It was a game of ebbs and flows; a game in which each side took turns to appear down and out only to then have it, apparently, in the bag. Rob Taylor had purloined a number of the younger players from the V&A to supplement his cricketing chums. This meant they could do things like run and throw, unlike most of the V&A players, who consider it infra dig to bend down to pick a ball up. Nicky Bird had a dicky tummy and was confined to his bed, which meant we were ten. It was clear that he was not firing on all cylinders, because he had entrusted instructions on using the immersion heater to Adam Jacot. Adam is a man of many and diverse talents, but his knowledge contains vast plains of staggering ignorance and the prospect of being left in charge of such a vital function had set him all a-dither. What we needed was a practical, manly type, so the rest of us were not much help either. Martin would have been able to sort it out, but he still has a crook knee and finds it too painful to come and watch us flail around without him. Nick P-G is also the practical sort, but he was in Venice with his wife (but not Nicky Bird, much to the latter’s chagrin). In the end Megan Ashcroft, who was providing lunch and tea whilst running a business, whilst looking after two small children, whilst planning an imminent house move, took the matter in hand and all was well.
Rupert Morris, captain, had wanted to bowl first, but lost the toss. Chris Mounsey-Thear, who is in fine form this year and Nick Emley, who is not, opened the batting. It was not long before Chris was dispatching Grantham’s long-hops into the road with imperious ease. However, confidence got the better of him and before long, he skied one to mid-off. “That’s a big wicket”, proclaimed Rob to his cohorts and so it proved, as Simon Jacot and Nick Emley contrived to get themselves out cheaply. Louis Jacot played a couple of nice looking shots before being castled by the bustling Leigh. Leigh is the archetypal village fast bowler: thick of arm and broad of beam, he looks like the sort of fellow Yorkshire might have pulled out of the mines in the 1920s and paid three shillings a day to bowl 30 overs into the wind, with double helpings at tea thrown in. If this was a P.G.Wodehouse story, he would have been a policeman in civilian life.
The cricket is rarely dull when Jago Poynter is at the wicket and true to form, having only scored a couple, he got himself into a tangle, missed the ball but somehow succeeded in dislodging a bail. Amid much confusion, he departed hit-wicket. With the score 70-5 from 23 overs, the Taylor XI lunched in very much better spirits than the V&A. Megan’s catering is now so legendary that player’s sign up to the game on the strength of it alone and this week’s spread of chilli con carne, baked potatoes and the usual accoutrements was true to form.
After lunch it fell to Adam Jacot to restore the family honour, cajoled and supported by Ross Ashcroft. Adam’s batting becomes ever more eccentric with each passing season. He runs reluctantly, using his bat like a monopodular Zimmer frame and turns for two like a tanker in a creek. However, studious defence and six lustily biffed fours took him to 31, which with Ashcroft’s more conventional, but no less valuable, 37 saw the V&A to 143-8 from 35 overs. Riches indeed from our position at lunch. The third highest contributor for the V&A was wides with 22, helped along by an over from the unfortunate Green in which the first six balls landed either on the neighbouring wicket or sailed over the batsman’s head.
The V&A’s defence of this modest total began with some rousing talk from CMT, in what looked suspiciously like a huddle. He had got wind of the fact Rob Taylor might fool around with the batting order, and so it proved: when Tom Pritchard-Gordon opens the batting you know the order is upside down. In fact, Tom looked a perfectly well organised batsman, essaying a couple of crisp cover drives. He still has a weakness for the straight ball though, so soon departed. Enter Maloney, looking like a centurion with Tom P-G’s XXS helmet perched incongruously on his rather larger noggin. Understandably, he found it hard to see the ball, so scratched around for a bit until deciding that the helmet was more trouble than it was worth. The batting side was going along quite nicely at 48-2 when the V&A introduced its secret weapon. Adam Jacot had not bowled in the previous game, but had been ready to give up the game after the drubbing his side got. Now with the second ball of his second over, he induced the dangerous Andy Jones to offer a simple return catch. Adam the wicket-taker! Off the fourth ball he trapped Clitheroe LBW and with his last removed the hapless Grantham neatly caught behind by Jago who was doing a first-rate job as stand-in wicketkeeper. A triple-wicket maiden. Adam the destroyer! Over tea, Adam nonchalantly announced that that was nothing: he had taken four wickets in an over playing for the Groucho Club and, his chest metaphorically swelling, went on to give a catalogue of all the bodily harm he had inflicted on batsmen over the years.
So far as the match was concerned, the boot was now very much on the other foot, and when Sunil took his customary caught and bowled shortly after tea to leave the Taylor XI at 55-7, it was surely all but over. Rob Taylor had other ideas. When playing for the V&A in this sort of situation, he usually bats like a wally, sooner or later having a wild swipe and getting out. Here he batted like a man possessed. When he was joined by last man, Dario Simpson, still with 70 required. Surely hopeless. But by clobbering the bowling to all parts at the beginning of the over and sneaking a single to retain the strike at the end, Rob took his side chances from impossible to improbable, to just about conceivable and with just ten to win from six overs, to down right likely. Dario had played his part admirably blocking everything the V&A could throw at him for an hour and turning ones into twos with sharp running when required. But with the finish line in sight, it just took one misjudgement and the sickening death-rattle behind him to know it had been in vain. There was a groan from Rob, who sunk to his knees as if he had been impaled. He was left stranded on 63 having made batting look easy when everyone else struggled. It was an innings which deserved to end in victory, but the cricketing gods are rarely so straightforward.
If Rob was aggrieved, he should direct his ire at Tom Pritchard-Gordon. One of Rob’s lusty blows sent the ball into a briar bush and the search was soon left to Tom and one other from the batting team. Upon seeing the strength of the bristle in which the ball was hidden, Tom presumably decided that such encounter would do his prospects as a hand model no good at all and that the better part of valour was to lie on the boundary, sunning himself for a while before slinking back to the pavilion. Now, the lost ball was stout and round, but had been going straight onto the bat, whereas its replacement swung beautifully, just enough to sneak past the Dario’s defensive prod.
But youth, of course, must have its fling, as an oriental gentleman once said, and on the evidence of today, the future of the V&ACC is in good hands.