A windy day with changeable weather greeted the players as they rolled up at Stonor Park on Saturday morning to kick off the first V&A weekend double header: This was to be a forty over match, a departure from our usual format, and the V&A fielded an XI which the scorer noted as replete with 17 total middle name initials between them. Your correspondent is uncertain of the significance of this, but on his reporting debut will present the facts and not question them.
Though the poet and philosopher N M H Constantine noted “grudge” as format of match in the scorebook, our opposition – the Battersea Bandits – are actually a very pleasant bunch, albeit a team we seldom beat. Team morale and prospects were however buoyed by the inclusion of evergreen veteran D J De Caires in the side, back from Barbados for a few games that coincide with his daughter’s wedding in France. A C B Jacot de Boinod and lady-partner turned up in what I presume is a new set of wheels, a fetching mini cooper of some panache, which steadied expectations however.
The customary late start saw the toss uncontested, and the V&A team lead by one L B S Nieboer (age unknown) was inserted by the Bandits. J J M Poynter got the team off to his usual flier, smashing the shine off the new ball and indeed smashing several out of the attack altogether to early retirements in the Stonor’s famed perimeter thickets and undergrowth.
At the other end, R “no middle name” Ashcroft nicked off and was caught behind for 3 in the second over – Perhaps he could have left it on line. It is nice to see team’s only real specialist opener back in cyan and sunshine colours, and surely not long now until he gets over a poor recent run of luck.
V A M Grantham went in first drop and departed for 6, before a solid 50 run third wicket partnership between L B S Nieboer (18) and J J M Poynter. When third wicket fell for 103, A G G Taylor nurdled his way into the game alongside the powerful J J M Poynter.
J J M Poynter was poised at 72* at the break, having been dropped at roughly 10 run increments a total of 7 times throughout. Highlights include a leg glance over deep backward square leg for 6, crushing drives down the ground and a calypso back foot cover drive to a full ball for 4. A score of 118 – 3 was recorded at the stroke of lunch.
The teams hastily set up tables outside during a break in the intermittent sideways rain – Permission was not sought from recently dismissed captain L B S Nieboer on grounds of player safety.
We are treated to many fantastic feeds at Stonor Park by our capable crew of chefs. The Goodliffes – Eve and Phil (middle names sadly unknown) – however are setting a dangerous precedent, arriving in two separate cars due to mass of homemade foodstuffs that cater for fans of a wide range of dishes, and those of the “beige food only” persuasion like your correspondent.
Word of a bet between antiquarian book wheeler-dealer C P W Jonkers, a man with a nose for a niche market, and A C B Jacot de Boinod worked its way around the lunch table – J J M Poynter to hit a maiden ton at odds of 10:1 were accepted, probably on the basis of the grace displayed by the cricketing gods up to this point and perhaps a recently rediscovered tweet from 2015 by J C Archer (cricketer, not criminal MP and potential future V&A vice-president).
General chat otherwise revolved around defacing team members’ Wikipedia pages, L B S Nieboer having discovered and rectified his description as a “slow-medium part time bowler”, and then laying down of the gauntlet to anyone foolhardy enough to edit that which belongs to R “soon to have tongue-in-cheek middle name added to his wikipedia page” Ashcroft… a task which unsurprisingly no man has yet to pluck up the suicidal urge to do.
Cricket chat concerned picking J J M Poynter’s brain as to whether ball was moving in the middle – “I wouldn’t know, I bat with my eyes closed” he reported to your correspondent. Having never before scored a century, and confirming a previous personal best of the 92, J J M Poynter was advised to play for himself and notch up a maiden ton, so as to give him something to brag about to his hot date on Sunday afternoon.
J J M Poynter (88, 9x4s & 4x6s), was instead well caught, at the 9th time of asking, at cow corner for what all agreed was an “almost” chanceless knock.
