Match Organizer for a ‘new-to-V&A’, Sunday afternoon fixture. Last time it was Hermits… Are these trials? Or is this paranoia?
Eight days before the game in the garden of the Golden Ball over chips and drinks after victory over Legends, Ross and Lachlan volunteer simultaneously to skipper. They agree to do the job jointly whilst Phil organizes the off-field stuff. To help recruitment, the beauty of the W&SCC, village-green ground is discussed loudly. The pub and the extensive playground, both adjacent to the pitch, also get mentions.
Sunday and still no email response from W&SCC. Driving back from London a week before the game, an afternoon visit to the ground is made hopefully to make contact and witness proceedings. Adrian (‘Zag’ Zagoritis) their skipper introduces himself. He seems a decent chap – quickly confirming, unprompted, earlier reports of the low bounce. At that very moment a ball spits off a length and Adrian takes a lid out to the bruised batsman. The opposition have at least four diminutive fielders who are presumed to be growing children, rather than vertically challenged adults. A lean over the scorer’s shoulder confirms that the oppo is neither Lord Gnome’s XI nor Gnomads.
Adrian confirms that W&S will have teenagers in their side against V&A. Their 12-year-old female (is ‘girl’ PC?) thankfully escapes mention. Was it a wise decision to delegate the Captaincy to two of our most competitive players? Dennis has now made himself available to play… How might our bowlers handle a ringer at one end and a young teenager at the other, if it happens?
As for a V&A team, on Monday we have 9 ‘Yes’s, 3 ‘Maybe’s, and a ‘possible’. One of the ‘Yes’s becomes ‘Maybe’ and won’t know until the day. One ‘Maybe’ pulls out. The availability of the ‘possible’ depends on the rapidity of the healing process – we’ll know better on Thursday. One ‘Maybe’ goes to ‘No’, then ‘Maybe’, then ‘Yes if it rains on Saturday’ to ‘No’ when it’s suggested he plays on Sunday as we’re oversubscribed on Saturday… After two days and over 100 emails we have the same (final) 11 on Thursday evening that we had on Tuesday lunchtime… But we do have eleven.
After 4 days, and having also used the address on Chris M-T’s contact sheet, their Organizer responds by email – with the final exchange as follows:
‘We (V&ACC) have 11 for Sunday – 8 ‘Young Guns’ and three 60+.’
‘We [W&SCC] also have a side. A classic Sunday mix of 50+ enthusiasts and a few cricketers! No young guns though.’ (This author’s emboldening.)
It’s Saturday; the day before the game. Our scorebook is collected from the Stonor pavilion – the ‘Maybe’ is still non-committal but mention of lunch in the pub beforehand provides some re-assurance as to intent. Nature has repaired our ‘possible’. He becomes our M-o-M. The ‘undecided’ is a hero with the bat.
Sunday, 13:10. Our Organizer, re-assured perhaps by several V&A cars in the pub car park, finally meets theirs in person in their pavilion. The exchanges were better by email. Concerns about all 22 having a game, and young players not getting hurt are ‘items for the skippers to discuss’. Rather late in the day it’s announced that ‘We only play declaration cricket’ – information thankfully already gathered by analysis of the results pages on their website. Their skipper comes over, telling his young travelling companion that he’ll show him where the Home Changing Room is in a moment… as he shakes hands again, Christian names having been duly remembered from the previous Sunday.
The players gather; the captains are introduced. The format is settled; 20 overs after 18:00, tea between innings. The toss is lost, and V&A are inserted. The match clock is wound back to two o’clock. First Law of a Declaration game under normal pitch conditions – bat second, unless you know and trust the opposition skipper when he tells you they are weak, and the game will be over by tea if they bat first. We have 9 bowlers, possibly only 8, but like Nomads last year, have not put a limit on overs per bowler…
They use five bowlers; three of them bowl 34 of the 42 overs we face. One – an overseas player from a Home Counties League side – their skipper’s ‘companion’ who hasn’t featured for them so far this season (i.e. the anticipated ringer, identified by Nick C) bowls 12 overs, initially 9 spin and then at the end, when we bat longer than they expected/hinted, 3 of pace. Their skipper who has bowled for them earlier in the season, doesn’t bowl today…
Second Law of Declaration cricket is ALWAYS put a limit on the bowling, if not stipulating a maximum number of overs per bowler then specifying that no bowler can bowl more than, say, a quarter of the overs. Break this Law at your peril.
