Well, what with the Ashes coming up, Iam gearing up with a few
posts to rsc :-) .This is another of the Book Extracts, from "Ala
Recherche du cricket perdu" by Simon Barnes. With Englands recent problems
in the middle order, I thought it would appropriate :-)
This is "You're only out once" by Ian Fleming, another in the saga
of that unflappable Englishman named Bond :-) All scanning errors, of
course, are my responsibility entirely :-)
Sadiq [ the scanner ] Yusuf
You 're Only Out Once
The crack of the weapon striking home filled the room.
The sound was absorbed by the walls of the windowless building
that had been constructed on the Schloss-Mockenbecker principle. James
Bond walked back along the Hi-Bounce surface and commented: 'This one
seems just about perfect, Fearnley. '
The armourer snorted. 'Come back and tell me after you've been in
the middle with it, sir.'
But Bond was pleased with his new weapon. It was a twin-scooped
jumbo weighing not less than four pounds, and with just the pick-up he
liked. For the first time since the loss of his trusty old equaliser on
his most recent assignment in the Caribbean, he felt content. And he would
need to use it soon enough!
As he walked away from the indoor net, part of that anonymous
cluster of buildings near Regents Park, his mind went back to the previous
day. He had been faced with a pile of routine work when the red telephone
in the players' dressing room had splintered the silence. 'M wants you, '
the chief of staffhad said urgently.
M was a man whose true function was known only to a handful of
people in England. Outwardly, he seemed an ordinary businessman. But in
reality, he was chairman of the se1ectors, who went into battle a dozen
times a season with the pick of England's men. He used them as live
chessmen, and spent them brutally when he had to. He would never have
dreamed of telling Bond that he, Bond, was the best man he possessed.
M had been in one of his reflective moods. 'What do you
think England needs?' he asked abruptly as Bond entered the room.
Bond looked into that weather-beaten face he knew so well, and
which held so much of his loyalty. 'Runs in the middle order, sir,' he
M flung his matchbox across the desk. 'Absolutely correct, Seven.'
M would not have considered addressing Bond during the hours of play by
anything other than his number in the batting order. 'And this is where
you come in. I am giving you a licence to slog. '
Bond reflected on this as he sat in the England dressing room the
following day. The responsibility! But it was right. England had lacked
solidity in the middle order ever since Four had disappeared in the Dirty
Half Mile in Pakistan. There was a scent of tension in his nostril: the
lure of the big pot, the everpresent taste for the big gamble. He would do
it, by God!
He stripped, gave himself a very hot and then an ice cold shower.
He washed his hair with Head 'n' Shoulders, that prince of shampoos. He
dressed in white trousers, and a white, Sea Island cotton shirt.He glanced
at himself in the mirror: a pair of grey-blue eyes looked quizzically back
at him, that rebel-lious comma of hair falling an inch above the right
eyebrow. He brushed it back impatiently. He smiled at some memory and
walked out of the dressing room on to the players' balcony. It was ten in
the morning, an hour before play began.
He glanced across to the opposition players' balcony. A girl
stared levelly back at him. She was very beautiful, in a devil-may-care
kind of way.
She was clad in a simple white bikini. Her dark hair was thrust
back from her face, her eyes cool and dark, assessed him. She sat
straddling a chair, her chin on her arms. The impudent thrust of her proud
***s***ed at Bond's senses.
'Guess you're the middle-order man,' she said flatly, a hint of
Australian in her voice. There was arrogance in the set of her head, in
the cool shrug of her shoulders.
Bond was amused. He lit a cigarette, of the kind that Morlands of
Grosvenor made specially for him, with three gold rings, and said: 'And
you're the Australian fast bowler.'
She didn't smile. 'I travel with Denno, yeah.' God, thought Bond,
what a life! But something about the girl told him she was beyond that.
Her eyes said: don't hurry me. All things are possible between us.
'Do you have a name?' Bond asked.
'Shirleen Sleepwell.' Her eyes held a touch of defiance.
'Nice name. I like it. '
'I'll tell Denno you said so. He'll be honoured.'