Your correspondent hopes that his date will not read this match report, as it is only fair to report that our recently successful “free playing strokemaker” has not always batted to acclaim at the top of the order: Likewise, she may well misunderstand the phrase, although the most likely misinterpretation would also be quite correct if the stories of Mssrs J J M Poynter & H “personal information not available online” Turpie’s Friday nights are anything to believe.
Enter N M H Constantino, who promptly smoked two front foot shots to the boundary before departing bowled leg stump as he cleared his leg attempting the stroke. The Constantine family’s aged dog duly disgraced itself in front of a full pavilion in a near perfect harmony with the falling bails of his leg stump and Constantine Snr.’s admonishing shout of “Nicholas!!!” from the pavilion, apparently unaware of more pressing local matters.
As the V&A’s gun batsman, ‘tino has had to admit to something of a flaw in technique in his batsmanship when attempting to play leg stump line, good length balls. This has been a recurring mode of dismissal after his bumper year last season. He might wish to consider moving his front foot towards the pitch of the ball and playing straight. Or ban his dad from watching, surely an easier technical adjustment.
Your correspondent R J G Taylor was in at 7 and continued with his brother to rotate the strike and hit intermittent bad balls from a tight bowling attack to the ropes. He eventually fell for 19 to a tumbling catch in the gulley off the last ball of A Laing’s spell, who finished with deserving figures of 1-28 off 8 overs.
Enter N B B Emley, who survived some cruel heckling from the boundary only to time his first sweetly struck shot, a crisp lofted on-drive flick off his pads, straight to midwicket. Exit N B B Emley.
D J De Caires arrived at the crease, and shortly thereafter A G G Taylor fell caught in the deep to a strong catch, caught by a man who had dropped three sitters off Poynter earlier in the piece (cricket, eh?) for a well compiled 56, including 2 monster sixes. Shortly thereafter, D J De Caires hit a glorious aerial cover drive, “spirit of the Caribbean”, before holing out for 5 in a bit of “rum” luck – geddit?
A C B Jacot de Boinod was bowled in the 39th over for a duck trying to accelerate the innings. This left C P W Jonkers, a man known to crow about enjoying a bat, unfortunately stranded on 1 not out.
The V&A finished on 224 all out from 38.5. This was felt to probably comprise a good total. Pick of the bowlers however were a Mr Tate, whose heavy seamers returned 3-47 off 8 over, with honourable mention to a Mr. Cohen, who finished with 3-40 from 5 overs bowling well controlled non-spinners.
Brothers A and R Laing opened, with Robbie having kept well throughout the V&A’s innings. They would have felt confident, with senior members of the V&A reporting previous lone-hand innings that particularly Alex has played at Stonor to win games for his team.
C P W Jonkers (5-0-0-25) took the new ball and bowled well in tandem with D J De Caires, who despite not playing for 15 months and enjoying life as a father-of-the-bride bon vivant in France bowled 3 overs up top with great elan in brown brogues.
Not much happened for some time afterwards, apart from a tough drop from Constantine in the slips (N M H, not dog), as the innings crept along and tea was taken with the score delicately poised at 53-0 off 15. Suffice to say that the array of sweets and scones on display were similarly excellent to the Goodliffes’ legendary lunch.
Post prandial strategic discussions concluded that pitch was a bit sticky and possibly conducive to slow bowling. Skipper L B S Nieboer turned to N M H Constantine, normally the most dependable and premier off spinner in the side when T N D P G is not available.
Sadly he struggled to figures of 0-32 off 3, in part due to some fine crushing batting from A Laing and a pitch which the ball sat up in when bowled short, allowing batsmen plenty of time to pick their spot on the leg side. Constantine is our M M Ali (the bowler, not dead boxer) – Permanently class, but going through a bit of bad luck at the moment. A 97 run first wicket partnership at 5 an over was keeping the bandits up with the rate, before a second slow bowling option was introduced to induce an error in some otherwise comfortably batting.
