I never asked to do the match report, but here goes. Nicky’s are bollocks mainly, Jonkers’ impenetrable, NPG talks in riddles. So the bar is pretty low. Jago’s are lovely, by the way.
I’ll attempt to get it on the website unedited*. Which is manned by Nick Constantine. Constantine is kit manager, wine manager and website manager. It helps to be clubbable. He had trouble with Ross, leading to a political tête-à-tête. Ross was stressed with two kids and a stressful career, and Nick C wound him up. I was ok with Ross, until I got arsy with him for not keeping wicket well enough, and next week he was gone. I hope he and Megan come back at some point, not least because they made the place wonderful with children and puddings. His dashing backward forward defensive attack is folklore in these parts; his prolific run scoring too, but perhaps his chuntering less so.
The V&A less and less resembles the side I joined a decade ago. To start with, we win almost every game now. And we can all pretty much bat, bowl, throw and catch (with obvious exceptions). Thanks to the long arm of Covid, there is quite the weekly show of individual culinary expertise, given we’ve had to bring our own lunches these last few weeks. This Saturday, our Australian exchange student Nick Derelawny (still can’t pronounce it, can anyone?) produced a side of cow that had clearly only just made it to the oven before it was snatched from the heat and hurled onto the table at the pavilion. We then manhandled it with a blunt bread knife. It was practically mooing. Nicky prefers a simple sandwich, with a bottle of San Pellegrino. Very civilised. Jonkers, currently catching Covid in the Corfu nightclubs, eats what his chef, Constantine, prepares the night before, while he provides the liquid – usually some cheap sh*te from New South Wales. Quite an arrangement. Chapeau, Christiaan! Jago makes his own scotch eggs (which apparently have meat in them, in case you went vegalite, like Adam Knight did over lockdown). The only man whose lunch I can’t comment on is Phil Goodliffe’s. Phil is a man’s man: 70 years old and scoring, keeping, rolling the wicket, poisoning the weeds, warming up (and down), wearing tights (for warmth), and batting bravely at 11. He also drives a souped-up black BMW and listens to Coolio on his sub-woofers. Like others, I won’t touch his scoreboard, either. It is out of bounds. No man is an island, except for Phil on match days. Added to this he is quite the most fastidious and dexterous wicket keeper I’ve ever played with, with nous for the game like no one else on the team. He regularly stuns the opposition with his dangerous leg-side dives, and employs his mild Northern deference with occasionally aggressive chunter.
We were playing The Refreshers, so named according to the daily ‘refresher’ fee the doughty barristers used to receive after the initial day’s fee. It is now an abandoned custom. Their captain Tom ‘does death’ he told me, morbidly adding there ‘is a lot of it about at the moment’. I sniggered fearfully and walked away. Our own side was late, arriving casually on the nose at 11.30. Years ago, I used to arrive very late, and a touch insouciant. One year, I didn’t know about the V&A Awards dinner, so I didn’t show up. I was latterly informed I had won a prize. How things have changed. Now I prefer to arrive at Stonor before dawn, catch my breakfast, read the paper, fry my eggs, smash some balls in the net, open up the pavilion etc. Some say I camp, (or maybe that I’m camp), but it’s not true. Well, I don’t anymore. Especially not on the land around the pavilion. I had a run in with the farmer there once, who was to my astonishment riding around on a mountain bike and checking his thickets for wandering cricketers. I don’t fancy that experience again. Neither does he probably.
I think we won the toss, and Jago elected to bat. The pitch was a pudding before the end of the first over. No matter, as Turpie and Constantine looked in control from the off. The opening bowlers threatened little as Constantine began to open up. He is a brutal, unforgiving batsman when he gets going, treating even the straightest of full deliveries with disdain. Hitting hard, his 61 made it a game, as one by one each V&A player threw their wicket away in single digits. Jago ‘The Chelsea Potter’ Poynter (coming to a sleepy village near you, and please see his Instagram) thankfully scored the vital 36. The rest of us collapsed: Andy Jones hit 7*, Adam Jacot and Joe Tetlow managed 4 apiece, TPG a sturdy 2, while I brought up the rear with a timely 0. Somewhere along the line, Ollie Kavanagh, the oppo opener (who I’d spied netting madly over lockdown at the Stonor nets) snaffled 5 wickets for 30 odd in the collapse, bowling a mixture of full inswingers and straight ones, and poppy long-hops. Hard to play, in the circumstances. Criminal barristers like Ollie don’t make much, they do it for the morality of it or whatever, but he can be proud of his figures in this case… (oof).
We crawled to 143 all out off 39 overs, the scorebook says, and the clouds were brewing.
The new ball works well for me. It’s hard, shiny and moves through the air. I took a couple of quick ones, and the erstwhile lawyers were on the ropes. Joe Tetlow, whose pace is undisputed, bowled a peach or two. Better than ever. Joe is quicker than me in the nets, like Thompson was when up against Lillee. But, like Thompson, Joe is less accurate. It’s always a toss-up as a bowler: speed or accuracy? Often Jonkers elects for neither, but he gets wickets.
The V&A bowling attack slipped into 5th gear, with TPG and Turpie holding the rate down. Turpie is a proper sportsman. He can do everything on the field, and is apparently Chelsea’s finest squash player. But there never really was a credible threat from the lawyers, as Emley was heard more than once sportingly saying ‘let’s have them 10 for 8 boys – no mercy’, or some sh*t. Despite Emley’s threats of retirement, he still returns to play each week, with the same familiar anecdotes. Nice to hear them again. He co-founded the Groucho years ago and has retired twice already. Speaking of drama queens, against the odds, Adam Jacot held a catch in the slips. Some thought it a sitter, but that didn’t deter Adam from hamming it up a tad – catching, dropping, catching, dropping and re-catching it several times, in a queenly way. If only the Henley Standard had snapped it.
It was an easy win in the end as the lawyers capitulated for 75. Skipper Jago had opted for a timed game, and well he might have. It allows for a draw, and gives one side the opportunity to practice judiciousness, manners and courage in the declaration. Or simply to screw the oppo out the game entirely. Limiting overs limits the breadth of experience the game offers. But perhaps I’m just boring. I was stood down from a T20 game this week, just as well as I still don’t quite get a) the point of it b) how to play it. I seem to be in a minority. Maybe a big one.
Cricket returned to the BBC this week, after a fifteen-year absence; at the same time it was reported that fewer adults than ever now play the game. So long as Jonkers keeps wearing his 19th century flannels, the ball stays red, and the whites stay white etc., I’m happy. But change is inevitable, panta rei, an’ all that (‘everything is in flux’ – Heraclitus). My tan is fading already, for a start. But hopefully by next season our lunches and teas will be back to normal, Dennis will have returned, and our new kit will have arrived. And perhaps the BBC will have the Test Match back. Doubt it. We have T20 instead. Joy.
Pub and bird fondling commenced in a huddle at the Golden Bollock, as the last of August’s rays spread themselves on the assembled cocks and turkeys hunched over warm ale and hot chips from Sharon’s oven. Sharon is our matron. She womans the fort pretty much alone, and disciplines Jonkers admirably, never pandering to his concern over the rights of way of the resident chickens, and the controversial practice of mixing condiments. Our little ritual, it seems, is still the same after all the social upheaval of the last six months. Some things, thankfully, don’t change.
by Lachlan Nieboer
*This was improbable and totally unsuccessful.