Right, I’ll start by disclaiming, well, everything I can think of; that gets that out of the way.

Now something by way of an advance apology; there’s quite a bit of cricket in this chapter. So to those of you who have no understanding of the game, I apologise. Skip over the relevant sections by all means. However, if you are able to follow what’s going on, these sections do tell us quite a bit about the sort of kid Toby is; that’s why I wrote them, so I hope they’re worth reading for that.

And for any cricket lovers out there, and I hope there might be one or two, a question. As a rule I’m not much into fan-fiction, but I just made an exception. I know the chronology is a couple of years out, but leaving that to one side, who do you think the blond left-handed batsman might have been a reference to?

As ever, feedback is more than welcome. Please send your comments to pinkpanther2@hotmail.co.uk and I’ll reply as soon as I can.


So, here I am, back at school. I’m getting over that business with Sean. The chat with Liz really helped. That was weird; we’ve never talked like that before, not once. She growing up, I guess, the same as I am. She still creeps round dad, of course, but I see that a bit differently now. She does it ‘cause it gets her what she wants. She’s playing the system, much like as I do here. I know it sounds bad, but now I’m back at school, there’s so much going on I don’t really have time to think about Sean.

We’re playing the final of the Sussex and Hampshire Prep Schools’ Cup; cricket that is. We’ve won three matches to get here; now this is the big one. We’re playing Farndale, which is somewhere near Winchester. They’re not on our regular fixture list, so we don’t really know what to expect. What we do know is that they beat our biggest rivals, Whitestone Hall, in the quarter finals, so they’re obviously not bad.

The final’s always played at Lanehurst Cricket Club. We usually travel by minibus to our away fixtures, but this is a final, probably the biggest match the school’s been in for several years. They’ve hired a coach so that we can take supporters with us. That includes all the budding cricketers, three teachers as well as Mr. Halford, and all of our ‘younger friends’; Ian, Peter and all the rest of them.

We’re the first to arrive. We look around. It’s the first time I’ve played at a club ground. The boundaries are longer than at any of the school grounds I’ve been to, and they’ve got proper sight screens; it’s even got seating in front of the pavilion. I can hardly wait to get started.

The pitch here is excellent,” Mr. Halford tells us, but it’s a bit faster than you’re used to, so make sure you get the pace of it before playing too many shots. There’ll be a bit more bounce as well, so anything back of a length will get up a bit more. It’s not dangerous; you just need to be aware of it.”

Giles grins; the pitch being faster means that the ball will come onto the bat more, ideal for playing those front-foot drives he’s so good at. The other team arrive and we start to prepare. Giles wins the toss and chooses to bat first, no surprise there. As we make our final preparations there’s a subtle change in the weather. It’s been bright and sunny all morning, ideal cricket weather, but now there are some clouds coming over and there’s a sticky feel in the air. There might be a thunder storm later.

Farndale take the field; Brian and Jonathan stride out into the middle. It’s obvious from the first ball that batting’s not going to be as easy as it was looking an hour ago. Their opening bowler’s good, fairly quick and the heavy atmosphere’s helping him to swing the ball. Brian edges the second ball wide of gully for a single. Jonathan nudges the next one off his hip and they run through for another single. The fourth ball’s wide of off-stump. Brian fishes for it but doesn’t get a touch. This is not looking good. The next ball’s just about perfect, a good length just outside off-stump. Brian pushes forwards, but the ball moves away, catching the edge of the bat; first slip takes a neat catch. This is going to be a struggle.

Giles doesn’t last too long either, perishing much the same way that Brian did; these aren’t the conditions for playing expansive drives. That brings Hugh to the crease. Hugh and Jon are battlers; and right now that’s just what we need. It’s not pretty to watch but they’re sticking in there, pushing the ball for ones and twos whenever they get the chance.

I’m sitting with Paz, a little bit away from the rest of the lads. I bat at number seven; he comes in after me. As a cricketer he’s almost my mirror image. I bowl right arm and bat left handed; he does the exact opposite. The only difference it that I bowl spin and he bowls medium pace. I’ve got to know him quite well the past few weeks. I like him a lot; he’s got a bit of the rebel in him the same as I have. In between overs we survey the scene. The Eagle Dorm Sex Club are sitting together a few rows in front of us, a little to our right.

“So is Simon still keeping you happy?” I ask quietly.

You bet he is,” Paz responds, grinning at me. “He can’t get enough of it. I can’t imagine why none of the kids in Upper fourth wanted him; they must be stupid.”

“You wouldn’t fancy a foursome with me and Ian, would you?” I suggest.

Don’t know about a foursome,” he says guardedly. “We could do a three though, you me and Simon. He’s always on about wanting to go with two older kids at once.”

“Seriously?” I ask, raising an eyebrow.

“Completely,” he says, giving me a big grin.

“Let’s do it then,” I say, grinning back. “Monday evening, meet me by the art room, half past seven.”

“The art room?” he asks. “What’s down there?”

“It’s cool,” I tell him. “You’ll see!”

The other bowlers are competent but not really threatening. Hugh and Jon just keep battling away and with the score on 80 for 2 things are looking much healthier, even though we’ve only got seven overs left. Then their opening bowler comes back on and Jonathan is finally out for a very patient thirty eight. Julian is in next. He’s a good stroke player but his defence isn’t up to much. He plays a couple of shots then gets beaten all ends up by one that nips back at him, his middle stump cart-wheeling out of the ground.

