The annual fixture against The National Theatre is always an enjoyable affair. Their team is full of
characters and they play the game in a competitive, but light hearted manner, which usually results
in a deal of good natured banter between regularly on both sides. It also gives Adam Jacot the
opportunity to go turncoat and play of the others side. This usually has a galvanising effect on
Adams erstwhile latent cricketing talent. When playing for the V&A, though never lacking in
effort, he is rarely likely to strike fear into the heart of the opposition. Playing against his regular
team is quite another matter. Last year he played what is commonly called a blinder: he bowled, he
caught, and coming in when the National were in a spot of bother flayed the V&A bowling to all
parts, winning the match at a canter.
On this occasion, NT regulars, Greg Wise and John Langley had to cancel at the last minute, but the
NT are made of sterner stuff and mustered replacements, albeit including some late arrivals. For the
V&A, Nicky Bird, organiser and mainstay of the team, had sustained a broken finger in the
previous game, so we were only ten.
Before the game there were rumours of a new fast bowling recruit for the NT, and so it proved.
Young Alfie Enoch’s first ball passed Rupert Morris on the full at about chest high, understandably
unsettling him so that the next ball, which was full and straight slipped quickly through his defense,
shattering his stumps. Ross Ashcroft, captain, is a good man for a crisis, but having looked largely
untroubled, lobbed one to cover to depart for two. 6-2 of five overs and things were looking bleak.
Emley was looking solid by this point and Denis De Caires began to play with comparative freedom
and runs were just beginning to become an almost frequent feature of the innings when De Caires
swatted a very wide one from leg spinner, Hanbury to a gleeful Enzo Nicoli at cover just before
lunch. With Emley having gone LBW earlier, the V&A lunched at 56-4 from 20 overs; precarious
to say the least. But what a lunch. Megan Ashcroft had, by all accounts, been up into the small
hours preparing the epicurean delights that where now laid before us. Caprese salad, lamb curry,
roast beef and Yorkshire puddings and some delicious curried eggs, were just some of the tasty
morsels on offer.
The not out pair, Poynter and Pritchard Gordon must have taken strength from the fine spread, for
they approached the after lunch session with a good deal more purpose. It has been mentioned
elsewhere that Jago Poynter’s batting is nothing if not spectacular, but here he mixed a studious
defense with sparkling stroke play and looked the better batsman for it. With Pritchard Gordon
entering into the spirit of things, the pair added 55 in 5.4 overs after lunch, before Poynter
pirouetting himself out of his crease, was stumped for 36 off 25 balls with six fours and a six. The
partnership had given the innings a shot in the arm it desperately needed and if Tom Bird and
Martin Bowden came and went without troubling the scorers, and Pritchard Gordon (25) and the tail
failed to wag, the final score of 134 all out was more than could be expected at lunch, though some
20 short of par on a decent looking pitch.
At the change of innings Dennis, as senior pro, called for tight bowling and sharp fielding. This is
understandable, as it goes a long way to helping win a game of cricket, but the call is less than
frequently responded to by the good men of V&ACC. Not on this occasion. De Caires in particular
bowled with metronomic accuracy to return figures of 7-3-7-1, and Julka saw off both opening
batsmen whilst also remaining niggardly on runs conceded. Lofty Mike Morris began to look
threatening, but missed a swipe at a straight one from Jonkers, which brought in the left handed
Richardson to join his captain Lumsden, with some rebuilding to do. Richardson, in particular
became so fixated merely on survival, that the fielding side did begin to wonder whether he realised
that a draw was not an option. Tea, with the score at 38-3 from 19 overs, was only slightly less
impressive than lunch with home made cakes and biscuits of all descriptions, including a
particularly nice chocolate and strawberry cake.
Immediately after tea, the need to press on induced the sort of incident of mass incompetence which
makes non cricketers think flanneled fools is a description of kindly understatement. Richardson
had miscued a hoik at Bowden and sent the ball, contrary to intention, in a gentle arc to short third
man, apparently into the hands of Nick Pritchard Gordon. NP-G, however, found he momentarily
had ten thumbs and dropped the catch. Non-striker Lumsden meanwhile, sensed this might be an
opportunity for a much needed run and set off, but his partner remained rooted to the spot and was
somewhat surprised to be greeted by his irate captain at the batting end. Both batsmen then
simultaneously set off to the non-striker’s end, Richardson fell over and Lumsden was run out,
departing with a few choice words to his poleaxed partner.
Enoch proved no match for the wily Bowden and the game would have looked in the bag were in
not for the Jacot factor. This enigmatic cricketer began his innings in ominous form taking
boundaries off some loose balls from Poynter and Bowden before Ashcroft induced one of several
inspired bowling changes. In the absence of Nicky Bird, Ross Ashcroft was wicketkeeper as well
as captain, and in spite of the extra work this involved, showed no small amount of tactical
astuteness. Jonkers, replacing Bowden slipped a yorker through Jacot’s defenses and four balls
later induced new batsmen Walton to hit a long hop straight into the safe hands of De Caires at deep
midwicket. A double wicket maiden at this stage of the game usually spells the end for the batting
side, and despite judicious clubs from the tail keeping the target just in sight, the last wicket fell
with two overs to go and some 23 runs short.
A good game which saw a couple of unusually occurrences. Confusion by the V&A whilst fielding
side and a lack of attention by the scorers saw Martin Bowden sneak an eighth over, despite
protestations for it to be severed mid over and Rupert Morris held another catch. A good one as
well, above his head at point. Nicky Bird offered me 6-1 against him holding the last catch. I
should have gone for the accumulator.