To hell with her! He, Bond had work to do. He returned to the
dressing room and rang room service. 'Get me a double portion of scrambled
eggs, a pint of Jack Daniel's bourbon and plenty of ice.'
'Right away, sir.' Bond consumed his breakfast, and felt the
e***ment ball up inside him. This was the big play! Thank God he would
soon be out in the middle.
He went to toss up with the opposition captain, won and chose to
bat. The Australian offered his hand. The handshake was firm and dry. Bond
smiled amiably and emptily back. He would continue to play the toothless
He returned to the dressing room and prepared himself for the
battle. He watched the cricket until he was needed. He checked that the
Rolex was on his wrist, and finally closed his locker. He plucked a hair
painfully from his head, and with a dab of saliva stuck it across the
door. He had done all he could. Now it was down to the gods. He hoped they
were on his side. With the new weapon in his hand, he stepped out to do
He stood at the wicket and looked across at the man he knew he
would have to oppose: Denno. Denno gave the impression of being a little
larger than life. He stood over six feet tall. He had an enormous head,
big as a football, capped with a tangle of black curls. The left eye was
not a perfect match with its fellow. The arms, preternaturally long, hung
the level of his knees. He wore a large and astonishingly hairy moustache.
The general effect was flamboyant: like a cheap gigolo. Bond was
put in mind of a cartoon braggart: a jeering loud-mouthed vulgarian.
'G'day, Jim,' Denno said. 'Are you ready for a little fun?'
'Yes,' said Bond. 'I'd like that very much.'
'I hope you've made your will,' Denno said. He retreated into the
distance, the red weapon of the ball in his hand.
Bond took guard. There was something cold and dangerous in his
face as Denno turned and began to run towards him. It was a tricky, almost
a vicious pitch he had to play on. The odds were stacked against him. To
hell with it! It was now or never.
Denno ran in and fired the ball at Bond. It was a full length, and
rose abruptly to strike Bond in the ribcage. What was happening? Get up,
you bastard! The pain of the impact seemed to have frozen his responses.
Somehow, he scrambled to his feet. He wasn't dead yet!
'Like 'em round about there, Jim?' Denno's sneering voice
penetrated his consciousness. He ignored it, concentrated only on dodging
the next ball. Hit it. Hit it with anything. If not, he was a dead duck!
The second ball came, again on a length. Bond lunged blindly at
it, missed, and felt a searing pain in his shoulder. Now he was done for!
Not enough strength left to raise a bat! How the hell had he got mixed up
with all this? He turned with infinite weariness to face the third ball.
A half-volley! Bond surged gratefully into the drive - no, by God!
A yorker! The ball strock him full on the foot, again bringing him to the
ground. Denno followed the ball down the pitch. There was no stuffing left
in Bond for another shouting match. He climbed the infinite distance to
his feet. Counter-attack. That was his only hope!
Suddenly nothing mattered. Suddenly, the only thing that Bond
wanted was to give this hairy ape the lesson of his life. The next ball
was short. It was outside leg: an easy hook. Bond moved instinctively into
position. Hell! It was coming straight for his head. Only one thing for
it! With blind, animal desperation, Bond went through with his hook. There
was a sweet, brief moment of contact, and he knew the ball was going to
clear the boundary for six. That was more like it!
The second ball was shorter, faster. Bond swung again. God!
Another six! Close to delirium, Bond played on towards a ***y, beckoning
Bond left the pitch, a grey-faced, lunging automaton.Somehow he had done
it. A century before lunch for Number Seven. Bond felt no triumph, only a
great, soul-wearying exhaustion.
He walked into the pavilion. He stripped *** and walked, almost
fell into the shower. The water felt like summer rain on his back. There
was a small, curiously hesitant knock on the door of the shower room.
'Who's there?' asked Bond.
'It's me - Shirleen Sleepwell. I just wondered if you had all you
'Come in, Shirleen, and close the door behind you.'
She entered. She wore nothing now. 'Look here, you Bond person..'
His mouth came ruthlessly down over hers.