Bowling is arduous enough in 30 degree heat with a full complement of fielders, but when you only have six men and number six has just disappeared off to Henley station in search of number seven, so that you have a bowler, a wicketkeeper and three rather lonely fielders, the modest dimensions of cricket ground at Stonor take on Saharan proportions.
“A good day to bat early”, quipped Ed Shepherdson as he smote his first ball for four and proceeded to smite further boundaries more or less at will. Finding the fielder in these circumstances was about as likely as I am to find the pocket at snooker. The Bacchus XI, for it was they who found themselves in this hapless position, had gamely stepped into the breach after we had been let down by The Refreshers, a team of barristers, in the middle of the week. Eventually the Bacchus emissaries returned and Dominic Scott, that prince among men, agreed to play for the opposition for the second time in three weeks, making it eight per side.
We began with a Carpmael father and son opening partnership, William doing a passable impression of Billy Bunter in this club cap, but it was George who was the first to go, castled by Riley, who bowled with heart and no little skill. The rest of the morning was little short of a massacre as infelicitous bowlers and fielders were made to toil in the midday sun and the contest descended into a game of bowl and fetch. Lunch was taken with the score on 193-1 from 19 overs, Shepherdson having just reached his 100 and Carpmael pere on 66. Nicky Bird, safely returned from his hospital bed to his more accustomed position, holding court at the Stonor lunch table and very much in mid-season form, thanked Bacchus for the way they loose with good grace in a way which already had a ring of inevitability about it. Lunch, kindly provided by Jasper’s mother, was both rich in quality and quantity and would have easily fed twice our paltry number.
The post prandial slump is something the V&A have become accustomed to and I suspect analysis would show the depth of the slump is roughly proportional to the quality of the lunch. I for one decided it was too hot and too soon after eating to run and so dealt mainly in boundaries before putting my pads in the way of a straightish one. Nicky kindly likened this to Keith Miller at Southend in 1948, deliberately giving his wicket away as Australia racked up 721 in a day against Essex, but in reality it was more carelessness than silent protest. This all happened after Lachlan, who had replaced the retired Shepherdson after lunch had played round a high full toss which struck him on the thigh and, to everyone’s surprise, was given out lbw. I think it is safe to say he was not entirely gruntled. He summarily dismissed the offending umpire (poor George Carpmael) and took up duty himself, muttering darkly.
The V&A’s final score of 275-5, whilst rather less than looked on the cards at lunch, was still a formidable total. It would require at least a couple of batsmen of quality and panache from the opposition to overhaul it. Alas, such batsmen were not forthcoming. In fact it would fair, if a little unkind, to say no real batsmen were forthcoming at all and the Bacchus innings was a brief affair. Lachlan, still smarting from his dismissal, clean bowled the first Bacchus batsman in his opening over, and the second and the third. He took further wickets in his second and third overs, all bowled apart from a sharp slip catch taken by Ed Shepherdson. In the space of 17 balls he had taken five wickets without conceding a run. With one further wicket in his fifth over, he finished with the respectable figures of 5-2-3-6 and even with allowing for the Bacchus to reuse two of their batsman they were bowled out for 36 in the fourteenth over. In a tighter, more competitive game, Lachlan’s performance would have been little short of heroic. As it was, it was exceptional in its accuracy and ruthless pursuit of wickets.
The tentativeness of the Bacchus batsmen in the face of this onslaught reminded me of a tale of the Indian batsman, Polly Umrigar at Leeds in 1952, where India had found themselves 0-4 with a young Fred Trueman running amok. Umrigar was asked by the umpire whether he would like the sightscreen moved. “Yes,” he replied, “idealy between me and Mr. Trueman”.
V&A 275-5 (Shepherdson 100, W Carpmael 75); Bacchus 36 (Neiboer 6-3). V&A won by 239 runs.