This was the stuff of myth. Spring was awakening, Persephone readying herself to bid Hades farewell and depart the Underworld. Interest in the upcoming season had been gathering. The great cricketing public were eagerly awaiting the Transition: instead of grass growing and paint drying (both admittedly of great importance to our game) there would be actual cricket. What did Fate hold in store?
We faced the usual season curtain-raising opponents. The Crusaders. A clash of titans. They had come from afar, these Crusaders (actually probably within walking distance for most of them), to our turf, to our little oval (actually a cricket ground rented from a college none of us ever attended). What did they want, why did they crusade, how did they plan our downfall? What was their relevance to the modern game?
They gathered early, and seemed well prepared - conscientious Crusaders. Was this more than just a mere crusade, did they intend evisceration? Our noble captain, by contrast, missed the toss - an unlikely Jason to his Argonauts. In his absence, Rory Davidson - of whom you will hear more - deputised, gloriously won the toss, and sent the Crusaders in to bat.
The crusading openers advanced slowly to 11-0, perhaps missing out on some weaker deliveries - cautious Crusaders? - and scoring opportunities. Then Finn Karsten struck in the fifth over, a double wicket maiden that on lesser days would have merited more space in this tale.
Finn’s gauntlet thus thrown down at his feet, Rory picked up the gauntlet, gazed dismissively at it and tossed it nonchalantly aside before rising from our ranks to Philandering deity. A few short years ago Rory was diagnosed by a celebrated physiotherapist as a withered half-man. Now, after a hard winter’s lunges, thrusts and other Victorian strongman exercises, Rory was transformed: half-man, half-bull. He had another advantage too. For a year he had lived amongst the Crusaders, post-graduately. He had studied their ways, learned how they played the game. He knew the crafty good sense of inviting them to have a bat early in the season.
As he stood atop his mark, Rory saw the batsman on strike and other batsmen arrayed grimly in the pavilion. To Rory, these batsmen were the three heads of Cerberus barring Persephone’s summer path. Not on his watch. Not on his bloody watch. He gathered his newfound bull strength and applied his hard-earned cunning. Finn had soared close to the sun, but Rory flew right through it and came out gloriously on the other side, his few downy body hairs unscorched.
Mitchell, the surviving Crusaders opener, took guard bravely and glared sternly as Rory tore in. Little good it did him; Rory smashed his stumps all over the place. In walked Webber (no. 4) to face the next ball. Rory snicked him off. It was Odreda’s (no. 5) turn next, but his fate too was sealed. Rory blew his pads off. Another goldie. Cerberus lay dead, his three heads - the jewels of Crusading batsmanship - severed beside him. The Underworld left unguarded and Persephone free to leave for the summer.
Onlookers rightly gasped. The mighty Crusaders had lost five wickets, for zero runs, in just ten balls. Collapsed Crusaders. From arrayed, to disarrayed. Dressing room scenes of fearful tailenders hastily gathering protective equipment. Giddy Philanderers basking in reflected glory.
With Pandora’s box crowbarred brutally open, Captain Ed showed mercy. Rory’s onslaught was ended (rare, surely, for a hat trick taker to be denied a further over?), as he was sent to feast in celebration (i.e. graze at fine leg).
Nat Gimson and Will Hammond took over. A batsmen proffered Nat possibly the tamest, most supine wicket ever to be thrown away on a Sunday, moving the score to 12-6. While the other bowlers conceded a combined 29 runs from 12 overs (economy 2.4) Will coughed up 36 from 4.4 (economy 7.7). We later learned from our new spectator over a well-deserved early lunch that Will is a conscientious student of myths, but on this occasion he was no great judge of length. Helped by short and wide offerings, but with no thread to guide them through this labyrinth of backup bowlers, the Crusaders grasped blindly to 65 all out. This represented a decent recovery.
The Philanderers openers were lost for just 18, but this merely hastened the end. To the crease sauntered Pete Richer, on debut, who hit 7 boundaries (36 from 19) to deliver the last rites. The would-be invaders - crestfallen Crusaders - duly paid homage and departed.
Forget Hercules and his labours. Forget Prometheus and Perseus. Forget the dropped catches (unattributed), the low scoring openers (including this lowly chronicler), Will’s profligacy and the other cricket mundanities. With this third hat trick ever for the Philanderers - this hat trick of hat tricks - Rory ascended to his rightful place in the Pantheon, now revered even next to the most storied and fabled Philanderers. That is the tale of Rory Davidson, the man who became myth.
Hat trick hero Rory as a slightly younger person
Rory Davidson & Peter Richer
The victorious ensemble