The story of the clergyman and the England cricket captain. No joke. Really!

1 August 2023 By Paul Martin

By Paul Martin 

Ever heard the one about the clergyman and the England cricket captain?  Sounds like the start of a joke.  But, honestly, it really really happened.

I was reporting on a limited-over international cricket match between England and South Africa in Birmingham when, to my surprise, I was greeted by a Man of the Cloth I knew — in the grandstand at the interval for change of innings.   Like a number of clergy, he was and is an ardent cricket fan.

At that time, September 2012, he explained, a former congregant had given him a much-prized ticket to the big match.  

But he was about to miss England’s innings — there had been a delay because of rain, so the match was going to end late into the night, and if the clergyman stayed he would miss the last train back to London.  I had driven up, and was pleased to suggest he get a lift back with me — an offer he couldn’t refuse.  

“Just send me a text after the match as to which gate you’ll meet me at, and I’ll come down after the captains’ press conferences,” I said.

At the second of the two post-match press conferences, I put my iPhone on ‘Record’ and placed it on the table in front of Stuart Broad, alongside other reporters’ phones or tape-recorders.  

Broad, who had captained the limited-overs team that night, was in full flow explaining why England had won, when his voice was interrupted by a shrill ringing sound.  

Oh heck!  It was, er, my iPhone.  I rushed forward to cut it off.  But Broad was too quick for me.  He picked it up, but Instead of pressing the off button, he answered it.

“Hello, this is Stuart,” he declared in a loud voice.  Then he put the call on loudspeaker.  

“But I’m phoning for Paul,” said the disembodied voice.  

“Oh”, Broad said, “so you want Paul, do you?”

There was sniggering all around the press room.  I sank back into my chair, deeply embarrassed. I was – as they say — on a very sticky wicket.

“Sorry,” Broad continued, “Paul isn’t available. He’s in a press conference. Would you like to speak to me instead?”  

” But I need to speak to Paul. He’s giving me a lift,” the clergyman said. “It’s getting late.”

“Don’t you wanna speak to me rather?” asked Broad.  “It’s Stuart. Paul’s busy.”  More laughter from the media hacks.

“Stuart who?” said the clergyman.   “Broad,” said Broad. “I’ll try and keep my answers short.”

 “Okay — stop joking around.   Who are you really?   Come on, please just put Paul on the line.”  

I was finding out first-hand that the tall fast-bowler had an impish sense of humour.  But what about my colleagues?  I felt like shrinking under the floorboards.

At this stage I just had to leap up off my chair.  I struggled to wrestle the phone from Broad’s oversized hands, to the considerable continued amusement of the assembled scribes.

 Finally in possession of the instrument, I said breathlessly: “That really was Stuart.  Yes, Stuart Broad.  Yes really!”  

He said he didn’t believe me.  “I’m waiting for you at Gate A,” he informed me.

“We’ll all meet you there,” said Broad.  

The press conference ended soon afterwards, and I got another call.  The clergyman again.   “Hi Paul, aha it’s you this time.  It’s so late I’ve just walked out with the entire South African team, who were getting a coach. It wasn’t really Stuart Broad, was it?”   

On the way back to London, the clergyman and I had a good laugh.

The Man of the Cloth says he has been dining out on this story, perhaps embellishing it, ever since.  

Having drawn the T20 series, Broad and his teammates went on to lose the subsequent Test series, and South Africa reached World Number One ranking — a story I wrote up proudly in the Independent, since I had grown up and played low-league cricket there. 

 Stuart Broad has now become, for other reasons, England’s cricketing hero. ( For those of you who don’t follow cricket, may I inform you that, aged 37, he has just retired from international cricket after scoring a six off his last ball batting in Tests and then, gloriously, capturing the last two Australian wickets and levelling the Ashes series. That took his Test-match bowling tally for England to 604 dismissals, the second-highest ever by an England bowler.)

Broad will no doubt transform himself into a star television pundit commentating on future matches.  If or when I run into him in the press room again, I might even ask for his autograph to give to the clergyman.  Oh yes, and a personal note, if Stuart doesn’t mind, confirming to the Man of the Cloth that, no joking, it really was him on the phone!