Tonight, I was in a north London hostelry with a group including former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan and television presenter Tim Lovejoy when a tall, thick- set man approached me and announced: ‘I don’t like you.’
‘I see,’ I replied. ‘Would you care to elaborate on that statement?’
He paused for thought, then shook his head.
‘ No thank you, I’ve just always wanted to tell you that I don’t like you.’
‘Well, that’s very kind of you. Much appreciated.’ ‘No problem, have a good evening.’ And he marched off for another pint. Ashes-winning fast- bowling hero Simon Jones, Indian all- rounder Yuvraj Singh – who hit Stuart Broad for six sixes in one over – and exEngland and Surrey star Adam Hollioake, who is now a professional cage fighter in Australia.
Jones – who like Brett Lee is a lovely guy when he’s not peppering people with bouncers – bowled so fast that he nearly broke my arm with a ball that flew off one batsman’s flailing bat, careered off my wicket-keeper brother’s gloves and smashed into me standing at first slip 25 yards away from the wicket.
He also displ ayed his legendary Ashes ’05 aggression when one of the cocky village players smashed him over his head for four and held his bat triumphantly in the air a little too long. ‘Take your f****** bat down you p****,’ Jones snarled. ‘Nobody’s taking your f****** picture!’ ( The batsman concerned later declared this one of the greatest moments of his life.)
But despite Jones’s 85mph thunderbolts and world- class sledging, Hollioake’s superb hitting, and Yuvraj’s spin bowling, we still lost. To add to my ignominy, above my usual space in the dressing room the village boys had stuck a load of photos of me and Kevin Pietersen with ‘I love KP’ loveheart banners. Ironically, my mission to beat the villagers seems as destined for as much success as my mission to have Pietersen reinstated into the England team. A text arrived. ‘Hi Piers, I hope you’re doing great. This is my new number, Cheryl x’ ‘Which Cheryl?’ I replied. ‘ The one and only!’ came the response.
‘That narrows it down to 3,’ I said. ‘Are you the one that can’t sing?’ ‘Exactly! Got it in one!’ ‘ How’s your French coming along?’
‘Very well thank you, how’s your English? ‘Better than your French...’ ‘I am currently in the presence of His Royal Highness.’
‘Give His Majesty a tweak on the cheeks from me.’
I’ll leave it you to work out which Cheryl it was, and which ‘royal’ she was with... but be mindful that The X Factor auditions hit London this week.