R J G Taylor is normally not the man to affect the game with the ball, especially within a side as blessed as it was with fine bowling options. He is also your correspondent and struggles with objectivity… It surely cannot be disputed however that it was the canny bowling of a quicker cross-seam top-spinner pitching back-of-a-length (C P W Jonkers: “Half tracker”) which was directly responsible for the return catch off the limp bat of R Laing. Two balls later, the number 3 Bandit smacked a similar delivery to N M H Constantine at cow corner who completed a fine catch.
A top edge of the final ball of an eventful over lolloped to square leg, where A C B Jacot de Boinod, a man who gets up from the ground quicker than he dives to it to stop or catch a ball, cost R J G Taylor a triple wicket maiden by unfortunately shelling the catch. No hard feelings. It had been an over containing what C P W Jonkers would fairly remark to be not a classic off spinners’ dismissals, although the wily operator D J De Caires would call undoubtedly “an exhibition of clever bowling”.
As aforementioned, this is a debut assignment for your correspondent who will buck the trend for romance and hyperbole and stick the factual so as to allay a few nerves. A C B Jacot de Boinod took the ball at the other end amid the collapse to bowl tightly and restricted scoring opportunities. He runs up to bowl with all the purpose, malice and bladed hands like the cop in Terminator 2.
It was a vintage display of relentlessly nagging bowling as he finished with excellent figures of 7-0-0-28. He could have clocked in with an economy rate of less than 3rpo were it not for the fact that he was unfortunate to see the final two deliveries of his spell go for consecutive boundaries.
Wickets continued to fall with regularity, whilst A Laing continued to accumulate. The bails continued to fall off all the time in the gale, with delays a source of frustration for those members of the side who had places to be later.
A G G Taylor clean bowled the number 4, and thereafter fell a flurry of 3 wickets for as many runs, including a “fine” run out by an R J G Taylor / L B S Nieboer combination (ed. I was aiming for the stumps, it went straight to the bowler and looked like a moment of cool composure whereas it was the complete opposite) and the hardest of catches by J J M Poynter – Running back to a towering steepler and pouching it from over the shoulder low to the turf, surely a candidate for catch of the season.
The field spread with A Laing on strike, as captain L B S Nieboer elected to dry up the boundaries and wait for A Laing to hole out. This did not come to pass, and it is fair to confirm that V&A heads went down in the field as he continued to flourish and marshal the strike with great confidence. A slow over rate, the howling wind continuing to regularly dislodge the bails, sideways mizzle and players’ children let off the lead and free of their baby-cages to run loose behind the bowlers arm lead to some disgruntlement in the field. If such a thing existed, the V&A swear jar would have been ready to break open.
Momentum seemed to be with the Bandits until on 162 – 4, with a required run rate of 10 an over, A G G Taylor affected what was surely the winning moment in true Taylor family fashion: A Laing – likely matchwinner – well caught in the deep off a ropey old delivery for a second fine catch by J J M Poynter. He finished a well compiled innings on 106, second only in quality to his dismisser, despite surviving a strong LBW appeal from A G G Taylor earlier in the piece.
Thereafter the innings subsided as the Bandits were 187 all out off 39 overs, including 2 fine catches by wicket keeper R Ashcroft, as what seemed like at one point to be a close game shifted to a romp home below an (almost) double rainbow. It should apparently be noted that A G G Taylor returning figures of 8-0-33-5, although this is ‘suspiciously’ not reflected in the score book… which in confidence your correspondent has been asked to photoshop.
Regardless, player of the match is surely J J M Poynter for his magnificent knock, excellent catches and the distribution of Instagram photos of his hot date on Sunday.
We sped off to through the gale force wind to the usual pub for the customary bowls of chips. Those playing both fixtures headed back to Chateau Bird, returning past the ground and observing the Pavilion racking and humming to its foundations in the blustering stormy weather with a Mini cooper of some panache outside… Perhaps it was just the abominable weather, or perhaps just A C B Jacot de Boinod and his lady partner “locking up”: As my fiancée reminds me, “I suppose cricket is a bit like sex, in that it goes on forever and there are a lot of men watching (and reading about it) at home, alone, on the internet.”