THE QUEEN was Lying in State as we played and the queues to Westminster Hall stretched back to Berkshire. There were queues to get in the queue. Were we guilty of lèse-majesté by playing? David Beckham probably thought so; unlike your run-of-the-mill royal or president, he joined the queue – possibly to show his man-of-the-people credentials in a last bid for a gong. But a Scottish actor (or ‘moron’) claimed the coffin was empty and the body had been secreted elsewhere for ‘security reasons’. Someone suggested she might be in the locked container behind the pavilion at Stonor; but the lock didn’t prevent the mower being nicked so this was thought unlikely.
It was a sunny day but cold. Beautifully green. Joe Tetlow had worked hard to get a decent team together. I gave him a lift. There was something strange about him. He was unhungover. He talked sense. We discussed important team matters. Like lunch. Jeremy Nieboer, Lachlan’s father, was bringing sirloin of beef. A good egg indeed. And he was going to umpire. I was doing the frilly bits and Lachlan was making a cake for tea. It was a nice petite one with M&S on the box.
In a 35-over game, Joe elected to bat. We opened with Martin Shenfield and Christie Kulasingam (a Chelsea Arts Club regular). Martin was just accelerating, flicking a lovely four over mid-wicket, when he tried again and was bowled (for 12). Enter m’learned friend David Pitlarge (The Refreshers are also lawyers). David is correct, but unschooled – as he said – ‘in the modern way of opening the shoulders and walloping the ball’. He is an artist. His leg glance is lyrical, his running between the wicket less so. He hit twelve poetic singles and as the crowd appreciated their fluency so the throng also wondered about the run rate. Christie (14) meanwhile had just whacked two fours when he was adjudged to have snicked a ball to the keeper. Lachlan came in and, as so often, rallied the innings, with six boundaries, before being caught and bowled for 36. Without him our innings would have looked pathetic. With him it was barely adequate. Subsequent batsmen, pressured by the dire run rate, all fell to shots born of desperation. Worthy of mention was Otto Gundry’s lovely cut for 4. Not worthy of mention was Tom P-G being out first ball. Liss, his girlfriend, said my recent match report describing him as ‘butch’ was wide of the mark. ‘Virile?’ I offered. ‘No,’ she said and I did not enquire further.
Our total of 137 was our lowest this year.
Lunch was infinitely improved by Jeremy’s beef, and Burgundy. As well as by his erudition. In my brief words of thanks, I told a tasteful gender-neutral story about the Queen (mindful of Otto’s tender years and his grandmother’s tender ears). By the way, Rachel Godschalk, their fine all-rounder, does not mind being called a ‘batsman’ but not the gender-neutral ‘person’ as someone called her. My missus calls me a twat, which I claim is offensive as it’s not gender-neutral. Difficult to get these things right. There was discussion at lunch as to whether Charles would prove a good king, or fail as Diana predicted. Someone nameless said – ‘Just because he is tetchy and moody doesn’t mean he cannot lead, look at Adam Jacot.’
The Refreshers started badly. Lachlan bowled their opener first ball. He pitched it up. When he does, and the ball is on the wicket, the stumps fly. Alex Pitlarge came in from the Pishill end; he was economical without taking a wicket (7 overs for 22 runs). No matter, Lachlan was magnificent. He trapped their No 3, Willatt, LBW (for 15), and then promptly bowled their next two batsmen for ducks. The Refreshers were reeling at 29 for 5. Could we polish them off?
They made a stand. Their skipper McAloon and their No 6, Harper, put on 20 before Otto Gundry, in a possible key moment, bowled Harper (14) just when he was hitting the ball well. Rachel came in, and so did the outfielders. She promptly hit three fours. When McAloon was eventually caught behind for 27 (a fine catch by Martin), they were 95 for 7, with only one man left to bat (they were a player short).
They seemed to be coasting. But Tom P-G bowled Rachel and now they were 106 for 8, with the last man, Olly Kavanagh, in. Olly is a perfectly sound bat. Their keeper Ahmed, and Olly, steered them towards the total. There were raucous appeals for LBW, off Christie’s bowling and Lachlan (returning for a second spell) but the imperturbable umpire correctly turned them down. Harry Lowe came on to bowl. It was a forgettable over that went for a couple of boundaries and a few wides. Tetlow, on the boundary, saw the game slipping away and howled, his mood not helped by a spectator, Nick Pritchard-Gordon, reminding the skipper that Tetlow himself was a wide specialist. Joe rued missed catches, some tricky, some not. One moment David P was a hero, with a nice gully catch (off last week’s 5-wicket tyro, Adam). And then he wasn’t when he dropped an easier one. Such is life.
Come the final over they needed 8 to win. The field was spread. The crowd was hushed. Ahmed was facing, already on 20. Christie was bowling. He bowled – and hit the stumps! Refreshers were all out for 129. Another damned close-run thing, as Wellington would have said.
A lovely day, helped in its conviviality by the sun and the opposition and the wine and Jeremy’s sirloin. The only disappointment was that Nick P-G failed to bring gourds from his allotment, which often feature rude gender-specific shapes. This sort of thing amuses people who snigger at footballers with names like Mario Turdó or Danny Shittu. As Alan Bennett said, ‘when a society has to resort to the lavatory for its humour, the writing is on the wall.’
By Nicky Bird