Surrey County Cricket Club are offering young fans the opportunity to have their work published on the Club website, learn more about working in cricket media, and interview a player. Nate Campbell was the first winner of the under-16 category for his account of a sensational piece of fielding from Will Jacks.
A summer’s day at The Kia Oval, August 2018. I am sat with my dad in the Peter May Stand for Surrey vs Lancashire in the County Championship. A tense blanket of quietness descends as the bowler, Morne Morkel, turns and walks back to his mark. The feelings of this match rush around the ground. The fans are so quiet, you could hear a pin drop and it would echo around South London. Lancashire are 264 for 9, and need just seven more runs to claim victory.
Morkel takes his first step and begins his run-up.
The batter is Matt Parkinson. His mind is clouded with thoughts of praise if they scramble home or the negative air in the changing room if they don’t. Back in the pavilion, Lancashire players stare through the changing-room window, hands pushing against the glass, their hearts beating as fast as light. Parkinson’s muscles tense, his brow is sweaty and raining like a waterfall. His grip slips and slides like oil in his gloves.
Even Morne Morkel, a hostile South African bowler, fears what might happen. It is down to him to get the wicket, him to win the match. It was like the world is on his shoulders, the ball rotating in his hand, the seam pressing against his stretched fingers, engraving marks. The wickets are right in front of him, three wooden stumps that could bring a famous victory.
Morkel is now in full flow, a fearsome blur as he unfurls at the crease.
The Kia Oval surrounds this brilliant match, with the gasometer looming up behind me and rows of Kennington flats straight ahead. To my left is the pavilion, which has looked out over many great Surrey cricketers from Peter May to Rory Burns, Jack Hobbs to Ben Foakes.
Will Jacks is crouched at short leg. His helmet securely on, hands open for catching. His eyes move fast. He watches the batter closely. He has seen the game unfold from his position and now he will see how it ends. His shirt is worn and sticky. His trainers are covered in dirt, dust caking the whiteness. His hair is a tangle and glistens from sweat.
Morkel jumps into his delivery and then thumps back into the surface. The ball is unleashed. Just short of a length, it forces Parkinson back. The ball flashes off the face of the bat, then a hand shoots up snatching it out of the air. It is Will Jacks’ hand.
The celebrations are wild. Players run off in different directions, some following the bowler and others following the catcher. The ground erupts. My dad and I leap to our feet in celebration. Some in the Peter May Stand just sit stunned, others dance and cheer, some sing, me and my dad are hugging. We have watched one of the best cricket matches ever. It was won by my team Surrey, and we now believed we had the Championship in our grasp!