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When Catherine Zeta-Jones made her way into Wisden

Catherine Zeta-Jones 9 Getty Images
In 2003 Mumbles Cricket Club President Mark Portsmouth had announced that the first player to hit the ball into Catherine Zeta-Jones’s (above) residence would be rewarded with  £100 © Getty Images

In August 2003 Mumbles Cricket Club had announced a slightly unusual £100 reward to the member who could achieve a certain feat. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at Catherine Zeta-Jones’s brush with cricket.

It was supposed to be another English summer, 2003. The soft aroma of fresh grass, the flutter of the butterflies and damselflies, the vivid yet calm hues of green and blue, the flavour of English breakfast tea, and the magical sound of leather on willow: it was no different from most English summers.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, then married to Michael Douglas for three years, had settled down in a mansion worth a million pounds in Mumbles Village, close to Swansea. It could have been just another celebrity residence, barring the fact that there was a cricket club nearby.

To quote from the Mumbles Cricket Club website, “Cricket has been played in Mumbles village and the Gower Peninsula for more than 130 years.” Mumbles Cricket Club had been around since 1925, but it was probably for the first time that celebrities of this stature had stayed in its vicinity. Mark Portsmouth, the President of the Club, shortly announced that the first player to hit the ball into Zeta-Jones’s s residence will be given a reward of £100.

It was no mean feat to achieve: the distance was an estimated 150 yards, and as per Wisden, the biggest recorded six till date has reached a distance of 175 yards. BBC added: “One thing’s for sure, the ball would have to be hit very hard to break the windows, because they are bullet-proof. Even Andrew Flintoff might have a struggle on his hands.”

Portsmouth, the man who had announced the award, had commented on the same in an interview to BBC: “It would have to be a massive six, but it would be fun if someone did it. Can you imagine them returning the ball?” One could not help but appreciate the President’s judgement of the players’ bravado.

The announcement even made its way to Wisden. It was the same year that the almanac had come out with its inaugural audio-book version; Christopher Martin-Jenkins, no less, had done the voice-over for the event.

As far as knowledge goes, the £100 award has remained unclaimed.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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