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The Wonder of Williams (266 Days and counting)

Following his first two innings at the start of the 2011 season, dashing left-handed batsman Colin Williams appeared to have the cricketing world at his feet.

A sparkling 32 on a terror track at Eggington had been followed by an elegant 52 at Biggleswade. These knocks suggested he was poised to build on his impressive form of 2010 where he produced a pair of half-centuries, including a highest score of 71.

Unfortunately things have gone slightly pear-shaped since that day at Biggleswade last June. Eleven trips to the crease have produced the grand total of 36 runs – the majority of which came in the return fixture with Biggleswade when he made an unbeaten 20.

It all began to go wrong at Pilgrims Oakley where Williams, fresh off that half-century at Biggleswade, failed to get off the mark as he was caught at slip hooking. Pause for a moment to digest the geometrical implications of hooking a ball into the hands of first slip and one begins to understand the reasons for his shocking decline. There was a brief improvement against Dunstable the following week. Williams – who had been the lone supporter of Matthew Freeman’s decision to bowl first on the hottest day of the year – succeeded in getting off the mark with a single before missing a straight one.

Three weeks elapsed before Williams’ next trip to the crease at Aspley Guise. In many ways it was an action replay of his performance against Dunstable, getting off the mark with a single before walking back to the pavilion after having his stumps rearranged. The runs briefly began to flow again at the end of July. Two sweetly timed boundaries against Eggington suggested Williams was back in form before he was bowled for the third time in as many innings, out for 8.

Suspicions that Williams’ defensive technique needed some improvement appeared to be confirmed when he was bowled without scoring at Sandy.

At this point Williams’ average had dropped from 42.00 after the first two games of the season to 13.14, a decline of precipitous proportions where Williams’ batting had ceased to be defined by the sound of leather on willow and replaced by the dull thud of leather on ash. The visit of Biggleswade provided some relief, the friendly offerings of the Biggleswade Pie Servers Association allowing Williams to find some succour as he cracked an unbeaten 20 to help Offley to a 132-run victory. That innings earned him a promotion to number four for the game with Leighton Buzzard and Williams responded with more runs – six of them in fact – before, not for the first time, he was cleaned up.

It was August 21. Mark that date well. It has resonated down the ages as the day on which Quantrill’s Raiders destroyed the town of Lawrence in Kansas, the day the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre, the day the Battle of the Somme began and most importantly – as far as we are concerned – the day on which Colin Williams last scored a run.

That is not to say he has not had the opportunity to rectify things since then. There have been opportunities – plenty of them in fact. Williams might have made a century at Dunstable. He might have but he did not. Plans for a celebration were put on hold when he was bowled (Sensation!) without scoring. A rare Saturday outing against St Joseph’s allowed Williams to end his season with a bang. Unfortunately the season ended with the ball banging into the stumps before he had got off the mark.

That brought the curtain down on Williams’ season after he had scored 120 runs at an average of 12.00.

Despite the disappointing end to the campaign Williams vowed to bounce back in 2012 and armed with a new blade strode out to bat against Clifton, keen to lead a late rally and get his season off to a flying start. One ball later Williams was on his way after he fended a lifter to the fielder. It represented progress of a sorts – after all after being bowled seven times in a row at least this time he had the consolation of having been able to get his bat in the way of the ball.

After a sticky start at Ickleford Williams dug in to play a solid seven-ball knock before his fallibility to the straight ball was demonstrated once again as he fell victim to a full toss that flattened his off stump.

It was May 13. In other words 266 days had passed since Williams last scored a run. During that period there have been babies who have been born prematurely who had not even been conceived when Williams last got off the mark. Colonel Gadaffi was alive the last time Williams scored a run.

Yet now Williams stands on the brink of history. His run of four consecutive ducks has equalled the hapless brilliance of Rizwan Hamid, a man who racked up 24 ducks in 75 innings for Offley & Stopsley but never managed to produce four in a row.

In an Olympic year, Colin Williams is now one innings – one straight ball – away from earning a fifth ring of his own to clinch his personal Olympian status. Can he do it?

Eggington – and history – await!