Howitzers couldn’t play so it was the London Desperados on this dank draughty day. The Met Office had promised 19 degrees celsius and sunshine (enough for the second jumper, often required at the bookend, to be removed from the cricket bag). Error. The pitch, though, was as dry as could be hoped, on inspection. The outfield was well cut; the wind lifting the grass cuttings slightly at the boundary’s edge.
An affable bunch, the opposition enquired about wifi and 3G, 4G, and 5G. They wanted to livestream the game to YouTube for some reason. Nicky wished them luck, turned to me, and pointed to a toothpaste stain on his green jacket: “See that Tetters? That’s cum”. We do worry about his health.
Rob Taylor was captain. He lost the toss and we fielded first. Lachlan was fashionably late, so Jonkers opened down the hill (filmed by the Desperados camera tower behind him) with Felix Ward coming up from the Henley end. Against the wind, Ward bowled well and with carry, shaping it away to the slips. Tetlow chirped “batsman couldn’t get F-Ward to that”. Yet to be seen whether that makes an appearance again. It looks like Ward bowls what is often called “a heavy ball”. Proponents include Tim Bresnan, and Mohammad Shami, though the latter, I think, is just plain quick, whereas Bresnan looked slow because he was chubby. One darted through the gate and poleaxed their opener for 11, and they were 30-1 from eight overs. Jonkers also bowled well, deceiving the batsmen with late movement and consistent lengths, including a close LBW shout. Opting to cycle through his battery of bowlers, Taylor sought Tetlow (perhaps prematurely) down the hill. Oh dear. 11 balls later and the scoreboard had ticked along somewhat. Nicky later commented that people often end up in the Priory after that. The camera caught it all, before presumably running out of battery. Constantine was next and put to the sword by Abhas, their most fluent batsmen. Constantine picked up one of the openers with a quicker one, before Taylor, death bowler and partnership breaker, stepped up and got the crucial wicket. Abhas (70) was well caught on the boundary by Tetlow, who hung onto it well under pressure. No Priory yet.
“Fashionably late” isn’t in the Oxford English Dictionary, but if it was, “in a blue Mercedes sports car, and in time to bowl fourth change, your full allocation of overs, and take 5 wickets” would be close. Wearing salt and pepper hair, and looking ever more like Andy Caddick without the dodgy ears, Lachlan is still quick (5-27 from seven overs). Chetan, a stylish import from the CAC, bowled well for a batsman, and Adam Jacot was unlucky not to pick up a wicket – with his Cambridge alumnus doing him no favours at mid-on. In the end, Desperados finished on 226 from their 35.
At lunch, Nicky graced us with an anecdote and impression of His Majesty the King (then Prince Charles) playing as a ringer for the Royal Household XI. I shan’t rehearse it here, for he re-tells them regularly enough. The upshot is that impersonator and BBC comedian Harry Enfield is under-appreciated for his good work on The Windsors.
Insert from Nicky Bird Esq: I found THE DESPERADOS through ‘THE FIXTURE LIST’ online site that puts teams together. The main problem was that they needed some leeway on our match fee which meant consultation with our esteemed Treasurer, Mr. Jonkers. A compromise was reached whereby our caterer, Steph Bird, provided inexpensive Halal chicken (and veggie curry) – rather than my signature filet de boeuf – and Jonkers agreed to a 10% reduction on top. By the way, when I turned down his appeal for an LBW he did not, as rumoured, call me a rude name but commented politely that I ‘might not have a complete grasp of the LBW law’. Incidentally, we had a long conversation about whether there should be an ‘e’ after the ‘o’ of Desperados until we tired of that and moved on to which London clubs Bertie Wooster and James Bond belonged to.
Apparently Bond was an occasional guest at “Blades”, whilst the “Drones Club” is more familiar to readers of PG Woodhouse. Boodles occasionally plays host to Nicky Bird, and any sorry rabble he can find. Jonkers, wearing a pinstripe suit and red braces, ordered a Negroni at Boodles on Wednesday evening. Trendy. But you don’t have to be as trendy as Jonkers to play for the V&A. As the Henley Standard feature, taken out by Nicky Bird over the winter to recruit local players, states: “We tolerate most weirdos, even curmudgeons if they’re amusing, but not the cocky or rude”. The piece (an original copy of which is in the pavilion) featured a prominent picture of our President, Michael Atherton Esq OBE, which may have garnered more interest than our Chairman’s prosing about gender. As Sir Keir Starmer recently said, “almost nobody is talking about trans issues…apart from that butch salad-maker from West Acton”.
