11:30 AM start, for a 12:35 PM start…
Saturday’s fixture was blown out by soccer which meant mass availability for our Sunday scrap with A Few Good Men. Anyway, “It’s gone to Rome, it’s gone to Rome, it’s gone to, football’s gone to Rome”. By midday, the fabled “11:30am start” was a dead duck as neither team had enough players to offer as sub-fielders to get the affair running, we had no skippers on the ground and no vice-captains stepped up. Why? Stonor valley North and southbound was clagged with columns of petrol heads queuing to spaff over some Super Cars with knacked exhaust silencers in the Stonor Park Municipal Car Park. ‘Penis extensions’, ejaculated Nicky Bird. Now, if my shagged-out biohazard Kangoo van is a penis extension, then I’m afflicted with Gonorrhoea, Chlamydia and other girl’s names that have fallen from fashion.
“Transubstantiation. Let’s discuss?” blurted Bird, trying again to get conversational traction. Luckily, the match began allowing us to leave him wittering on about faith, marriage, fidelity, and public toilets. Under bruised clouds, 30 overs an innings was deemed a daring venture, a good call as we were sheltering after just one over. Cue scrabbling around for sawdust and bar towels. Of the former, Phil Goodliffe seems to carry a sack of it in his cricket wagon.
Of the latter, Wisden records a 1997 one-dayer in Colombo between India and Sri Lanka. A corker of a game was topped by some afters of ill-informed nationalism. “There was anger in India when TV viewers thought they saw umpire Francis wiping the ball on an Indian flag” Lynch him! Burn him! Burn a plastic figure of him till it melts onto your feet! If only the UK Government would show such a passion for sport. Wisden goes on, “After a spate of angry calls to newspaper offices, Francis brought out the offending cloth: a Tennents Pilsner bar towel – with similar colours – that he had picked up in a Surrey pub”.
Play resumed and we racked up a healthy 216 for 6 courtesy of jug-avoiders Constantine 46, Marsh 47 and Tetlow 40*. Joe discovered his front foot, which was lovely to watch. Marsh couldn’t hit a six and when he tried to, he was caught by the lofty Sandy Duncan. Tino was just an animal. His 46 could have been a duck. Or a 100. It’s hard to tell how he will play each week. Of our Stonor CC volunteers, the lovely Marc Lovatt walloped 37 off 29 balls while John Powell ran gamely between the wickets, losing the strike to Tetlow at will. When JP mithered about this to the umpire who swiftly adopted the Nicky Bird approach. Deaf as a Pistorius, “Are you in there, love?”
I’d briefed our skipper pre-match about Marc and John, thus, “ML-lovely man, bats 4 or 5, bottom hand, no footwork, keeps WK, excellent gully”. And JP? “Yorkshireman (proud), fallen all-rounder, injured. Can bat/bowl, but gently”. Our only batting failure was Dr. Vim Grantham who was unfortunate to hit one to the ‘Men’s’ highest fielder, Sandy ‘Dune du Pilat’ Duncan. I batted too.
Defending 216 from 30 overs our bowling attack in iffy weather would be no problem. Our only weak links were the “Bowling Machine set on Spray” that was Andy Jones, and the “Fallen All-rounder” JP. Sure enough, our openers Theo Grantham and Joe Tetlow, then Tom P-G never let AFGM get ahead of the 7 runs per over required. Though only Tetlow of this trio took a wicket, their combined 15 overs went at under 5 per over. TPG and Theo might have had wickets but for Phil Goodliffe’s uncomfortable new gloves. By Phil’s own exacting standards, he had a rough day but is still our absolute best wicketkeeper. Others who don the gloves are not ‘wicket-keepers’, they just keep wicket.
At tea, the ‘Men’ were still just about in it, with Sandy Duncan and Nick Davies taking liking to the gentle Yorkshire reverse-pace of Powell. One Powell long hop was hit so high it nearly clipped a lost-in-time Hawker Hurricane and unfortunately didn’t land on the bonnet of a Lamborghini 130LUX and the prick who was revving its engine to thrill the assembled crowd.
Tea was top dollar, as was lunch which happened just 20 overs before because of our shortened format. At lunch, Nicky had heaped praise on Sandra and Rob for the wealth of top-notch quiche, home-made rolls, ham, and salads this perfect couple had enjoyed preparing together. Such teamwork bodes well for their forthcoming union. Sandra’s utter command of the kitchen was magical. Adam would have been lost with no close of play kitchen tidying to do.
Some more goading of the “Fallen All-rounder” during tea prompted JP to hit his straps, take 3 quick wickets and a catch or two (12 by the time we reached the pub). The Men’s batters started firing blanks, wickets tumbled, and they were bowled out 65 short with 9 balls to go. There were good catches taken all round the ground all day, though one was celebrated in particularly naff style by a part-time bowler who pretended to ‘drop the mike’. The scorebook records this as ‘Ct & Bld, Marsh”. The Men had been beaten up by the mass availability of the V&A’s young all-rounders.
Pity poor Adam Knight, one of the ‘Men’ and sometimes of the V&A. His bowling, off which his bro dropped a catch, was clattered and he bagged a duck holing out to the serene Marc Lovinn on the boundary. He paid his match fee and will have to return to the SCG to collect the AFGM kit that his feckless colleague, probably his bro, left behind.
I had a great day. In a 21-ball ‘knock’ spread over 12 overs, my 6 runs doubled my season’s batting average to ….2. If I had stayed in, my maiden V&A century could have been reached at 01:55 on the Monday morning, assuming no meal breaks or bad light overnight. I thought it was brilliant until I watched all 6 ½ hours of Hashim Amla’s match-saving knock at the Rose Bowl on the U-Tube in the week. His 37* off only 278 balls was exquisite ennui in extremis. 250+ dot balls? Ah yeah baby. If Proust had been into cricket, and why wouldn’t he, he’d have had a lump in his flannels?
My Players of the Match? V&A Skipper Rob Taylor, for his skilful involvement of all, game management and catering. And the gently rising Phoenix all-rounder John Powell, second best cricketer from Yorkshire on the team, who took catches and wickets, scored runs, and got a round in at the pub.
Tale of the day. I can’t do it justice. Far better that you ask the lovely Marc Lovegg about the time he showed his lad how a cattle crush works. He is truly farming’s Mr. Bean.
by Nick Pritchard-Gordon