The 2022 SEASON was notable for an amazing number of exciting finishes, which weren’t contrived. The most memorable ending was in the second game of our Cambridge tour, against Mark Braid’s XI. Joe Tetlow needed to hit 10 off the last two balls. He hit two sixes. The bowler was their opener, the deliveries were good. As an aside, few remember the bloke at the other end when something dramatic happens. Who was batting with Bradman when the Don was bowled for a duck by Hollies in his last test? Arthur Morris, who went on to make 196. Who was batting with Tetlow? Bird N.
We saw some bright young talent who we must nurture, with bribes or fine wine. Niam Scott-Ram, Aubrey Bamber, Otto Gundry, Theo Grantham and Alex Pitlarge for example. Charlie Hunt, who shone for us briefly, is too good and plays proper cricket for Turville or his county. Tom Pritchard-Gordon graces our game, not least because Liss likes cricket. One is a bit doomed if the missus finds it boring and the company at Stonor ghastly. She may have a point; but we have lost good payers to bolshy wives over the years.
We missed some really good cricketers this year; Baz only playing in the last game (and scoring 50) and Louis Jacot not at all. Andy Taylor is still in Canada. Tom Ayling was absent, unable to play as his boss, Mr Jonkers (the used book dealer), insists he stick to his ledgers. You may not know it, but Jonkers was once a young man. He is still combative, still sees batsmen as over-pampered prey. There is nowt sissy about him. But few know his fluffy side. I don’t mean he dresses in tutus (which he might), but his charity to refugees.
Phil Goodliffe, not a spring chicken but a wizard with the gloves, has hung them up (thank God for Matt Wright). Martin Bowden has retired hurt. We miss his weed. Speaking of which, Nick Emley buggered off to Wiltshire, the vulgar run chase of the modern era perhaps hastening his departure. He made one appearance – at Windsor Castle – where he was told to stop smoking on the pitch. Stars like Nick Derewlany (nearly 1000 runs!) and Ollie Marsh impressed with both stats and style. Nick is quite couth, but his Aussie roots are betrayed by his luminous boots. Both hit centuries. The newlywed Rob Taylor, our best fielder, is mighty with a bat and wily with a ball, but succumbed to the occasional bonkers swipe. Nick Emley did not. Spectators would have welcomed a swipe from this stolid batsman. Andy Jones, another newlywed, also made one appearance but it passed in the blur of a hangover.
Rupert Morris, ex-V&A Treasurer, Chairman of the National Liberal Club and infamous butter fingers, came over from France for a game, elevating the conversation. Dennis de Caires paid a fleeting visit and reminded us how much his verve is missed. He has swapped London for the sand, sea and sun of Barbados. He would love it if you popped by. Very briefly. Robbie Lawson, now in Australia, the V&A’s finest ever stroke player, played in the rain-affected Royal Household game, and awed the crowd (a Corgi). Jago Poynter drove three hours to play at Stonor and charmed as always. He, like Ben Horan, Marc Terblanche and Henry Turpie, is not only an artist with a bat but butch with the arm and – more importantly – is ever uncomplaining. He reminds me of Brian Statham who would bowl or bat to order. I never had trouble from him. Adam Knight is a fine all-rounder and was invaluable in explaining the causes of current inflation in three succinct sentences. Whether it was bollocks I am ill equipped to say. Lachlan Nieboer, so often victor ludorum, has added catering to the brilliance of his cricket. And he comes with the added benefit of his patrician father Jeremy, lover of Mozart, Palladio and Cotman. ‘Blowers with gravitas’ someone called him. I had to explain ‘gravitas’ to the riff-raff.
Adam Jacot defies the years. His strict fitness regime ensures peak condition which led to his stunning five wickets against the Badgers. Without his kindly pestering, we would have been short of players time and again. He still entertains in the field with those amusing dropped catches.
Nick Constantine had a blip in Cambridge (a pair) and had, for him, a disappointing season (only one 50). When fluent, his batting is Milburnesque. His on-drive presumably seduced his girlfriend Bex, much as my near maximum break at snooker (just 140 shy) seduced my present wife. Nick’s brother Seb is perhaps less cultured, but a good smiter of the ball. Like Christy Kulasingam, an all-rounder from the Chelsea Arts Club. His wicket in the final over of The Refreshers match won the game. Harry Low, skip of The Bushmen, is another guest all-rounder whose ebullience adds to the general jollity.
