway, fast forward to February2019. Michael, at age 41, had left Canada and was living and working in the Illawarra. One Saturday morning he received a phone call from life-long friend Simon who was still playing cricket for Jamberoo. They were short a player and Michael was asked to fill in. When he arrived at Jamberoo oval many of his old friends were there to greet him. They joked endlessly about “the jump”. Thankfully Michael was able to laugh along. Then it was time to play. Jamberoo batted first and at one stage were in real trouble at 4-20, as their captain saw player after player at the other end lose their wickets.

Michael checked the score sheet and noticed that he was down to bat at number 7. He immediately changed that to number 9, hoping very much that he wouldn't even be required. But soon after he was asked to pad up. When he strode to the crease he was as nervous as he'd ever been, because the Jamberoo captain, who had never scored a century before, was at the other end on 99 not out. Michael noticed that he didn't make eye contact. But the bowler did, glaring at this rather senior newcomer with anticipation. Michael prodded at the first ball, missed it as it slid by the stumps. The follow up ball Michael hit and just “ran like crazy” to the other end, almost running out his skipper. Finally the captain racked up his century and Michael was just so relieved. He managed to score one more run and was out for 2.

Michael was given just a single over to bowl. He found he could still swing the ball. Four of the 6 balls he described as “pretty good”, but the other 2 he said were “rubbish”. But he did manage to take an outfield catch that he described as "oustanding". Michael enjoyed the day very much and I hope he is called upon again soon. Jamberoo is his home town and to again grace the oval with the wonderful group of guys he grew up with must be so special. Enough to make him JUMP for joy.


Geoff Mooney