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Mike - Chapter LIX - SEDLEIGH _v._ WRYKYN Post by :jomeara Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :2777

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Mike - Chapter LIX - SEDLEIGH _v._ WRYKYN


The Wrykyn match was three-parts over, and things were going badly for
Sedleigh. In a way one might have said that the game was over, and
that Sedleigh had lost; for it was a one day match, and Wrykyn, who
had led on the first innings, had only to play out time to make the
game theirs.

Sedleigh were paying the penalty for allowing themselves to be
influenced by nerves in the early part of the day. Nerves lose more
school matches than good play ever won. There is a certain type of
school batsman who is a gift to any bowler when he once lets his
imagination run away with him. Sedleigh, with the exception of Adair,
Psmith, and Mike, had entered upon this match in a state of the most
azure funk. Ever since Mike had received Strachan's answer and Adair
had announced on the notice-board that on Saturday, July the
twentieth, Sedleigh would play Wrykyn, the team had been all on the
jump. It was useless for Adair to tell them, as he did repeatedly, on
Mike's authority, that Wrykyn were weak this season, and that on their
present form Sedleigh ought to win easily. The team listened, but were
not comforted. Wrykyn might be below their usual strength, but then
Wrykyn cricket, as a rule, reached such a high standard that this
probably meant little. However weak Wrykyn might be--for them--there
was a very firm impression among the members of the Sedleigh first
eleven that the other school was quite strong enough to knock the
cover off _them_. Experience counts enormously in school matches.
Sedleigh had never been proved. The teams they played were the sort of
sides which the Wrykyn second eleven would play. Whereas Wrykyn, from
time immemorial, had been beating Ripton teams and Free Foresters
teams and M.C.C. teams packed with county men and sending men to
Oxford and Cambridge who got their blues as freshmen.

Sedleigh had gone on to the field that morning a depressed side.

It was unfortunate that Adair had won the toss. He had had no choice
but to take first innings. The weather had been bad for the last week,
and the wicket was slow and treacherous. It was likely to get worse
during the day, so Adair had chosen to bat first.

Taking into consideration the state of nerves the team was in, this in
itself was a calamity. A school eleven are always at their worst and
nerviest before lunch. Even on their own ground they find the
surroundings lonely and unfamiliar. The subtlety of the bowlers
becomes magnified. Unless the first pair make a really good start, a
collapse almost invariably ensues.

To-day the start had been gruesome beyond words. Mike, the bulwark of
the side, the man who had been brought up on Wrykyn bowling, and from
whom, whatever might happen to the others, at least a fifty was
expected--Mike, going in first with Barnes and taking first over, had
played inside one from Bruce, the Wrykyn slow bowler, and had been
caught at short slip off his second ball.

That put the finishing-touch on the panic. Stone, Robinson, and the
others, all quite decent punishing batsmen when their nerves allowed
them to play their own game, crawled to the wickets, declined to hit
out at anything, and were clean bowled, several of them, playing back
to half-volleys. Adair did not suffer from panic, but his batting was
not equal to his bowling, and he had fallen after hitting one four.
Seven wickets were down for thirty when Psmith went in.

Psmith had always disclaimed any pretensions to batting skill, but he
was undoubtedly the right man for a crisis like this. He had an
enormous reach, and he used it. Three consecutive balls from Bruce he
turned into full-tosses and swept to the leg-boundary, and, assisted
by Barnes, who had been sitting on the splice in his usual manner, he
raised the total to seventy-one before being yorked, with his score at
thirty-five. Ten minutes later the innings was over, with Barnes not
out sixteen, for seventy-nine.

Wrykyn had then gone in, lost Strachan for twenty before lunch, and
finally completed their innings at a quarter to four for a hundred and

This was better than Sedleigh had expected. At least eight of the team
had looked forward dismally to an afternoon's leather-hunting. But
Adair and Psmith, helped by the wicket, had never been easy,
especially Psmith, who had taken six wickets, his slows playing havoc
with the tail.

It would be too much to say that Sedleigh had any hope of pulling the
game out of the fire; but it was a comfort, they felt, at any rate,
having another knock. As is usual at this stage of a match, their
nervousness had vanished, and they felt capable of better things than
in the first innings.

It was on Mike's suggestion that Psmith and himself went in first.
Mike knew the limitations of the Wrykyn bowling, and he was convinced
that, if they could knock Bruce off, it might be possible to rattle up
a score sufficient to give them the game, always provided that Wrykyn
collapsed in the second innings. And it seemed to Mike that the wicket
would be so bad then that they easily might.