Craig and Justin have been taking it in turns batting at number six. That’s fair because Justin’s improved a lot this year and there’s not much to choose between them. Today it’s Justin’s turn. He survives the rest of the over, then he and Hugh each get a couple of singles from the lad bowling from the other end. Now he’s got to face the quick boy again. First ball of the over he loses his middle stump just like Julian did.

I pull on my batting gloves and stride out to the middle. The first ball is straight and on a good length. I’m immediately on the back foot, getting right into line. It zips through at a comfortable height. I watch it all the way and push it back up the pitch. The next one pitches only inches shorter, but instead of coming through at a nice height, it rears up at me. I try to get the bat out of the way but it’s on me before I know it. It catches the shoulder of the bat and lobs up to gully. I’m out for a second-ball duck. I trudge back to the pavilion. It might sound odd, but I’m less disappointed than I am when I’ve got out playing a silly shot. I got an absolute snorter; there wasn’t much I could have done about it.

Paz gets the luck that I didn’t; repeatedly edging the ball wide of the fielders. Then he gets one that goes right through him and clears middle stump by a whisker. I guess you’d call it the luck of the Irish. But he survives. At the other end Hugh just keeps battling. The innings closes with him having made a superb fifty three not out, his highest score of the season. As he walks back to the pavilion, the opposition form a guard of honour and all our supporters stand, everyone applauding. He looks quite embarrassed.

In normal circumstances we wouldn’t expect to win with a score of 107 for 6, but in these conditions, I reckon we’ve got a good chance. Ashton’s every bit as good as their opening bowler and Rob’s better than anyone else they had. My hopes are raised still further when Ashton takes a wicket with the third ball of the innings, with neither batsman having scored. That brings their number three to the crease. He’s about average height and slim, with a mop of blond curly hair and piercing blue eyes. He is stunning! I’m certainly looking forward to seeing him in the showers after the game. He takes guard left-handed, just like I do. Right, well he may be cute, let’s see how he can bat. I soon find out. It doesn’t seem to matter that the ball’s moving around and the light’s not that good, over the next few overs he smashes the bowling to all parts of the ground. He breaks the rules too, playing with the bat well away from his body and still creaming it through the covers; I’ve never seen anything like it.

Giles tosses me the ball. He plays my first delivery defensively. The next one disappears into the pavilion. Fuck! The kid’s a batting genius! To make matters worse, he’s farming the bowling, stealing singles off the fifth or sixth ball of every over in order to retain the strike. When we do get a chance to bowl at whoever’s batting with him, we’re taking wickets all the time, but we can’t get through them fast enough. He scores the winning runs with four overs to spare. Out of a score of 108 for 7, he’s scored seventy nine not out. It’s a huge disappointment.

We trudge back into the dressing room. Everybody seems down. We played as well as we could in the conditions, but the blond kid just took it away from us. Without him they wouldn’t have stood a chance. Mr. Halford comes bustling in.

“Well played, everybody,” he says. “Don’t be too disappointed, that lad will play for England when he’s older, or at least he ought to; he’s as good as anyone I’ve ever seen. There was always a chance we might have got him early on, but once he’d settled it was all over, basically.”

We get ready for the journey home. I’m still pretty gutted; I hate losing. The only compensation is that the kid looks just as stunning in the showers as I’d thought he would.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

I meet Paz and Simon outside the art room, as arranged. I lead the way to the trunk store and let us in.

“This is pretty cool,” Paz comments. “I’d no idea people came here.”

“They don’t,” I tell him. “I do, well me and my friends; so no telling anyone about it, okay?”

“Sure,” Paz responds.

“Understand, Simon?” I ask. “As far as your friends are concerned, you went behind the pavilion with Paz. This never happened.”

I understand,” he says giving me a very cute smile. “I won’t say anything. So are you both going to bum me?”

What d’you think we brought you here for?” I ask.

Paz and I undress him down to his underpants. He’s very cute and hard already by the looks of things. Paz leans forward and kisses him, Simon reaching up and wrapping his arms round Paz’s neck. I kneel down, just off to the side. I pull the kid’s briefs down. His cock’s a little over three inches long, fairly slim and as hard as iron. He’s not circumcised, but the foreskin’s come right back leaving the small shiny head fully exposed. I turn him towards me and take it into my mouth, sucking it right in. Sucking kids like him is something else I’ll never get tired of doing. I run my hand between his firm satin-smooth thighs, running my fingers over the sensitive area behind his balls. I touch his hole. There’s no mistaking the fact that he’s been fucked.

Eventually we let him go. Paz and I quickly strip off. Paz is a bit bigger than me; about an inch taller and bit more chunkily built. His cock’s about the same length as mine, but thicker, with a few pubic hairs just starting to sprout. We get onto the bed; it’s going to be a Piggy in the Middle classic, with Simon as the pig. We start with Paz sucking him and fingering his bum while he sucks me. He’s very good at it. You can tell he’s had lots of practice; the sensations he’s giving me are fantastic, keeping me right on the edge. I won’t be in any hurry to stop him.

After a couple of minutes his cock jerks in Paz’s mouth. Paz pulls off, grinning and licking his lips; it’s time to swap over. To start with, I just lick the kid’s cock until he’s fully hard again. Then I take him into my mouth, my lubed up middle finger pushing right into his bum. It’s almost too easy; I push my index finger in as well, slowly twisting them round to get him ready. It’s time to do it. I get him onto all fours, his bum pushed well back behind his knees, his shoulders almost touching the mattress. I rub a smear of KY over my cock and get into position. One thrust and I’m right inside him, my tummy pressed tight against his bum. He’s not the tightest, but he’ll do for me; within a few seconds I’m fucking him stupid while he slurps eagerly on Paz’s dick.

