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To the end and back again

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Any young boy or girl who loved cricket dreamt of playing at Lord’s, in England. To make your Test debut there? Yeah, pretty special. This was the case for a young man named Steve, who had just turned 21, and a slightly older man, Tim, who was 25.

Since both men were debuting in the same Test, they were roomed together. Tim and Steve had met a few times here and there, and this tour had included a few short format matches before the Test, but sharing a hotel room was their first opportunity to really get to know each other.

When they got to the hotel, Steve went straight up to their room while Tim had a chat to some of the coaching staff.

By the time Tim got upstairs, their room looked like a bomb site. Steve had managed to open his suitcase upside down, and everything that had been lovingly packed (by his mother, though Steve would hate to admit that) was strewn all over the bed closest to the window.

“Uh, I guess I’ll take this bed?” Tim gestured uncomfortably to the other bed, closer to the en-suite.

Steve looked up at Tim from his position on the floor, searching under the bed for something, and a blush overwhelmed his face. “Sorry, would you rather this one?” He stood up, desperately trying to flip his case right side up, but the remaining belongings previously in the bag all fell out as well.

Tim chuckled nervously. “No, it’s okay. Can I help you there?” He gestured to Steve’s bed with the pile of mess on it.

“It’s okay, I just- I’m a bit nervous about all this,” Steve admitted quietly.

Tim smiled softly. “That’s okay, I am too.”

“Just seems like everyone else is really tight-knit and I feel like I’m intruding,” Steve said to the pile of mess on his bed.

Tim sat down on the side of his own bed to look at Steve, his own luggage forgotten at the door for the moment. “Hey, we’re both new here, we can stick together,” he offered. “Everyone else started at zero tests too. Maybe one day we’ll be the ones welcoming new boys.”

Steve considered this for a moment, and for the first time, smiled at Tim. “That’s actually a lovely thought, Tim,” he said softly. “Thank you.”

“We’re playing a Test match at Lord’s,” Tim said, disbelievingly. “My dream since I can remember.”

“Mine, too,” grinned Steve. “Hope I don’t fuck this up.”

Tim took two steps towards Steve and squeezed his shoulder. “Just be yourself and give it your best. That’s why you’re here.”

Steve quirked a smile. “You’ll be the Test captain one day, Tim, I can feel it.”

Tim scoffed and pushed Steve away playfully. “Enough bullshit, Steve, I know you’re young but you can’t be that stupid!”

Steve laughed, having fallen backwards onto his bottom, sitting on the carpet between the beds, looking up at Tim. “I’m serious! You have a way with words,” Steve waggled his eyebrows.

“To get you into bed maybe, not to be a bloody Test captain, get a grip,” Tim laughed lightly, as if he were commenting on the weather.

Steve flushed at Tim’s suggestion, and busied himself with his unpacking to hide his embarrassment.

Tim cringed to himself when he realised what had come out of his mouth, but Steve was unpacking now so he figured he should do the same. He hauled his own suitcase over to his bed and unzipped it, right way up.

“This is how it’s meant to be done,” Tim joked, looking pointedly at Steve’s upside-down mess.

Steve dropped his head to his hands. “Give me your extra years of life experiences,” he groaned dramatically.

“Hey, I’m only twenty-five,” Tim parried.

“That’s so old,” Steve exaggerated.

Tim pouted. “Excuse me, I’m a spring chicken. But you can’t talk about age, aren’t you fresh off Schoolies?”

Steve scoffed. “I’m twenty one thank you, I’m so much more mature than any year twelve out there.”

Tim shook his head. “Ok, young pup, no need to get defensive,” he teased.

Steve flushed again. Something about Tim really got under his skin, and not necessarily in a dislikable way. Tim was cheeky, and there was an immediate sense of ease between the two of them that made Steve feel warm and comfortable.

After ten minutes, Tim had managed to get out everything he’d need in the hotel room, and figured everything else could stay in his case until he needed it. Steve, on the other hand, had managed to wrestle the majority of his possessions back into the suitcase, and heaved it back onto the ground. It was bursting at the seams, but at least the mess was gone from his bed.

“Do you want to go for a walk?” Tim asked after a while.

“Are we allowed to?” Steve turned to look at him.

Tim scoffed. “You’re such a good boy, Steven, so worried about the rules.”

Steve frowned, but couldn’t stop the heat that settled in his stomach.

“I’m kidding,” Tim said when he noticed Steve’s reaction. “Ricky said we have all day to ourselves til team dinner at 6,” he explained.

“Oh, okay,” Steve said. He looked at his watch, and saw it was just past 2pm. “Where do you wanna go?”

Tim shrugged. “Wherever our imagination takes us,” he said cryptically.

They were both wearing light sweaters, but Steve put a jacket on over the top before they headed out.

Tim raised an eyebrow. “It’s twenty degrees, Steve.”

“Exactly, fucking freezing,” Steve frowned.

Tim held the door for him as they left their hotel room and headed for the lift down to the lobby.

