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Simon Bexley - The Running Man

Our intrepid reporter Carl Kentish caught up with batting superstar and everyone's favourite running partner for this EXCLUSIVE interview to discuss running between the stumps. AS he himself will say 'he's never been run out, but he's seen plenty'

Simon Bexley is a cricketer.

Although he is a talented batsman, Simon’s shameful secret is that his greatest talent – and also the thing that gives him illicit delight – lies in his ability to run his teammates out with nerveless precision.

It’s been a long career and Simon has finally agreed to talk to us about his sick, twisted fetish for running out his friends.

We join him at his palatial residence, a stone’s throw from the Marsh Farm estate. Rest assured that Simon will beat any throw and be safely back in the crease of his own home before any trouble can befall him on the mean streets of the Farm.

Simon’s front room contains a couple of cricket bats. Old scorebooks litter the floor and a copy of the internationally acclaimed literary classic The First Eleven sits on a table, nestling between a Chicken George box and an empty packet of Smiths’ Salt ’n’ Shake crisps.

Simon shuffles nervously in his seat, anxiously awaiting the first question and perhaps secretly craving the chance to bear his soul and share the burden of his terrible affliction with the world. This is the man who has turned running between the wickets into a game of its own, run out roulette if you will.

“Why do I do it?” Simon asks slowly. “It’s hard to say I suppose. In all honesty I’ve never meant to run anyone out. It’s just that sometimes things happen. Something takes over. It’s not something that I can control. The thing you need to remember is that it’s not simply a case of yelling ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ and then the devil take the hindmost. If it were a simple case of speed there would hardly ever be a run out. Most batsmen will beat a fielder’s throw every day of the week – unless they’re really slow-moving like Wayne or Phil.”

“The key to a run out is sowing the seeds of suspicion and doubt. I guess in its purest form a run out is a bit like espionage. You lure your partner into your confidence and then you strike. And if you get it right, it can be a thing of real beauty.

“I mean, I remember one game at Breachwood Green where I ran out two guys in the space of a couple of overs. The first one was a ripper. Rizzy was sure I was going to come for the second run – it was in the closing overs after all – but I sent him back and he didn’t make it. Then I repeated the same trick with old Ramiz. That was great in a way. It was almost a double bluff. After all, he couldn’t believe that I simply wouldn’t go for it and the poor old bastard was out by a mile, dead as a fucking dodo.”

Simon pauses for a moment, perhaps aware that he is speaking with undue relish about the demise of a teammate. “The thing you have to remember is that I learned from the best. I mean, I remember back in the day when I used to bat with The Prince and Kevin Shithouse. Now there were a couple of greats. They could count the balls in an over like Rain Man counting cards in a casino. They always made sure they nicked the strike off the sixth ball. Also, they always made sure that they would run extra hard for a single or to come back for two if they’d hit the ball in the first place. You had to learn to survive. They taught you about valuing your wicket, about the necessity of collateral damage.”

Not for the first time Simon seems concerned that he may be revealing too much. After all, labelling his colleagues – people who are, after all, friends and associates – as collateral damage in waiting may be regarded as being a shade raw.

“Look, it’s cricket. You need to remember it’s a question of survival of the fittest. You make your own luck between the wickets. Above all you need to make your own mind up and decide that whoever else is going to get marooned halfway down the track it’s not going to be you.”

Simon is off to a cracking start this year. The runs might not have been flowing quite as freely as he would like but he has already been involved in five run outs and has successfully emerged unscathed from all of them. “I have to admit that I’m quite proud. I mean after all not many people rack up a flush of run outs in a season, let alone a six-week stretch. Some of them weren’t easy and I can’t even claim credit for all of them. Let’s face it, Richie went down like Hansie Cronje’s cargo plane hitting the deck. But I stitched the Geordie in fine style – second ball! – and stranded Nath despite his speed. I’m so hot at the moment that even when the batsman makes his ground or the bowler fails to break the stumps cleanly, the umpire gives it out anyway!”

It’s certainly fair to say that Simon is in the form of his life, orchestrating his team’s running between the wickets like a crackpot radical encouraging the faithful to sacrifice themselves as suicide bombers with the promise of 27 virgins while he struggles on out in the middle. Yet does he have a favourite run out victim, one that allows him to smile at the very thought of the misdeed.

“An all time number one? I don’t know. I mean there have been so many. Where do you start? Picking a favourite run out is like asking Colin to pick his favourite Eurythmics song. I’ve had some beauties. Back in the old days at Welwyn I ran Dave out going for a second. The best part was he’d run one short in the first place because he knew it was going to be tight!

“I got Richie with a good one at Wardown once. I hit it to gully and took off and the dummy went for it and was out by about six yards. Mind you, that was a bit of payback for when he ran me out for 1 there against Houghton Town back in ’98....

“To be fair I’ve done most of the boys. I once spent the best part of half an hour persuading Cera to open the batting with me and then I sent him on his way by turning down a third inside the first two overs. I’ve down Matthew. He may be like a son to me but I’ve never had any qualm about stitching the little bugger up when it comes to preserving my own wicket. I scuppered Tatts at Therfield when he was going like a train. Ran it down to third man and called him through for it even though it was his shout. That would have been a lot more amusing if Richie hadn’t done the same thing to me two overs later....”

Simon leans back in his chair and considers the past – and perhaps the future. “There will always be run outs. A will always be quicker than B and C will always be a really rotten judge of a single. You just need to make sure that you come out on top and make sure that you don’t get run out by D who happens to be slow as an ox, decisive as a pigeon and runs between the wickets like a suicidal lemming.

“The other thing you have to bear in mind is that sometimes certain players have to have their wickets sacrificed for the good of the team. I’m not perfect. I have my flaws. But sometimes you have to accept that mix ups in the middle are a bit like mercy killings and it’s in everyone’s best interests for me to still be out there while the hapless individual at the other end – or better still the hapless individual in the middle of the wicket – shuffles off. They might moan when they get back to the pavilion but I reckon deep down if you ask them, they’ll admit that they’re happy that I’ve run them out for the good of the team. Obviously they don’t get the chance to score any more runs but vicariously they’ll be able to enjoy my innings a little bit more and think that they helped contribute to my success; even though obviously they won’t have done.”

Does it ever hurt Simon to be accused of being a dodgy runner between the wickets? “Of course it hurts,” Simon says with venom in his voice. “I mean there’s no justice. It’s not easy to strand so many people and make it look like an accident every time; well, most of the time.

“What really hurts is that I don’t even get the recognition I deserve. They don’t even call me The Terminator. No, fucking Richie gets the fucking nickname. Just because he fucking ran four of his partners out in a single fucking afternoon at Wardown he gets the cool nickname. Nathan gets Forrest Gump. What do I get? Nothing! After all I’ve done for them and they don’t even recognise my efforts with a cool nickname like the Run Out King. I deserve to be the Exterminator or the Eliminator or the Executioner or the Raja of Run Outs. Maybe if they gave me a nickname I could finally stop doing it. I’d even settle for Bex the Ripper. Anything! I want some recognition!”

In the wake of that outburst of resentment and regret it’s time to go. Our time with the Running Man is over. We thank Simon for his time and he shows us to the door. There is a mat inside and it’s possible to see where the carpet has been worn out around the edges, an obvious legacy of Simon practicing the art of sliding his bat into his crease.

It’s clear that Simon Bexley will keep on running for a few more years to come, relying on his wits and speed, to say nothing of a series of indulgent sacrificial lambs, to keep the runs flowing and his wicket intact. And some day, one day, he may finally get the nickname he deserves.

(One name has been changed to protect the guilty)