The normally sedate world of the Dalston Cricket League has been thrown into turmoil this week amid accusations that one team ‘quite brazenly keeps trying to win’.
The Captain of the Dalston Corinthians – who have won the league every year since 1962 – has become involved in an ugly public spat with league newcomers the Haggerston Hurricanes over alleged unsporting practices.
‘It’s a bally outrage!’ Corinthian’s captain, Major Ambrose ‘Brosie’ de Havilland, bellowed at the Mercury, ‘These arriviste Johnnies, the Hurricanes or whatever they’re calling themselves, have destroyed centuries of Dalston cricketing tradition with their vulgar physical fitness and their naked ambition to win matches. It’s simply not cricket.’
Major de Havilland, 64, who has captained his side since losing a leg in the Falklands, accuses Hurricanes players of, among other things, ‘aiming at the stumps’, ‘running really fast down the wicket’, and ‘catching the ball even if they have to fall over while doing it’.
Hurricanes captain Mr Amir Hussain, 26, defends his team’s tactics. He told the Mercury: ‘We just play normal cricket. It’s the Corinthians who are rewriting the rule book.’
‘For example, when their wicket keeper came in to bat, we were told we couldn’t bowl down the leg side in case it dislodged his colostomy bag. When their number seven is at the crease we have to bowl underarm because of his cataracts.’
‘Their opening batsman is a retired high court judge. He insists on wearing his wig to bat – if it falls off we have to give him another go! And when we did finally get him out he kind of glared at me and said: ‘My grandfather was at Khartoum with Gordon, you know.’ I don’t even know where Khartoum is. I’m from Bromsgrove.’
‘And don’t get me started on the toilet breaks. It was dark before we got to bat.’
Major de Havilland, who normally bats from a bath chair with a tartan rug across his knees, insists that the Hurricane’s tactics are unsporting. He said: ‘It’s not just on the field. They engage in the most insidious forms of psychological warfare, too. One of them offered me a bhaji during the tea interval! A bhaji! Researched my peptic ulcer, you see? Cunning! Raw native cunning! These people have no shame.’
‘Cricket is not about fit young men expressing their innate athleticism in a joyful celebration of sporting virtuosity,’ he fulminated, ‘a game of cricket is a grinding attritional struggle, punctuated only by gin and sandwiches and the application of horse liniment to various weeping sores. And it either ends in a draw or is rained off. Any damn fool knows that!’
In other cricketing news: The cricket pitch on London Fields is expected to re-open next week after being damaged by a rain of chargrilled body parts and a thousand tons of flaming rocket fuel last week. Council groundsmen say it will probably be another month before they can dig out the remains of a smouldering septic tank which fell from the heavens and became embedded on the square leg boundary.