by Oliver Fleming
L surveyed the scene grimly. Bad enough that last week’s game against those nitwit apparatchiks from Blair-Mandelson House – L could never understand why they called themselves The Gaieties – had been rained out such that his magnificent half-century wouldn’t count towards the season stats. Worse still that he had been forced to go along with this touchy-feely corporate team building woke HR bullshit in the first place. Now one of his infernal Double-Ohs, Struthers no less, had gone completely off the reservation and actually brought his squeeze to this week’s match against Jesmond House. What was her name again? Maura? Laura?
“It’s probably M,” muttered L under his breath.
The usual back-room horse-trading had produced the usual result: Jesmond House would bat first. By now L knew well enough how to get what he wanted. He tossed the new ball to Double-Oh Tasty. “Sign a chit for that, Taste,” he advised drily. “It’s government property.”
Jubilee or no, Jesmond House clearly weren’t in a mood to respect Her Majesty’s inventory, and L’s mood was pretty browned off by the lack of penetration from his attack. “I don’t like this end,” grumbled 00-Struthers as Jesmond House’s openers clattered yet another boundary. The first wicket was worth 100 in less than 15 overs, Jesmond mixing up some good attacking shots with some lucky hoicks and edges. Nothing was working for L in this unfamiliar terrain. The rules aren’t the same anymore, he reflected. Partygate really screwed the PM this time.
The canny spymaster decided to mix it up in return. He sent the newest Double-Oh, Bennett, into the fray with seasoned asset 00-Olly deployed in deep cover on the other side, for a classic spin-swing pincer manoeuvre. At first it was to no avail. “Take a blow, Olly,” said L. “Why? I’ve nearly got this guy,” the belligerent maverick shot back and L had to gnash his teeth to prevent a very public face-off with his underling. More bloody backchat from the damned operational staff.
But L trusted his men anyway, and suddenly the spin-swing pincer started to pinch. Jesmond House were 6 down with the run rate dropping towards an acceptable 5. L allowed himself a thin smile of satisfaction as he plotted the final demise of the enemy. I’m from the 70s, it’s time to kill this switch.
Traditionalists might frown on the head of Her Majesty’s Secret Service going out into active field duty, but L’s rapid returns rewarded the risk. And yet, just when Gardeners House could entertain thoughts of an uncomplicated resolution, Jesmond House came again, the final two wickets worth 75 egregious runs. Damn blast FUUUUUCK, L seethed, his ice cool visage betraying precisely nil of his inner rage.
Chief of Staff Seaton laid on the tiffin and L’s mood improved considerably with a couple of Battenberg slices and a hot cup of good old fashioned English tea, stirred, not shaken. Now he pondered his options. 231 enemy agents to be hunted down and eliminated. How do we keep the other side guessing?
L opted for orthodoxy and outrage, sending out the redoubtable 00-Woodhouse with maverick 00-Olly to start. KERRACK! Olly’s bat spat like a snub-nosed Walther PPK as the third ball of the innings was driven over cover for 6. He followed up with two more cover fours, but the cameo assault couldn’t last as Olly perished in the same hail of bails he had visited upon his opponents earlier. Double-Ohs have a short life expectancy.
With 00-Woodhouse keeping one British end up, 00-J-Lo played some enterprising strokes on the other. L shook his head in exasperation at all the innuendo. We have to change that designation; 00-J-Lo makes us look like some kind of damned celebrity telephone sex line.
As another wicket fell, L allowed his mind to slip back into happier times, newer wheels and faster cars. And so he sent in the F-type Double-Ohs, Ferris and Freddie, to rev things up, though it was 00-Tasty who got the innings moving forward, scything boundaries around the field in a memorable debut for his brand new Gunn. Less of a random killing machine, more of a personal statement.
Eventually 00-Tasty would perish, caught in the deep, and L had only three assets remaining with whom to finish the job and preserve liberty in the world (or at the very least Britain’s last vestiges of post-Brexit soft power). In a game that had ebbed and flowed and given both sides their moments in the sun, could the Gardeners House captain manage the final push, with nought but his wits and the company of his trusted Chief of Staff Seaton, the aficionado of aural artistry 00-Tilney, and sinister sorcerer of swing 00-Struthers?
Not this time; Jesmond House prevailed by 40 runs. L shrugged. The good guys don’t always win, but the Circus carries on. Next time, Jesmond…