Soon after we left Malcolm Marshall’s house in Chandlers Ford, Linden had put on his head phones, and hardly a word passed between us.
We had arrived at Budleigh, parked the car, and ten Galmpton cricketers were waiting to meet the man hired to make certain that this match was won!
He entered the changing room without a word, found a vacant peg, undid his kitbag, and, facing the wall, began to change.
I lost the toss, and we were asked to bat first... not what we wanted!
We started badly, and at 18 for 2, Linden Joseph strode out to bat.
He didn’t take a guard and hit the first ball back over the bowler’s head for four.
Half an hour later, he had thrashed 70 runs before being caught on the boundary.
By tea our innings had closed with a mediocre score of 202 for 4. Was it enough?
After tea, we walked out to field and I threw the ball to Linden.
He walked slowly back to his bowling mark as we all crouched wondering what would happen next!
There was a ‘High Noon’ moment as the batsman met the stare of the ‘hired gun’.
Next, the sound of heavy footprints, and then the whizz of a cricket ball as it passed over off stump, and thudded into the wicket-keeper’s gloves.
Before his second delivery, Linden came over to me: “You want fast now bro?”
This morning I was ‘man’ now I was ‘bro’... maybe this silent, menacing, young man was warming to me!
”Yes, please” I replied!
I will remember the next five balls for as long as I live.
The first one sailed over batsman and wicket-keeper, bounced just once, and went for four byes!
The next two both hit the batsman on his shoulder, and the fourth was defended in front of his throat.
Before facing the last ball, the batsman swore, turned, and walked off towards the pavilion muttering: “That’s enough for me! I’ve got to go to work on Monday!”
Before Linden’s second over, I was waiting at the end of his run.
“Pitch it up,” I said, and then, in case he didn’t understand, I added: “Try to hit the stumps!”
He took me at my word, and, after seven overs, bowling at the speed of light, he had taken 5 wickets for 10 runs... every one clean bowled!
By now the light was fading, and the umpire asked me put on the spinners.
The damage was done, and although Budleigh reached 161, we knew we had the victory that meant so much to all of us.
In the pavilion afterwards, we were anxious to mend bridges with our hosts.
To do so, we clubbed together to buy a bottle of champagne, and asked Linden to present it to their top-scoring batsman asking him to ‘smile while he did it’!
That evening, some of our lads took Linden to a Paignton club before he returned to spend the night at my home.
Throughout the day, he had never started a conversation, nor replied with more than one sentence!
On the following morning, I was late down for breakfast and had left my wife, Jenny, to entertain our guest. When I joined them, I couldn’t believe what I saw... the two of them were chatting and laughing like old friends!
“Linden and I have been talking about his mother and little brother,” she said. “He misses them so much. He’s had me in stitches with all his stories!”
Later on, she added: “The trouble with you men is that you think that everyone wants to talk about cricket!”
Although our win denied Budleigh promotion, Galmpton Cricket Club never recovered from the League’s ruling, and folded soon afterwards.
Linden Joseph never realised his dream of playing for Hampshire.
Does karma apply to cricket? Who knows?