Stonor Park, 23rd August 2020
Adam Jacot did a magnificent job in securing 11 good(ish) men for this crucial fixture against our hosts, Stonor CC. He also recruited a few for Saturday’s game. He proved those who doubted his organisational genius (me) wrong. We saw the return of noted all-rounder and economist Richard Woolhouse. He – and John Langley of the National Theatre who came to spectate – raise the tone, often lowered by the lumpenproletariat of Wargrave who make up our numbers. Langley talked of Pinter, whom he played cricket with – so much more edifying than the previous day’s banter about penile dysfunction.
Stonor are our hosts and we are indebted to them for playing in such idyllic surroundings. So diplomacy suggests we should lose with grace (but not deliberately) in an exciting finish. There should be no vulgar appealing, no argy-bargy. With Christiaan Jonkers and his beard absent we lacked perhaps that combative edge. He is a perverse combination of Nancy-boy antiquarian and bovver boy (on the pitch). We lacked too his viniculture, and the presumptuous little Burgundy he flourishes at teatime. [Our two connoisseurs of weed, Emley and Bowden, swooned about the mellowness of ‘compacted’ substances from the left bank of the Orinoco.] It is odd that Jonkers – who has never knowingly drunk a bottle under £12 – is holidaying in the land of ouzo, where a Macedonian rosé (£3) was described as ‘the sort of thing Putin would offer the Skripals in Salisbury.’ When the V&A CC was founded (1975) I used to provide a barrel of beer at luncheon until one man (I use the term loosely), whose speciality was netsuke, complained that ‘porter hardly compliments pâté’. So I had to tell him to fuck off and looked for firm-wristed men who drank ale from pewter tankards but ended up with Adam Jacot de Boinod, whose very name is effete.
The Grantham family turned up en masse. You can tell them apart; Vin’s sons run. Some of you have been clapping Dr Grantham every Thursday night. He’s the backbone of the NHS, a man who volunteered to study the effects of alcohol on his body over many years. And Farmer Bowden is back! If Martin’s body is not quite the temple it was, his mind is as sharp as Joe Biden’s. Farming suits him. He can count his sheep at night and sleep soundly. By the way, sheep are not dumb, as Kitty Morris told me on Saturday. Recent research by a Dr Kendrick shows they can remember 50 faces, prefer smiles to frowns, can navigate Hampton Court Maze and dislike being bored. And 8% prefer same sex relationships; possibly to relieve the boredom of standing in a field, a predictable diet and limited conversation. You can hardly say ‘nice coat’ to your neighbour when it’s the same every day. By the way, 20% of men in Rio are homosexualists, which is odd when you consider the quality of bimbo on the beach.
We played a declaration game (with the option of a draw), with no new ball for the second innings. Adam (our skip) remonstrated but Bowden said – ‘It is Stonor’s shout’. They batted first on an intermittently sunny day. We opened with Constantine and Rob Taylor, who bowled for a strenuous 12 and 14 overs respectively, kept on because both were cheap. Rob had their No. 1, Cripps, caught and bowled (nice catch) for 12. We lacked Goodliffe behind the sticks, but Nick P-G was a fine substitute, and caught a magnificent one-handed catch leaping like a salmon to his right to dismiss Farr, their other opener, for 7 off Nick C.
Stonor had started at a miserable 2 an over, and after 19 overs were in trouble, a leaden outfield making boundaries a rarity. But when Mark Lovatt, their skip, came in to partner Williams, things were quickly turned round. Mark has two shots, a heave to leg and a nice straight wallop. But you don’t need more if they work, and they did. Soon the 50 partnership was up and we looked in trouble. But Williams (41) was run out by Rob’s athleticism and Mark (43) was trapped LBW by Ed, a generous decision by the umpire. Jacot put himself on and soon bowled Horne for 1, and Maidlow for 6. Connelly, their No. 6, was run out by another scintillating throw from Rob, and despite a late flurry by Austin (16*) and ‘Quizmaster’ John Powell they managed only 154 for 7 off 41 overs. Would it be enough? The V&A were not at their strongest. But we had restricted Stonor through excellent bowling, particularly by Jacot (5-20-2), Taylor (14-35-1) and Ed G (5-19-1).
