We returned to the usual one game weekend after the excesses of the week before, where our usual Saturday fixture was followed by a fixture against Stonor village on Sunday. Rather bizarrely, having hitherto beaten all comers, the V&A were skittled by a combination of wily bowling and wallyish batting and villagers knocked the runs of with relative ease. Nobody cared a great deal because whilst Martin Bowden and Norman Reid were putting together a plucky last wicket stand, a certain Ben Stokes was writing himself into the history books with a last wicket stand of his own.
As for this match, Andy Taylor won the toss on a bright morning and chose to bat, sending in new boys, Nick Derewlany and Joe Tetlow to open proceedings. They got off to a sprightly start, in spite of tidy bowling and skipped, though a mixture of elegant drives and lusty pulls, to 92 at about a run a ball before Nick chipped one to midwicket. I went in next, and out again very shortly afterwards as did Andy Jones, who was reprising the roll, so well played in previous seasons by Tom P-G, of a man with a ranging hangover. Andy Taylor steadied the ship and saw Tetlow through to his 50 before the latter holed out to long on. Enter Lachlan. Lachlan is first and foremost an actor: he likes the limelight but does not like criticism. He wouldn’t speak to me for six weeks when I was once vaguely admonishing in a match report and he still holds me responsible for the fact he doesn’t win cricketer of year every season. There was little to criticise in this innings however: coming in when we were faltering slightly at 116-4 in the 24thover, his fifty came with a towering six from his 31stball and when he eventually fell in the final over, it was for 69 from 38 balls helping the V&A to add 90 from the final ten overs. Andrew Wayland had kept him company through most of his innings, scampering hasty twos and quick singles to feed Lachlan the strike. He finished 5* in a stand of 50 and the V&A on 215-9 from their 35 overs.
Lunch was taken in between innings so that the game could continue in fine weather before a predicted downpour arrived. Sarah had lovingly prepared cooked chicken thighs with an assortment of salads, my favourite of which was a potato salad with capers. All delicious. Nicky Bird was very rude about the pâté, which he describes as ‘industrial’, as if it should be used for repointing. He also claimed a degree of credit for providing the lunch, though none could quite work out why. Over lunch Adam Jacot, who had been out early with Phil Goodliffe filling in some troublesome holes in the outfield, discussed the perilous life of the journalist. Nicky had been commissioned to write 800 words for Country Life, but had been so discussed with his measly fee of £240, he hadn’t troubled to claim it. Adam thought this grand amateur approach was outmoded and would do nothing to raise his standing with the paper.
The Refreshers’ innings had barely got underway when the expected downpour appeared and we were forced to scurry for shelter. Upon resumption the runs flowed as readily as the rain which had just abated. Skelton snr. led a charmed life, playing am missing frequently and scoring mainly off the edge, but Burrett played with powerful purpose, making his way from 3 to 57 entirely in boundaries, principally at the expense of Ben Horan, who struggled to find the pitch with a wet ball. Burrett might have been urged on by Joe Tetlow, who helpfully reminded him at regular intervals of the required run rate or that he hadn’t hit a boundary recently. Such inane chatter is, I believe, designed to unsettle the batsmen, but it seldom works. Usually the shy and retiring type, I recall gently enquiring whether a batsman intended to use his bat at all when at three consecutive deliveries had passed his edge. The next ball disappeared back past me like a tracer bullet. “Like that?”, the batsman said. Nicky Bird was a past master at subtly unsettling batsmen when his knees allowed him to take his place behind the stumps. His was a three pronged attack, played out over several overs. He would start with disarming compliments, “Oh good shot… I can see you are a batsman of real class” (even if he wasn’t). If that didn’t work, he would try and bore him out by yakking on about arty bollocks with first slip, such as whether the Adagietto in Mahler 5 was really better than the slow movement of the fourth symphony, or how movements like surrealism were a blind alley. This seldom failed to have desired effect, but if it did Bird would resort to plain filth at which point the batsman would deliberately miss a straight one or tread on his wicket just to be able to go and sit in a darkened room away from the incessant babble.
The Refreshers innings all changed with the introduction of Adam Jacot. With his second ball he had Skelton LBW and his third over was a double-wicket-maiden, one of his victims smartly caught at the wicket by Phil Goodliffe, standing up. Adam has been a revelation this summer: he is lean and fit and whilst his bowling lacks the venom of yore, he keeps nagging length with just enough movement to deceive the unwary. He still runs like a rusty automaton who is knee deep in custard, though. I once asked Annette if he had ever been able to run. She thought for a moment, perhaps recalling a sprightly toddler, and then sadly shook her head.
With the demise of Burrett, bowled by Derewlany, the run rate increased over by over and, despite a late flurry, the Refreshers were never really in the hunt. They were eventually all out in the 32ndover for 172, some 43 runs short. We repaired to the Golden Ball, but not before having to negotiate more of the incessant cyclists that plague the Stonor valley. Now, I have nothing against a solitary cyclist or the ‘mother duck’ formation of a family outing, but what possess groups of third-rate accountants to don Lycra of a weekend so they can ride three abreast down country lanes is beyond me. I occasionally stop to suggest that their life expectancy might be significantly enhanced by riding in single file. For well meaning advice, this is seldom well received.