“Bring him off if you want,” Paz says casually. “Having a dry cum won’t stop him; he’ll be ready to go again by the time you’ve finished.”

I reach down and fondle the kid’s throbbing cock. He goes wild, almost like he’s trying to swallow Paz’s dick. A few seconds later he bucks like a wild animal, his cock jerking between my fingers. I bum him even harder, pounding his arse as hard as I can go. My balls start to churn. I slam right into him.

“Oh, fuck!” I gasp. “I’m gonna cum! Nnngg!! Nnnngg!! Aaarrrggghhh!!!”

I hang on for dear life as my cock rears up inside him, my spunk spurting over and over into his cute little bum. I take several deep breaths and slowly pull out. That was great! Paz doesn’t waste much time taking my place; he doesn’t even lube himself up. Within a few seconds he’s fucking the shit out of the kid. It seems like Simon’s used to being handled quite roughly; I guess he likes it that way. I’m getting hard again just watching them. I reach across and fondle Simon’s cock. I only stroke him a few times and he has his third dry-cum in not much more than five minutes. As I let him go, Paz pushes him down onto the bed, pressing down on top of him and fucking him senseless.

You love this, don’t you?” Paz growls. “Well, now you’re going to get it. Yes! Yes!! Ohhhhh!!!”

He collapses on top of the kid, totally spent. That was hot! I loved it! I’m not sure I’d want to do it all the time, but once in a while it certainly spices things up a bit!

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

The summer term’s coming to a close. We’ve done our end of year exams. I did the best I ever have; I was top in English, art and history, and wasn’t too far away in everything else. I even did well in maths and religious education which have always let me down before. That’s down to the teachers we’ve had; it’s as simple as that. Overall, Justin was top, with Craig and myself not far behind. That means I’ll get put in for Public Schools’ Scholarship, which is what I’ve been aiming for. A couple of days ago it was sports day. Russell’s dad came up with some colour film for me, which was pretty good of him. It seems Russell’s doing really well at Millfield, so his dad’s still more than happy to help us out.

Tomorrow morning, Mr. Chandler’s taking me to London to edit it, just like we did last year, but today I’ve got something else to look forward to, our final cricket match, the annual fixture against Whitestone Hall. I’m not completely sure of the history, but the rivalry goes back years. What I do know is that the matches are always keenly contested and are often very close.

There will be one big difference this year. Their coach retired last summer; there’s a new guy there now. They’ve still had a very good season though; the only match they’ve lost was to Farndale in the Prep Schools’ Cup, the same as us. One reason for that is that they’ve had this West Indian kid, Devon Moseley, come to the school; it seems his dad’s a big cheese at the Jamaican High Commission. He’s a fast bowler. We haven’t seen him, but from what we hear, he’s very tall, very quick and has taken lots of wickets. Mind you, he didn’t have too much joy against Farndale; from what we were told, Blondy smashed him all over the park.

This year the match is at their place. That puts them at something of an advantage, but we’re still pretty confident. We’ll need to be careful playing Moseley, but we all know what to do; we’ve spent enough time working on it. The minibus journey takes a little over half an hour. There’s a little quiet conversation; that’s about it. We’re all getting ourselves focused for the battle ahead; that’s something else that Mr. Halford’s taught us.

Finally we arrive and step out into the sunshine. It’s a glorious day, absolutely perfect for cricket. We stroll out into the middle to look at the pitch. It’s dry, dusty and absolutely bone-hard, with quite a few cracks in it. It looks terrible! I know it hasn’t rained for the past two weeks, but even so, ours isn’t like that; all you have to do is water it. Mr. Halford doesn’t say anything but I can tell he’s not happy. I know what he looks like when he’s angry, and right now he’s seething; I can see it.

We head into our changing room to get ourselves ready.

The pitch looks dreadful,” Mr. Halford says calmly. “I’ve never seen it like that; I don’t know the reason for it, but I intend to find out. It’s going to be fast and bouncy, but unlike Lanehurst, the bounce won’t be reliable, so you’ll need to be very careful. It doesn’t make for good cricket, but remember, it’s the same for both sides; they’ll have to bat on it too. Okay lads, stay calm, and the best of luck!”

We make our way outside. I spot Moseley straight away, not difficult as he’s the only black kid on either team. At five foot seven Ashton’s pretty tall for thirteen, but this kid towers over him; he must be five foot ten at least. It’s bloody obvious why the pitch is in the state it’s in; they must reckon that Moseley’s going to be all but unplayable. Well, we’ll see about that.

They win the toss and ask us to bat first. Brian and Jonathan stride out into the middle. Moseley’s opening the bowling, with Mr. Halford umpiring at the end he’s bowling from. We get some impression of how fast he is from the position of the wicketkeeper, at least fifteen yards behind the stumps. Brian takes guard and prepares to face the first ball. Moseley runs in. He sends down a good length ball, pitching on off-stump. Brian pushes forward at it, but it bounces alarmingly and nearly cuts him in half, the wicketkeeper taking it chest high. Fuck! This kid is much faster than anyone else we’ve faced.

Brian is clearly shaken up. The next ball, instead of getting into line the way we’ve been taught, he backs away to the leg-side, then reaches for the ball with the bat well away from his body. It’s wide of off-stump and he misses it completely. It’s the road to disaster; if he keeps doing that, he’ll either miss a straight one and get bowled, or he’ll edge one to the keeper. The inevitable happens two balls later. Moseley pitches it on off stump, with Brian backing away to leg again. Brian fishes for it, gets an edge and the keeper completes a routine catch. Shit!

