The day began, as every day should, with an anecdote from the rich and varied life of Nicky Bird. His wife had been taken ill and whisked into hospital accompanied by Nicky, the dutiful husband. When the doctor came round he if he might be excused in order to take a snifter. Nicky is a resourceful fellow and, aware that the NHS does not stretch to a fully functioning bar had brought his own. He was just pouring himself a finger or two of whisky, when he was accosted by a member of staff. Their exchange reads rather like something from Holby City would if they had co-opted P.G.Wodehouse as a script writer.
“What are you drinking?” said the nurse.
“Whisky, what does it look like,” answered Bird.
“You can’t drink that in here, this is a hospital.”
“Why ever not, it is the cocktail hour afterall?”
“We have recovering alcoholics, it might up set them.”
“It might upset me if I don’t stick to my pre-prandial routine.”
“I shall have to ask you to leave.”
“Perhaps I should transfer to the private wing, then you wouldn’t say that.”
This turned out to be an unfortunate turn of phrase and invoked in the nurse a latent sense of social injustice. Gone was the nurse and replacing her was a class warrior. Gone also was Nicky as he was removed bodily from the hospital and dumped in the street outside.
After that the cricket seemed quite tame. We played a curious format where the first side batted for a maximum of 38 overs and the second side batted for 40 overs with the option of a draw. It seems to be a misremembered variant of the 70 over day game we play sometimes. The Thebertons won the toss and chose to bat. Unlike most of the teams we play against they have three proper batsmen, by which I mean they have more than one shot and can score runs by hitting the ball along the ground. They also have a few more who can branish a bat to good effect. Foster looked suspect against our opening bowlers, Lachlan in particular beating the bat on numerous occasions, but played with freedom against Jacot and Taylor before missing an ungainly hoik at a straight one from the latter. He had been fortunate to survive an early lbw call, but umpire Tim Young was daydreaming so gave it not out. He had woken up sufficiently to give the next shout against the elegant Stamp. At lunch the Thebertons looked well poised at 100-2 off 18 overs.
At lunch Lachlan and Tim Young discussed the synchronicity of their careers: Lachlan is an actor who wants to be an barrister; Tim is a barrister who would like to be an actor. Dennis bemoaned the fact that the Vatican was now cheek by jowl with hoi polloi, and that the Grand Tour really wasn’t what it used to be. There was some talk of popular culture, which passed me by and NPG was probably boring someone about arcane pop music.
After lunch Dennis castled Bishop (what a shame it wasn’t the new boy, Knight) with a leg stump yorker shortly after that batman had reached his 50. McKekan, very much in the one shot wonder class of batsman, clubbed five leg side fours before Rob Taylor intersected an attempt at a fifth to take a very sharp catch. Adam Jacot, whose opening spell had been expensive, now demonstrated some exemplary ‘death’ bowling, but still Thebertons got to 231-5 from their 38 overs. Throughout the innings the ball seemed to follow Vin Grathnam. Grantham shares a physique with Lord Emsworth’s buttler, Sebastian Beach, whose movement Wodehouse described as “a dignified procession of one”. Dignified processions are no use when fielding and poor Vin was puffing and rolling around on the boundary in a one-sided battle to contain the errant ball, which simultaneously followed an evaded him in equal measure.
Adam Knight, who is of Theberton lineage, has played against the V&A for A Few Good Men, but today played for the V&A. He had been listed as Ed Knight, erstwhile of the V&A, on the website, reminding me of the Sydney test of 1987 when the selection of off-spinner Peter Taylor was assumed to be a misprint for Mark Taylor. Taylor, P. bowled England out in that game but did little else, whereas Taylor, M., who made is test debut the following year became one of Australia’s best opening batsmen. Knight’s start was inauspicious, his first ball being dispatched into the corn and his two overs costing 38 runs. Unbowed, he opened the batting. Watchful at first against the metronomic Richardson, he tucked into the looser second change bowling with aplomb, including a couple of lusty sixes and by tea he was 37* from 40 balls.
Tim Young had warmed up with some very theatrical jogging back and forth in front of the pavilion, looking a bit of a ninny in the process. His time would have been better spent with the catching cradle. Three balls into the innings Nick Emley parried the ball in a gentle arc to Young at short midwicket, who found himself all thumbs and grassed the chance. It mattered not: the following over Emley put his bat where the ball was not and was bowled by Richardson. Ashcroft was under the weather: one of the perils of young children; but he looked solid until he was involved in a yes, no, sorry incident which compounded by loosing his footing saw him run out. Grantham came and went and Nieboer, who looks horribly out of form with the bats at the moment, scratched around for a bit before being well caught low down at slip.
Dennis then steadied the ship. Whilst he and Adam Knight were there, a V&A win remained a possibility. However when they went in quick succession, both caught in the deep, more circumspection was called for. In my case this involved having a mistimed swipe at a full toss, lobbing it gently to mid on. A slight ray of hope was offered when I saw Tim Young standing under it, but there was to be no reprieve this time. Then began the rear guard action. Adam Jacot had already announced that he was ‘in the zone’, and he proceeded to block. And block. And block. He was ably assisted by Nick PG, who behaved more as if he was in the zoo than the zone, chattering to all and sundry and earning stern rebukes from Adam when he attempted to lighten the mood. The Thebertons tried everything, but this pair took it in their stride; in Adam’s case a very long stride as he repeatedly thrust bat and pad down the wicket. The overs ticked by: fifteen remaining, then ten, then five the field getting ever closer, but still the pair batted on in their contrasting styles. Paddy Sutton did the right thing in tossing the ball up above the eye-line, causing Adam to have a rush of blood to the head and smite a couple of fours over the infield. Sutton promptly took himself off. A mistake, I feel as it was he, rather than Richardson or Jenner who looked most likely to win it for the Thebertons. In the end Adam had a swipe at the final ball and was bowled, but the job had been done. The match was saved. Annette Jacot glowed with pride as Adam, still in his zone, stalked off, followed by the ever jabbering Nick PG, who remained 0* from 34 balls.
The aftermath of the Salisbury tour rumbles on. The oaf Ido has written a savage review of Nicky, complaining about dogs and a lack of due deference shown when he rolled round at 11pm. He also paints the V&A as bunch of rude, overbearing drunkards, which on reflection, is probably fair comment. However, I think the real cause of his ire, was nothing to do with dogs, but our quiz. It was a warm day and the windows were open so the mirth and general gaiety will have drifted across the lane to chez Ido nearby. Perhaps already feeling a little maudlin, there is nothing worse that hearing others having a riotously good time to depress a lugubrious temperament. Eventually the poor chap snapped and came storming over shouting about dogs as the first thing which came into his head. In future we must be more considerate to our hosts and include them in a Bird quiz from the outset, maybe with a few card tricks thrown in for good measure. They will then be sure to leave us alone without a quibble.