The sun shone down on the perfect green grass. The little white gate in front of the pavilion swung open and the cricketers of England and the West Indies stepped out onto Lord's Cricket Ground....white clouds drifted aimlessly across the blue sky....the powerfully-built Higgs from Lancashire came bustling in to the wicket....the ball reared up in front of the West Indian batsman....it leapt up off of his bat....young Jim Caldicott, playing his first game for England, ran in purposefully and reached out to take the catch....
"CALDICOTT!" the voice of Mr Matravers echoed around the classroom, "Wake up, boy, and answer the question!" It was Mr Matravers; it must be History. Answer the question...answer the question...he looked up at the ruddy face of the dreadful Mr Matravers..."Errr, 1066, Sir?"
"We are studying, are we not, Caldicott, the reign of Henry VIII and, in particular, his unhappy wives. A diverse and largely unfortunate group of ladies, Caldicott. But none, so far as the annals of history inform us, unfortunate enough to be named 1066! Stand up boy!"
He fumbled and struggled to stand, his jacket sleeve seeming to be somehow caught on the desk lid. "Come here, boy!" Caldicott shook his arm, a wire of some kind appeared to be tethering him to his desk. Another step and voices issued from within the desk, the cricket commentary coming from the Test Match at Lord's.
"Aha! Ingenious, Mr Caldicott! A radio in the desk, connected to an earpiece; the wire to the earpiece cunningly passing down your sleeve to the hand which supports your big, fat head! Now take the wretched gadget to the Octagon."
Jim Caldicott knew what that meant. Everybody in the school knew what that meant. The Octagon was outside the Headmaster's Study, and there you had to stand and fret until the Head spotted you and dragged you in to face the consequences of your crimes. There was always a chance that the Head was busy and told you to go back to class, but that had never happened to Jim.
He clutched the radio to his chest and waited for the Head's door to open. Suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder as the Headmaster appeared from behind him. "Hello, hello, it's Caldicott. I've been wanting to see you, lad, we need to have a serious word, if you get my meaning, a very serious word." Everyone knew that Old Beaky, as Mr Eagleton was known by the boys, was a lot smarter than his bumbling manner suggested, but how on earth did he already know about this latest misdemeanor ?
"Sit down, lad. No, stand up. Standing up suits my purpose better, if you get my drift". He reached for the cane and flexed it. "Now, young fellow, I was watching you on Tuesday and I didn't like what I saw"..... Tuesday?..... "You were playing cricket, is that not so? House match, wasn't it?" Jim couldn't help a slight smile; he'd made 30 not out and had won the game for his team. "This is no smiling matter, lad" said the headmaster as he took the cane in both hands.
"Now, you were getting your foot to the pitch of the ball all right", he said demonstrating the shot with the cane for a bat, "But your leg was straight as a ramrod and that simply won't do, won't do at all! Bend at the knee and the ball goes along the deck, but keep the leg straight, like you do, and the ball goes up in the rigging, so as to speak, to continue the metaphor, if you like."
"Yessir, indeed. You got away with it Tuesday afternoon on account of Johnson fielding at mid-off. As a cricketer he's very good at his Latin verbs, if you'll pardon my indiscretion in saying so. But if you play like that on Saturday against King's School it'll be how's that and thankyouverymuch! They'll catch it, won't they"
"I suppose so, Sir."
"Very good cricketers, King's. Should be too with their full-time cricket coach. They'll catch it all right. Rich boys, you see, very good at reaching up and grabbing anything that comes their way. Not so keen on having to bend their backs and grovel about on the ground though, eh? Now show me how you'll do it" and he handed the cane to Jim who put down the radio and demonstrated the shot.
"Splendid, splendid! Now what's that you've just put on the table," said Mr Eagleton, noticing the radio for the first time,"A wireless?" Jim confessed the whole tale.
"Grave, very grave. We simply can't allow this sort of thing. Hand it to me. I'll retain it in my possession and you can have it back tonight when you go home. Only on condition, you understand. On condition that a) You'll not bring it to school ever again, b) You'll certainly not listen to it in lessons and c) You must never get caught listening to it by Mr Matravers."
The Headmaster smiled while Jim tried to work out the exact meaning of these conditions. And failed.
"Works on batteries, I suppose.... Mmm....and turns on here, no doubt...." The Headmaster stood stroking his chin while the radio crackled into life. Mr Eagleton and Jim Caldicott stood side by side waiting for the score to be given.
"West Indies 130 for 3", mused the Headmaster, "That's the beauty of cricket, isn't it?"
"Well, a couple of wickets for us and it's all plain sailing. But a quick 100 or so from them and they'll be in the ascendency. That's the beauty of cricket, you see, James, you never quite know which way it'll go".