29th January 2023
V&A v London Desperados CC
16th May 2023
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V&A v. The Battersea Badgers


V&A XI: N. Constantine (c), A. Jacot, A. Knight, S. Chande, C. Kulasingham, J. Waddington, F. Ward, J. Arnold, D. Scott, I. Sarif, N. Bird (12th Man)


Despite it being April, this ought to have been our third game of the season. We were due to play last weekend but the weather and people’s diaries proved insurmountable for both us and the opposition. There was a game three weekends ago, ably formed by Chris Mounsey-Thear which appears to have defied all odds and produced an enjoyable afternoon of rather muddy cricket. Thankfully, the sun shone on Saturday last and we had an extraordinarily close game that came down to the very final ball at 6PM.

The Battersea Badgers are old hands at Stonor these days and it was a pleasure to welcome them for what is now their sixth season playing against us. They’re a lovely bunch, without many ties to Battersea and with absolutely no ties to badgers, badgering or anything else of that sort, despite what Nicky Bird might tell certain bureaucrats at The National Lottery fund. Make of that what you will. Looking back over reports from previous seasons (due diligence, you know…) we’ve had entertaining encounters which have been closely fought, with honours relatively even. But, we’ve never been nearly as close as we were last weekend. It was remarkable.

Stonor are doing an admirable job of getting the outfield in shape, and to produce a wicket that was playable given the endless rain of recent times was nothing short of miraculous. Did it feel a bit like Victoria Sponge under toe? Yes. But that’s life. You win the toss and bowl first in the early part of the season at Stonor and bat on it when it has dried out. It is also hell to bat on first up and has caused this particular commentator much consternation over the years. The ‘smiley’ that Steve had went up, the frown came down and I chose to bowl first. We were away.

Adam Knight and Felix Ward opened the bowling. Adam bowled his customary line and length, nagging and tempting in equal measure. A beautiful yorker flummoxed one of their openers and we were away. The following over, he had the opposition skipper with a jaffer, it swung away, nipped back and clipped the top of middle stump. Ward was very unlucky not to have a wicket with his first ball, going up for an extremely close LBW shout. A lesser man might have thrown a wobbly, but despite being on debut he simply chuckled and went back to his mark. He is the cricketing definition of a ‘Green Flag’ in my eyes. The pair bowled very well in tandem, with the Badgers building to 21-2 off the first ten overs. A sharp run out brought the third wicket and things remained cagey with Jacot and Kulasingham bowling well in tandem at first change. As the pitch became easier to bat on, the run rate gathered some momentum. At lunch the score was 90-ish with 13 overs to go. Were we in for a low scoring thriller? I certainly thought so.

Lunch was taken. At this point I’d like to thank my lovely parents for stepping forward to do the honours on the catering front. Not only do they drive a 200 mile round trip most weekends to watch me score a meagre amount of runs, but they do the cleaning up as well. On this occasion, a cornucopia of salads, cold meats and the largest cheese board I’ve ever seen at Stonor went down extremely well. I carried the roast beef in my duffle bag, which, on reflection, might explain the sceptical glances I received on the underground. Anyway, Michael and Lizzi Constantine have already set their stall out for the much-coveted ‘Supporter of the Year’ Award and we’re much obliged to them for their efforts.
Nicky made his usual address. To summarise:

Several years ago, it turns out, we approached the National Lottery Fund for some sponsorship money. Nicky sent our fixture card (into which he puts a great deal of effort), etc., begging poverty and a helping of Good Christian Charity… turns out when you play people like The Royal Household you come across as rather effete and petit-bourgeois – much the same was said in their response. By way of rejoinder, Nicky appears to have offered several teams to counter. We play cripples (The Invalids), we play plebeians (too many to name at present) and yet, in much the same way as Battersea Dogs Home helps stricken hounds, he said, The Battersea Badgers offer the same service to the stricken badgers of London.

He didn’t receive a response.

