The village team comes out to bat, but their first five batsmen are all out for single figure scores. Leo loses concentration on the match and daydreams about a cloud in the sky. But a “rattle and clatter” draws his attention back to the match—the villagers are making excited noises as Ted is coming to bat.
The match isn’t really dramatic enough for Leo—it doesn’t have the Olympian epic quality that he desires. But the appearance of Ted, who is clearly popular with the villagers, gets his attention. The village team is doing badly, but clearly a lot is expected of Ted’s batting.
Ted proves very good at batting, and quickly racks up over fifty runs. Leo confusedly wants him to do well, while still wanting his own team to win. Ted’s way of playing is more exciting, and Leo contrasts it with Mr. Maudsley’s more staid and sensible style. Leo feels they represent a conflict between different attitudes to life: order and lawlessness, tradition and rebellion, stability and revolution.
Leo feels his loyalties torn. His closeness to Ted makes him want Ted to succeed, but he also wants his own team to win so that they will be happy (and so that class hierarchies are maintained). He clearly sees two opposites at play, representing all kinds of division in society and human nature more generally. This reflects Leo’s dual identities—he’s a boy, but he also wants to live in the grown-up world as their precious messenger. Ted represents a wilder way of life than Brandham Hall, which Leo is undeniably attracted to (as, of course, is Marian).
Leo sits beside Marian, who appears to be very emotional, with trembling lips and flushed cheeks. Leo feels conflicted about the growing feeling in him that he wants the village team to win. They now need just twenty-one runs to surpass the Hall team’s total. Ted hits a long ball that deflects off a fielder’s hand and then nearly hits Mrs. Maudsley in the stand; it scares her but then she laughs about it.
Clearly Marian is conflicted too—not because she can’t decide who she wants to win, but because she can’t let on that she wants Ted to do well and secure victory for the village. She is isolated by her secret. The ball that almost hits and scares Mrs. Maudsley once again suggests the physical threat of Ted—or more accurately, it suggests that he is seen as a physical threat, as a “wild” man of the working classes.
The Hall team’s fielder whose hand was struck by the ball is now injured. He is unable to continue. Trimingham calls up their twelfth-man to come on as a replacement: Leo. As Leo walks onto the field, Trimingham insists to him that they need to get Ted out. Trimingham places Leo far outfield. Ted continues to score, bringing his team within ten runs of the Hall’s score. Leo senses that the drama of the match is not just “tenant and landlord, commoner and peer, village and Hall,” but also “something to do with Marian.”
Leo perceives the cricket match as a proxy battle for many issues, but especially now the rivalry between Ted and Trimingham for Marian’s affections. Placing Leo so far outfield suggests that he isn’t really expected to do much. Leo is now playing for a team he’s not sure he actually wants to win. Psychologically he is divided between the refined world of the Hall and the wilder nature of Ted; in this way he has something fundamental in common with Marian.
Trimingham bowls a ball at Ted, who strikes a “glorious drive.” Leo now feels strongly that he wants Ted’s team to win. The next ball hit from Ted heads straight towards Leo “on a rising straight line like a cable stretched between us.” Ted stares at Leo with “wonder in his eyes and a wild disbelief.”
Leo feels that the trajectory of the ball between him and Ted is like a thread that ties their fates together. In a small way, it represents a victory for Leo over Ted—but the conflict is far from over.
Leo catches the ball, the impact knocking him over. The spectators applaud him, and Trimingham comes over to congratulate Leo on catching Ted out and winning the match for the Hall. The team heads back to the pavilion, with Leo feeling “it was as a man, and not by any means the least of men, that I joined the group who were making their way back.”
This one-in-a-million catch from Leo feels like it was fated, written in the stars. Leo instantly wins the respect of everyone at the Hall and, because he’s just a boy, the villagers too. His success gives him a real sense of belonging and, importantly, of becoming a man. Being a man, he feels, has everything to do with how other men perceive you.
Leo is elated, but also feels a “pang of regret” at making the catch. He wonders how Ted will react to Leo catching him out. He goes up to Ted and apologizes, but Ted tells him how impressed he was by the catch: “I never thought I’d be caught out by our postman.” As they walk back to the pavilion, the villagers rapturously clap Ted for his heroic efforts. Leo notices that Marian doesn’t look up as they pass.
Leo is worried that he’s upset Ted, but Ted isn’t really bothered about the cricket match. In fact, he’s proud of Leo for his incredible catch. Leo has started to observe Marian’s behavior more closely, and it’s clear she is doing everything she can to avoid any suspicion.