It was a gap in our fixture list which caused Lachlan to volunteer to raise an opposition with the help of Nick Constatine. The exercise was not entirely fruitful and on the eve of the match they had mustered but half a dozen. Whether by guile or good fortune they persuaded V&A captain, Nicky Bird to give them three of the V&A’s youngest, most capable cricketers. So the Lachlan Nieboer XI was actually the Lachlan Nieboer IX, but it is oft said that nine fit and energetic cricketers is better than eleven decrepit ones. Not that the V&A had eleven: the Lazurus-like return of Martin Bowden made us ten. Martin has suffered a series of rotten injuries, rendering him hors de combat, which is rum luck for one who loves his cricket so. It was a fillip to the side to see is now back at Stonor and, if not quite to is previous form, able to don the whites and jog about the field. Quick singles seem to be a thing of the past, as he takes a good ten seconds to complete the 22 yards, but this suited Dennis admirably, who had already warned the 69 year-old Nicky Bird that he was not up to any of his quick singles.
The morning began with a degree of confusion over the format of the game, most of which I missed first by arriving late and then having to dash back for the scorebook which I had to forgotten. Lachlan wanted an overs game with no restriction on bowlers, which suggested he was light in that department. I favour a type of game in which a declaration and a draw are an option, adding a degree of nuance to proceedings. There is a tendency for limited overs games to repeatedly follow much the same scenario. Nicky is easily befuddled by change so by the time I returned the standard 35 over per side game had been agreed.
Lachlan’s team batted first and Nick Constantine looked in ominous form, stroking two cultured boundaries from the first over before inexplicably giving catching practice to Jago behind the stumps. Hugo Thurston of the Gaieties seemed in a hurry but after a few effective clubs, he spooned one to square leg where a relieved Adam Jacot held a straightforward catch. Lachlan was dropped early on, but it mattered not. Somewhat unnerved by playing against his teammates (our bowlers, he said, were irascible, which brought to mind a phrase involving pots and kettles), he failed to find any fluency and shortly after lunch was deceived in the flight by a good off-break from Rob Taylor. This brought in Lachlan’s younger brother Joshua, who had, to all intents and purposes played no meaningful cricket. He was, however, a keen player of hurling, a game beloved of Irish peasants in the seventh century, long before cricket was even dreamt of. In essence the game involves swiping a ball a long way with a club, which was exactly what he proceeded to do, unfettered by coaching manual or desire for orthodox stroke play. He announced himself he by spanking his first ball over midwicket for six. I though to myself, “I’ve met his type before, this won’t last long, he will soon get himself out.”. I was partially right in only one of those assertions: his innings was over in about 40 minutes. But it was 40 minutes of some of the most remarkable sustained hitting that could ever have been seen at Stonor. It wasn’t pretty and would draw no aesthetic praise from the purist, but my word, it was effective. And it was controlled and powerful hitting, not mindless slogging. Certainly, he only played one shot, but when the ball was bowled wide of the off stump to counter the heave to cow-corner, he adapted his stroke to scythe the ball over extra-cover. When he was retired, Joshua had scored 103 off 41 balls with 11 sixes and four fours (two all run), 74 of which had come from his final 22 balls. It brought to mind a similar innings by Ted Alletson at Hove in 1911, described by John Arlott in his monograph, Alletson’s Innings,
“Ted sent his drives skimming; you could hear them hum; he drove several at the Relf brothers and the ball fizzed through them as if they were ghosts. I have never seen another innings like it.”
For those interested in such things, his innings ran, 6.2.6161.11..2.12..16466166242.6.116426.4, transforming his side’s fortunes and helping them to a mountainous 262-6. None of the bowlers fared particularly well, but Rob Taylor bore the bunt of the carnage returning figures 2-74 from seven overs.
Ashcroft and Poynter began the V&A innings with purpose, taking advantage of the gaps a nine man field offers and when the latter fell LBW to Grantham, Rob Taylor picked up where he had left off. Keeping out the good balls, of which there were several and spanking the loose ones, the score had rattled along to 100-1 from 14 overs by Tea leaving Lachlan looking a little perturbed. To loose a tight match is one thing, to do so from a position of apparent unassailability would be more than a little embarrassing. I put this down as the reason why, without so much as a by-your-leave, he commandeered Jago as an extra fielder. Now the traditional approach is to ask the opposing captain if he might be so generous as to spare you a substitute and be grateful if that man has two arms and two legs. To announce that you are purloining one of opposition’s most able fielders to bolster an already virtually unassailable position, seemed unnecessary.
With chilling irony, the over after tea from chinaman bowler Thurston saw Ashcroft and Jacot hit full tosses straight into the hands the newly requisitioned Jago at square leg, and with Turpie dismissing Taylor in the following over, the game was effectively over. But, whatever the contest, cricket in the evening sun at Stonor cannot be without some pleasure and there was time for an amusing cameo from Dennis and Martin, but it was a relief to all concerned when we could wend our way down to The Golden Ball.
Things don’t always work out the way you might think. Last week, I organised a post match barbeque for the V&A team and opposition, Tom P-G’s Silk Boudoir XI. When Nick P-G heard I was planning to allow his son and chums loose in the vicinity of my house, he ventured to suggest I had taken leave of my senses. As it turned out, they all behaved impeccably; imbibing moderately before politely excusing themselves. As everyone was leaving and I was starting to think about tidying up, I spotted a couple of laggers through the gathering dusk, polishing off their fourth bottle of wine and suggesting with slightly less than perfect diction, that there might be another bottle to be had. Further investigation revealed it to be our distinguished leader, N. Bird and vice-president, Ernie Franklin.