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V&A v Chelsea Arts Club


V&A Team: Nieboer (capt.), Jacot, Jonkers, Goodliffe, Tetlow, Hale, Fraser, Gleason, Mayana, Sethi, Wright, Bird, N. (12th Man)

THE CHELSEA ARTS CLUB is one of our oldest fixtures. We first played them 37 years ago. Stephen Bartley, their co-founder with David Maddocks (still playing), was at school with me and was looking for arty teams to play so alighted on the V&A.  We were pathetic, crippled by limp-wristed curators who nancied about like girlies in the outfield commenting on the too too delicious Poussin-blue of the sky. They had to go. There’s nothing homophobic about kicking out a bunch of preening queens and getting in butch guys like Jacot and Bowden.

Jacot played on Saturday and was pretty depressed. ‘Bowled first ball and whacked for 10 in my first over, I’m giving up.’ But next over it all changed – two wickets and he was un cochon dans la merde. Incidentally, my pig-breeding brother-in-law John says that pigs aren’t dirty, it’s a myth, they are exceptionally fastidious about their personal hygiene, but they are very irritable. So, like Emley without the fastidious bit. By the way, Emley and I (and others) are a little hard of hearing so it’s useless muttering ‘wanker’ behind our backs.

It was a glorious day – All the sun long it was running, it was lovely – as new boy Matt Wright and Nichal Sethi walked out to bat in a declaration game (20 overs after tea). The bowling was exceptionally good, two South African left-armers, one – Holloway – swinging it alarmingly. I umpired and soon Van Der Linde, who pitched it unerringly just outside leg to hit middle and off, was screaming for LBWs. ‘Not out’ I replied twice. He was less than gruntled, and showed displeasure. He suggested I might be incompetent. But Matt and Nichal both stuck the ball nicely until Sethi (6) got a low one and was bowled. Finally, I had to give an LBW (Wright) – despite the vulgar appeal – when a ball pitched on leg stump to hit middle. Enter Tetlow, who defended stoutly until bowled, also for 6. Sean Mayana, an old V&A stalwart and wonderfully enthusiastic cricketer, was bowled first ball, and the mildly disabled Jonkers (0) spooned one up to mid-off. Sean Gleason, fresh from snapping Anthony Hopkins in his new film, came… and went (4), bowled by the fearsome Van Der Linde.

The Springbok openers had each bowled eight overs on the trot and we were reeling at 53 for 6. The day looked a short one, the pub beckoned. But then three things happened… Andy Fraser, who first played for the V&A in 1975, came in, a man of reticence and sound batsmanship (two V&A tons in his sixties); Lachlan, our skip, joined him, a contrasting figure of ebullience and power; and Toby Nott-Bower, the CAC skip, an expert in change management, changed the bowling.

From 53 for 6 and looking buried we began to build a target. Fraser anchored an end. Ils ne passeront pas. Lachlan meanwhile went on a run fest, and in a masterful display of aggressive stroke play smote nine fours and four sixes in an innings of 85 before being caught in the deep off Holloway. Fraser had, as usual, pulled a muscle and needed a runner. Jacot, next man in, offered to run but that was like sending on Douglas Bader, so Tetlow did the running, which prompted much Springbok ‘chuntering’ (as Fraser called it) because Nieboer and Tetlow could snatch singles elusive to even a fit Fraser. Nevertheless, Fraser, in an invaluable 17 (in a 112 run partnership) at one moment ran 3, something he has not done since the Falklands. New man Ben Hale hit a useful 7 at the end and we declared on 177-9 from 39 overs.

At lunch I gave a short speech thanking the caterer (me) and acknowledging our famous guest Henry Blofeld (CAC President), with a bad joke (about him being some sort of unconvincing tribute act) that Blowers found, I fear, unamusing. But I spent most of the day chatting to the ‘dear old thing’ and learning, inter alia, that Strauss was right about KP, he is a ‘total c*nt’, you can tell ‘cos his best friend is Piers Morgan. Boycott is rude to waiters.

We opened the bowling with Lachlan and Tetlow. Lachlan bowled accurately but within himself. Tetlow varied his balls nicely, from slow and wayward to wayward and slow. One potential catch flew through Sean Gleason’s fingers. They were coasting towards our modest target, but a change of bowling brought results. After that depressing first over Jacot lured a catch to Lachlan at deep mid-on and two overs later he had their other opener caught (by Sethi). The openers had piled on 42 and 33; their next man scored a quick 15 before being bowled by Mayana and their No. 4 was brilliantly caught by Ben Hale at square leg (to his evident surprise) and they were 123 for 4. They looked comfortable, despite the flurry of wickets.

But now Nieboer brought himself back and his tail was up. Goodliffe (immaculate behind the sticks) noticed the touch of venom in his pace and length. Van Der Linde came in, a decent bat, but Lachlan bowled him for 10. Now Holloway, the other Springbok, entered, a chap who had made the mistake of bouncing Lachlan, hitting him on the helmet, and unwisely celebrating. He faced three balls. One missed, just; one hit him somewhere; the next bowled him. ‘I was just pleased to escape uninjured,’ he muttered.

Things had turned around, runs had dried and the V&A sniffed an improbable victory. At the finish they needed 23 in two overs and it looked impossible, with Lachlan fearsome and Gleason economical at the other end. And so it proved. We, Lachlan particularly, had secured a draw.

The Golden Ball, and the chips, were enjoyed much later than anticipated that morning.  The South Africans were delightful, and I discussed my endoscopy and Emley’s colonoscopy until I lost my audience.

But a fine day’s cricket with gracious people and beautiful sunshine. Someone asked me to be less coarse and more poetic in these reports, so this is apt:

In the sun that is young once only,

Time let me play and be

Golden in the mercy of his means…

V&A 177-9 (Nieboer 85, Van Der Linde 4-15); CAC 166-6 (Kulasingam 42, Nieboer 2-26; Jacot 2-21).  Match drawn