V&A XI: Adam Jacot (Captain), Nick Constantine, David Pitlarge, Andrew Hoskin, Alex Pitlarge, Jasper Arnold, Lachlan Nieboer, Tom Pritchard-Gordon, Otto Gundry, Andrew Wayland, Christiaan Jonkers
The ALL SORTS are named after a box of liquorice sweeties. Like Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts they’re a mixed bag. Some are butch and young, others not. David Pitlarge suggested, by the way, that I have a Manichean view of cricketers, they are either butch or effete. But there are exceptions and skipper Adam Jacot falls in between: his feminine side is dominant in the kitchen but his virility is apparent in his bowling and robust batting. His manliness was evident when a ball smacked him in the mouth. He retired reluctantly from the field, was patched up by the wonderful Emma and returned to his bowler’s mark, bloodied but uncomplaining. His captaincy was typically tactful, with late-order batsmen bowling and everyone getting a chance to do something, however badly. Adam’s fielding was as always languid, and generous to the batsmen. Christiaan and I had a chat about the English tradition of pretending not to care, of effortless effort. Whereby it is OK to win but only if it is done with insouciance. Foreigners don’t understand this quirk. Summed up by Flanders and Swann:
“And all the world over, each nation’s the same
They’ve simply no notion of playing the game.
They argue with umpires, they cheer when they’ve won,
And they practice beforehand, which ruins the fun!
It’s not that they’re wicked, or naturally bad
It’s knowing they’re foreign that makes them so mad!”
The day started badly for some of us. A chap jumped on the Central Line, which made Nick Constantine, whom I was picking up, an hour late. He thought a Saturday in the cricket season not the best time for such drastic action, but perhaps the poor chap was unaware of our match at Stonor.
The day was bright and Stonor green and lush. A car boot sale was a rival attraction over in the Park. One spectator bought a Dinky Ford Thunderbird which was in mint condition, if lacking wheels, windscreen and box.
The All Sorts batted first in a 35-over game (with no limit on bowlers’ overs) and faced Alex Pitlarge and Lachlan Nieboer, an impressive opening pair. But so were their batsmen, who scored 44 before Tom Tenant (Ivo’s son) – who usually scores tons at Stonor – whacked a ball from Alex to Jonkers at mid-off who palmed it. Lachlan had unnerved Tom with some balls that leapt. Then their other opener, Forte (36), was caught behind by Jasper off a faster one from Lachlan, and they were 59 for 2. Otto bowled nicely and picked up two wickets – one caught by Jasper (after a juggle) in the slips – having handed the gloves to Hoskin;
and another trapped LBW (a controversial decision). Tom P-G bowled excellently and picked up Louis Jacot’s wicket with a brilliant caught and bowled (off a sneaky slower one).
At lunch they were 97 for 5 off 18 overs – but with their Aussie ringer, Middleton, in swashbuckling form, having walloped Otto for some mighty sixes.
Lunch was superb as it always is when Emma and her commis, Adam, are in charge. I sat next to an All Sorts chap called Dan. We discussed literary styles and the simple declarative prose of Abraham Lincoln and George Orwell. Of the 272 words in the Gettysburg Address, 210 are monosyllables. The bloke who spoke before Lincoln (Edward Everett) banged on for two and a half hours (13,582 words). Phil Goodliffe, our much-missed keeper, made reference to my being ‘over-fond of words’ – but Everett makes me sound laconic. Of Lincoln’s pellucid prose the London Times wrote: ‘The ceremony was rendered ludicrous by the sallies of that poor President Lincoln. Anyone more dull and commonplace it would not be easy to produce.’ We all make errors of judgement but, fuck-up merchant that I am, I never thought Russell Brand anything but repellent. And he has ruined The Crown at Pishill.
After lunch the Aussie continued his run fest, but wickets fell. Tom P-G bowled their No. 5, Murray (15), with as fine an off-break as you’ll see at Stonor, reminding me of Underwood. ‘Bowling is a low mentality profession,’ said ‘Deadly’ Derek. ‘Plug away, line and length, until there’s a mistake.’ Which is what Tom does. There was an interesting moment when Adam Jacot called for his fielders to give a venerable batsman a single (to ensure he faced the next over), only for the veteran to scamper two!
Lachlan lured the Aussie (65) into edging to Hoskin’s gloves – a superb overhead catch – and that was sort of that. The All Sorts scored 181, with Nick C claiming an LBW and Lachlan (bowling off two paces) picking off the tailenders. They looked at one point to be heading for 220 or so. Lachlan thought ‘another 20 runs’ would have clinched it for them. Our fielding was mixed. Those good catches by Jonkers, Jasper and Andrew; a couple of near-misses at square leg by Otto off Jonkers (who very decently only muttered some mild abuse). Some athletic stuff on the boundary by Nick C, recovering from a night at the Chelsea Arts Club with Jago Poynter.
There were a lot of damaged people around. Michael Constantine had spent the week in hospital after a back op, I had just been released after my brain haemmorhage, Louis Jacot showed me his terrible leg wound, Nick P-G – who scored nobly – was pretty fucked too; David Pitlarge had spent time in hospital for something almost mentionable and Christiaan was sporting a hideous finger wound. About the only person bouncing with health and acuity was Annette.
We opened with David Pitlarge and Nick Constantine. Their bowling was good. David misjudged one and was bowled (for 8) but Nick C remained and, re-hydrated, unleashed his drives and pulls. When Hoskin came in he smacked 14 off his first over but soon holed out (for 20 or so). Jasper (14) and Alex (17) looked about to swash and buckle when both were out, but our run rate was ticking merrily along. Nick was eventually caught in the deep for 60. But when Lachlan and Andrew Wayland were batting all seemed tickitiboo. Then… a blip. Andrew backed up a little boldly, Lachlan straight drove a ball that ricocheted onto the stumps, and Andrew was run out. Enter Christiaan with 20 to win. He had no time to settle as his missus had told him to be home in 15 minutes. He is obedient. He and Lachlan (35*) smacked the bowling and we were over the line.
An exciting finish and deserved win. The All Sorts Mark Peel, ex-schoolmaster and prolific biographer, recently wrote a biography of Anthony Chenevix-Trench, the educationalist and public school headmaster. Mark concentrated on his achievements, not the salacious stuff about spanking. There is a plaque to Chenevix-Trench at Fettes (where Mark taught) – ‘His door was always open, for he loved his fellow man’. I hope that my biographer will be as generous and focus on my best-selling ‘Luggage Labels from the Great Age of Shipping’ (V&A Publications, 1979) rather than that incident in the Raphael Cartoon Court (1974). Most of Mark’s superb, gracious books are about cricket. Foreigners find cricket incomprehensible. Hitler thought a game that ends in a draw after five days was effete and un-German. But then he didn’t like cats, or P.G. Wodehouse, so clearly a wrong ‘un. Russell Brand doesn’t play cricket. I rest my case.