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The subtle art of cricket palmistry

[door Robert Wolfe] Imagine you are the son of a palm-reader. Not just any palm-reader but your palmreading Dad is used by high state officials in India, cause that’s where you grow up. Imagine then that you would actually prefer to be playing cricket rather than sit next to your Dad to slowly learn this difficult intuitive knowhow. Its lines and lengths your interested in, not life and love lines. But your Dad makes you. Cause the gift that runs in your family is a rare one and it must be developed.

Fast forward to last Sunday and the colossal match of Acc Zomi – Hermes Zomi. Both at the top of the table. Their two best batsman are in, Michiel van der Gaag and Robin ter Plegt. They are just about set. And ACC have made 199 in 35, not bad, but about par. And the two batsmen know it. Everyone knows it. If these two stay at the crease for any length of time Hermes will cruise to victory. The bowling isn’t troubling them, they are setting themselves up for a big innings.

The fielder at mid-on is about to toss the ball to the bowler for the start of another over, but he does something strange, he, the palmreaders son, makes a bowling action and bowls the ball from a short distance away to the bowler, or more precise, a meter next to the bowlers head. The bowler has to stretch his arm to stop the ball and is about to give a non-verbal WTF when the palmreaders son’s expression stops him. It is as if the mid-on has just had some deep revelation. He has the face of knowledge gained. Let me show you, he gestures and he holds up the ball and says see how this side of the ball is slightly heavier than the other?

No.

Well I just saw it. And I tested it. It will swing to that side.

But we have been shining the other side.

Keep shining the other side, but it will swing to this side.

The bowler shrugs, thinking nonsense… I’ll just bowl like I always do. But there is something about the quiet conviction of the mid-on, the surety that his reading is deeply relevant, that it doesn’t even need further argumentation, that makes the bowler change two things. First he turns the ball around in his hand. Second he pitches it up. Their set openingsbatsman, Michiel, later said it was the first ball that moved. Late, just slightly, just enough for an edge to be gobbled up behind.

Later the palmreader’s son is bowling himself, but Robin is hitting boundaries and we have dropped him so often (5 times) that fielders have stopped trying to make it to the ball to catch him (2 times). But the palmreader’s son isn’t happy with his reading of the ball. The seam has gone. It’s a bit of a bullet and is being hit harder and harder. There is a bit of a gloom in the ACC field, this is not looking well, the decaying smell of defeat is already on the air. So the palmreaders son makes a brave decision without conferring with anyone, which is just as well, cause no-one in their right mind would have agreed with his plan. In chess the computers are rated with how many moves ahead they can think, naturally a palmreader would have an advantage there because their mind is used to taking many steps forward. Cricket can be similar in that way and a gambit is what the palmreader’s son had in mind. In chess a gambit is a counterintuitive move, in which you sacrifice a piece only to get rewards later. The palmreaders son bowled one to Robin a little short on middlestump. One didn’t need to see into the future to predict what would happen to that ball and the plunge as it went into the canal behind the boundary on legside made most fielders grimace. But not all, because the bowler himself smiled the content smile of a man who had a plan and so far things were going well.

It took minutes to get the ball out. And guess what, it had changed shape. The seam had swollen up, its weight had changed. It was no longer the bullet that raced off the bat to the boundary. And the race against the scoreboardpressure could truly begin.

To understand how the game ended one needs to understand that the bowler Richard Wolfe, not be confused with his older brother, has a reputation for bowling wides when under pressure, actually not only under pressure. And actually not only wides, but also other balls that to call them bad, as in bad ball, would still be being very kind. And yet the captain turned to Richard Wolfe when it seemed the slowed down run rate we gained from the gambit, was not going to be enough to win. We needed to get Robin out. And what no-one else could do, Richard did.

He started with two wides, no one panicked, used as we are to this kind of start. Then a short-hop and another wide, a Yorker, a good length, and a ball that has no description, the batsman started to get fidgety. You could tell he really had no idea where the next ball would come because he believed the bowler didn’t have a clue either. And sure enough after going for 9 in his first, in his second over, Richard gives Robin a slow short ball that the latter swipes at and it ends in the hands of Gurlap at midwicket! No-one asked Richard if it was an attempted Yorker, everyone was too busy jumping up and down. This was the biggest wicket of the whole season so far! Berend and Rik combined with a great runout. And then Richard pegged back midstump to finish the game. ACC Zomi had won. The wizard palm and ball reader Nagesh, the erratic kingsslayer of a bowler Richard W, Sahel the keeper, Big Lad the Big Lad, Marvin the Marvelous, the older brother, Tony “Errol Flynn” Tumtum who took 25% of his catching chances, Sjef who is inventing a new style of fielding, Berend the sharp fielder who is saving up for a scoring course and Gurlap who got runs, a wicket, two catches and a great overthrow. The whole team rejoiced and had a great time with Hermes afterwards. And there was lots to talk about. Two quotes from the 3rd innings:

“I would so much rather have had a good ball than that, whatever it was he bowled…”

“When anyone from india tells you turn the ball around in your hand. You should always do it.”

The season continues! See scorecard here

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