Giles strides out to the middle. Well, at least he won’t do that; he’s as brave as they come. His height helps too. If Moseley pitches it up he can get right forward and smother it. If it’s back of a length, he can play it off the back foot, using his height to get right on top of it. Over the next couple of overs, that’s exactly what he does. Jonathan doesn’t seem to be having too many problems either. He’s a natural back-foot player, the same as I am; I guess that helps. Okay, all he’s done is push a few singles, but he’s not looked in any trouble. Moseley might be quick, but he’s not all that accurate. For sure he bowls some very good balls, but in between times he sends down quite a few loose ones, including two that Giles has put away for four. He runs in for the first ball of a new over, sending down a half volley, a foot outside the off-stump. Giles steps across and plays the perfect cover drive, the ball racing to the boundary. I check Dominic’s score book. Giles has got fifteen, Jon’s got four, and there have been two extras; score 21 for 1. After a shaky start we’ve righted the ship; we’re going okay and Moseley’s looking rattled.

He runs in again, banging the ball in well short of a length. This time Giles’ height works against him, together with the fact that he’s not all that supple. As the ball flies up at him he simply can’t get out of the way quick enough. It hits him on the left temple. He stays on his feet for a couple of seconds then collapses in a heap. Fortunately, his dad’s come to watch; he strides out onto the pitch to see how bad it is. Giles struggles to his feet, but he’s clearly in no state to continue. His dad has a brief conversation with Mr. Halford then Giles is helped from the field. His dad’s going to take him to hospital to get checked out. Now I’m seething; if they’d prepared the pitch properly that would never have happened.

Hugh goes out to replace Giles. Moseley’s tail’s back up again. He sends down three balls in a row, all dead straight and all at the short end of a good length, pinning Hugh on the back foot. Hugh plays them okay but doesn’t look at all comfortable. The last ball of the over’s straight as well, but a much fuller length. It’s not a half volley, but definitely one you should play forward to. But Hugh doesn’t get forward; he doesn’t really go anywhere, leaving himself trapped in no-man’s land. The ball raps him on the pads; Moseley and all the close fielders appeal loudly. Mr. Halford pauses for a second then puts up the finger. Hugh’s out leg before wicket without troubling the scorers.

As Hugh trudges off, Julian makes his way towards the middle. Julian’s a flat-pitch bully. He can look really good on an easy paced pitch against mediocre bowling. I don’t give him a hope against someone like Moseley. Off the next over, Jon scores two singles; Julian scores a single, a four and another single, putting him on strike for the start of Moseley’s next over. The first ball is back of a length, just outside off-stump. He fences at it, presenting third slip with an easy catch.

Craig goes out to bat looking like the condemned man going to the gallows. He’s not the man for this situation either, not least because he can’t play off the back foot very well. He’s out first ball. The score’s gone from 21 for 1 to 29 for 4; effectively 29 for 5 with Giles in hospital. Bollocks! I make my way out to the wicket. I’m angry and disappointed; angry about the state of the pitch and the way Moseley’s bowled; disappointed by the way we’ve batted. Apart from Jon and Giles, the rest of us just haven’t been good enough. Well, if Moseley thinks he’s going to bully me out like he has some of the others, he’d better have another think. For one thing, I’m not going to be rushed. I take guard then wander down the pitch for a quick word with Jon.

“Let’s make a fight of this, okay?” I say quietly.

“Yeah,” he agrees.

I stroll back to my crease and look round the field. Finally I get into my stance. The first ball’s on a good length, pitching on middle and leg. I go back and across, getting right into line, short back-lift. I watch the ball right onto the bat, playing it right below my eyes. It drops down in front of me and rolls a couple of feet down the pitch. Moseley’s standing hands on hips, glaring at me. I ignore him.

He pushes the next ball across me, a sure sign his arm’s getting tired. It’s short and wide outside the off-stump. I’m back and right across, picking the bat up high. It sits up invitingly. I crack it away, getting all my weight into the shot. It speeds to the deep cover boundary; four runs. Moseley’s glaring at me again. I stare right back. I don’t care; if he wants a staring match he can have one. He turns and strides back to his mark. His next ball is on a better line but it’s over-pitched, a juicy half volley just outside off-stump. I shuffle across slightly to get into line, picking the bat up high. Foot out to the pitch of the ball, right knee bent; bring the bat through as straight as an arrow, leading with my right elbow, driving the ball between the bowler and mid-off. The fielder at mid-off gives chase but it’s a lost cause; it was four from the moment I hit it. Moseley’s really glaring now. It hardly surprising; fast bowlers hate being driven down the ground. I just stare back at him, wandering a couple of yards down the pitch to give it a token prod. My eyelids don’t even flicker.

He stomps back to his mark again. There are no prizes for guessing what he’s going to do now. I’m about to get the treatment Giles got. I’m not worried; I’m smaller than Giles and a lot nimbler. I can duck out of the way, no problem. He comes charging in. He bangs the ball in less than halfway down the pitch. It balloons harmlessly over my head and through to the keeper who has to back-pedal to take it. Mr. Halford spreads his arms to signal a wide, which adds one run to our total and means that he’ll have to bowl it again. Their guy, who’s umpiring at square leg, is motioning to him to calm down. Moseley takes a couple of deep breaths and sets off back to his mark for another try.

