JUNE 19, 2021, STONOR
A DANK DAY, RAIN THREATENING (see photo of Otto and Ben) but Alex Lang, the Bandits’ jovial founder and captain, thought we could manage a 35-over game. I won the toss and batted – on a leaden pitch. ‘Do not play back’ I warned, ‘do not attempt to sweep a ball on the wicket’. Deaf ears. I rued the absence of Andy Fraser’s correctness (I refer to his technique, not character) and Lachlan’s invaluable gifts but the bugger had injured himself, possibly combing his hair, or camping.
We opened with Vin and Matt Wright. They batted nicely, and even managed boundaries, not easy on such a pudding of an outfield. But both were out for 13, Vin caught spooning it up; Matt bowled going back. Jago and Rob Taylor came in and smote the bowling before Jago misjudged one on the wicket and was LBW for 10 (with one majestic 6), and Rob was bowled playing across it (24 – with two 4s and one 6). We were 71 for 4 and the overs were dwindling. Enter Ben Horan and Adam Jacot. Horan plays with verve but sensibly, eschewing mindless flourishes. Adam was unfortunately caught for 0. So the tall dandyish figure of Bird N. walked in to the usual applause and hushed respect of the opposition. ‘Steady the ship’ were my instructions to myself, as I let Horan do the scoring. Our partnership of 33 allowed for a glimmer of hope. When I was eventually out those that followed succumbed easily, apart from a quick cameo from new boy Abrar (6). Ben made 34 essential runs (one 6, four 4s) before being well caught in the deep. We stuttered to 125, not enough really, especially given their wayward bowling (13 wides).
Lunch was my ‘usual fayre’. The Rôti de boeuf was either excellent or raw depending on how downmarket you were. The riff-raff we get in the pavilion is depressing, like the yob who thought my Lapsang Suchong was ‘off’. ‘It’s meant to taste like that,’ I explained. ‘Fuck off’ he laughed. We won’t get this sort of oikery with the top-hatted Royal Household next Saturday.
The BANDITS were formed by Alex from a 7-a-side footy team who played at Leeds University. He is a dietician, the sort of chap Vin and I could use professionally. One of their players is a famous heart surgeon; we discussed Boris, our ex-VP, and the way he took over a hospital floor, when struck by Covid; he was a tiresome patient, demanding a Full English at odd moments and getting it. My sympathies are with Boris. As discussed later in the pub, some older gits like me were careless about drink driving in the 60s and found ourselves banged up (four times in my case). Paddington nick was the worst. No breakfast menu, no wine list. And the company, my dear. Frightful Irishman in my cell who had enjoyed one schooner of surgical spirit too many, and whose vocabulary was limited to ‘c*nt’. How unlike ‘Blowers’ who graced us a fortnight ago, and who never slipped up excitedly on air like I might – ‘Oh my dear old thing, what a fuckin’ shot! Fuck me…’
We opened the bowling with Ben and Otto Grundy, who has matured into a very nice medium pace bowler. If he doesn’t bowl too fast he is impressively accurate. Under the ECB rules he is only allowed 4 overs on the trot (being 13). But he was cheap, if wicketless. Ben got their opener Jan (for 1), beautifully caught by the matchless Jago at mid-on. We sensed a collapse. But then something strange happened. Phil missed a stumping. A rare event. The lucky batsman was Alex’s brother, who was dropped by Adam later on and made 50*. Rob Taylor trapped Crystal, their No. 4, LBW and there was a flurry of comic run-outs but with 5 overs to go they appeared to be coasting. Nevertheless, the stoic Jacot toiled away. At one point R. Lang threw a mild wobbly at Adam’s careful field changes and his long pause before his languid run-up, a pause to get ‘his head right’. Mr. Lang thought this some psychological trick but Adam is incapable of ‘mind games’.
Adam Jacot made the two weekend fixtures happen; a double header is tricky and he was on it tirelessly from Monday. Nagging, pressing (Father’s Day, beloved of Hallmark Cards, didn’t help). In the old days the only resource was the telephone, and I would make 100 calls to get 11 players (of indeterminate gender, we were inclusive even in the 70s). The trouble was wives picked up; if congenial they’d chat for 10 long minutes before shouting to the hubby. But often the phone went dead, after a polite ‘piss off’. [Incidentally, Phil told us in the pub that at Cambridge his language was limited to the word ‘piss’ for everything – ‘pissed’, ‘piss-up’, ‘pisshead’ etc.] Adam uses modern technology but mostly he uses persistence. He mentioned that I am rude to his face but quite nice behind his back; let me say that he is a wonderful son and uncle and without him the V&A would be the poorer. But he is still a brooding shambling Brandoesque figure best not seen front of house.
With 30 runs to get, a wicket might have panicked their long tail but – a couple of near misses apart – Lang and Cox, their No. 6, held firm and they won the game by 6 wickets. We had however made a day of it, which did not look likely when we were 87 for 6. Ben and Rob were the pick of our bowlers, both bowling 7 overs economically.
In the pub with the chips, we continued the subject of strange partnerships. Onassis / Mrs Kennedy; Sue Barker / Cliff Richard. And, of course, Hitler / Eva Braun. Something went wrong there at the dating agency. Eva wrote on the form: ‘Photographer’s assistant, into cooking, needlework, Johann Strauss.’ Hitler put: ‘Führer, into lederhosen, genocide, Wagner.’ Still, it ended in marriage, with an all-too-brief honeymoon in a bunker.
We talked of lies and white lies. Sandra, Rob’s fiancée, suggested the best excuse for being found by the missus with a woman in your bed was ‘she fell in through the window’ which did not explain her nakedness or post-coital cigarette. We agreed the white lie was essential; do not say ‘I hate broccoli’ after she has served it for three years; and don’t tell her ‘Frankly, I don’t fancy you and I can only get it up if I think of Elton John.’
We lost (again) but I will end with appropriate lines that appeared on a plaque that hung in my school pavilion, decipherable despite the word ‘Bollocks’ being sprayed over it:
For when the One Great Scorer comes
To mark against your name,
He writes – not that you won or lost –
But HOW you played the Game.
V&A 125-9 (Horan 34, R. Taylor 24); Bandits 126-4 (R. Lang 50*, Crystal 44, Horan 1-27, R. Taylor 1-32). Bandits won by 6 wickets