We were properly distanced at tea, and duly cleansed ourselves at intervals, in body at least. I’ve found it difficult to impose discipline on a V&A side who seem determined to share toilets and molest each other unless reminded of the rules. I will not repeat again – do not spit, do not indulge in a huddle. Your box is your own, and is not for hire. Speaking of hygiene, I once caught a V&A stalwart and a lady behind the pavilion on a dark January night. They said they were badger watching which for honesty is akin to ‘Your call is important to us, please hold…’
We opened our innings with Vin and Ed Grantham, father and son (Emley having elected to drop to 7). Vin was terrific. Although not built like Stokesy he smacked the ball as classically; particularly off their pace man, Kavanagh (who we will see this Saturday with The Refreshers). Ed looked in command but was unlucky to be bowled off his pads (for 6) by Tinsey, who did for our top order. Richard Woolhouse came in and, briefly, reminded me of his old style but succumbed to that most unfair of balls, the straight one. Enter Shaun Chande, a tidy batsman who stroked the ball along the ground in a cultured innings of 24 before being caught off Austin. Vin was bowled by Tinsey for 25 and we were reeling. But Rob came in, got his head down for a bit, whacked some lovely boundaries before playing on to a ball outside off, for 21. Our hopes were now pinned on Nick C, an eminent batsman. Not today. A short ball from Kavanagh was skied to mid-on, and caught. Oh dear. But Jacot was at the crease, a man for a crisis. And wait! Here comes Emley, the Stonewall Jackson of the V&A, the Rock of Gibraltar. The draw was now the only option, we were so behind the run rate. Emley defended sanely. Jacot told him to block, there were 10 overs to go. And then Jacot did the opposite. He hit 4 successive boundaries to mid-wicket. Mark placed 5 men on the leg for the catch. Would Jacot be so daft as to attempt the same shot again? Yes. He was caught. Theo Grantham came in. Emley told him to play for the draw, defend. And then Emley (5) hit a full toss straight into square leg’s hands and trudged sheepishly back to the pavilion. A few balls later Theo was bowled by Connelly for a stout 0.
There were 35 balls to face and we were 9 wickets down with Bowden and last man Nick P-G in, red facial fuzz and all. Hopes were bleak. But Bowden is a veteran of the rearguard action and Nick has the requisite technique and mental resilience. They blocked. Occasionally Nick smacked a loose one but declined to run. Overs came, and went. The last over was bowled by John Powell. He floated up tempters. Nick faced. He left the first two, blocked three. The last ball looked on the wicket. Would he miss it? I was umpiring. If it hit his legs I would give the LBW. But Nick held firm and the match was drawn, a most unlikely result six overs previously.
The game over we were invited to drink at the Rainbow, our old haunt, where Curly – once the rudest landlord in Oxfordshire – has mellowed (apparently). Not wishing to be disappointed I retired to my club to watch the footy. Speaking of rudeness, Stonor once suffered from having their two best players their two rudest players. They eventually got rid of them, as Rupert Morris did that old git I hadn’t the courage to boot. The git had form; he’d been asked to quit The Invalids because of ‘inappropriate remarks’ to a player’s wife. Thankfully, we don’t have a rule about that or I’d be tending my allotment on weekends. I did have the courage to get rid of a bloke called Adamson. He was beyond ghastly, used to ring me up pissed at midnight and leave filthy, ungrammatical messages on my machine. My wife wasn’t phased by the abuse, she gives worse to the servants and the Ocado man who forgets her gin, but she hated his syntax, being a PHD in linguistics.
Since you ask, I am still off the booze because of throat problems. Water is dreadful. W.C. Fields got it right when he said: ‘I don’t drink water, fish fuck in it.’