V&A XI: Adam Jacot (Captain), Tom Bird, Shaun Chande, Christiaan Jonkers, Christie Kulasingham, Chris Mounsey-Thear, Lachlan Nieboer, Alex Pitlarge, David Pitlarge, Tom Pritchard-Gordon and Rob Taylor
Royal Household CC 214-2 (41 overs) (T Mellor 100 not out, A Hawkesworth 100), The V & A 30 (Mandip Sohi 5-3).
Forgettable or unforgettable? That is the question. How long will this loom large? How long will it hurt? What will those who didn’t play make of this, the most feeble of responses on record from a V+A batting X1? How will some of you, grandfathers to be, pass this down? One compensation for recording such a match is the range of adjectives justifiably on offer: from dire to diabolical.
It was October and so a bonus game. I remember playing when September meant mud on the boots and leaves on the spikes. But today the sun even shone: physically at least. It all seemed idyllic and, once endless admin allowed us past the gunmen gatemen, we were soon all safely secluded in our security bubble. How glorious a setting. Regal naturally. What expanse of parkland with ordered avenues; with groomed horses roaming with beauty within wooden fences free of fracture and with a cooling breeze tickling the many leaves of the many trees. Here was our Sunday stage on which to play out the farewell fixture of this year’s beloved game.
We all, do we not, play in part for the beauty of the setting to settle us into our weekend unwinding. We have all, and after all, been seduced by Stonor. In part too we play to put on the surreal whites and ‘do’ cricket and in part we gather to waffle in bottomless banter.
No time for waffle here or at the game. Time was of the essence: punctuality demanded of us as guests, and daylight insistent on the tight schedule of a ‘time game’. The pitch was sunken and slow and we were generously allowed to put them in. Perhaps they spotted our lack of communal kit and personal coffins carrying a choice of bats and thought that was the way to stretch the game. They were wise and right. All thoroughly thought through.
But actually, let’s hear something for the V+A. We bowled in a manner that suggested we had the upper hand. Lachlan was extremely unlucky, beating the bat regularly in his ten overs, and came away with very tidy figures of 0-19. A spell cast successfully over any confidence on their part. Likewise Tom P-G, who is a class act, and Christi, the silent assassin, denied them any ascendancy and troubled them constantly with their subtle variety and niggardly line and length. It was very hard, as captain, to take them off.
When you read that both openers got centuries, you could easily feel we were being hammered. (That came later!). These weren’t crafted innings. They never really got going or accelerated. They were never ‘in’. They got there sharing 4 an over for 40 overs by occasionally utilising the cheap runs on offer from one shortened boundary. But the luck they rode and with pluck they ploughed on till tea until Jonkers, who has the enviable habit of never ceasing to take wickets, finally mopping up the two to fall. It did feel good to break the partnership. Ridiculously relieving. I remember stumps on day 1 of the Lords’ Ashes in 1996 when Marsh and Taylor walked off unbeaten with over 300 on the board. 30 years ago and a mere spectator but it was unforgettable.
Forgettable however is our batting scorecard. It doesn’t warrant reading. I could name all X1 of our batsmen but to what avail? Nicky, having kindly umpired the whole innings, stayed on after tea as though solely to watch Shaun Chande’s innings who was shortly to become the first victim. They had two capable bowlers one a quick from the bottom end the other a spinner from the top end. They had a field day, reaping 9 of our wickets some by their bowling but others by our shocking ‘shot selection’. We seemed a spent force as though 40 overs without a break or a speech from our president was too foreign a prospect. We left without much ‘after chat’ with our tail between our legs, our egos still intact. Chastened but at charity box status.