Sometimes, you can see in advance what’s going to happen. He’s going to try the same thing again, only this time he’ll get it right. I can see exactly where it’s going to pitch and how it’ll come through. Like I say, it’s not a problem; I can duck out of the way easily enough. Only I’m not going to. I’ve never played the hook shot in a match; I’ve never had the chance to be honest. I’ve played it a couple of times in the nets, but that was just messing about. Well I’m going to play it now. This is war; ducking out of the way just isn’t an option.

He comes running in. As he gets into the delivery stride I’m already onto the back foot, getting right across outside off-stump to bring me inside the line. The ball pitches right where I saw it, rearing up towards my face. I pivot on my left heel, pulling the bat right across the line. I meet the ball just below chin-high, right in the middle of the blade, rolling my wrists to keep it down. It fizzes across the grass, crossing the square leg boundary before the fielders have even moved. This time Moseley’s not glaring; he’s looking at me open-mouthed, his eyes almost falling out. I’m not sure even Blondy would have played that shot. He takes his sweater. After five very hostile overs, that’s the last we’ll see of him for a while.

Their other bowlers are pretty accurate, but not really threatening, although the uneven bounce means we still have to be careful; we’ve not much batting left and not that many runs on the board. I’ve not batted with Jon before and wish I’d done it more often. He’s great, pushing the ball for singles whenever he can, giving me as much of the strike as possible. We’re both quick between the wickets too, which certainly helps. After nine more overs we’ve pushed the score on to ninety one.

Seven overs left, and Moseley’s back on; I’m guessing he’ll bowl the last four over from that end. He’s had a rest, he’s refreshed and he means business. His second ball is bang on a length, certainly not short, but it catches a crack or something; instead of coming through at a normal height it explodes off the pitch, hitting Jon on the upper arm, just below his right shoulder. Fuck! Even I couldn’t have got out of the way of that one. Jon throws his bat down and pulls off his gloves, clearly in quite a bit of pain. Far from showing concern at Jon getting hit, the close fielders are shouting encouragement to Moseley. Now I’m not just angry; I’m disgusted as well. Doing that when someone’s got hurt isn’t fucking right! After a couple of minutes Jon’s back ready to go. Moseley’s next ball is the best yorker I’ve ever seen, pitching right in the block-hole. After the working over he just had, Jon doesn’t get his bat down in time and gets his middle and off stumps flattened. He’s out for twenty three. Shit! Now it’s me batting with the tail.

Paz comes out to join me. We meet in the middle of the pitch.

“Just do your best,” I say. “Don’t give it away.”

I go back to the non-striker’s end, fearing the worst. Paz calmly edges his first ball wide of gully, though he clearly didn’t know much about it. We trot through for a single. He’s had the luck of the Irish again. I’ve got three balls to face. The first one is right on target. I push it back along the pitch. The next one’s on my pads and drifting down leg-side. I glance it away. The wicketkeeper dives across but can’t get there. It runs away to the fine leg boundary. That’ll do. The last ball of the over is on a length and straight, but I’m seeing it so well I clip it into the gap at midwicket and we run another single.

The over from the other end passes without incident for the addition of five runs, so I’m back on strike to face Moseley. The bastard does it again! The very first ball pitches right on a length and takes off. I get my bat out of the way but I’ve nowhere to go. It hits me just by my right nipple. It stings like fuck. The close fielders are baying for blood again. Morons! I don’t even crack my face; I’m certainly not going to rub it, I don’t want to give them the satisfaction. Bastard! But he’s nothing if not predictable; I know what’s coming next, and that yorker he bowled would have cleaned up far better players than me. So let’s give him something else to think about. I move forward about eighteen inches, so I’m batting outside my ground. It does the trick. What would have been a yorker becomes a low full-toss. I punch it away wide of mid-on and we scamper through for two.

In the next over disaster strikes; Paz gets over-ambitious and holes out at mid-on. That brings Jeremy in; only the second time he’s batted all season. Actually, he’s not bad, but his shot-selection’s a joke.

“Just push the ball for a single and give me the strike,” I say.

“Oh, I’ll just play my own game,” he replies airily.

The very first ball, he takes a huge swing. He connects all right, but the ball goes straight up in the air. If it’d gone any higher it’d have come down with snow on it. By the time it does, their wicketkeeper is right underneath it. Fuck! He could have read the morning paper and still got there! He makes no mistake; Jeremy trudges off. Idiot!

So now it’s me and Rob, and he hasn’t had to bat all season. Fortunately, Jeremy and I crossed before the catch was taken so I’ve got the strike. Two balls to go; I hit the first one for a couple and get a single off the last one. The first two balls of Moseley’s next over I have to defend, but he’s clearly tiring again; the third one’s short and wide outside the off-stump. I’ll hit those all day; that’s another square cut for four. I steer his next ball between third slip and gully. There’s an easy single on offer. I decide to take it; I can’t protect Rob all the time. He’s got two balls to face.

I cannot believe it; Moseley gets one on that spot again. Rob tries to drop his hands but he’s not quick enough; it raps him on the fingers of his left hand. He drops the bat and pulls his glove off, wringing his hand in pain. It’s a good job it wasn’t his right hand or he wouldn’t have been able to bowl. Mr. Halford comes to inspect the damage.

“I don’t think you’ve broken anything,” he says. But it’ll be very sore for a while.”

Their guy bustles across, telling us we need to get on with it. I resist the temptation to tell him to fuck off; I make sure we don’t rush though. It’s the last ball of the over. Moseley bowls it full and perfectly straight. Rob does his best but he can’t grip the bat properly; all he can do is deflect it onto his stumps.

