Mrs Line and Length

Queen Elizabeth II was one of the stars of the first two seasons of the Ten10. As the opening bowler for the repeat champion Kings and Queens Royals, she reigned over the top order of most teams. Elizabeth shared the title of best bowler in the league in Season 1 with John Betjeman, both taking 21 wickets at an average of 16.86. In Season 2, she took 14 wickets at 21.4 and was a part of the quartet of bowlers (with William II, Robert the Bruce and William I ) with economy rates under 16 runs per over that won the Royals the league. But Season 3 was a different story.
Mrs Line and Length was first published by the Cross Country Writers page in the Plymouth Herald.

Mrs Line and Length

Mrs Line and Length,
Her Royal Highness
Queen Elizabeth II,
at her best, bowls
like Angus Fraser.
At night, she falls
asleep counting balls
that shave the varnish
from an off stump.

For two full seasons,
Her Majesty delivered
ball after ball that was
not there to be hit; but
today, a slow start has
collapsed into a slump.
Four matches, no wickets;
Carted to all corners by
poets and Prime Ministers.

Her failures are the sloped
shoulders of the team’s losing
streak; the tears in the
lukewarm after match beers.
No umpire dare go near
her with a light meter for
she is a storm cloud of duty
stretching, like her average,
towards an infinite horizon.

Victoria makes changes
in a pre-match huddle.
Elizabeth will bowl third.
Robert the Bruce tells her
not to worry. She is royalty,
and form is temporary
but class is permanent.
But he may not mean this
to be an encouragement.

Marking a runout, demoted,
Mrs Line and Length feels
the protected warmth of
life inside the slipstream.
Four wickets already fallen
to William I and II, she finds
a quickening rhythm and as
the crease arrives she feels
this ball is laser-guided and

Wally Hammond swishes the
air wildly at one that was not
there to be hit and William IV,
standing close to the stumps,
removes the bails and appeals,
hands raised towards square leg.
Relief; like wearing slippers
in the palace, like knowing
beyond doubt that you belong.

© Simon Travers, 2014

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