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Basil pretended not to hear as he launched into a long muddled lecture about "bowlers" and "wickets," "creases" and "slips," "bails" and "stumps." A remark about "bowling a maiden over" got a laugh, but terms like "googlies," "silly mid ons," "cover points," "square legs," "leg byes" and "out for a duck" were just ignored. Basil did manage to get across the fact that the paddle he brandished was a cricket bat and he was able to explain that a "bowler" was a pitcher, a "wicket keeper" a catcher, a "batsman" a batter. But then he plunged right back into deep water with "l.b.w." and "hat trick" and "declaring." If Captain Grant had not been there to pull rank, I don't think that his baseball players, some with Texas League contracts waiting for them back home, would have learned anything at all about the English national pastime.
That first session ended with Basil emotionally dripping sweat, the players almost dead of boredom and me insisting to Bell and Grant that my idea had been a very good one indeed.
Soon afterward a reporter who had heard that Bushey Park's new cricket team was going to play R.A.F. Uxbridge on Friday, June 4, visited me, tingling with excitement, already adding up what this story was going to earn him in Fleet Street. I played it cool. "I've seen our guys practicing," I admitted, "and personally I don't think they're very good. They've got a lot of baseball reflexes that they just can't discard."
"Well, for one thing, when they hit the ball they drop the bat before they run." Then I gave him a generous dose of the stuff about our men wanting to learn his national game instead of teaching his compatriots ours. And he covered pages with Pitman scratchings.
Meanwhile, Basil had held several more practice sessions and Lieutenant Bell had assured me, "I think the men have begun to get the idea of the game. More or less."
The day before the game, tipped by my reporter (from the Surrey Comet), the Fleet Street papers all telephoned.
Yes, they would be welcome to visit Bushey, but they shouldn't, I warned, expect very good cricket.
That weekend, instead of the usual stories about American airmen and peroxide floozies in the main streets around Bushey Park, the press was filled with good-natured reports of our cricket game. I still have a clipping from the tabloid Daily Graphic headlined CITIZEN KANE PUTS SWING INTO CRICKET.
It begins with an entirely fictitious encounter between Basil and Colonel Marsh in which the colonel states, " America depends on you this day, my boy." And eventually it gets around to the game: