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Balmar 'Beefy' Bains

Message From the Chairman of Highway Spartans Cricket Club

Having stood at the other end on a scorching hot day at Bragbury End and watched Balmer Bains race to his highest career score (24) by expertly dissecting the slip cordon, I defy anyone who played alongside him for Stopsley (and later Offley & Stopsley) to argue with the fact that his finest cricketing moment actually came against us.

The man who regularly brought up the rear in the Milk Floats of Fire competition, a man who could make the likes of Barker and Warrington look like ginger Jamaicans, invariably combined hands of stone with feet of clay in the field. Therefore when he found himself seconded into the ranks of bitter rivals Nomads at Crawley Green, there was a general feeling among the Stopsley batsmen that there would be ample opportunity to steal a quick single to Beefy and absolutely no chance of being caught out by him.

After a quiet start Dave Bridgland duly launched the ball into orbit above Beefy’s head at mid on. The ball hung in the breeze with the watching Stopsley players exchanging odds between themselves as to whether their erstwhile colleague was more likely to break a finger or his nose. Instead Beefy backpedalled with nonchalant, if uncommon, grace - Bambi on ice briefly gave way to a gazelle - and snared the catch with the minimum of fuss.

Bridgland returned to silence, for once no one having the wit to comment upon how unlucky he had been to succumb to such a catch.

Yet if that catch stands out as the defining moment of his cricketing career - certainly the part of his career that we were privileged to see - it would be wrong to regard that career as anything other than memorable.

This, after all, was Beefy Bains, the man who flattened the poppadom-ribbed Kevin Woodhouse in a mid-pitch collision that left Woodhouse gasping for breath and struggling for his ground, for the first and presumably only time in his life oblivious to the necessity of keeping the strike.

The man who braved the wrath of the formidable Joanne Towndrow by liberally helping himself to her cigarettes before attempting to borrow her newspaper uninvited. Victoria Crosses have been awarded for less.

The man who somehow nutmegged himself on tour and had his stumps rearranged without scoring before walking off to a chorus of Tom Jones singing “It’s Not Unusual.”

The man who once drew the ire of Gary McDermott when he walked behind the bowler’s arm while the great man was batting. An irate McDermott angrily backed away from the crease and gestured with his arm for Beefy to move away as quickly as possible. Beefy, bless him, responded by maintaining his position on the boundary and waving back at the batsman.

The man who once walked to the wicket with a new blade that had freshly arrived from India, a bat that could not have been accompanied with greater hope (or hype) had it been hand-delivered to Sachin Tendulkar on the eve of a vital test match. Beefy was enchanted by his new bat, a gift from his father. “He’s done me proud,” he proclaimed, gripping the bat firmly in his hands and striding out to the middle to confront the enemy, for all the world like St George marching forth to slay the dragon. Unfortunately while he might have looked like the patron saint of England he was not armed with finest English willow. Beefy lasted long enough to make contact with several deliveries (if it had been a normal innings he’d have been cleaned up within two balls and the bat might have survived for another day; perhaps it was an exceptional blade after all) with the result that the bat split, never to be used again.

This was also the man who helpfully lobbed in the verbal grenade from cover in a tight game with Totternhoe to spark a minor diplomatic incident. Beefy responded to the Totternhoe umpire’s surprising decision to turn down what appeared to be an excellent appeal by helpfully observing, “It’s ok, lads. If they want to win by cheating, let them.”

God knows what he was doing in the covers, mind you.

And through all this, not to mention myriad other disappointments and misadventures that would have driven a lesser man to call it a day or take up another sport, I can rarely remember him conveying even the slightest impression that he was not enjoying himself immensely.

Others might have flung bats and helmets as they struggled to treat triumph and disaster on equal terms but Beefy, perhaps because when it came to cricket he endured a blissful relationship with Dame Despair, seldom saw any point in being downbeat for long about his latest batting mishap.

Perhaps his greatest cricketing gift was the ability to take genuine delight in the success of his teammates. While he was happy to apply his trademark observation to most of his trips to the middle (“I thought I did all right”) regardless of whether or not they produced their customary single-figure dismissal, he rarely missed the opportunity to congratulate a colleague on their performance.

To that extent he was as good a clubman as you could wish to find, his attributes extending to a willingness to pick people up, umpire or score - and even to navigate when he found himself pressed into service as emergency navigator on a club expedition to Edgbaston. Looking back it’s unclear quite what qualities Beefy possessed for the role - an intimate knowledge of the backstreets of Birmingham was not one of them - as he directed the minibus ever deeper into the urban jungle before eventually finding his way to the ground.

There’s not a lot else to say. While few would argue that Balmer Bains was one of the least accomplished cricketers that they ever shared a dressing room with (I stand by my previous assertion that his batting stance resembled a man playing French Cricket with a frying pan), they’d be hard-pushed to think of many more fundamentally decent people.

He left us in 2003 to live in Coventry and bring up his family in his homeland. Obviously, he joined a Cricket Club and made an enormous impact at Highway Spartans CC where he continued to play for a while before turning his talents to Coaching and Administration. He certainly made an impact in this role. Running youth teams, organising lower league teams and playing a major part in Warwickshire Youth Cricket. So well did he do at this that he was rewarded with the first Chairmans Award at Highway Spartans for contribution to local cricket in 2015 (as well as a trip to the Caribbean by a very grateful youth Cricket organiser (this was a personal award at the expense of a private individual, says something about the contribution he made to society).

He will be greatly missed by everyone at Offley & Stopsley Cricket Club.