There are many sad days in a year. New year’s day, which is always disappointing, as you won’t have got lucky and you are back to work or school soon. First day back from a good holiday, any day you have to travel thorough the Dartford Tunnel, and worst of all, when the football season (real not fantasy) starts, as it heralds the end of the only proper sports season there is.
So here we are, the last match of the season. Her Ladyship has left the gardening team instructions to protect her ornamental Italian extravagance. I have instructed the ground staff and mechanics on what care the fleet needs over the winter and we are ready to move to our winter home. A small matter first, of dealing with the final game of the season.
We are visited by the might of Bidborough. Their 1st XI won their league. Their 2nd XI won their league and, you guessed it, the 3rd XI were promoted from theirs. This was going to be a challenge but both skippers were ready to make a great game of it. He had even suggested that “22 guys would rather have a good game of cricket than go shopping”. Now where have I heard that before?
We discuss our options and go for a 35 over match ( as that is what I want) and we bat first. “I’ll put on the younger and lesser bowlers to give you guys a chance to set us about 200 and see if we can knock them off”
I asked for volunteers for openers and, as none was coming forward, I selected Vice and Pussy to start and me to go 3. I then told the rest what their skipper had said. If only there had been more volunteers through the year!
The younger and lesser bowlers were quite good! Vice (friend of Strauss) and Pussy were steady early on until our illustrious vice captain was caught in 2 minds (not his usual festival state of 2 minds “more booze or more women”) but block or hit. The 6 hitting coach would have been very disappointed with his lob to mid on. He took it well and strode off gracefully, swearing, throwing and kicking the bat. At least he through it more than he hit it!
Pussy and Skip’ to carry it on. It was not a slog fest of any kind. Their second bowler being one of the best we have faced all season (what were their good bowlers like?) and we crawled along at just over 3 an over for the first 10. Having seen off the good one their generous skipper puts on a pie chucker and our skipper sees the Christmas ball and lobs it to short 3rd man for a rubbish 6. All blocks and no score will not win a cup. Krish “Brown Bear” Appavoo strides in next and soon after, strides out again for 1. Another to the chucker and Krish suffering form rust like some of my older combine harvesters on the farms.
20 overs and 58/3 makes 200 seem as far off as a Goodfellow round in the pub. Chung Fu is next and, with Pussy, there is the beginning of some momentum being built. Then, Pussy goes (having cost himself 1 run by not taking an easy single with the skip’ earlier) for 26. Bidborough keep the bowling friendly, Scrappy and Chung Fu take full advantage. Easy to get out to this but they kept their heads and were bashing it all over the place. Some fine shots and some slogs. A true Chung Fu off drive is a treat. 30 overs and we are 127 for something. Scrappy falls (I know not when) for a booming 24 to a tight stumping and Mr Pimms is in. Some more buckling of the swash with the Chung Fu and we reach 177. Mr Pimms out for 16 and the panther of the field a worthy 67 not out. (personal top score for Stone). Glen brings some added entertainment from the last ball of the innings, (the only ball he faces) by pushing it into a wide open space for a definite 1 and possible 2 but calls no to the other batsman. He didn’t know it was the last ball. Could this be crucial? Will he be blamed for everything? Would we do that?
Mr and Mrs Chung Fu provide a lovely tea, without any tea. If we don’t turn the urn on the water won’t heat up! It was a fine spread and much enjoyed.
I had some concerns about what we could bowl to the 13 year old lad ( a small 13 year old at that) and they said he was quite good, anything is OK. They weren’t kidding. He had superb technique and together with a slogger at the other end (all of 15) they were off to the races early on. Mr Pimms, uncharacteristically, being put about the park and Dino suffering on a pitch that just wasn’t working for him. (“So why did you put him on Skip?”) We bring on the talkative Oaten. After all the gip he was giving me in the field about positions and bowling options I thought “well let’s see what you have got then” He got 1/19 from 5 good overs. The caught and bowled to take the slogger out was an exceptional reaction.. Chung Fu was at the other end and had clearly forgotten how to bowl in his time away. Probably the pressure of being in the top 5% of hay fever suffers in the UK but he did sneak one due to a find catch from Scrappy to have 1/19 from 3 overs. They were beginning to slow and we were beginning to believe. Scrappy does it again with the ball and takes 1/19 from 7. A sharp take by the keeper (eventually) standing up and snaring out the young lad. A well crafted 41 with an array of fine shots. Well played young man.
Time to bring on the secret weapon. “Semtex, next over this end” brings a cry of joy form all of us and shouts of “what the feck” from the new bowler. An inspired bowling change. 3 overs 0/11 shows he can do it and we can all enjoy it. It was dynamite to watch as each grenade worried the batsman about how to hit it. No wickets but great fun for Semtex and great fun for us.
Now they need about 40 from 5 and Robbo Cop comes on, for what he says is his last bowl for Stone as the body has had enough. Specialist batsman next season then. In hindsight he foolishly takes 2/22 and brings in some of the quality that Bidborough have been hiding. It’s close. They want about 20 from 3. Vice says he can put his sore back though the paces and bowls a great first over. It is so close.
Then the quality shows. You just see it in some players even from a first ball block. The 6 he put back over Vice’s head was wonderful. No big swing or follow through and all timing. It flew. We admired it in silence and knew the game was gone if he stayed any longer, he did. Next ball went for 4 and it was 2 needed from the last over.
The game was done but it was played in great spirit. Great credit to both teams and compliments to the opposition for showing what the spirit of cricket is all about. I have suspicions about they juice they served at tea which didn’t give us our usual pep.
There were a couple of drops and some sloppy ‘keeping early on but we were pretty good and played properly to the end.
The oppo came down, which was great, and most of the team were there. There was love all around and lots of back slapping. A toast to Skip’ who has convinced her ladyship to marry him for tax purposes and a share of several trusts. (Thank you everyone it was very touching).
SB has gone to young Oaten. Didn’t say a word all day and didn’t come to the pub
Performance to Chung Fu. who else? Great to have him back.
So that is it. You wont have to put up with these reports for a while. It was a great night that finished with the hard core of the Garratts and Dad, Semtex and Skip’. Additional beauty added by Mrs Garratt to raise the tone.
To all of our supporters, Roger, Mick, Michelle, Ron, Mrs Pimms, Mother of Stumpy, Walkie Talkie’s grandmother (I really need to learn some names) the NZ Garratts, Sara, Wendy, John, Roisin, Sam,and if I have missed anyone I am sorry. Thank you for watching, driving, making teas, looking after babies and generally being there for us while we attempt to pay this glorious game. We can’t to it without you. (on reading back the report her ladyship says “what about me?” It really is all about her!