Alice Henderson On Debut – Chapter One

The scoreboard says I’m one wicket down for 62 runs, which is a pretty good opening score for the first day of a backyard Test Match. The morning session’s gone pretty well for me, except when I got out in the second over by hitting the ball over the fence into Mr Rammage’s roses.

Adam’s getting antsy and has started trash talking, just like he always does when I’m on top in a match, and I don’t blame him. He lost the bat toss, which is never a good sign for him in our backyard series. Statistics show that since we started keeping score when I was seven, whoever lost the toss on the very first day was most likely to lose the series. Plus it’s been a sticky-hot morning which means that bowling has been hard, and Adam’s hoping the storm that’s predicted for the afternoon might show up early, because a break for bad weather means that no matter what the score is, we have to swap and he’d get to bat as soon as the weather cleared.

Adam’s wasting time farting around with his fielders, which are an old paint can that he’s put in at mid-off, the recycle bin that’s sitting at long-on and a plastic outdoor chair at cover. That’s in addition to the permanent fielders – the palm trees at gully, the pool at third man, the shed is the wicketkeeper and three slips, with a big old fake wagon wheel covering square leg. We used to use Grandma’s garden gnomes until Adam broke one with a cracker of a straight drive. We were banned from playing for a week until we’d done enough housework to pay for a replacement. And I won’t mention the lazy twelfth man, our old red cattle dog Blue, who’s never chased anything more than his tail in his life. He’s spectating from the shade under the back steps.

Adam finishes setting his field and I have a funny feeling he’s going to try to bounce me out. Over the fence or on a roof on the full is automatic out – no six-and-out for our games – and even though he surprised me with that one that got me out in the second over (I stuck my bat up when I ducked which made the ball loop up and over the fence), I’m not stupid enough to get caught a second time.

Just as Adam gets back to his mark and is ready to bowl, I take a wander down the pitch and poke at the concrete driveway, knowing it’ll annoy him.

“Oh come on,” Adam whinges. “Seriously?”

I walk back to the crease and face up. “Just getting rid of a bug.”

“There’s no bugs on the pitch,” Adam says, flicking the ball up in the air and catching it.

“Not now there isn’t. I just got rid of it.”

Adam shakes his head and squares his shoulders. “Ready?”

I nod once, tap my bat on the ground three times, and then bend my knees, ready and waiting for Adam to bowl. He does a little skip – a recent addition to his run-up – and runs in. Just before he gets to the crease I take a step forward. He still bowls it short, so I duck under it and let it bang into the shed behind me. He grins at me and I poke my tongue out before picking up the ball and tossing it back. “Is that all you’ve got?” I tease. He’s got one more ball left in this over and I’m betting it’ll be a yorker. He’s so predictable it’s not even funny.

He runs in again and this time I stay on my crease. Instead of a yorker he bowls a wide full toss, which I slash at, sending the ball sailing higher than I intended. I cringe as it bangs onto the roof of our house. Lucky Mum and Dad aren’t home otherwise they’d be yelling at us for that.

“Bugger,” I say under my breath. That’s my number two out for forty-nine. My number two hasn’t reached fifty in four summers.

Adam huffs. “Damn it, Alice. What’d you do that for?”

“That ball deserved it.”

“You better not hit shots like that off me tomorrow.” Adam picks up the metal stumps at the bowler’s crease and pulls them onto the grass, which is his way of calling the day off.

“If you bowl at me like that I will.” I walk past him and collect the recycling bin from the footpath and pull it back around to the side of the shed.

“You’re supposed to be helping me impress that scout, not making me look bad.” Adam lifts the garden chair back over the pool fence and onto the deck.

I pick up the bat and point it at him. “You’re not impressing him with crap like that. Why would you bowl a full toss straight after a short one? Especially to someone who can bat.”

“It wasn’t meant to be a full toss. It was meant to be a slower one. It came out wrong.”

“Well you better get it right tomorrow, or just not bowl it at all.”

“Whatever,” Adam says, putting the paint can back beside the wagon wheel for the day. “I’ll go and see if the ball made it to the front yard.”

“I’m going in for a sandwich,” I reply. “And then I’m having a swim.”

“Can you make me a ham and cheese?”

“Make it yourself.” I jog up the back steps and Adam gives me the finger.

“Reckon we’ve got time to play pool cricket before we head over to see Nan?” he asks.

“As if you even have to ask,” I call back.

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