We’re down to out last man, Ashton, and I can’t tell you how useless he is. So I’ve got one over against their spin bowler to get what I can, and if I’m very lucky I’ll get a single off the last ball so I’m on strike for the final over. The first three balls yield a two; the others go straight to fielders. Then I get what I’ve been waiting for; he tosses one up a bit higher. Up to this point I’ve not taken many chances; well now’s the time. I advance down the pitch, swinging the bat right through the line. The ball sails over the bowler’s head and lands on the pavilion roof. Six! I’ll take that! For the next ball all the fielders are in saving a single. Then the order goes out; if I get one through they’re to let it go. That’s it then. With the outfield being so fast, anything that beats the fielders will go to the boundary; I can’t get a single anywhere. I hit the next ball too close to a fielder and get nothing, but the last one’s right in my area. I punch it back between the bowler and mid-off. They let it go, but I don’t think they’d have caught up with it anyway. That’s another four, making twelve off the over. The innings ends two balls later.

We make our way off. I’m applauded from the field, but after concentrating for so long I’m scarcely aware of it. The job’s not finished yet in any case. I make my way into the dressing room, and sink down onto the bench. We’ve got a twenty minute refreshment break then we’ve got to go out and field; I’m knackered already. Dominic sits down next to me, showing me the scorebook. Out of a score of one hundred and eighteen I scored sixty two not out, the highest anyone’s made all season. It’ll be small consolation if we lose.

Unusually, My Halford’s not around. We wander out to get the cakes and orange squash they’ve laid on; by the time we get back he’s re-appeared.

“Right boys,” he says quietly. “I don’t have to tell you how hard it was out there, but thanks to a couple of outstanding performances we’ve given ourselves a chance. The pitch is bad and it’s getting worse. The ball will turn if you give it a tweak, he says, looking at me. And you seam bowlers, concentrate on line and length, and look to see if there’s any movement there for you. Don’t try to bowl too fast, and above all I don’t want to see anyone banging it in short. For one thing, none of you are fast enough, but more importantly, we don’t play the game like that. Okay, you know what to do. Best of luck.”

We stride out onto the field. In Giles’ absence, Ashton’s captaining the team with Justin as our substitute fielder. He’s not outstanding, but he’s okay and he’s got a very strong arm which makes him useful fielding in the deep. Mr. Halford was dead right about the conditions. Both Ashton and Rob are bowling beautifully. Ashton takes a wicket with his fourth ball, Brian taking a neat catch at first slip. Rob has the other opener caught behind, then Ashton removes their number four. They are struggling.

Rob bowls one at their number five. It’s a fraction short, and wide of off stump, not a great ball to be honest. The lad slashes at it, but it gets up a bit higher than he expected and he doesn’t keep it down. It flies a yard and half to my left, fielding at gully. I hurl myself across and throw out my hand. As any cricketer will tell you, catches like that either stick or they don’t, and when they’re to your weaker hand, they usually don’t. This one sticks. They’re four down for twenty odd and in quite a bit of trouble.

Over the next few overs they start to rebuild, much like Jon and Giles did. Their captain, batting at number three is a damn good player, about on a par with Giles, I’d say. Their number six is a big lad. He defends very solidly most of the time, but if you give him anything loose, he really crunches it. Ashton and Rob have completed four overs each and been replaced by Paz and Jeremy. The batsmen are starting to look comfortable. They’re taking the match away from us.

Paz bowls to their captain. I’m out of the gully by this time, back in my usual position patrolling the covers. The ball is well pitched up, about a foot outside the off-stump. The lad drives it handsomely a few feet to my right, and sets off down the pitch. But I saw it coming and I was on the move before he hit it. I don’t even think about the match situation; I just do what I’ve spent hours of practice on. I get across to the ball, fingers almost brushing the turf, pick it up, turn, aim and throw all in one movement. The ball hits about three quarters of the way up middle stump at the non-strikers end with the batsman five yards short; he’s not even close. He looks across at me and shakes his head as if to say “How did you do that?” Then it clicks. As he trudges off I allow myself a little smirk; he thought I was left handed.

That brings Moseley to the wicket. His batting is unorthodox to say the least of it. Most of the time he defends, but occasionally he picks one to have a go at and smashes it. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason in which balls he chooses to hit or where he hits them; juicy half volleys will be treated with the utmost respect, perfectly good balls will be dispatched to the boundary. He’s obviously got a very good eye though. Jeremy bowls to him, a good, fullish length, just outside off-stump, the ball moving away slightly off the seam. It’s probably the best ball he’s bowled. Moseley plants his front foot on the line of off-stump, and pulls it away to deep mid-wicket, hitting right across the line.

Jeremy loses it; I’ve seen this before. Next ball he runs in faster and tries to bang one in short, exactly what Mr. Halford told him not to do. He’s just not quick enough to do that; it ends up as a long-hop wide of off-stump. Even a rabbit can hit those; Moseley smashes it away to the extra cover boundary. The last ball of Jeremy’s over is pretty wild as well, but it gets up a bit and Moseley lets it go through. Ashton comes across and has a word with him. He’s taken him off.

After another over from Paz, Ashton hands me the ball. My first two deliveries are pretty standard, and right on the spot. The big number six defends solidly; he’s clearly not going to give this away. I remember what Mr. Halford said about the ball turning. I toss the next one up higher and really work my fingers over it. The big lad advances down the pitch, aiming for a big drive over the top, but the ball grips on the dusty surface and leaps up at him, turning back sharply. It hits him on the glove and loops up in the air. I sprint down the pitch and dive full-length, just getting my hands under it before it hits the ground. Got him! They’re six down with only Moseley and the bowlers left.

