Lanky was once in a semi-final - but he wasn't playing cricket! Here's his story...
I was once involved in a semi final but it wasn’t anywhere near as big a match as this one: however, I think it was televised on a channel that reached about 4 people and a dog. The sport wasn’t cricket, or even football: it was beach volleyball.
I had gone to the East African coast (I highly recommend it) with some friends on a holiday, and everywhere we went there were posters for a beach volleyball tournament. All teams welcome, the posters said. The whole town was buzzing with excitement about the tournament, which apparently took place every year. The first prize was a week on a luxury yacht!
We weren’t going to enter a team as none of us had ever played volleyball before, but it got to a week into the holiday and some of us were a little bored of lying on the beach and reading all day every day. To get a bit more active, we decided to enter the tournament for a bit of a laugh.
What we hadn’t realised was that a group of 6 7ft giraffes with unusually dextrous hooves would prove relatively unbeatable against normal size humans whose jelly shoes kept getting stuck in the sand. Once we got the hang of the rules of the game we were flying, and ‘The Crazy Camelopards’ (as we called ourselves) had soon racked up wins against ‘The Exclamation Marks’ (a team that seemed to be made up entirely of people called Mark); ‘The Dibbly Dobblies’ (more cricket enthusiasts) and ‘The Take That Appreciation Society’.
This qualified us for the semi final – the first of my life – against a very imposing team called ‘Bert’s Bashers’. They were led by a sinister man called Jeff, and bizarrely they didn’t have a single player called Bert. We all wondered nervously what they might have done with him. The Bashers had only conceded 12 points in their previous 3 matches, and not only did they look like they’d been practicing before the tournament, but they all had matching, specially made outfits with their names on the back. We were just wearing our beach gear!
As we warmed up (not hard in 30 degree heat), I don’t think any of us thought we stood a chance. Bert’s Bashers were strong, focused and definitely not up for a laugh. When a line-call was disputed during the third point, they surrounded the umpire and shouted at him until they got the decision they wanted. We lost the game, but not by much, and we were pleased that we’d played as well as we could.
Instead of shaking our hooves at the end of the game, Bert’s Bashers stuck their tongues out at us and laughed in our faces. Thankfully the rest of the crowd booed at this behaviour. Glen Chapple has always told me that not only do you have to lose gracefully, but you have to learn to win properly as well. Nobody will respect you otherwise.
The Bashers were beaten in the final by a team called ‘The Friendly Giants’ which we were very pleased about. The Giants had become our firm friends over the two weeks of our holiday as they shared our love of fun times and a fear of low ceilings. They even invited us on their week on the yacht! Unfortunately, we had to decline as giraffes can’t swim at all!