So he and Psmith had gone in at four o'clock to hit. And they had hit.
The deficit had been wiped off, all but a dozen runs, when Psmith was
bowled, and by that time Mike was set and in his best vein. He treated
all the bowlers alike. And when Stone came in, restored to his proper
frame of mind, and lashed out stoutly, and after him Robinson and the
rest, it looked as if Sedleigh had a chance again. The score was a
hundred and twenty when Mike, who had just reached his fifty, skied
one to Strachan at cover. The time was twenty-five past five.

As Mike reached the pavilion, Adair declared the innings closed.

Wrykyn started batting at twenty-five minutes to six, with sixty-nine
to make if they wished to make them, and an hour and ten minutes
during which to keep up their wickets if they preferred to take things
easy and go for a win on the first innings.

At first it looked as if they meant to knock off the runs, for
Strachan forced the game from the first ball, which was Psmith's, and
which he hit into the pavilion. But, at fifteen, Adair bowled him. And
when, two runs later, Psmith got the next man stumped, and finished up
his over with a c-and-b, Wrykyn decided that it was not good enough.
Seventeen for three, with an hour all but five minutes to go, was
getting too dangerous. So Drummond and Rigby, the next pair, proceeded
to play with caution, and the collapse ceased.

This was the state of the game at the point at which this chapter
opened. Seventeen for three had become twenty-four for three, and the
hands of the clock stood at ten minutes past six. Changes of bowling
had been tried, but there seemed no chance of getting past the
batsmen's defence. They were playing all the good balls, and refused
to hit at the bad.

A quarter past six struck, and then Psmith made a suggestion which
altered the game completely.

"Why don't you have a shot this end?" he said to Adair, as they were
crossing over. "There's a spot on the off which might help you a lot.
You can break like blazes if only you land on it. It doesn't help my
leg-breaks a bit, because they won't hit at them."

Barnes was on the point of beginning to bowl, when Adair took the ball
from him. The captain of Outwood's retired to short leg with an air
that suggested that he was glad to be relieved of his prominent post.

The next moment Drummond's off-stump was lying at an angle of
forty-five. Adair was absolutely accurate as a bowler, and he had
dropped his first ball right on the worn patch.

Two minutes later Drummond's successor was retiring to the pavilion,
while the wicket-keeper straightened the stumps again.

There is nothing like a couple of unexpected wickets for altering the
atmosphere of a game. Five minutes before, Sedleigh had been lethargic
and without hope. Now there was a stir and buzz all round the ground.
There were twenty-five minutes to go, and five wickets were down.
Sedleigh was on top again.

The next man seemed to take an age coming out. As a matter of fact, he
walked more rapidly than a batsman usually walks to the crease.

Adair's third ball dropped just short of the spot. The batsman,
hitting out, was a shade too soon. The ball hummed through the air a
couple of feet from the ground in the direction of mid-off, and Mike,
diving to the right, got to it as he was falling, and chucked it up.

After that the thing was a walk-over. Psmith clean bowled a man in his
next over; and the tail, demoralised by the sudden change in the game,
collapsed uncompromisingly. Sedleigh won by thirty-five runs with
eight minutes in hand.

* * * * *

Psmith and Mike sat in their study after lock-up, discussing things in
general and the game in particular.

"I feel like a beastly renegade, playing against Wrykyn," said Mike.
"Still, I'm glad we won. Adair's a jolly good sort, and it'll make him
happy for weeks."

"When I last saw Comrade Adair," said Psmith, "he was going about in a
sort of trance, beaming vaguely and wanting to stand people things at
the shop."

"He bowled awfully well."

"Yes," said Psmith. "I say, I don't wish to cast a gloom over this
joyful occasion in any way, but you say Wrykyn are going to give
Sedleigh a fixture again next year?"


"Well, have you thought of the massacre which will ensue? You will
have left, Adair will have left. Incidentally, I shall have left.
Wrykyn will swamp them."

"I suppose they will. Still, the great thing, you see, is to get the
thing started. That's what Adair was so keen on. Now Sedleigh has
beaten Wrykyn, he's satisfied. They can get on fixtures with decent
clubs, and work up to playing the big schools. You've got to start
somehow. So it's all right, you see."

"And, besides," said Psmith, reflectively, "in an emergency they can
always get Comrade Downing to bowl for them, what? Let us now sally
out and see if we can't promote a rag of some sort in this abode of
wrath. Comrade Outwood has gone over to dinner at the School House,
and it would be a pity to waste a somewhat golden opportunity. Shall
we stagger?"

They staggered.


The End
P G Wodehouse's novel: Mike

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