Harris Sportsthoughts

Thoughts about Sport

Scoring With The Ladies

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Watching Kevin Pietersen last Sunday as he supported his ex-popstar wife take part in a celebrity ice-dancing contest I tried to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. Once a South African off spinner with ambitions to play for the Proteas. Now an ex-England captain and batsman exchanging pleasantries with Phil Schofield.

The twist of KP fate can partly be attributed the racial quota system that exists in South African sport. He set sail to seek his fortune in England when he considered his opportunities in his homeland to be limited.

The integration policy is a clunky but necessary initiative following the years of segregation during the apartheid era. But I sympathize with Pietersen. And I empathize with him also. I had a similar experience at school. On a marginally smaller scale.

My dreams of playing cricket for England were in shreds at a formative age, and ambitions of representative honours for my school followed soon after. Couldn’t bat, couldn’t bowl, couldn’t field. Couldn’t catch. Couldn’t really run if I’m honest.

But I could add. And my handwriting was receiving plaudits from the teaching staff. There was an opportunity to make my mark in the cricketing world. Literally.

I pencilled in my first dot ball for the under-13s and did not relinquish my grip on the scorebook for five years. I was part of the team. Admittedly the part who sat at the front of the bus sharpening my pencils and talking to no-one. And the part who awkwardly loitered outside the dressing rooms while the rest of the team got changed.

The pinnacle of my scoring career was manning the pad for the school 1st XI. For one idyllic summer term I was not only responsible for the scorebook but also a futuristic scoreboard, operated by an ingenious console called the Chinaman. The highlight was a rare triumph over the MCC. I recall haring across the pitch to join in the celebrations as if victory had only been sealed with the last flourish of my pencil.

One more term of scoring duties and I would be awarded my colours: a tie, a natty piece of neckwear that was the symbol that I could finally call myself a sportsman.

But something sinister was about to destroy the very fabric of the school.


Initially I welcomed the decision to opt for co-education after centuries of single sex schooling. I’d never seen a girl before. I’d only read about them in books.

So a hardy dozen or so young ladies pitched up at the school gates one September. A strange crew. We gawped. We sometimes prodded. We never actually spoke to them, preferring instead to conglomerate around the pool table. Penny football was a strictly men-only domain.

The authorities deemed that dramatic measures were required to smooth the path of sexual integration. And the easiest and most public place to do that was on the sports pitches. But rugger was too violent and the girls were just too malco-ordinated to compete at hockey and cricket. But there was one corner of the sporting field where physical inequalities could be put aside: the scorebox.

Two girls were selected to replace me in that final summer: a couple of those busy girlguide types that had leapt straight out of the pages of Enid Blyton. The governing body of school cricket never told me that I had been shunted aside. I found out on Teletext.

I was allowed back for one last fling with Chinaman when the girls were unavailable. I opened up the scorebook and vomited immediately. It was a nightmare in graphite. They’d created an HB vision of Hell.

At the end of the year the girls were awarded their colours for services to cricket: a large woollen scarf. It looked ridiculous.

I got nothing.


Written by harrisharrison

January 21, 2009 at 7:54 pm

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