After lunch there was something of a sea change. Some rather wayward bowling and some extremely good range-hitting from the Battersea batsmen brought on the runs in droves. Overs began to vanish with four or five boundaries to their name. The worst went for 24, bowled by yours truly, before I took the gloves back and the openers added some control in the latter stages. Sadly, we don’t have the scorebook for the day as it was locked away in Jonkers’ manor. But special mention must go to the Badgers’ no. 5 for a tremendous century. I think his second fifty came in about 13 balls, from memory. A tremendous achievement.

We rattled through some late wickets and their innings finished on a rather daunting 224 from 35 overs. ‘Bat second,’ he said, ‘It’ll get better later in the day,’ he said. Oh dear.

But then it did. Scoring inaccuracies… very generously ‘fessed-up to, and we actually needed a mere 216 to win. A daunting task nonetheless.

Waddington and Chande opened the batting for the V&A and made a solid start. James is a seasoned opener of quality who plays much of his cricket for the Chelsea Arts Club. He made some extremely dramatic diving catch attempts in the field earlier in the day which, had they gone to hand, would’ve confirmed him as ‘Catch of the Year’ and we’ve barely even started this season. Some classy strokes were played, before he was adjudged LBW. Shaun fell shortly after which brought Ward and Constantine to the crease together, with the scores roughly level with the previous innings. Two down, too few on the board. A flurry of boundaries from both batsmen in about as much time as it takes to boil a kettle pushed the score along before Constantine was out chasing a wide one, as he so often is. Unfortunately, the rest of the order followed suit. Arnold clipped one to square leg, Kulasingham battled well, if briefly, and yet Felix Ward continued to score the runs where he could, passing his half century with ease.

Adam Knight proved a game partner, unfurling some fabulous dabs, drives and clips to all parts of the ground. His cheerleaders are first rate, I might add. Between colouring-in some rather dramatic modern art their cries of ‘Go Daddy!’ were a delight to hear in the late afternoon sunshine. Adam admitted to me after the game that he struggles with this particular form of limelight. Given his innings, I’d encourage it! But all things must end and Adam did, spooning one up trying to push the rate. We were a long way adrift with about 1000 required from the last 10 overs.

Felix remained, and we had three batsmen to chaperone him. Truth be told I thought we were well adrift, with a cat in hell’s chance. Then Felix slapped a reverse sweep for a one bounce four over backward point and we dared to dream once more. Somebody said: ‘Stokesy’, and I believed them. Ward proceeded to farm the strike, pinch hitting boundary after boundary without bullying the ball at all. His shots were serene and elegant. They also went a long way very quickly. An edge had returned to the game. Suddenly the languorous banter in the field dried up.

A catch went down.

The opening bowlers came back on and quelled the run rate.

Jacot was out.

Scott was out.

With 25 to win from the last two, no wickets left and the last man, Irwin Sarif, batting virtually one-handed due to an injury sustained in the field, things didn’t look good at all. A couple of boundaries from the penultimate over, but not quite enough to make us favourites. Although it did herald Felix Ward’s maiden century for the V&A on debut.

He barely acknowledged it.

Stokesy. Headingley. 2019.

9 to win off the final over. A four off the first. A dot. Another dot. A single! Sarif now the man of the moment. Four to win…

The ball was pitched up outside off and, as casually as you like, Irwin Sarif carved a square drive up the slope on a soggy outfield for four, directly towards the pavilion where the V&A went absolutely wild with joy.

Frankly, I’m still in shock. Mostly at the fact that we scored 431 runs between us in 70 overs on a wicket better suited to rugby. But that is the beauty of cricket and the beauty of Stonor. Whatever happens, you’re always in the game.

My man of the match must go to Felix Ward. The Oracle (Nicky Bird) thinks that there has been one other centurion on V&A debut, and had this to say for posterity:

I think Vib did. I recall that he said he had played in a Middlesex youth team that included Mark Ramprakash and Chris Lewis. I assumed this was bullshit. It was not. Funnily enough, Lewis and Vib might have had a reunion in chokey.