Reginald’s Record Knock by P.G. Wodehouse
Reginald’s Record Knock.
P. G. WODEHOUSE
Reginald Humby was one of those men who go in just above the byes, and are to tired bowlers what the dew is to parched earth at the close of an August afternoon. When a boy at school he once made nine not out in a house match, but after that he went all to pieces. His adult cricket career was on the one-match one-ball principle. Whether it was that Reginald hit too soon at them or did not hit soon enough, whether it was that his bat deviated from the dotted line which joined the two points A and B in the illustrated plate of the man making the forward stroke in the Hints on Cricket book, or whether it was that each bail swerved both ways at once and broke a yard and a quarter, I do not know. Reginald rather favoured the last theory.
The important point is that Reginald, after an almost unbroken series of eggs in the first two months of the season, turned out for Chigley Heath versus The Hearty Lunchers in the early part of July, went in first, and knocked up a hundred and thirteen.
Reginald, mark you, whose normal batting style was a sort of cross between hop-scotch, diabolo, and a man with gout in one leg trying to dance the Salome Dance.
When great events happen the public generally shows an anxiety to discover their cause. In the case of Reginald’s century, on the face of it the most remarkable event since the Flood, the miracle may be attributed directly to his personal popularity.
Carpers may cavil at this statement. It is possible, too, that cavillers may carp. I seem to see them at it. All around me, I repeat, I seem to hear the angry murmur of carpers cavilling and cavillers carping. I seem to hear them asking how it is possible for a man to make a century by being popular.
‘Can a batsman,’ they ask, ‘by sheer amiability stop a yorker on the leg stump?’
Nevertheless it is true. The facts are these:
Everybody who plays club cricket knows the Hearty Lunchers. Inveterate free-drinkers to a man, they wander about the country playing villages. They belong to the school of thought which holds that the beauty of cricket is that, above all other games, it offers such magnificent opportunities for a long drink and a smoke in the shade. The Hearty Lunchers do not take their cricket in that spirit of deadly and business-like earnest which so many people consider is spoiling the game. A Hearty Luncher who has been given out caught at the wicket does not explain on arriving at the pavilion that he was nowhere near the ball, and that the umpire has had a personal grudge against him since boyhood. No, he sinks into a deck chair, removes his pads, and remarks that if anyone was thinking of buying him a stone ginger with the merest dash of gin in it, now is his time.
It will therefore readily be understood that Reginald’s inability to lift his average out of the minuses did not handicap him with the Hearty Lunchers, as it might have handicapped him with some clubs. The genial sportsmen took him to their bosoms to a man and looked on him as a brother. Reginald’s was one of those noble natures which are always good for five shillings at any hour of the day, and the Hearty Lunchers were not slow to appreciate it. They all loved Reginald.
Reginald was seated in his room one lovely evening at the beginning of July oiling a bat — he was a confirmed bat-oiler — when the telephone bell rang. He went to the instrument and was hailed by the comfortable voice of Westaway, the Hearty Lunchers’ secretary.
‘Is that Humby?’ asked Westaway. ‘I say, Reggie, I’m booking you for the Chigley Heath match next Saturday. Train, Waterloo, ten fifteen.’
‘Oh, I say,’ replied Reginald, a note of penitence in his voice, ‘I’m afraid I can’t — fact is, I’m playing for Chigley.’
‘They asked me last week — they seemed very keen that I should play.’