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27th June 2015
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V&A v. Therbertons

The week of Henley Regatta can be a trying one.  This is not to take anything away from the Regatta itself, which remains one of the most important events of its type for rowing buffs; rather like the Lord’s Test is for cricketers.  The problem lies with the attendees.  The crews, their cheering families and a core of rowing aficionados are mainly fine, but make up only a minority of the crowd.  The remainder, those braying hoards, who descend upon the small town of Henley on Thames like so many turkeys in ill fitting fancy dress, thinking that that sculling is a form of decapitation and a blade is something to impale strangers with late in the afternoon, are the sort of characters for which the poet Dante would have commissioned a special circle of Hell, had he met them.  It was amongst this group of undesirables that Tom Pritchard-Gordon found himself attempting to make seven-minute train journey from Wargrave to Henley, only to find that, because of Regatta, he must make circuitous loop taking a little over an hour.  As a consequence of this he and I, his chauffer for the last part of the journey, found ourselves rolling up to Stonor with the match in full progress and our names jettisoned to numbers ten and eleven in the batting order by way of penance.

Thus, I cannot tell you much about the early part of play, but at our arrival we found the V&A, having won the toss and batted, at 18-2 in the seventh over in the face of some tight and venomous bowling.  This soon became 40-4 as first Andy Taylor contrived to hit a longhop onto his stumps and then a rush of blood to the head caused Lachlan to sky one to cover.  In such circumstances there is something rather reassuring about the stolid presence of Nick Emley at the crease.  Dennis was less sure, “There is plenty of time and I don’t need to be run out today”, was his opening salvo to his partner.   This was always unlikely as Dennis is not one for running any more than is absolutely necessary whilst batting, and whose idea of backing up at the non-striker’s end up is leaning slightly less heavily on his bat. There where no run outs and watchful batting, including a notably well executed late cut from Emley, saw the V&A to to the calmer waters of 70-4 from 21 overs at lunch.

Lunch was a delicious combination of cold roast beef and assorted salads, prepared by Sarah Jenkins.  After the exoticism of recent weeks, there is something rather comforting about returning to an old favourite.  This was no consolation to Rehman, who had just bowled seven overs for the Thebertons in the midday heat, but was forced to forgo vittles on account of observing Ramadan.  Nick Emley recounted for the umpteenth time about how he had been jailed in his youth for his part in the Cambridge Garden House affair.   Emley thinks his mistake was being a Cambridge undergraduate.  Had he been reading bricklaying at Loughborough he might have got away with a caution.

After lunch the V&A batsmen pressed on, helped by some second string bowling.  Emley played an uncharacteristic swipe and was bowled but De Caires pressed on with help from the tail to finish on 55* and the V&A to 173-8 from 35 overs.  Perhaps slightly below par on a flat pitch, but riches indeed from 40-4.  Martin Bowden had the misfortune to take his first ball on his pads whilst Jago was umpiring and departed LBW.  Jago’s willingness to give his teammates out is admirable, but the frequency with which he does so is not statistically congruent with complete accuracy.

The Theberton’s innings also began slowly.  Founder member Tim Young, who traditionally bats last, came in first.  Having survived a close LBW call first ball, he was soon bowled through the gate and the Thebertons captain, also castled, followed him three balls later leaving them 16 for 2.  Morabi, however, batted with purpose, crunching four cover driven boundaries off De Caires’s first two overs and tea saw the Thebertons at 55-2 off 14 overs; delicately poised with the V&A slightly ahead.  Shortly after tea Morabi was neatly caught by Emley at fly slip off Rob Taylor for a stylish 41 and a prolonged period of spin from both ends saw two further wickets to Rob Taylor and one to Tom P-G, leaving the Thebertons teetering on 104-6.  There then occurred a curious incident upon which the result of the match may well have hung.  A crisp straight drive off Dennis’s bowling was freakishly deflected onto the bowler’s stumps.  The non-striker, out of his ground by a country mile, set off back to the pavilion, doubtless to curse his luck, only for the umpire to call him back stating that his bat was grounded.  Much head scratching ensued, but the umpire was not for turning.  It was a bizzare decision, which rather overshadowed the quality of Anderson and the fortunate Richardson’s batting as they took all the V&A bowlers could throw at them, knocking off the remaining 70 runs in relatively untroubled fashion with a couple of overs to spare.

Runoutgate notwithstanding, it had been fine day’s cricket and closely fought contest, in which the better team had prevailed in the end.  The Thebertons, so called because the were founded by a group of residents of Theberton Street in Islington, are a thoroughly pleasant bunch of chaps who play their cricket competitively and skilfully but with a sense of fun.   It hadn’t been a good day for Tom P-G, however, who found he had lost a shoe in the morning melee.  He can take solace in that fact that the Regatta turkeys were probably putting it to good use, maybe as a vessel for some drunken oaf to drink his warm larger from.

Best wishes,