2nd June 2022
V&A v Chelsea Arts Club
20th June 2022
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V&A v The Townies & Country Folk XI


V&A PLAYERS: C. Jonkers, N. Constantine, J. Tetlow, R. Taylor (wk), A. Jacot de Boinod, N. Stoop, R. Hayley, J. Arnold, B. Horan, C. Hunt, J. Bridge, N. Bird (12th Man)


Last week is almost always my favourite of the English sporting summer for several reasons.  Many of our number were at the first or second day of the Lord’s Test Match (as, for that matter, were many of the opposition) and Joe Tetlow even went back on Sunday to watch Rooty do his thaaang and for England to hunt down that rarest of beasts: Victory, from the gnashing jaws of defeat. The other reason it’s a firm favourite is that The Townies & Country Folk XI are such a joy to spend the day with. We’ve touched gloves with some rum coves this season, but faith has been restored thanks to George Winters and his band of Merry Men (quite literally). 


It was pissing it down when we arrived at Stonor. Pete & Tom of the Townies were early-ish and huddling for cover under the pavilion. I noted the dark sunglasses on faces, despite the murk (it takes one to know one, apparently…) Oh dear! I thought, and politely asked if everything was alright? Turns out Pete brought up his half-century the night before (years, not runs, sadly) in some style and the Townies had all been there. Green at the gills? Perhaps. Weakened by the Demon Drink? Perhaps. Prepared to nip home and bring the rest of the booze to drink at Stonor? Absolutely. All we had to do is offer Tom some decent coffee… 


The teams assembled in drips and drabs. Jonkers, skipper for the day, managed not to be the very last person to arrive for a change. He promptly lost the toss (15th time in a row no less; the probability is something odd like 80,000 to one… but he can give you the details because I stopped listening the moment he said ‘Do you happen to know the…”). Anyway, off we went! The V&A would bat (well done, Christiaan), there would be 35 overs an innings, weather permitting and we’d take lunch at 1:30 by the clock that is habitually twelve minutes slow. 


It nipped about from the off. The air was damp and the preceding rain on the wicket, and the outfield, played tricks on much of the top order. We’ve been guilty of losing wickets early this season and when a rot sets in, it lingers. Our openers were out cheaply having weathered an accurate opening salvo from Bridge and one of the Winters youth element. At 20-odd for 2 off 10 we weren’t really in the game at all. Tetlow, off the back of a very unfortunate knock the weekend before batted like a man with a point to prove and blacked, dutifully, for a time. I managed to glove my second ball down the leg side to a thirteen-year-old and walked before the keeper had even caught it. The miserable run of form continues… 


Jasper and Tetlow came together and stabilized things for a time. Then Jasper was out. Charlie Hunt strode out to the wicket and I relaxed. Charlie is a cricketer of quality, given his age, and will I’m sure go on to great things. His father is also a formidable cricketer and it was a shame not to see him bowl at his son: that would’ve been a good tussle. 


I’d stopped paying attention to the cricket a little by then and had turned my attention to a bottle of chilled Sancerre and to the incredible spread that Sandra Taylor had prepared for lunch. Catering is a thankless task at the very best of times. If you don’t play cricket there’s almost no reason to give up your Friday and Saturday for the good of the cause and the fleeting adoration of 25 men who are usually hungover, greedy, critical, or all of the above. Thankfully, Sandra is beyond compare when it comes to the vittles and produced a mountain of pulled pork, ‘slaw and other fare that you’d pay good money for in a Texas BBQ joint. There was plenty of beer, naturally, and plenty of claret thanks entirely to Pete Bridge and the fact that his forty guests from the previous evening couldn’t get through 100 bottles of wine between them. I don’t know people like that. I wish I did, actually… dinner parties would be cheaper.

On the subject of Sandra and Rob Taylor, we’re all absolutely delighted at the news that they’re expecting their first child! Rob coyly announced the fact whilst stealing a now very rare cigarette on the steps of the pavilion before the match began, whilst Sandra took command of the kitchen. Congratulations to you both, again, from the whole club! The only question now is whether the child will prefer cricket or hurling… 


After lunch, we didn’t really get going again and capitulated to a rather laboured 140ish. Jake Bridge, co-opted as 12th Man, battered a couple of delightful boundaries but the Townies were sharp in the field and bowled a nagging line and length that was, frankly, too good on the day. Without Charlie Hunt’s innings, and Joe Tetlow’s bullish 40-odd we’d have been absolutely hopeless. They gave us a fighting chance. 


The less said about our bowling the better, too. Rob Taylor kept extremely well and navigated the aggressive turn and disguise of Charlie’s leg breaks with aplomb. Ben Horan bowled with pace and venom at times but chances either didn’t go to hand or the ball just beat the bat. It’s possible that we lacked the pace and bounce of a Lachlan or a Marsh but one does one’s best with the hand you’ve been dealt and Jonkers did well to keep the run rate down. Jake Bridge will be a fine bowler in the next couple of years and showed much promise coming down the hill from The de Caires EndHowever, the brutal truth is that our opposition were far too strong for us on the day and ran out deserved winners with a lot of overs to spare in the glorious afternoon sunshine. 


As we milled about on the grass enjoying a beer or two (waiting for the Golden Ball to open at 6PM) I was struck by the fact that every single member of the opposition was employed in either washing up, tidying up, carrying tables, and offering around the last of the tea things before we went on our merry way. It takes proper grace to be that considerate, especially after you’ve given your hosts a thrashing. Adam Jacot commented on it before I could: “What a terrific bunch they are”, was all he had to say… and it’s all he needed to.