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‘Where do we go from here?’

I posed this question to my teammate Simon as our opponents looked to be cantering to victory, condemning the Unicorns to a loss in a game where I had hoped we might have been in with a chance. Instead, the match had suddenly spiralled out of control.

My question was partly a reflection on the immediate situation, an exasperation. But it was more than that - it reflected what we had achieved as a club, what the future might hold and how we might get there.

At the Unicorns, we have an amazing mix of players and members. Some are still in their infancy as cricketers, and others have played club cricket for many years. Each time we play, this mix is put to the test, and each game has involved more and more rookies as the season has progressed. Giving people an opportunity to play in an inclusive environment is one of the key foundations of the club, so it has been right to take this approach. I’m very conscious that if your experiences playing cricket involve you getting thrashed every match, it can become dispiriting. I know that feeling very well from club cricket.

What I needed to remember was that one ball could change a match.

We got that one ball.

Jay is new to cricket. Their journey has been inspiring and remarkable in so many ways. An unusual route to cricket that is best described in their own words below.

From my earliest interactions with Jay, their enthusiasm and creativity have shone through. Every time we met on Zoom, they sparked new ideas, and this has continued since we have been able to meet face to face during training and at matches. They have regularly attended training sessions, and for someone who was not an active sports participant in recent years, the improvement in their game was rapid and powerful to watch.

Bowling in the nets before the match, I was told they were dropping the ball on a good length and getting some swing, even if they didn’t know how it was happening! Jay was ready. It was time to have a bowl in a match.

One ball changed everything.

With less than twenty needed, Jay came on to bowl. They bowled THAT ball, and it changed the whole game.

Jay bowled the batter. They had taken a wicket with their first ball. They stood in shocked silence as we, the jubilant teammates, mobbed them. It was extraordinary, a beautifully scripted introduction to bowling. They had changed the game with one ball, and the consequences would ripple outwards quickly as the opposition suddenly started to stumble.

Our opponents had lost five wickets within the space of 20 balls, Jay picking up four of them. They became more and more stunned as each wicket fell. The team was buzzing, and on the back of Jay’s bowling, we were back in the game. As our resident match reporter Darrell put it, the Hollywood scriptwriters would have found a way for those final wickets to fall, giving the Unicorns a win.

This wasn’t to be, but perhaps it didn’t matter.

We had taken another stride forward. Where we go from here was now obvious. We continue giving players the opportunity to play cricket. We continue to welcome all LGBTQ+ players and supporters to the game. We keep supporting each other, learning together, being a team together, a team that never gives up.

Jay gave me a shot in the arm just when I struggled to work out what to do. They reminded me of the beauty and magic of cricket.

It only takes one ball.

One ball and the match can change.

One moment and my perspective changed — the way forward was clear.

Reflections on LGBTQ+ life and experiences playing club cricket in England — the only Aussie + gay cricketer at the club! Contact: lachlantsmith@gmail.com