Retro Sport: Lottery winner's cricket ambition that money couldn't buy

Torbay Weekly

Charismatic lottery winner Mike Antonucci was acting as a roving reporter for the Westward Television programme 'Treasures'.

Mike, from Plymouth, could afford whatever material things he fancied, but what about those ambitions which money couldn’t buy?

Mike had told the producers that he dreamed about 'scoring a century at Lord’s'.

I had been asked to recreate the Long Room in my house, coach him to look able to score the century, and, wait for it... Cockington would double as Lord’s!

While we were having our televised chat about the history of Lord’s, it came across that Mike had huge respect for the 'Home of Cricket'.

When it was over, he selected the bat with which he would make his century, and then put on a blazer from Lord Tennyson’s 1937 tour to India.

As a finishing touch, he added a dark blue England Test cap 'to make me feel the part', he said!

It was mid-morning by the time that Mike jumped into his convertible Mercedes, still wearing his cap, and met the rest of us at Cockington for his coaching session.

To say that Mike was not a natural century-maker was an understatement.

His back lift went sideways in the style of a fly fisherman rather than a batsman, and he tended to do the splits at the end of each front foot forcing stroke!

In the end, I taught him a forward defensive push, and just hoped that the television crew had time to wait for him to score his century in singles.

Cockington Corinthians had provided lunch and, soon afterwards, their team arrived to act as Mike’s opponents.

I didn’t feel a bit like Chris Silverwood, as I sat with Mike, in the Cockington pavilion, and the Lord’s bell announced that play was imminent.

“Well, here it is Mike! This is your chance to achieve your ambition. Good Luck!”

After one last practice of his forward defensive shot, Mike strode out into the sunlight, and down the steep Lord’s slope to his destiny.

As he stood at the wicket, with cameras all round him, someone whispered: “He needs to take guard.”

Oops! The cameras withdrew quickly, and I rushed down the slope to explain the procedure.

Mike held his bat up straight, the umpire confirmed: “That’s middle” and the cameras were soon rolling again.

The first ball of the day couldn’t have been worse.

I think Brian Burrows bowled it, and it took Mike’s off stump right out of the ground!

“Don’t worry!” shouted the producer, "We can save that shot for the end frame!”

It wasn’t long before I began to worry that this project was unachievable, but I had reckoned without our resourceful producer.

He stopped play, gathered us all around him, and explained that we would do without all the fielders, except for the wicket-keeper and two slips, and film it 'in close-up'.

The rest of Mike’s innings was filmed with a chap throwing the ball, underarm, to him from three yards away!

Mike would swing his bat at it, and if he hit it, one of us would run to the boundary with the ball, and lob it over the rope right in front of one of the cameras.

The man doing the commentary screamed: “Mike’s hit another six right in front of the Mound Stand! Surely, he won’t score a century on his England debut!”

Well, he did! ...and finally made his way back up the slope, mobbed by his 'team mates' with the commentator roaring: “He’s done it! I can’t believe it!”

I was waiting in the pavilion for him, and he slapped me on the back as he collapsed on to the changing room bench.

He was sweating from having walked up the slope, and said, gasping for breath: “Roger, you have just made my dream come true! I can’t believe that I have scored a century at Lord’s at last!”

I smiled and replied: “Yes, Mike, and remarkably, five of your sixes came from your forward defensive push!”