V&A v Lachlan Nieboer XI
19th August 2017
V&A v Thebertons
1st September 2017
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V&A v Stonor CC


V&A PLAYERS: Jago Poynter (Captain), Nick Constantine, Rupert Morris, Ross Ashcroft, Henry Turpie, Tom Bird, Safi, Dennis de Caires, Christiaan Jonkers, Phil Goodliffe, Martin Bowden

Sammy Woods will skipper my all-time overseas-born Somerset CCC XI. Sammy played 299 County Championship matches for the Cidermen, 230 as skipper. So what? He also played Test cricket for his native Australia and for England; Test rugby for England; soccer for Somerset and Sussex, and hockey for Sussex. “In later life he watched sport, drank heavily, continued to relate anecdotes and failed to apply himself”. True V&A, unlike Sunil Gavaskar.

Our annual landlord and tenant match defied the bookies. Earlier in the week, Stonor had just 8 bodies, while the V&A was oversubscribed. Stonor recruited the V&A flotsam of Nick and Tom P-G. The V&A lost Lachlan Nieboer at a late hour. On paper, the V&A still looked a stronger side. Neiboer’s withdrawal seemed to dent the V&A mojo with several players stating he would have made the difference. But cricket remains a team game, and it was a real team effort that gave Stonor a 96-run win. The pitch and the umpires also had hands in the game, though were the same for both teams. Slow.

We enjoyed a timed game format that left Nicky Bird confused yet continuing to relate anecdotes and failing to apply himself. Stonor batted first. Marc Lovatt asked Nick P-G to open the bating with Ben Denton. The former leapt at the chance once he had spotted the umpires would be Richard Hunt and Nicky Bird. These two and Nicky’s brother Tony are of an age where edges will only be heard if snicked to mid-off. They also still believe that a large stride forward renders LBW redundant. If any of their decisions perplexed anyone, we must always be grateful someone else turns up to umpire. We all love not umpiring. We would welcome anyone … Stevie Wonder, AC-DC’s Brian Johnson or the late Major Tom Bird, “father of Sarah, and two sons, Antony and Nicholas, who run Bird Battlefield Tours”.

Christiaan Jonkers and Dennis de Caires bowled good but luckless opening spells. The Stonor openers thought about things a bit and decided to respect the pitch and protect their lower order by seeing off Jonkers and de Caires. The mission changed (on realising that the V&A had just four bowlers) to making de Caires bowl so much he broke. He was forced to bowl three spells but thankfully refrained from resorting to that crap-spin he tries when he is tired.  Spin twins Henry Turpie and Nick Constantine wheeled away until Constantine finally broke the opening partnership at 76 from 21 overs, trapping Nick P-G LBW for a schizophrenic 39.

Stonor scored more freely with Noel Williams at the crease. Denton (42) fell to a wonderful catch at mid-wicket by Henry Turpie. Turpie later caught Marc Lovatt (14) in the same placed with similar. Noel (30) fell to the occasional left-arm round spin of V&A skipper Jago Poynter. Noel is a joy to play with. Some say he has an air of indifference. I see the steadfast sanguinity of a race-horse trainer that enables him to shrug off entertaining LBW decisions.

John Powell (13*) and Chris Maidlow (12) swished the total to 170 for 7. Maidlow hit three 4’s around or past Jonkers at long leg into the brambles. On the third occasion it looked though Jonkers had had enough and that he shoved Ben Denton’s Ma into the brambles to make the retrieve.  Maidlow tried to involve Jonkers and the brambles at long leg one more time only to collapse on the stumps without style but with a beaming grin. They call Chris Maidlow, “Headcase”.

Jonkers’ 11 overs 4 for 36 was the pick of the bowling, though his currency was slightly diminished by his Stevie Smith “Not waving but out-fielding” demonstration. Poynter bought a couple of wickets.

Stonor’s match manager was Cornelius Kavanagh has many things to be proud of. His son Olly (often seen netting on his own at Stonor) stood as Labour PPC for Henley at the last election and won a creditable 11,000+ votes. Corn also made the most astonishing double chocolate cake as part of a terrific tea. Finally, Corn was the man who sealed the win for Stonor.

The V&A batting line up was undoubtedly strong but excellent spells by the irrepressible Denton (8 overs, 3 for 14) and John Powell (1 for 29) left it in tatters. Constantine, Morris, Poynter, T Bird and someone called Safi failed to reach double figures. Some Stonor players said, “Tsk. If they played here often, they’d know not to play that shot” somewhat forgetting that the V&A do play at the SCG regularly.

50 for 5 off 20 overs, but all was not yet lost for the V&A with Ross Ashcroft and Henry Turpie at the crease. Both were capable of winning or at least saving the game because they have cricket brains, but Stonor’s bowlers had other ideas. The change bowlers did not let up with young Will Symons (3 for 13) impressing and the perpetually hung-over Tom P-G (1-15 off 8 overs) snuffing out any chance of the V&A launching a successful run-chase.

Turpie (18) fell to a mistimed drive from the returning Denton and a delighted Tom P-G cleaned bowled the dogged Ashcroft (20). Could the V&A’s wise heads (but knackered legs) of De Caires, Martin Bowden and Phil Goodliffe and their young tail-ender Jonkers stand firm for another 13 overs? They had the nous and the determination. Jonkers looked resolute until caught behind by the keeper Noel Williams. Noel muttered, “Makes up for my LBW earlier”…wryly.  De Caires lashed one to Headcase at extra-cover.

Goodliffe (3*) blocked out ball after ball so late he might have been playing the next delivery while Bowden held firm. With two overs to go Lovatt reckoned on the shock tactic of introducing Corn Kavanagh’s impish spin to break the V&A’s final pair. And so it did, Bowden popping a leading edge to Powell at silly mid-on. You would bet on Martin seeing his side safely to a draw in these circumstances, but he admits he can’t even play a defensive game when your legs can’t move anymore.

Marc Lovatt thanked the P-Gs for playing for Stonor, saying that one’s banter in the field was filthy and that Stonor would welcome Tom back anytime.

Man of the Match – Ben Denton

Lesson – The wicket will be even slower next week.

The Scorecard is available here.

If you missed it earlier, here’s Bird Battlefield Tours website http://www.birdbattlefieldtours.com/

Must dash, I am off to Flanders to immerse myself in some military history with the incomparable Bird Battlefield Tours  but before I go, here’s the rest of my Somerset dream team. Jimmy Cook, Sanath Jayasuriya, Viv Richards, Martin Crowe, Greg Chappell, Craig Kieswetter, Andrew Caddick, Shoaib Akhtar, Mushtaq Ahmed and Joel Garner. 12th Man is Vernon Philander. Sunil Gavaskar’s temperament costs him a place in the team. That and the fact that he has never been on a Bird Battlefield Tour.