The last ball of the last Test

Everything is put to rest
With the last ball of the last Test
The nicks, the cuts
The hopes, the fears
The drives, the dreams
The seventy-odd years

The bowler will not overstep the line
But she may say a few kind words
In her follow-through
“Well played,” at least

There will be no DRS*
No more endless days
Of endless slow-motion replays
No one upstairs to blame
For little victories
And big defeats

You may not see it coming
Out in the garden
Between the apricot tree and the roses
A pain in the chest
Last words
The stumps score

You may not know it’s coming
Dozing on the couch
The back page blurring

You may not have time to play
The last ball of the last Test
A rush of blood
A red flood
May take away
The timing
The finesse

Check your pads, check your gloves
Before you walk out to the middle
Check your box too (especially your box)
But leave your helmet in the changerooms
For the last ball of the last Test

Take guard
Ask the umpire for ‘middle and off’
Make your mark, scratch it long, scratch it deep
‘Til there’s a valley at your feet.

The bowler is at the top of her run
Shadows lengthen

Call for the sightscreen to be moved
A little to the left
A little to the right
Back to the left again

Call for a change of gloves if you wish
Another innings if you dare

Prod the pitch as long as you can
Notice no batsman at the other end
Check the fielders (friends, lovers, children, neighbours)
Check the ground (the apricot tree, the roses)

There will be one final drinks break
Before the last ball of the last Test
One more chance for the sponsor’s song and dance
‘This life was brought to you by…’

Stand just out of your crease
For the last ball of the last Test
Tap and tap and tap your bat
The bowler is running in.


* ‘There will be no DRS’.
In Test cricket there is a Decision Referral System, in which players can challenge the  umpires’ decisions. The umpires are then advised by a colleague watching replays ‘upstairs’ .

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