I gave Nick Derewlany a lift down to Stonor. He was unhungover which always surprises. We talked of the holocaust and the banality of evil, and then moved to weighty things like Brentford missing out on promotion. Nick’s family came from Lvov, a great mistake as it was on the old Polish/Russian border and bang in the way of Stalin’s tanks going west and Hitler’s going east. Droitwich is a safer bet. And the B4090 going through Droitwich has temporary traffic lights so it’s not ideal tank country.
It was a gorgeous sunny day at Stonor. Two new players graced us: Owen Gundry and his 13-year-old son Otto. Otto bowls very nicely and will be a good bat. Owen is a set designer and designed the set for Jonathan Ross’s new show. But nobody’s perfect. Adam writes for airline magazines. You have to accept work where you can. Jonkers runs a bookstall. In 1972 I took the trad job of selling hoovers door to door in the hope of easy money and randy housewives on housing estates. After 6 months my tally was – hoovers sold 0; randy housewives 0.
The Battersea Badgers are so called because they used to come from Battersea, mostly. The ‘badgers’ bit is just alliteration, I was told, and sounds better than ‘bollweevils’. The connection is Mark Terblanche, whose brother-in-law plays for them. A very nice bunch indeed. Pity our tea lady couldn’t provide her usual splendid lunch, but they’ll live longer without her pâté.
We batted first in a 40 over game. Owen and Nick D opened, against some fine medium pace, one bowling in-swingers, the other cutting off the seam. Owen had nice Woosterish antique flannels, but they did not impress long before they departed after that most unfair of balls, the straight one. Enter Mark T, a super batsman, elegant and wily. Nick and he looked set, but Nick was tempted to glance one uppish to square leg and was gone. Ollie Marsh came in and as always looked solid. Soon the score mounted. From 10 for 2 and struggling we were 71 before Mark (21) was caught, Cornish – who took 4 wickets – doing the damage. Ollie was fluent and with Nick Constantine at the crease we were hopeful of a big partnership. But with only 8 runs added Ollie misjudged the line and was bowled (for 36). We were back in trouble. And Nick C was swinging and missing a lot. Oh dear. Tom Bird came in, a bit rusty, maybe distracted by a decent Meursault… but he started vigorously and struck a straight 4 to move to 13 when he was bowled by a ball that might have got Bradman, if he wasn’t looking.
Lachlan walked in to partner Nick C, now scoring freely. Lachlan pulled a lovely boundary and was on the point of cutting loose when he too was bowled (for 15). Otto joined Nick C. Otto can bat, but at his age it is tricky getting the ball off the square. The Badgers were gents and adjusted the bowling. I never had that luxury.
Nick Constantine saved our innings. When he was eventually out, bowled by Ali (for 69 in just 43 balls) he had hit five 6s and four consecutive 4s! Ed Grantham hit a quick 19 (he should go up the order), Adam a fine 4 before succumbing; Tom P-G was unbeaten at the end and Otto scored 6. He hit one fine drive which would have gone for 4 if the boundary had been nearer. We were all out for 220.
Lunch was the usual picnic. Nosey parkers eye competing lunches to see which is best (Nick C’s usually, last week’s Boeuf Bourguignon was majestic). My sandwich jambon à la Hellmann’s® wins no prizes. Tom P-G had an amusing game where you changed a letter in a phrase to make something rude. Like dropping an ‘n’ in annus mirabilis. But I may have misunderstood. He also banged on about ‘flashing’ which Mike Constantine seemed to know a lot about. Lish, Tom P-G’s angelic girlfriend, showed me her tattoos. Which prompted me to spout – to anyone listening (no one) – There once was a harlot at Yale / With her price-list tattooed on her tail / And on her behind / For the sake of the blind / She had it embroidered in Braille.
Our opening bowlers for the Badgers’ innings were Lachlan and Nick D. Nick soon bowled their opener for 2 and Lachlan bowled their No. 2 for 4. But the opening batsmen were not perhaps their strongest. The No. 4, Tildesley, was very good indeed and offered few chances, driving nicely and smacking the loose one. He and Foord, their No. 3, put on 40 odd runs before Lachlan bowled Foord – who had made just 3 in the partnership. Their no. 5 came in and was immediately bowled by Lachlan. Lachlan was on a hattrick. The field walked in, eager, expectant, waiting for the coup de grace. When it came – wide outside leg, going for 4 byes – it was a bit of a disappointment. ‘One of the worst balls I’ve bowled’ said Lachlan without hyperbole. But his figures were 3 for 7 off 6 overs. Tom P-G’s (1 for 8) spin enticed a catch and Otto also lured a catch to Tom at mid-off (cue much celebration). But when Cornish, their No. 8 came in, and matched Tildesley’s scoring, our target looked gettable. At tea they were 140 for 6 or so.
Conversation at tea turned to umpiring. While umpiring last week I rejected a legitimate appeal. A decision which would have enraged Jonkers if he’d been bowling. Would the ball have hit the wicket? Yes. But I have always maintained that before an LBW verdict is given an umpire should ignore the position of the batsman’s leg and ask himself – would the batsman be upset if given out? Has he come far? Is he BIGGER THAN ME? Lachlan ticks these boxes. Not out.
When play resumed it was clear that Tildesley and Cornish could win the match by staying in. The run rate wasn’t a problem. They smote the ball with conviction. But Ollie Marsh, our self-effacing but capable captain, finally brought himself on – and bowled Cornish (34). That left Tildesley as their last hope, nearing his century. He whacked a drive to mid-wicket, the ball was picked up by Tom P-G (I think, I was distracted by tattoos) and hurled at the stumps. It hit. Was Tildesley out? No, said the bearded umpire, a bloke who had sensibly stayed solid against the usual chuntering appeals. I thought he was right, so did Tom Bird; it was too close to call. Jonkers, spectating with me, and Tom P-G begged to differ. Jonkers was a bit loud in his dissension. Tom was a bit cheeky and got summoned by the ump but declined to be admonished.
No matter, Constantine (2 for 11) came on with the score on 160 and promptly bowled Tildesley (for 98); and he and Ollie wrapped up the tail. The Badgers were all out for 165.
Lovely day, very pleasant opposition. There was bit of a tiff in the car park behind the pav when the bearded umpire (supported by his loyal wife) questioned Jonkers as to a) how he could adjudge the run-out from the boundary and b) whether he was qualified. Jonkers said he’d taken a course. He did not add that this was before Elvis got fat.
Speaking of which, Vin Grantham told me he had instructed lawyers concerning my implying in match reports that he was a fat drunk. So let me rescind my baseless slur and say that for a fat drunk he is an amazingly good cricketer. Also on a legal note, in the pub there was serious bad news for Christiaan. Beaky, the pride of the Golden Ball (‘we nurtured him from an egg’), was the old chicken that Jonkers manhandled to the ground two weeks ago, when the fowl jumped on the table, pinched his pomme frite and dipped it in the mayo. Beaky died, we were told. Christiaan is banged to rights, there is documentary film of the incident. He cannot claim self-defence, chickens are rarely lethal. Beaky was a rare breed, a minority group, and this looks like a hate crime.