I continue bowling the same way, but the batsmen just won’t take me on, playing mainly with their pads. The ball’s bouncing so high and turning so much I’ll never get a leg-before decision in a month of Sundays. Still, I’m stopping them scoring. But I’m not used to bowling like this, after a couple of overs my index finger’s starting to get raw. I go across to Ashton.

It’s okay,” he says. “I was about due to come back on anyway. Well done; you’ve done a great job.”

I go back to my position in the covers. Moseley continues what he’s been doing. They’re pushing the score along but he’s running out of partners. It’s getting very close. Their ninth wicket falls. Mr. Halford asks for the score to be checked. After a little consultation between Dominic and their scorer he gets his answer; 114 for 9. They need five runs; we need one wicket.

Rob starts a new over, bowling to Moseley. He hits a two. Their target’s down to three. He defends the next two balls. Fourth ball of the over, good length outside off-stump; Moseley steps across and swings it away to the leg-side, in the air. I just stand and watch knowing we’ve lost. Justin’s sprinting towards it, but he can’t possibly get there; he’s got too much ground to make up. It’ll go first bounce over the boundary between deep midwicket and square leg. Then Justin takes off. I’ll repeat that; he takes off, he’s flying through the air, his arms stretched out in front of him. It all seems to happen very slowly. He grasps the ball with both hands, still airborne. Finally he lands and everything goes back to normal speed. He’s sliding across the turf, on his tummy, forearms up, hands still clutching the ball. It takes several seconds for it to sink in. We haven’t lost; we’ve won. It’s the most amazing catch I’ve ever seen.

The other lads are ecstatic; Justin gets mobbed. I’m not; my only feeling is one of relief. They played dirty to try and get the win; we stopped them. That’s all there is to it. We leave the field. Their captain comes across to shake my hand. He’s a good player and seems like a decent kid.

“Well done,” he says. “You deserved it.”

“Thanks,” I say quietly, accepting the handshake.

Moseley’s by the changing rooms still in his pads; it seems like he wants to shake my hand too.

Well done,” he says in a very posh voice, like he’s trying to sound more English than the English. “You played superbly.”

I didn’t like him before; I like him even less now. He’s Jamaican, for fuck sake! Why doesn’t he sound like one? I give him the eyeball.

“A bit less of the short stuff, if you don’t mind!” I say sharply. He looks shocked. “You hit me, you hit Jonathan, you nearly broke Rob’s fingers and you put Giles in hospital,” I say, spelling it out to him. “I hope you’re happy with your afternoon’s work!”

I stride past him and into our dressing room. I sit on the bench feeling totally drained. I’ve never, ever been as tired as I am now; all I want to do it go to bed and sleep. Mr. Halford’s disappeared again. This time I know exactly where he’s gone; their guy’s going to be getting some serious ear-ache. I go through the showers still in a daze then get dressed for the trip back to school. Mr Halford re-appears, closing the changing room door behind him.

I’ve just been to see their cricket master, Mr. Parsons and made clear to him that there were certain things that happened today that just weren’t acceptable. During the tea interval, I’d been to see the groundsman, Mick Crawford, whom I’ve known for years. Over the past week or so he told Mr. Parsons three times that the pitch needed watering, and on each occasion he was told he was not to do it. That’s one thing. The behaviour of some of their players was even worse, especially when you lads got hit. I know the head here quite well; he’d be appalled if he knew. Mr. Parsons has apologised to me and asked me to convey those apologies to you, which I’m doing. I accepted his apologies on the understanding that nothing like this will ever happen again. Mick Crawford will be allowed to prepare the pitches as he sees fit and the players’ on-field behaviour will be addressed. I have made it very clear that if he goes back on any of this, I will take matters further. He understands that were I to do that, he would be in serous trouble. So well done everyone; let’s go home.”

We troop out and head towards the minibus. He puts his arm round Justin’s shoulder.

“That the best catch I’ve ever seen at this level,” he says quietly. “Absolutely amazing.”

How did you do it, Tigger?” Jonathan asks, clearly still excited. “You were off the ground!”

“Dunno really,” Justin says, sounding a bit embarrassed. “I just knew I had to catch it. I just threw myself at it.”

“Pure adrenalin,” Mr. Halford says, giving Justin’s shoulder a squeeze.

We settle into the minibus and set off.

“I think Toby was very rude, speaking to Moseley like that,” Brian says so everyone can hear.

“Not at all,” Mr. Halford tells him. “There’s no place for bowling like that in school cricket.”

“But, sir,” Brian insists, “bouncers are part of the game!”

Not at this level they aren’t,” Mr. Halford says firmly. “They make the game far too dangerous. Parents won’t allow their boys to play if they’re going to get hit all the time. If Mr. Madison hadn’t been there, I’d have had to telephone him to explain what had happened. Would you have wanted to do that?”

No, sir,” Brian concedes. “but Giles should have got out of the way.”

“At least he didn’t hang his bat out to dry like you did,” I say acidly.

“I was trying to run it down to third man, but it got up a bit and I edged it,” he counters.

“Brian,” Mr. Halford says quietly, “when you’re in a hole, stop digging. That was an awful shot and you know it.”

Brian finally shuts up. He sits and sulks for the rest of the journey.

Half an hour later, we’re back at school. The reception committee’s there to meet us, Ian, Peter, Will and the rest of them.

