PIERS MOR­GAN

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - PUZZLE TIME -

Ever since Brett Lee dis­man­tled my ribcage in De­cem­ber, my crick­et­ing cre­den­tials have been the sub­ject of sig­nif­i­cant global ridicule.

So it was with some trep­i­da­tion that I ac­cepted an invitation from Ian ‘Beefy’ Botham to cap­tain his side in a star-stud­ded char­ity game on the Caribbean is­land of St Kitts to­day.

Par­tic­u­larly when Beefy in­formed me that my op­pos­ing cap­tain would be Brian Lara – one of the great­est bats­men in the his­tory of the game.

I boarded the bus this morn­ing with team­mate, Eng­land fast- bowl­ing legend Dar­ren Gough, and found Mr Lara sit­ting op­po­site me. ‘Morn­ing, Brian.’ ‘Morn­ing, Piers.’ ‘Feel­ing ner­vous? ‘What about?’ ‘Me bowl­ing at you.’ Lara smirked. ‘Not re­ally, no.’ ‘Well you should be.’ Gough burst out laugh­ing. ‘Mor­gan, are you on a death wish? This bloke bat­tered me for ten years – you’ve got no f***ing chance, son!’

The 20/ 20 game was a sell- out – 8,000 very ex­cited lo­cals, 99 per cent of whom had come to watch the great Brian Lara bat. Beefy tossed the coin and I called ‘Heads’ cor­rectly. ‘You can bat,’ I told Lara. ‘What’s your think­ing, skip­per?’ asked Beefy, on cam­era. ‘ To get Brian in as fast as pos­si­ble, so I can get him out.’

‘There’s more chance of me be­com­ing Pope,’ said Ian, ‘but good luck.’

Around the 12 over mark, Lara walked to the crease to join his bat­ting part­ner, re­cently re­tired Eng­land spin­ner Graeme Swann – and the crowd went wild. I walked over and put my arm round him. ‘Wel­come, Brian. I’m bring­ing my­self straight on to bowl and I’m go­ing to get you out.’

Lara treated each one of my first six balls like un­ex­ploded hand grenades, block­ing them all.

‘ Mate, it’s not a Test match,’ I sneered.

First ball of my next over, Lara danced down the wicket… and smashed it straight into the hands of a fielder stand­ing 20 yards away.away I’d got him, for nought. The crowd fell silent, as I screamed ‘YEESSSSS!!!!!’ and charged around with all the calm de­meanour of an en­raged rhino with a spear in its back. An in­cred­u­lous Gough ran up and high-fived me. ‘I don’t f***ing be­lieve it!’

Now, you might imag­ine this game couldn’t have got any bet­ter for me. You would be mis­taken. I came in to bat with my team need­ing 40 runs to win and promptly smashed it straight up in the air, only for the fielder to drop a sim­ple catch.

It was Brian Lara. To try and atone for his ab­ject per­for­mance, Lara brought him­self on to bowl the last over. Need­ing eight runs to win with just three balls left, I belted him for six and four to win the match.

I put my arm round him again as we walked off.

‘How can this pos­si­bly get any worse for you?’ I asked. ‘You could steal my girl­friend at the party later,’ he groaned.

I reached the dug- out and saw Beefy sit­ting with his head in his hands mur­mur­ing, ‘What the hell have I done?’ Min­utes later, he was forced to present me with the manof-the-match award.

Lara’s girl­friend, a stun­ning 24-year-old Miss Scot­land­win­ning model called Jamey Bow­ers, tried to con­sole him on the bus to the party. But as they hugged qui­etly in the front row, Bob Mar­ley’s Three Lit t le Bi rds be­gan blar­ing on the sound sys­tem…

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