We declare at 16:34 on 211-9 with Ross (5*) and Lachlan (27* runs off 17 deliveries) at the crease. A well-timed effort and almost everyone has chipped in. The pitch hasn’t been too bad. Christiaan played well, getting decisively forward to counter any low bounce from the new ball – 34 from 42; Marc top scored with 60 off 59, Rob outscored his brother again with 28 off 34 vs 27 off 19 thanks to substitute fielder Tom’s throw over the top of the stumps from the boundary to the far end to run Andy out… And it’s been a pleasure to watch their 12-year-old, female, Glos. ‘keeper stand up to almost all their bowlers with quick, soft hands and no backward movement. No worries; she didn’t get to bat and their other teenagers could look after themselves.
The W&SCC innings began at 16:55 after a fine tea, prepared largely by their Match Organizer who had left the field to enable Tom’s fielding heroics.
Initially one of the umpires is the ‘overseas player’. They don’t seem to be in a hurry. There are long, mid-track conversations between overs, no-one from the home side to move the screens for the left-hand-right-hand combinations and innumerable delays with pedestrians ‘behind the bowler’s arm’. We manage only 15 overs of an anticipated 18 to 20 by 6 p.m. with the score at 49 -1. Dennis, still bounding in like a puppy, had taken a wicket in his first over backing up Tom and Lachlan’s tight opening spells (5-1-26-0, 8-2-18-0).
W&S are behind the clock and the ‘exotic, spin/pace bowler/umpire’ is replaced. Their Match Organizer, after seven consecutive singles, announces that he has ‘pulled a hamstring’ and will ‘let our keeper stump him’. Our keeper suggests he asks for a runner and loudly proclaims to a V&A co-skipper an intention not to [stump him]. Instead he swipes and skies a catch to Dennis off Martin (cue the trademark toothy grin). 62-2. Unsurprisingly the former umpire immediately re-emerges, padded, at the fall of this, the second wicket in the 19th over to join his skipper, having been hastily promoted to #4 from #6. These two double the score in 8 overs with Rob, Mark and Nick’s figures suffering. Our ‘keeper rides the gloveman’s rollercoaster when Zagoritis runs down the pitch and misses the ball which stays low (covered) but deviates sharply almost out of reach, bang going perhaps his only chance of ever stumping a former Captain of Eton College’s First XI (and a good chance of winning the game).
124-2 off 26; 89 needed off 9. The batters have an ‘All or Nothing’ conversation between overs. The second ball of the next over (Mark’s third) is hit in the air to Lachlan on the long off boundary. The ringer starts to walk. Breath is held. Lachlan goes to pouch it above his head then realises he’s stood on the boundary line which only he can see, tries unsuccessfully to claw it back and honourably declares the 6. Hammond (for he is the ringer) expresses his gratitude; V&A are deflated but pleased our club spirit has been visibly upheld. Eleven new friends are instantly made. Next ball Hammond skips down the wicket, swipes and edges it high to fly-slip where Rob, with a beatific smile and his usual safe hands, catches our reward. From there the W&SCC innings subsided their skipper giving their youths the strike, Tilley batting at #8 able to shut up shop (or go for the win if the opportunity had presented itself), Andy taking two wickets, and Lachlan and Dennis trying to clean up the tail in the final 5 overs.
177 for 6 off 35 overs – a draw. We used 8 bowlers, with only Lachlan (11-3-36-0) bowling more than 6 overs. Mark finished with 4-0-29-2 and the prize-wicket of antipodean, M. Hammond. With the pub so close and the remains of the tea being taken over to it for consumption, the V&A changing room has rarely emptied so quickly. Praise is due both to Ross and Lachlan for splendid captaincy – especially a timely declaration and for building scoreboard pressure whilst giving everyone a bowl, and to Christiaan for also collecting match fees and paying for the tea.
So, ‘trials’ or ‘paranoia’?