ELEVEN GREEN BATTERSÂ .Â .Â .
âWarner, youâre reserve keeper!â Sunil Deep was speaking in his team captainâs voice, even though they were just having a hit in the playground before school.
âAye, aye, capân.â Davey Warner bowed and doffed the old truckerâs cap he called his baggygreen, but he wasnât exactly ecstatic as he trudged to the spot behind the wicket.
âItâs not my thing,â he said to his friend, George Pepi, who was at the crease, bat in hand, waiting for Sunil to bowl. âBatting â yep, definitely. A bit of spin bowling â if Iâm needed. But wicket-keeping?â He shook his head.
Sunil ran in and bowled a fast ball on leg stump. George hit it off the front foot straight to mid-on. Ivy Mundine was there, and she quickly got her hands to the ball and threw it back. George didnât try for a run.
âYeah, well, as soon as Dylan turns up youâre free,â George said. He frowned. âHis mum must have forgotten to wake him up again.â
Dylan was often late. He told his friends it was his mumâs fault, but Davey had noticed that Dylanâs mum always seemed to be ontime for parentâteacher interviews and when she had to see Mrs Trundle, the school principal, about Dylan breaking school rules again.
Still, nobody really minded. Dylan was one of those kids everyone liked â everyone except Mrs Trundle and their teacher, Mr Mudge.
With an invisible bat, Davey slogged an invisible ball for six. âI wish heâd hurry up. I need a bit more time at the crease.â A real ball whizzed past his ear and George took the opportunity to run for a bye, bringing Kevin McNab, another of Daveyâs good friends, on to strike.
âWhatâre you doing, Warner?â Sunil shouted. âYouâre supposed to be keeping wicket, not pretending youâre batting for Australia!â
Max, Daveyâs dog, was fielding at deep fine leg, even though Mrs Trundle had banned him from the school grounds for life. Now he chased the ball and, moments later, dropped it at Sunilâs feet.
âI have to practise my shots for Friday,â Davey shouted. âFirst game of the school comp. Weâve got to beat the Batfish!â
The last time Sandhill Flats Primary played Batfish Beach Primary theyâd lost. Now they were thirsty for revenge.
Kevin nodded. âYep, gotta get those Batfish back.â
âYouâre a batfish!â
It was Mo Clouter, school bully and cricket detester. He and his friends Nero and Tony had wandered down to C playground tolook for something to do. Theyâd found it â bothering the cricketers was one of their favourite pastimes. Now they were standing right behind Davey, talking loudly and whistling, trying to put him off his game.
Davey tried to block them out. He focused on Sunil, who let loose a fast bouncer down the pitch.
Davey then Kevin ducked as the ball flew over their heads and sailed past Mo and his friends. âHey, watch what youâre doing, Deep!â Mo shouted.
Sunil gave them a friendly wave. âSorry! Better get out of the way!â
But Mo didnât move. âHey, Shorty!â he called to Davey. âGuess youâll have to be wicket-keeper from here on, now that Dylanâs goneÂ .Â .Â .â
Davey and Kevin glanced at each other.
âHeâs just late,â Davey shouted over his shoulder.
Davey turned around. Mo and his friends were holding their bellies and laughing like theyâd just watched the funniest YouTube video ever.
Davey shook his head. âWhat?â
âYeah, three years late by the time you see him again. Heâs left. His whole familyâs gone. Didnât he tell you?â
Davey and the rest of the cricket team looked at each other. Dylan gone? Without telling them? Heâd never do that.
âI donât believe it,â Davey
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