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V&A v Invalids


V&A XI: R. Taylor, N. Constantine, C. Kulasingam, C. Jonkers (SKIP), A. Jacot, M. Wright (WK), C. Malhotra, D. Pitlarge, D. de Caires. D. Scott, J. Arnold

A glorious day! Sunny, cloudless, a slight breeze, charming opposition, brilliant lunch – pulled pork courtesy of Steph Bird – and no riff-raff. Thankfully, it is some time since we had a moron like Richard Adamson who used to smoke at square leg and thought it funny to call me Mr. Turd. Or that bloke Julian Stewart who thought Churchill was just a nodding dog. 

Things started badly from the cricket point of view. Lachlan cried off, Tom Bird buggered his back. Christy came in for Lachlan and Dominic Scott at the very last minute for Tom. We missed Lachlan’s pace, batting flair and acting prowess, particularly his impersonation of a brooding thespian. 

We played a 35-over game, captained by Jonkers. We batted first on a dry, well-behaved pitch (thank you, groundsman). Their bowling was good, if not terrifying. David Pitlarge and Jasper Arnold opened, and progressed steadily, with some lovely cuts by David and classic drives by Jasper until the score was 29, when there was a bowling change. Abdol came on, a neat medium pacer, and Jasper played on (for 24). But there was a suspicion of no ball. I was umpire. I should have called it. As I did an identical ball that hit Nick Constantine’s stumps next over. 

Nick smacked some beauties before Abdol bowled him (19). And then Robbie Taylor came in. A man that can turn a game in a trice. But oh dear… he called for a quick single, unconventionally shouting ‘NO!’ as he began to run. David also shouted ‘NO!’ and stood his ground. Rob was run out (2). 72 for 3. Matt Wright looked stylish until he didn’t (caught for 11); Chetan hadn’t time to look stylish before being caught behind (1). His friend Patricia wasn’t impressed. And then Dennis de Caires strolled in, the Keith Miller de nos jours, languid, in command. His missus Estelle was with me, talking Vermeer. I hushed her, the great man was at the crease. He promptly hit three sublime fours, the years rolled away. Unfortunately, the next ball so did his stumps, as he was bowled (14) by Shintry.  Enter Jacot. Exit Jacot (LBW, Shintry, 0). Enter Dominic (2), who looked, briefly, like a good club player but then had the misfortune to receive that most unfair of balls, the one on the wicket. We were 100 for 8. Christiaan Jonkers came in, swirling his arms like Botham. There the resemblance ended. Although he heaved and swung just like Botham, there was a difference. Botham connected. At the end Christiaan and Christy batted together with Christy looking solid. We tottered to 123 before Jonkers was bowled while attempting a less than Bothamesque shot (more Fotherington-Thomas). Christy is a sound bat and might have gone up the order but our skipper was batting those that wouldn’t bowl. 

The Invalids captain said – ‘you are probably 30 short’. I felt the same. 

We lacked a real opening bowler. Dennis was quick once but would admit that Barbadian life (and age) has slowed him; Adam Jacot was, when I met him, a young lad with conkers in his pocket, bowling at 80 mph; but a life spent in erudite trivia and reviewing for airline magazines has dulled his pace. He is still crafty, however. His long pause between balls can bore batsmen out. 

Lunch – and tea – were superb. In my lunchtime homily I mentioned The Invalids’ pedigree. The club was founded in 1919 for wounded veterans of the Great War by a rogue journalist, J.C. Squire, a West Country cricket obsessive who loved Stilton and Mussolini. Virginia Woolf thought him ‘coarse’ and ‘a drunk’ and ‘more repulsive than words can express, and malignant into the bargain’. Not your mentor of choice perhaps, but better than Rolf Harris who died last week, and once played a charity cricket match in Marlow where, so I heard, he played the didgeridoo until there was a whip round to stop him. His catch phrase was ‘Can you tell what it is yet?’ which may have referred to his painting. Conversation at lunch and tea veered from Martin Amis’s teeth to Auschwitz. On the way we took in the allure of Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn on a motorbike, as usual. 

Jonkers and Dennis opened our bowling. Nicely. Dennis is 65 or so but lean. Jonkers was ‘born 42’ according to one observer who added that Jonkers wasn’t really a Bertie Wooster more Wodehouse’s Aunt Agatha, the ‘nephew-crusher’, ‘who chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth.’ Neither picked up a wicket but when Christy came on he had Worthy (12) VERY well caught by Christiaan; and trapped their other opener Culity (30) LBW – given out by their professional umpire whose hearing aid and specs work better than mine. But The Invalids still seemed to be coasting towards our meagre target. Until suddenly Chetan bowled Roberts (31), their No. 3, and Inchbold (4), their No. 4. And then Robbie repeated his trick of last week – a stunning caught and bowled. They were wobbling on 75 for 5. Adam said at tea – ‘game on, we can nick this’. Or something like it, perhaps in iambic pentameter. I didn’t think so. 

But then, after tea, we held catches. Mostly off Robbie’s bowling. And it wasn’t just the young who palmed them… but Pitlarge at point, a miracle diving catch that did for his finger, and Jonkers again, and a fantastic one at mid-on by Jasper… and The Invalids were rocking on 100 for 8. Tom, the pessimist (or realist) was still backing the oppo to win. We were worth an outside bet, I thought. One more wicket and…? 

Unfortunately, their No 10, Shintry, could bat. He smote some fours. We were tied. Dennis, the tyro of old, came on. And promptly went for a boundary. We had lost our first match of the season but a marvellous finish in the sun. 

Before I dashed back to London to tell my wife, agog with anticipation, about the match, and everybody else went to the Golden Ball, someone suggested we needed a fast bowler and should just ‘whistle down the nearest mine’. Which reminded me of a Wodehouse quote:

‘What, pray, would you do if faced by a charging rhinoceros, Mr. Mulliner?’

‘I am not likely,’ said Cyril, ‘to move in the same social circles as charging rhinoceri.’