The Scott Ram’s opened up the chase for us, with Nick the only one to trouble the scorer (Adam, ably, again). An interruption of father and son telepathy took Niam and his flowing mullet back to the pavilion, leaving Tom Bird to steady the ship. Now if you wanted someone to steady the ship, Tom wouldn’t be your man. He has a Moeen Ali style approach to batting and thwacked a much-needed boundary almost immediately. Steph missed it, but Nicky related to her that it was a beautiful cover drive along the ground (it wasn’t). He was bowled for 10.
Now Felix Ward is a man who can steady ships, with boat loads of runs. I’m not sure we’ve ever had a debutant score a hundred and then again in his second game, but the team required it. In one over he hit three good balls from middle stump to the mid-on boundary with a mix of punches and flicks. He brought up his 50. Whilst Ward hit the good balls for four, Matt Wright (who had kept very well) dispatched some of the bad stuff, piercing their 12 fielders with accuracy to make 27 (we had agreed to 12 a side to accommodate numbers: a rarity of late).
Tetlow entered the fray at number six. Ward ambled down and said: “Right, 13 overs left, 100 to get. Time to start hitting some boundaries”, before pulling the very next ball from his hip into the hedges. Message received. The lower order engine room of Constantine, Lachlan, and Taylor were still to come. Desperados bowled line and length, but the pitch was true, and the onslaught began with a couple of golf swings to take their spinner out of the attack. Ward, looking somewhat relieved that his partner wasn’t a complete turnip, kept punching gaps in the field to bring up his second successive century (fifteen 4’s, one six). Jonkers (umpiring, fuelled by Rosé) remarked that he ought to get his head down, as there was still a job to do. Oh dear. Next ball, bowled going for Cow corner.
A man who knows a bit about Cow is Nick Constantine, a fine player on his day. He also knows a bit about wine and by 5pm, it was more lamb to the slaughter than cow. His first shot was a wild slog sweep, which he was fortunate to be given “not out” for by Jonkers, remembering the many golden rules of LBW. A few balls later he couldn’t be helped, and was gone for nought, bowled by a skiddy low-armer from Naushad.
Evenly poised. Tetlow greeted Lachlan to the crease with a motivational punch to the pectoral. 50 needed from six remaining overs. Another six down the ground into the sheep field. Another four, sliced over the infield towards Turville Heath. Tetlow brought up his 50. Lachlan: “I’m not sure what the method is for this. Bat on ball and keep pushing them for two’s?”. I imagine Jack Leach said something similarly inspiring.
We needed 13 to win from the final over. In the nets it’s easy, everything beats the fielder for six or four. Not so easy when there’s 12 fielders and they can be put almost anywhere. Tetlow connects with the first delivery, but he only gets one out to long-on. Advantage Desperados. Their quick sprints in again, black sleeves on his cartwheeling arms. Slot. Thwack. Whoosh. It’s been muscled straight back over the bowler’s head by Lachlan, fire in his eyes. Six. That’ll help. Punch of the gloves. We now need six more from four. A two is scrambled to the leg side. Four from three. One boundary will do it now. They try to repeat the trick to the leg side, coming back for two, but Tetlow is well-short of his ground at the non-strikers end, sacrificing himself like Oates for Scott (59 from 38). Would this mission suffer the same fate? Just one more to the total, with Lachlan back on strike. Three needed to win from two now. Rob Taylor checks his spikes judiciously and stands at the non-strikers end. Lachlan smites it into a gap again and they somehow make it back for two. Miraculous. We’ve salvaged a draw, at the very least. “It’s a tie, not a draw” blows a tense Jonkers. Constantine crows to repeat the pedantry, as a hush descends on the terrace. The field comes in. One to win off the final ball… and it’s dispatched. FOUR. Down to long-on the ball bounces and into the brambles. Bat aloft, Lachlan is embraced by his grateful skipper. Fashionably late – but better late than never.
That’s two successive wins off the final ball of the match for the V&A now, and two centuries for Felix Ward. Perhaps Michael Atherton ought to bring the Sky TV cameras down next time?
By Joe Tetlow