“Ah, I forgot you were a Sydney boy,” Tim smirked. “So sheltered.”

Steve poked his tongue out at Tim, much to the disturbance of an elderly lady sharing the elevator with them. “We don’t all live in Tasmania, Tim. What’s it like being so far away from everyone else?”

Tim rolled his eyes. “Are you gonna cause me this much trouble for the whole Test?” His grin made sure Steve felt no sting from his words, and Steve just smirked in response.

“I’m gonna cause you trouble for every match we ever play together,” Steve waggled his eyebrows.

The elevator doors opened on the ground floor and the elderly woman raced out as quickly as she could on her cane, shooting a disturbed look at the boys over her shoulder.

“Is that a threat, or a promise?” Tim bumped Steve’s shoulder playfully with his own.

“It’s whatever you want it to be,” Steve returned, trying to keep his aggressive blush under control. Damn, Tim made him feel alive.

They walked out onto the street in front of their hotel, and at that exact point, Steve realised London was a very, very big city.

“I thought we’d be able to walk to see Big Ben,” Steve huffed in disappointment, looking up and down the street.

Tim laughed. “We’re nowhere near Big Ben. But we could get a taxi to check it out if you want,” he suggested, managing to keep the hint of worry out of his voice that he might get turned down.

He need not have worried. “Oh my gosh, actually?!” Steve bounced up and down on his toes, reaching for Tim’s hand on reflex. As soon as he realised what he’d done, he tore his hand away and blurted, “Shit! Sorry, accident.”

Tim just quirked a smile at him. He wouldn’t admit it, but his own hand was tingling pleasantly where Steve’s had touched it moments before.

“Come on, let’s go,” Tim said when a taxi pulled up in front of them.

The ride to see Big Ben was short in distance, but with the traffic it took them a little while. They couldn’t have walked from their hotel, though.

When they arrived, Steve was in awe. Tim wanted to etch Steve’s expression into his memory forever. The clock tower was very impressive in person, and Steve couldn’t look away. After a few moments of staring in wonderment, Tim felt a pressure in his hand. For a split second, Tim hoped it might be Steve’s own hand again, but that idea evaporated when he looked down and realised Steve was pushing a digital camera into his hand.

“Please take a photo of me for my Mum and Dad? They’d love it! I can take one for you, too!” Steve beamed.

Tim felt a rush of affection for Steve and ducked his head to hide a goofy smile. “Sure,” he said, turning on the camera. “Smile!”

Steve grinned and threw his arms out to attempt to frame the clock tower. It ended up being an incredibly silly photo, but Tim thought it was the cutest thing he’d ever seen.

“No, that’s awful, delete it!” Steve whined, grabbing at the camera.

“No way! We can take another, but you have to keep that. For memories,” Tim declared.

Steve pouted but agreed reluctantly, posing for a more relaxed photo the second time. Steve was a lot happier with the next shot, so he offered to take one of Tim. Just as he was about to pass the camera over, a young tourist offered to take a photo of them together.

Tim blushed, trying to ignore the thrill in his stomach at being perceived as a couple.

“Why not?” Steve shrugged.

Tim threw an arm around Steve’s waist, and Steve leant into him. They both gave the camera cheesy grins. Little did they know, that picture would be in their lives for a long time.

After that, they took a stroll along the scenic river, overwhelmed by all the famous landmarks.

Tim was itching for a coffee, so they stopped at a lovely, warm looking cafe and took a seat by the window so they could look at the sights. In the distance, they could see the London Eye.

Tim paid for his coffee, and a hot chocolate for Steve.

“Thank you, you didn’t have to,” Steve said shyly.

Tim shrugged. “Maybe it can be our Test tradition. Hopefully this is the first of many matches together,” he smiled optimistically.

The match began the next day. Australia batted first, and Tim was in at number seven, as he was the ‘keeper. He saw out 46 balls, but only managed to make seven runs.

Steve’s fortunes in the first innings were even worse. At number eight, he only made one run off seven balls. When he trudged back through the Long Room, Tim was waiting for him, and gave him a consolidatory hug.

Pakistan’s first innings saw a change in fortunes for Tim, however, as he managed to take four catches. Steve ran to hug and congratulate him every time, and if his embrace lingered, Tim didn’t seem to mind.

Australia’s second innings was much better for Tim. He fell just shy of his first half century, bowled on 47 by Afridi. However, he got to bat with Steve for the first time, and they added 20 runs together before Steve was out LBW on 12.

Pakistan’s second innings was a modest success for Tim, with a catch and a stumping. On top of that, Steve managed to take 3 wickets with his bowling.

Overall, both boys were happy with their Test debuts.

When they both settled into their hotel room for the final night in London, they reminisced about their favourite parts of the match.

At one point, Steve‘s eyes were closed, and Tim was sure he was asleep, until Steve mused, “No matter what happens in our careers from now on, we’re always gonna have two baggy greens next to each other. How cool is that?”

Tim couldn’t help but smile. Numbers 414 and 415 would always be theirs.

If only the journey after that debut were a smooth one.