by Patrick Goodarzi

True to academic stereotypes, it seems whenever sport is mentioned in these pages it is often followed by some combination of the words failure, embarrassment, or disgrace. This occasion is to be no different. Our opponents this time were the fully fledged academics and staff of RSES – ostensibly further down the line of sporting ineptitude. The day was mid April and the game was cricket. In hindsight, a poor choice of sport and one that played directly into the staffs’ hands – a predominantly matured group from Commonwealth nations for whom the idea of standing idly in a field for half a day was an exhilarating prospect. In contrast, our ragamuffin bunch was cobbled together with students from diverse backgrounds, to many of whom cricket was a foreign curiosity. All, however, were delightfully keen. Perhaps they sensed the magnitude of the occasion. Or more likely some cultural fulfilment to be had.

Fearing a drubbing, our beleaguered coach/manager arranged training sessions where we were to learn, amongst other things, the rules of the game and how to play it. These efforts were eventually abandoned in favour of the internet after it became clear Youtube was much better prepared for the task.

The day itself deviated little from the script. What sense of optimism we’d garnered over the staff’s solid but unspectacular innings was decimated during the first few deliveries we faced, where to some impressive bowling we lost an alarming number of wickets. We watched on in horror. Panic gripped the remaining order, and we hastily rearranged the succession of which we’d walk out for our shaming. The staff took no mercy. The crowd revelled. Sadists, the lot of them.

In the hands of the umpires – an impeccably dressed but oddly antithetical pair – the game was played in good spirits. It seemed the more absorbed one umpire became, the more disinterested the other slumped (it was even suspected at one point that he might have slipped into a dormant state). Their leniency bespoke pity but it only stretched so far, and enough wides were punished that sundries eventually top-scored.

Ultimately the innings played out in the way we’d feared. The staff effectively forced the follow-on (a modest humiliation, particularly in the T20 format) and even by our 20th batsmen (including one from the unlikely source of Fellows Cafe and Bar) we remained an insurmountable distance from our target. Time to pack it in and pay visit to the bar.

For the spectators, this was not the spectacle they might have hoped for, yet their unwavering support suggested it was an adequate reprieve to the daily trudge. Nevertheless it was a fitting occasion to mark the passing of summer and the onset of the colder months, over which we’ll have plenty of time to revise our failings, tail between legs, and come back next year perhaps ever so slightly better.