It was bloody cold. At one point, just before an early tea, with the wind whistling down the Stonor valley alternately carrying with it driving rain or hail, I felt entirely ill equipped as umpire with a mere two jumpers, a body warmer and an umpire’s coat for protection. If we are to continue to play in these conditions an umpiring sou’wester outfit shall be required. The rain had been infrequent, but but the howling gale was a constant. It meant that one either bowled with the wind or directly into it. The latter option was not much fun, as the wind acts not only as an impediment to bowling, but also as an aid to the batsman who sought to smite the ball in the direction from whence it came. I found myself in danger of developing a cricked neck from watching the ball sail back over my head and into the neighbouring field.
The All Sorts are an agreeable scratch team made up primarily of old Harrovians. Some very old. Their locus and captain is Mark Peel, biographer of Ken Barrington and the Colins, Milburn and Cowdrey (for Tom Ayling’s benefit, they are cricketers) and, if his agent’s website is to be believed currently working on a biography of Mike Brearley. Mark’s chums make up the bedrock of the team whilst their sons score the runs and do all the running around in the field. Some of these chaps are rather handy and in previous years we have suffered heavy defeats.
On this occasion, Adam Jacot won the toss and, for reasons best known to himself, chose to field. Lachlan, running down hill and with the wind, bowled rather well; without reward but economically and getting the wind up Tom Tennant, who seemed barely able to lay a bat on him. At the other end, I was more profligate, so that The All Sorts brought up their fifty without any loss in the twelfth over. It wasn’t long before Tennant’s breezy innings came to end when he lofted Andy Taylor to be well caught in the deep by Lachlan. Weir followed in bizarre fashion: aiming a flailing hook a one from Tom Ayling which had sprung from just short of a length, he missed the ball entirely but succeeded bringing his bat down onto his wicket. Crawford and Lloyd Jones came and went, both to Ayling, with no meaningful contribution and we took lunch with The All Sorts less securely placed at 91-5 off 25 overs.
Lunch was spent mainly discussing how to uncork the wine without a corkscrew. Lachlan, keen to demonstrate his Man Friday credentials, helpfully suggested witling the wax seal with a knife, seeminly unaware that this would do little to remove the cork beneath. Someone, I think Nick Constantine, suggested the heal of a shoe would do the trick until it was reasoned that this was likely to ruin both the wine bottle and shoe. Nicky Bird, not someone I would ever say was a numbers man, applies strict statistical analysis when it comes to selecting wine. Two indices are of particular interest: the ABV (not too high) and the price (as low as possible). As this was 12% and essentially free, he was keen to see it opened. Eventually a real Man Friday (Steph Bird), ingeniously combined a butter-knife and a baby’s rattle to force in the cork and the wine flowed freely. Nicky Bird gladly took the plaudits for providing the warming and delicious cottage pie, when in fact it had been made by Sarah Jenkins.
I watched most of the post lunch session from the comfort of the pavilion. We were twelve when only eleven are permitted to field, but when Adam asked if I would like to take a break for a few overs, I thought he had made a mistake. Surely there was some old has-been who was in need of breather, but looking around the room it dawned fatefully on me that the day had come where it was I who was the old has-been. Anyway, the pavilion is a perfectly pleasant place to watch the cricket. Despite Hood’s elegant 67 the All Sorts failed to press on with much alacrity, held in check by some tight bowling from Tom Pritchard Gordon, though aided by some loose stuff from Constantine. In the end they ambled rather than galloped to a final score of 178-6 off their 40 overs. On the face of it, this looked a modest score, but the pitch was an unknown quantity. The midweek rain had made it a bit of pudding and the All Sorts batsmen had certainly been troubled by its slowness.
Louis Jacot, erstwhile of the V&A opened the bowling with tidy spells either side of tea. Andy Taylor soon fell early, clipping a full toss into the hands of Simon Jacot at midwicket, but Constantine and Ashcroft, were little troubled by the bowling. Ross bats with patience as his watchword, carefully stunning any ball which might threaten his wicket, almost willing the bowler into bowling a loose ball he can slap away for runs. Nick by contrast is cavalier: he swashes and he buckles, a flowing cover drive here, a half-witted hoik there. I suspect each probably drives the other to distraction, but in combination they are effective. By the time Nick chanced his arm once too often and was caught at deep midwicket for 72, the pair had added 118 in 16 overs and the back of the chase had been broken as, it would appear, had the All Sorts bowlers. A cameo from Lachlan (26* from 22 balls) saw the V&A home with eight wickets in hand and some fourteen overs to spare with Ross 69 not out.
So in the end it was a comfortable win. Adam Jacot was an assiduous and tactful captain and no blame can be associated with him for the fact that at least four of our number did little more than run around the field for half a day. NPG did half an innings’ worth of nimble wicketkeeping, and his scoring for our innings is a work of Frindallian artistry. Rob Taylor was offered to opportunity to open the batting, but lost his nerve. Emley was heard if not seen and Tom Bird probably touched the ball about three times throughout the day. They also serve who only stand and wait. It is plain that the poet Milton was not a cricketer.