Nicky Bird adds a trivial and unnecessary preface:
Turville Park is where the V&A used to play, courtesy of my Dad’s chum at Winchester, Air Marshal Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris who ran the club. A fanatically keen cricketer, but useless. He stood at third man and shouted a lot of facetious nonsense, but his benign temper pervaded his team and the game. I wrote his obit for The Times and upset Ian Chappell perhaps by claiming that Christopher invented sledging.
Turville Park CC are everything a village side should be – a minestrone of age (Colin Simon), yoof (Charlie Hunt) and ability (James Hunt). They have their eccentrics – Barnaby Bazell – as we have. A couple of years ago our eccentrics duffed up theirs in a daft verbal spat now forgotten, thank God. The game this Saturday, at which I was a commis chef and umpire only, was marred by rain but no argy-bargy. C M-T who was skip wanted to play, however wet, ‘cos he had a rare exeat; and after last week’s premature cancellation (it turned out fine) we were not going to be deterred. Perhaps Christiaan, a genteel antiquarian, had been wary of last week’s opposition, coming as they did from Reading way, the rough end of the Chilterns and feared they might have confused a finger bowl for watery soup.
I was delighted to see R. Taylor score a ton. As boys, I watched the Taylor brothers play street footy and cricket outside my house. Rob was Becks to Andy’s Rooney (only Andy doesn’t go with grannies). Both have fiancées who like cricket and a drink, the key to successful marriage. I once had a spat with Rob’s cricket bag which he’d left behind at Stonor. I found it on the grass. But not before I’d run over it. Twice. I returned it next day. He was nursing a bust finger. A bust bag, bat and helmet was icing he didn’t appear to need.
Emley, Jacot, Jonkers and Nieboer bickered over the ‘Oxford comma’ – an arcane and pointless discussion about whether you can have a comma before ‘and’. This sort of thing – satirised in Adam Jacot de Boinod’s ’s book (‘Last Tingo in Paris’ or something) – gives us a bad name, makes us sound aloof from important WOKE issues, or changes to the LBW laws. One chap was etymologically confused and called David Attenborough a ‘naturist’.
Some struggled to understand the meaning of Boris or his purpose. The Henley Standard rang to ask whether Boris, a V&A VP, had played for us and what was the result. I said that no one was pregnant as far as I knew. But that was probably because he never actually played. When told that his only duty as Vice President was to cough a few quid he disappeared, and has not been seen since.
As for the game itself….
A rainy day was on the cards with no promise of a completed game, but on we trudged, CMT winning the toss and choosing to bat, always a wise decision on a rainy day.
The pitch was wet, and would get wetter, but as luck would have it (or a great deal of planning and anticipation) trusty Phil Goodliffe had 4.5 cubic tonnes of sawdust in his car which helped greatly. Lachlan became confused at the fine consistency of the sawdust but was quickly put in his place by Phil, telling him that it was as described, dust, and not the shavings to which Lachlan has become accustomed to.
Our skipper bravely chose to open the batting himself alongside the younger, larger Taylor but uncharacteristically managed to get himself run out without making too great an impact on the score book. I stepped in at three and so we had two Andys at the crease, facing a swinging ball from both ends, in particular that of Hunt Snr, although Taylor showed us that he had had plenty of practise with swinging balls and kept his head down for a gritty 26 before cutting a half tracker into the covers. I followed shortly after with another 20 something, setting the stage for the main event at 84/3…
Lunch was provided by Martin. I think we have all enjoyed Martin’s roast beef and it was as always, exceptional. It was clear that both A. Taylor and Captain MT had in fact thrown their wickets away in order to gorge themselves on beautifully pink beef, an array of salads and cheese and chutney, a clever move. Nick Emley said a few words, and thanked our chef, Nicky Bird said many words but mainly spoke about authors of various books that I had never heard of, chucking in the odd swear word that I had heard of, I think to keep me engaged. After a bottle of beer and a half hour rest, Turville were ready to go back out and the innings was all but secure, but that was all to change.
Rob Taylor had come to the crease at 67/2, and out of the further 135 runs to be scored by the V&A, Rob secured 101*of them for himself with a destructive innings dealing mainly in 4s and 6s. The innings included one almighty blow down the hill to the long boundary, whether it was a classy, lofted on drive or a hoik over cow corner is anyone’s guess, but six runs is six runs and the smaller of the Taylor brothers raced to his maiden century. A fine display of batting in some very tricky conditions, accompanied at the non-strikers end by Nick Emley for some time, solid as a rock until he wasn’t, Nieboer for a short but sweet 11, Ben Horan who fell foul of the ball of the day from H. Bush, pitching middle and leg and hitting the top of off, any leg spinners dream, Jonkers the following ball LBW caught playing across the line, and seen home to 35 overs by Adam Jacot, who seems to steer the V&A through the final overs of an innings more often than not. Other highlights of the innings included some excellent bowling from young Charlie Hunt who produced some excellent deliveries and was unlucky to only claim one scalp.
With 202 on the board the V&A were confident as we emerged onto the damp field, undeterred by the showers. The bowling was opened in sharp fashion by Lachlan, beating the bat on a number of occasions, and from the other end by Christiaan who bowled a very tight spell at two very handy batsmen, limiting Turville to 22 from the first 8 overs.
I bowled a few varied overs from one end and Martin bowled a few, much better overs from the other, unlucky to be hit for two fours from his last over, but with little sign of the two opening batsmen budging. They played smartly in the conditions and looked very solid, but the breakthrough came with Adam Jacot consistently bowling a good line and length and claiming his victim for 48, LBW, cruelly short of what would have been a hard fought fifty.
Hunt Snr. came to the crease and batted aggressively, raising the run rate and providing a glimmer of hope for Turville, if these two could stick around they were certainly in with a chance. After some persuasion our skipper came on to bowl and early on produced a chance that Ben Stokes would describe as a ‘dolly’ but Andy Taylor claimed would have been catch of the season, and although he got two hands to it diving to his right, he let it slip. Not long after that, Chris removed the other opener with a great ball, jagging in through the gate and rattling off stump, this was the breakthrough that we needed and allowed us to have a go at a rather long tail. Further wickets were shared between CMT and Lachlan as the V&A strangled Turville who ended up 32 runs short after 35 overs and 8 down. Praise should also go to Phil, who on a very difficult day behind the sticks, managed to limit byes to 5.
Rob Taylor was coaxed down from his high horse and convinced to bowl an over, and was swiftly brought back down to earth by one of the Turville youngsters who wiped the smile off of his face with a six straight back over his head, followed by two fours, thank you to E. Bush for doing so.
The V&A dispersed in many directions, heads held high and bellies full, but mainly quite soggy.