|Chapter Title||THE BATTLE OF THE WICKETS.|
|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||The Golden Link|
THE BATTLE OF THE WICKETS.
Long Ben proved a tough customer to the Juniors ; he kept in, and evidently did not intend being out until he had given his young opponents a considerable amount of trouble, and, in spite of all the exertions of Phillip, Willie Poulton, and Charlie Harris, who successively handled the ball, the score gradually crept up to fifty.
There was a general chorus of "Capital," "Capital," "Capital," as one of Phillips' most beautiful balls was magnificently stopped.
"Well played, indeed," said Armstrong to himself, as Long Ben, scratching his head, muttered, "I should not like another of those, though."
But another came, and another, and "Capital," "Well played," and " Well bowled," arose from all parts of the crowd, who found themselves continuing their shouts through five long overs, long because of the intense excite- ment which prevailed.
The players on both sides were evidently on their metal now, both feeling that they had arrived at the turning point of the game, and it was pound, pound, pound, as hard as ever they could pound.
Six maiden overs against such a batsman as Long Ben was no bad proof of the excellence of the bowling, and when at last the ball found the way to his wicket it seemed as if the applause would never cease.
Phillip flung himself on the grass with a sigh of relief as Long Ben, walking past him to the tent, said, in an encou- raging tone, " Well, you deserve this game, if it's only for
those half dozen overs."
But the work of the Juniors was not over yet; Long Ben's successor seemed in every way competent to follow the example afforded him, and Charlie Harris again resigned himself to despair as three fours were scored in succession for a single over of the school captain.
Then Maitland, who stood next to Phillip Armstrong in the senior classes at the school, was put on to bowl, but it was of no use ; the Juniors had lost the clue, and again the score began to creep up slowly but surely to the number of the first innings.
" In or out ?" and before the spectators could catch the word which fell from the umpire's mouth the wicket-keeper
had sent the ball high into the air, and the spell was again
At last a splendid left-handed catch by Charlie Harris in the slip, followed by an equally good throw out by long stop, finished the second innings of the Seniors, with the score at eighty-three, leaving the Juniois with two hours and a quarter and a huudred and live runs to win.
Quietly and doggedly Phillip's schoolmates commenced their up-hill labour ; even the famous Australian Eleven, with Bannerman and Murdoch, and all the rest of the famous players, might have felt queer with such odds under such circumstances ; but the Juniors knew for what they were working, and, listening to Phillip's repeated cautions, care- ful play became the order of the day.
But fortune still refrained from smiling upon their
Charlie Harris, who fervently believed in Fortune, cursed her fickleness most bitterly as the first four wickets, inclu- ding Maitland, fell, with the score only at fifteen ; Phillip, j who did not believe in her, quietly smiled at him biting his
lips so savagely, and calmly buckled on his pads. As he went to the wicket he knew and felt, what all in that field believed, that on his play depended the victory or defeat of the side he loved ; for he did love the school he was going to leave, and he would have given his right hand almost to have won the match.
A cheer burst from the school-boys as they saw him leave the tent, and that cheer gave him courage.
"You are the forlorn hope, ain't you?" was the satirical greeting he received on reaching the wicket.
" I have no time to talk," said Phillip, as with his bat he measured the length of his guard ; " when its over I will tell you all about it. "
He felt the least shade of nervousness as he stood ready to receive the first ball.
A little far-pitched on the off side and he slipped quickly out and made a capital drive for five.
"Well hit! well hit!" shouted the Juniors, and before the last echoes had died away he was himself from head to foot-he was Phillip Armstrong to the back bone.
But the game was not won yet ; nothing like it ; it was about as shaky as it possibly could be. Phillip soon lost his companion, and half the wickets fell for less than thirty
He instinctively felt he had made a mistake in sending in the weak players first, it discouraged the others ; and he was vexed at being over-persuaded by Charlie Harris, who had held that, if it came to a close run, the stronger the tail of the team was the better. Charlie's logic was very good so far as it went, but Phillip wished to the bottom of his heart he had sent the good players in first.
It was too late now to change his tactics, yet he might bring out his strength in the next three wickets, but then aye, there was the rub-now it would not do, he must have two strong, steady hands for the last runs; so he let it alone
as it was.
Then he was almost mad with vexation when the next wicket went down without any addition being made to the score ; but he concealed it as well as he could.
Another wicket and the score was only forty.
The next candidate was Charlie Harris, who cast a glance at Phillip which put the Seniors on the qui vive ; for they
felt that it was now or never.
" No ! no!" shouted Phillip as Charlie Harris attempted a run; " go back ! go back !"
" In or out ?" called the wicket-keeper.
Phillip looked at the umpire with ill-concealed anxiety. The umpire shook his head, and Phillip breathed again.
_ " For mercy's sake play steady !" he said in such an ago- nized tone that Long Ben burst out laughing.
But Charlie had been quite sufficiently warned, and now the real work began. All before had been mere play to this. Good batting met good bowling-a quarter of an hour-half an hour-and yet no change, and the score quietly creeping up, Seventy was reached, and the Juniors almost dared to hope again. Then for five overs not a run could be made.
" This is too good to last, " said Willie Poulton, turning to Maitland, who stood at his side.
Then came a cheer, and Poulton turned quickly round again, half in fear, for he was as fidgetty about the game as any of them, but there was no need for fear ; he saw the ball spin, spin, spin along the ground-a splendid cut for four from Phillip, and his heart was as happy as a king.
Seventy-five-eighty-eighty-five-and still all right just twenty to win.
Then there came another cheer, and with an involun- tary exclamation Charlie Harris walked away from his wicket and the scorer wrote down, " run out-twenty-six."
Next a padless, gloveless, bare-armed, awkwardly-made giant wended his way forward, flourishing his bat carelessly in the air, perfectly heedless of the almost derisive
shouts of " Go it, Spider, " which) greeted him from every
But Phillip looked at him thoughtfully, and said to him- self, "On this fellow depends the fortunes of the day ;" so he went out to meet him, and besought of him to play care- fully, and not to " swipe."
Spider-his real name was Bourke-took Phillip's advice very kindly, and for two or three overs contented himself with keeping the ball off his wicket and stealing a run
whenever he had the chance.
But this was too slow work, and he felt he could not stand it much longer, yet with a patience in him perfectly
wonderful he bided his time.
His time came at last, and as he drew himself up to prepare for the drive Phillip almost screamed with anxiety ; then, with a shout of delight, he darted across to the opposite wicket. Six times those two and twenty yards were traversed before the ball was again safe in the wicket keeper's hand, and as Spider stood holding his bat his features flushed with an air of triumph, a tremendous cheer rose from both sides, for such a hit had not been seen in any previous match between the Seniors and the
But the game had yet to be won.
"Ninety-seven," was the answer, as Charlie Harris
demanded the state of the score.
"Good," he said, but as he turned back to the game he heard a cry that filled his heart with dismay, for Spider, having misjudged the very next ball, was walking towards the tent, leaving two of his wickets driven some two or three feet from their place by the force of Long Ben's bowling. Then the excitement became very great, and Phillip almost gave up all hope.