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The left fist shot out from a blazer sleeve, one bony finger pointing in the direction of up. Edmund Peckover—his long British face comprehending now, as if a cartoon balloon had suddenly appeared above him with a light bulb sparkling inside—had recognized the name of the place. "Ah, yes. I remember it now," he said. "They did round up all those hoodlum types right in there."
The automobile had just passed a New York restaurant that is rapidly approaching immortality in the world of cops and robbers as the spot where policemen interrupted a very important lunch one afternoon. The event was vividly recalled by Edmund Peckover and, at that moment, the incongruity of this trip struck the driver. On a summer holiday weekend there were some who swam and some who sailed and others who fished or picnicked in the park. America that day might watch something solid, baseball or Ed Sullivan; might play something familiar, tennis, golf, Scrabble. Sporting America would enjoy the holiday with all the familiar domestic pursuits. And here he was, about to spend three days watching men play an alien game, to him a new and strange game, Edmund Peckover's game, cricket. And here they were, the elderly Englishman and the young American, passing a den of hoods to get to the game of lords.
A few days earlier, wading through several books, magazine articles, instructional and what were, in effect, documented position papers that Peckover had sent on the subject, the younger man came upon this from The New York Times :
London, Aug. 28 ( Reuters)—Asif Iqbal, a 24-year-old all-rounder, scored 146 runs for Pakistan in a world record ninth-wicket stand with Intikhab Alam, who got 51 runs, against England in the third and final cricket test at the Oval today.... The third match final score was Pakistan 216 and 255; England 440 and 34 for two.
Asif's 146 came in three hours 10 minutes and included two sixes and 21 fours. England's task of making 32 to win was made difficult by Asif, who dismissed Brian Close and Colin Cowdrey before England scrambled to victory.
By the time the weekend was over the American was to understand "all-rounders" and "ninth-wicket stands" and "440 and 34 for two" and "sixes" and "fours" and "dismissing" and to understand, especially, Edmund Peckover.
Peckover was born in London and came to the U.S. in 1921. He is rather tall and rather thin and a bit bent over; the way he flutters about suggests—erroneously—that, like the Scarecrow of Oz, he is about to fall apart. He has had a nicely varied life, having been at one time or another a Royal Canadian Mountie, a British officer, an American soldier, a bass baritone with two octaves, an insurance man, a portrait artist, a cartoonist, a radio broadcaster and the self-confessed "untold, unsung Boswell of Greenwich Village." These occupations, however, have always been just things to do; nothing interferes with his two great loves: chess, at which he is one of the best end-game composers in the world, and cricket.
His mind is a fertile field on these subjects. He can call forth detailed information on the two games, stretching back into their histories. Little-known statistics, uncounted facts, specific dates on cricket, for instance, come crashing out at any moment.
His preoccupation with these details is explained by a statement that Peckover attributes to a "noted educator," whose name, strangely, he has forgotten but whose theory he regards as sacred. The noted educator said, "People who have no interest in the history of the pursuits they enjoy the most have very small minds." End of discussion. Peckover quotes this theory quite a bit, and it ends all discussions. Not satisfactorily, the way one would want to end a discussion. But it does end them.
This weekend cricket was foremost in Peckover's mind. A touring team from the Marylebone Cricket Club of England, the international ruling body of the sport, was playing two matches in the New York area. (Do not call the club the " Marylebone Cricket Club" around Peckover. It is "MCC" to him.) First, however, he wanted to show his American friend a pickup cricket match, so that he could get the feel of the sport. His voice boomed over the phone: "Bring a lawn chair, too lad. The ground gets awfully hard."