W G Gracefully, Isfield. Sunday, 28 April 2013.
What a difference a year makes! Every Sunday April and May 2012 saw Mighty Greysmen, heads down, morosely sheltering from continuous rain in the Constant. It’s April 2013 and under clear, blue skies they are back in the Connie. It’s the first game of the season. And it almost didn’t happen. Cuckfield had pulled out a few days before the game. Alex, the fixture maestro and master of Sussex social networking, hastily arranged a new match with W G Gracefully. Biff selected a side with decades of experience (not necessarily of cricket). Their Aussie international superstar was rested despite Indian Premier League attempts to sign him in the close season: they just couldn’t afford him.
The team thought that it would be better to field first while it was sunny. Let the opposition field later in the day and get cold. The Grace Jones XI thought so too. They won the toss and invited us to bat.
Biff and Jerry strode out imperiously. Firmly struck shots bisected the field but pulled up short. It soon became clear that the tussocky, grassy outfield was slow. Boundaries would be difficult. They refused to let the tidy opening bowlers dominate them. They steadily built the innings and saw out the openers’ 8-over spells. Double D shrewdly predicted a team total around the 130/140 mark.
Jerry showed no lack of form despite not netting over winter. The opening pair was solid on 37-0. Then a call mix-up and the partnership ended in a run-out. Jerry had to go. (37-1) Biff dropped his bat on the ground and took a little walk.
Next up, Alex played delightful shots before becoming the first of many to be bowled on the day. (54-2) In next came Greys supremo Te-r-r-r-y. He was playing at least his 2,501st match. Legend has it Terry fathered the original Greys team and has outlived them. He displayed all his experience, all that wisdom, all that guile and patience as he defended and grafted. The outfield was slow but not Terry. Showing the true marathon runner’s sprint finish ability, he ran up a three to rapturous applause from his many fans in the pavilion. Terry stood like a rock as wickets fell. He’s seen it all before, many times. He saw Biff’s classy innings of 22 end lbw. (60-3) He watched as Alan was bowled for two. (64-4) David came in with intent to up the score rate and called Terry for a bye off the first ball. Drawing strength from the winter’s team coaching tips he middled a decent cover drive, but the innings ended, bowled for five. (73-5)
It was time for the mighty DoubleD to deliver. He was the only Greysman to score a four and he hit three of them. Graceland fielders could not handle the power. He was dropped two times. The score was building as Terry’s nine runs from 44 balls ended, bowled Fellow. (89-6). DD was bowled too: 29 runs off 18. (122-7). Batting out the final overs were Ben N and Ee-Oo. Ben’s innings was class. A terrific six landed on the boundary rope. (After he admitted it came off the top edge). Ee-Oo faced few balls, but did not waste them. Extras second-top-scored for the Greys with 25. The team had built a total of 133: defendable in conditions difficult for scoring, but sharp bowling and tight fielding needed.
Spring was in the air as we took to the field. A cuckoo called. A house martin flew overhead, first of the year. A blackcap sang its jazz singer scat song from a May bush. The sun was warm: peckers were up. It felt good to be playing cricket in April.
Opening bat Fellows made 35 runs before being caught off DD. Balls had been finding the edge and slips and gully were diving to stop them. Ee-Oo was getting concerned that bionic David’s titanium shoulder would buckle under pressure. Ricky was troubling the batters, but a fast and hard c-and-b chance did not stick. Terry came out with the classic line, “Now his number’s up, Ricky, don’t lose that number!” Number 2 and no 3 went cheaply, both bowled by Ricky.
Number 4 flashed at a wide ball off Ee-Oo looping it high over David in gully. But David backpedalled, right arm raised. Robbie ran round the back from slip expecting to field the ball. But David plucked the ball as he fell on his back, hitting the ground without fracturing anything. PSM, marvellous feeling. The train on the Lavender Line went toot-toot . . .
DD and Ee-Oo each got a second wicket as they bowled WGG’s nos 5 & 6. The fielding stayed tight. Alan saved run after run and kept the batters worried with good throws from the boundary. He made a great stop to keep no 7, Atkinson off strike. Atkinson was getting in the groove. He looked confident and relaxed. The required run rate was coming down and he looked like he might just get them there. He was even indulging in banter with the MGs. “We always have a good game with you” he said. Ee-Oo bowled some unexpected deliveries. “Liquorish Allsorts” says Atkinson. “More like Revels – he never knows what he’s giving you next”, says Alex.
Jerry made great, rolling stops behind the stumps. He kept the extras down, crucial in a low-scoring game. As the evening got colder, Ben N came on to bowl. Three wickets fell to him including the dangerous Atkinson. Ben the all-rounder bowler-batsman turned the game in the MGs’ favour. WGG were now nine wickets down. In a true all-team effort, it was Biff who took the final wicket. It was near the end of his first over. They attempted a risky second run. Like a diving dart player, he arrowed the ball into the stumps from close range. The innings was over: all out for 117 in the 39th over and only 12 extras. Pints all round – well deserved. And a pleasure to play against a team with such good spirit from everyone involved. They lost with grace. Thank you WG Gracefully for a great Sunday.