Habitually, whenever match report writing has been mentioned, I have avoided any eye contact and skulked off swiftly. V&A are match reports are witty, erudite and full of words you will usually only find in a book written by Adam Jacot; penned by arty types as a vehicle to show off their knowledge of literature and culture – not my bag. No condition is permanent however and following Saturdays game, whilst relaxing over a pint at the Golden Testicle, I was caught completely unawares and mugged by T-Bird. Oozing his abundant charm he fixed me with calculating eyes and asked me if I could write up the match report? He had already posted a curly blond, blue eyed child to cover the only exit and I was in trouble. I blurted that in Trivial Pursuit the Art & Literature cheese was always the one I was struggled to get and that, as 50% of my genetic gift to the world was playing in the side, there was no way I could be impartial or fair. It transpires however that Nicky’s reports are total bollocks and dangerously libellous, NPG is SO busy he couldn’t possibly do it, Constantino has writers block and Lachlan wrote the last one. I folded like a cheap shirt, so here goes….
“The Unabombers”, Rupert did explain how they came by the name however it was a long-winded and slightly dull explanation and I have forgotten. Their time keeping makes Edward look positively punctual and by kick off they could only field nine men. I have no idea who won the toss (at this stage I had no notion anyone would be fool enough to ask me to write a match report) however the V&A were inserted onto a boggy, porridge like wicket with an outfield slower than a narcoleptic with hypothyroidism. Captain Tom wisely chose the classic opening pair of NPG and VG for this dangerous mission. I have always felt that a well-played maiden over is highly under rated, and the first two overs of our innings were right out of the top drawer. Grace, elegance, high elbows and not one single run, which is just as well as, whilst correct in technique, there is not an abundance of speed between the wickets in this classic partnership. NPG’s timing was exemplary however he was undone by a seeming leg side full toss which then fiendishly swung through the leaden conditions to take out his middle stump.
VG urgently warned the incoming Constantine of the dangers of this away swing only to promptly forget his own advice and send a dolly to cover off the outside edge. This dismissal brought together the pairing of Constantine and Nieboer, there was a change of bowling, the sun shone and much hay was made. The ball started flying to all parts and a competitive total was building. In no time at all Constantine had reached his fifty (28 deliveries), the Unabombers appeared in disarray and V&A confidence was soaring. Dangerous, so very dangerous, with our many combined years of experience this side should have known better. The patient was still very much on the table and the operation far from finished. However complacency had taken root, so much so that (as T-Bird tells me) Captain Tom sent the message out that maybe Constantino (53) could give his wicket away and let others have a bat. This he duly did, however shortly after Kneebore (38) also holed out and Marsh (3) was dismissed cheaply to a classic caught behind.
Rupert Morris strode out to the wicket for what is reputed to be his last innings for the V&A. I remember well Chris Tarrant saying that he had been to every one of Status Quo’s final, last farewell concerts but as Rupert and Kitty are moving to a different country we have to accept his retirement is no idle threat and there is serious intent. Rupert is a truly lovely man, a superb human being and a stalwart of the V&A. A ray of sunshine whose absence will leave our lives that little bit less bright. Rupert smote his first delivery to square leg for four but sadly soon after made camp on his back foot in front of middle stump and it fell to me to raise a reluctant, desolate finger. Jacot (3) holed out, there was a brief moment of stability but then Captain Tom (7) was bowled as was Theo Grantham for one. 144 for 9 with 6 of our 35 overs still to go, nowhere near enough, at the bottom of a deep hole of our own digging. The theatre sister’s hand was poised above the phone to call the crash team as Phil the Octopus hobbled out to join Ed. In my career I have looked after several couples who survive at home by pooling their resources. One may be physically able but have completely lost their marbles whilst the other is physically disabled but has all their mental faculties, thus they make a functioning whole to meet the demands of daily living; this is how a magnificent, match turning 10th wicket partnership came to flourish. Phil was the brains and Ed the brawn. They managed their resources (Phil having to “run” two on more than one occasion) and batted into the final over bringing our total up to a defendable 168.
Covid-19 restrictions were adhered to and we all ate our picnics in the sun in front of the pavilion. With the Jonkertron not playing (although later he was compelled by his burnt umber cords to come and watch the denouement) I do not have to go into vulgar discourse about the cost of wine. Our opponents generously brought an esky of chilled beers (which was nice) and Lachlan was pushing a beetroot vegetable soup for anyone suffering with constipation and needing a good aperient.
Captain Tom opened up with Nieboer and Marsh who were fast, accurate and miserly. Lachlan bowled Collyer but resistance was obdurate. They were replaced by the seed of my loins Ed and Theo with the ever reliable Jacot backing them up. Adam took two wickets and three fell to Ed’s Bertie Bassett style of bowling. By tea the Unabombers were 62 for 6, 102 adrift with more than half their overs gone. The considered medical opinion was that this innings and therefore the match, was now in a terminal condition. Active treatment should be withdrawn and a referral made to the palliative care team.
Tea saw a special moment that warmed the very cockles of my heart. As we all trudged off to trough out of our picnic hampers once more Lachlan took the 14 year old Theo Grantham to one side for an impromptu bowling masterclass from the leader of the V&A pace attack. It worked too, Theo came back on to bowl his first maiden over in adult cricket after tea and his silly, old, soft Dad was very proud!
Was it overindulgence at tea? Was it the drying of the wicket and the outfield? Was it once more complacency? A pulse was found, the patient started to breathe spontaneously and opened their eyes! Messers Lever and Penn began to put together a partnership. It began to seem as though all our Covid-19 precautions were pointless as the V&A seemed, for a while at least, incapable of catching anything. They put on 57 for the 7th wicket and, with five overs still to go, an unlikely Unabombers win was back on the cards. Captain Tom however was having none of it. He brought back Marsh, Nieboer and then Constantine to bowl and pulled the plug on the life support. When Lachlan bowled Deepak in the 34th over they were all out for 135. An excellent result, an enjoyable game and many congratulations to Tom for his captaincy.
Apparently the land Lord (William Stonor) ambled over to watch the latter half of the second innings. He was snubbed and totally ignored by Jonkers and Bird and then serially offended by their smutty and vulgar conversation. Finally, in an act of desperation, he broke cover and introduced himself which by all accounts induced a truly nauseating performance of fawning and grovelling from our club Chairman. He left shortly afterwards, one fears the damage had already been done.
We retired to the Golden Testis for beer and chips. Rupert bought drinks for one and all as it was his last chance to do so and with barely a dry eye in the house, we all stood to toast our team mate one last time. Although he will be sorely missed we wish Rupert and Kitty all the very best for the future.
by Vin Grantham