“How did you get on?” one of them asks.

“We won, just,” someone says.

Patrick’s there; he goes across to Brian, eyes sparkling. He is stunningly cute.

“How many did you get?” he asks.

“Zero, nought, a duck,” Brian says disconsolately. “I played like an idiot. I let myself down and I let the team down.”

Of all the things that have happened today this might be the most astounding of all. Brian’s usually full of himself, like he was on the bus earlier on. I’ve never heard him talk like that, ever. Mr. Halford goes and stands right behind him, putting his hands on Brian’s shoulders.

Don’t be too hard on yourself,” he says gently. “You took a good slip catch, and fielded well all the way through. You got badly shaken up by that first ball and forgot what you’ve been taught. It happens. So what should you have done?”

“Got into line and remembered that when the conditions are tough you have to rely on your technique to keep you out of trouble.”

And you’ll do that next time, won’t you?”

“Sir,” Brian responds.

I wander back towards the buildings with Ian tagging along beside me. I’m so tired I can’t even think straight, much less talk. Then I get the hand round the shoulder treatment.

I think that was the real Toby we saw out there today,” Mr. Halford says, “the Toby that won’t let people push him around, the Toby who produces his best when the conditions are at their hardest. I’ve seen glimpses of him before, on the rugby field mainly, but today was the first time I’ve had a really good look at him. That’s the Toby I want to see a great deal more of, and I don’t just mean playing cricket.”

“Sir,” I say.

After all the battles we’ve had it seems a strange thing for him to have said; I thought he liked good little boys who do as they’re told, but I’m not arguing.

Go and enjoy your evening,” he says. “You’ve earned it.”

I head back to the dorm. That was weird; Mr. Halford knows just about everything that goes on in this place. He must have known why those particular boys were there waiting for us, but he completely ignored it, just told me to enjoy my evening when Ian was there right next to me. I’m not sure what to make of that.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

As it goes, the evening was very pleasant, not that we did a great deal. It was beautifully warm; Ian and I strolled out to one of the places in the woods. We lay there and cuddled for a bit. Ian wanted to know about the match, but I was too tired to say a lot. He asked if he could kiss my bruise better, but I told him I’d rather he didn’t. Finally he sucked me off; I just lay there stroking his hair and let him get on with it. It was nice; very nice in fact. Ian’s a real star; in situations like that I couldn’t find anyone better.

Getting up Sunday morning was a struggle, I was still half asleep when we got to London. I did perk up a bit once we’d got there; editing the film was a gas! It’s better than last year’s, much more polished. We showed it yesterday; the kids loved it. Lots of thanks to Mr. Chandler again, of course; he’s helped me a lot. I’m not sure what he’d think if he knew how I’ve been using my camera skills recently; I try not to think about it.

Since ‘the match’, as everyone seems to call it, I’ve become a sort of school hero, especially among the younger kids. That’s pretty weird; I just did what I could. Okay, I probably concentrated better than I usually do, but that was about it. I certainly don’t feel any different. I guess it’s something I’ll have to get used to. A group of first years saw me in the changing room just as I was getting dressed. They were very impressed by the bruise, which has started to turn yellow. One of them asked if he could touch it. I told him if he so much as laid a finger on it, I’d grind him to a pulp. We all laughed, but he got the message; just as well, it’s still very sore.

Today’s Tuesday; we’ll be off home in two days time, or in my case I’ll be off to Rob’s house. I’m looking forward to that. Upper Fourth are out of school today; they’ve gone to London on a sight-seeing trip, like they do every year. That means we’re getting our first taste of being ‘in charge’, not that is makes any difference to most of us. Rob’s responsible for a group of six lads doing prefect duties; I managed to avoid being one of them. I’ll have to do some next term, but I’ll worry about that when it happens.

I stroll into the bottom corridor boys’ room for a piss. Half a minute later I’ve got Gavin McAllister, Ian’s mate, standing a couple of feet to my left, giving me a cheeky grin and flashing his dick at me. Fuck! The skinny little tyke wants sex, as if getting bummed by big Max isn’t enough for him! Well, Max isn’t around, of course; he’s away with the rest of Upper Fourth, and even if I did get caught by one of the ‘prefects’, nobody’s going to say anything. I jerk my head in the direction of the furthest stall, follow him in and bolt the door.

We get each other’s shorts and pants down. He’s so slim; his legs are like pencils! We fondle each other’s dicks. He’s circumcised, like Sean and Ian, and about the same size as Sean, which isn’t bad for a ten year old.

“Are you going to bum me?” he whispers.

“Sure!” I tell him.

He doesn’t waste any time, positioning himself over the toilet. It looks like Max has been fucking him senseless. I smear some KY over my dick and move in behind him. I line myself up and push it in. He gives a little gasp. He may be well used to it, but he’s still pretty tight. I guess that’s cause he’s so small, you know, skinny. I set to work, gradually building it up till I’m fucking him into the middle of next week. He’s pretty quiet, but he’s still gasping a bit. He loves it! I play with his cock; it’s rock hard. I’m getting close, my balls beginning to churn. I ratchet it up one final time. Suddenly everything goes mental. I’m spunking, he’s dry cumming, it’s all happening! I hang on tight as I unload over and over into his hot little bum. Wow! I take a couple of deep breaths and carefully pull out.

“Was I good?” he asks.

“Excellent!” I tell him.

“Better than Ian?”

“Don’t be cheeky!” I say, grinning at him. “Not better, different.”

We quickly get dressed and I send him on his way. What a nice little end of term bonus that was!