I wish we could see more of Max Martin but the Scots Guards beckon. I was drafted for the US army in 1968 (having dual nationality) but declined the invitation – as I told the US Vice-Consul – because of the beastly discomfort of the itchy uniform; and not wanting to tour Vietnam, preferring to stay in Brighton where the Viet Cong were thin on the ground.
Veterans still turn out, in their ancient club colours, but quick singles are a memory. Nevertheless, men like Martin Shenfield, Robin Hayley (both surprisingly quick keepers), David Pitlarge and Rupert Rowland-Clark add elegance to batting. Speaking of old people our tea lady, Sarah Jenkins, still does a superlative lunch and tea, and has thankfully dispensed with that vile pâté – or ‘meat paste’ as some of our riff-raff called it. We try to raise standards but we have too many Harrovians and the like who yearn for school food.
Shaun Chande was more than useful and Nichal Sethi scored a ton of infinite beauty. Tom Bird’s 47 at Cambridge saved our bacon, and his cover drive stunned purists more familiar with his hoick to leg. Scotty Scott-Dalgleish was a super bat, but I fear he is a cricketing tart and is too much in demand to play for us regularly.
I was away for much of the summer, touring Virginia and Civil War sites. And trying not to fall foul of rampant wokery; not easy when asking for ‘sirloin steak’ is considered offensive (‘sirloin’ is patriarchal). While away I tried to keep up with cricket back home but the Richmond Times failed to report matters at Lord’s or Stonor.
In 2022 we won more than we lost, not that it matters. Lunches are more important. We had close games, that does matter. And some people came to watch; Annette Jacot (Senior Vice President), Mike and Lizzi Constantine, Jeremy Nieboer, Liss, Cathy P-G with the injured Nick (the gourd grower), Mrs Knight and her lovely children and all the Munchkins of the Town & County XI – whose skip George Winters and his mate Tom Walsh stepped in to add lustre to our XI when we were short (as did John and Marc of Stonor). We were short too often, for a team who do a nice lunch and offer deer gambolling over the road. Rachel Godschalk of The Refreshers, a very sound bat indeed, proves gender is no barrier – so please will players produce more children of either brand to ensure the health and survival of the V&A. Triplets would be useful. Dr Vin Grantham is an example to us all, producing three boys who all excel. Vin is my sort of GP. He believes you can overdo exercise and underdo drink and fags.
And the weather at Stonor in 2022? Remarkable. Not a single match was lost through rain. Clearly, God lives locally. Possibly at Phyllis Court, where He would be invisible among the geriatric members.
Thanks are due our President, Mike Atherton, whose distinguished cricket career is matched by his peerless journalism. Thanks also to Joe Tetlow for running the website, Chris Mounsey-Thear for organising fixtures without a cock-up, Christiaan for his meticulous accounting, unlike our late Treasurer whose Ponzi scheme ended in Maidstone prison, where the wine list I am told is short on claret. I have spent the night in four prisons and in each case the food was dire and my cell mate sang out of tune. In Verbier, there might have been a nice cuckoo clock on the wall but I was too pissed to notice.
We welcome a new Vice President, Henry Blofeld. Someone told me that ‘he bangs on a bit like you but at least his prattle is informed.’ Bit rude.
Above all we must thank The Hon William Stonor, who owns our ground, and his father Lord Camoys (a V&A Vice President); and Stonor Cricket Club (and their groundsman, Tich). You may have noticed the new toilet in the Away changing room, the new front steps and a new oven (courtesy of Steph Bird). Our pavilion and Long Room are now superior to Lord’s, and we don’t have poncey dress codes or wear hideous blazers. This year was outstanding for fly-pasts. We had a Spitfire Mk Vb which Jonkers would have remembered from his plane spotting days.
Do please rope in a new player for next season, of whatever gender but preferably someone who can run quicker than me. And bend and throw. Older chaps may add erudition and gentility to the day but they come with weak arms and weak bladders. Speaking of which I asked Blowers for his favourite bit of commentary and he liked Jonner’s remark that ‘Ray Illingworth has just relieved himself at the Pavilion End.’
By Nicky Bird, CHAIRMAN