Fearful of the Warning Lid.
There was a whiff of expectation in the air as we arrive in the pub on yet another bright, hot, sunny day. Forest Row last year had blasted us off the pitch, a demoralising loss by 5 wickets. We had been outplayed by some young, brutish, talented cricketers with a sprinkling of old wilys (not to be mistaken for willies Ricky), so what would happen this year? Would they be even stronger, even more ruthless, even more dominating? Or would our early season form this year continue, with only one loss and four strong wins so far?
On the flip side, Forest Row had inspired Alex to move the match reporting goal posts with the most creative account of a sporting event ever written (read the match report here)… and last week we conspired to have a professional sports journalist write a soon-to-be award winning piece about our ragtag brand of pub cricket (thanks Nice Ian!)…so what would happen this week? Who could top that?
Unfortunately the answer is nobody. We’ve gone from the sublime to the ridiculous with the scum at the helm of the match report this week, weaving a series of crappy in-jokes through his badly worded phrases in what will surely be a report to be lambasted in the pub before the match this week. But at least it’s in on time (just) and the anticipation of some damn fool wearing that fluffy white Warning Lid in the next match can crawl back to where it came from until next weekend when we’re faced with a technicality that will surely cause some controversy: who will be able to write a match report in that short, hazy period that lies between the Sidbury match on Saturday and the Luppitt game on Sunday? And there’s the first England game on the Saturday night too to contend with; I’ll make sure I pack the Warning Lid for the tour next weekend.
The upside to having me writing the match report is that those young, brutish cricketers didn’t slaughter us this year. In fact we clinically dissected them, much like our favourite greys match maker David the Kid Hadrill is doing right now to some poor, suffering animal in some remote village in a country that not one of us have ever heard of, in order to save the animal’s life and save an endangered species of some wonderful animal (we do miss you David!).
Anyways…we turned up to the ground with only one car getting lost and Terry losing his temper at Tescos for not stocking his beloved sticks of chewing gum. Biff won the toss and with a strong bowling line-up up his sleeve and some good form under his belt decided to send the Rowers in to bat.
The intentions of the Forest Row young’uns were laid out early, with Holmes trying to loft Robbie (the Undertaker) into the stratosphere in only the 2nd over (to take up where he left off last year as he’d blasted 87). He (Holmes) did look ridiculous though as he continued to swing loosely and was beaten several times by the genuine out swing and guile on show from the Undertaker in those early overs. He even nicked a couple, hard, that went flying into the gully region. Ricky, swaying gently in the breeze found himself for the second time in 12 hours with two big heavy balls flying into his hands. He’d been in the Bulldog until the early hours of the morning, but the early morning ball-handling practice wasn’t enough, and he spilled two early chances off Robbie. The first was a dolly, the latter was extremely tough, and he made a great effort to dive and get a hand on it.
Luckily though, the Undertaker (2 for 32 off 8) wasn’t alone in his ability to bowl awesome. With the 6th June approaching, D Day (2 for 12 off 6) was looming from the other end and he swiftly stormed Holmes’s castle, removing the danger man for only 2 . Robbie then took the wicket of the other opener (Bruce) after a steady partnership for 24 with the unorthodox Symons who was trapped in front by Alan for 8 soon after. The Forest Row middle order were steady, with the scoreboard constantly ticking over despite some excellent bowling from all the greys bowlers. Alan (2 for 42 off 7) bowled a lovely line and shaped the ball nicely away from the right-handers. He took some tap though from Chapman, the Row’s number five who batted nicely and hit some clean and clever shots (although most of them went between square leg and forward square leg) before he had him caught sweetly on the mid wicket fence by the skip for a top scoring 28. Hat-Rick (1 for 23 off 4) struggled early with nerves, but his ability to produce enormous, fantastical late in-swing was soon harnessed and he had De Souza caught at first slip by the scum who dived forward and took a sharp low down catch to his right – winning PSM for his troubles.
Ricky (0 for 17 from 5) and Quiet Ben bowled superbly late in the innings, with Ricky bowling the ball of the day that gently straightened down the line to Mason, then violently jagged upwards and sideways to beat the bat by a long way, drawing oohs and aahs from men around the ground in the same way he’d drawn oohs and aahs from men around the club only a few hours before.
Quiet Ben too was seriously awesome, swinging the ball in from off the wicket, honing in on off stump with that dippy flighty technique that is so difficult to interpret and judge and bamboozles batsmen around the county when he gets it right. And boy did he, with 3 wickets for only 16 off 6.2 overs at the death thoroughly deserved in a delightful spell of wondrous swing bowling, your scribe having the perfect view from first slip of the wickets being demolished and taking the final deflected catch to complete the Forest Row innings – all out for 144 in 36.2 overs.
Tea was rather lovely: strong tea, egg baguettes, pizza, cakes, a bar, IPL on the TV and a short skirt for Ricky.
Then the rumble from the fielders started, the noise was loud, the banter intense, the chatter annoying. Despite this, and despite opening with yet another bloody spinner, the run chase (everybody loves a run cha-a-ase!) started strongly. The scum and the skip looked solid early and kept easily above the run rate by taking full toll of the field being up and the short boundary towards the carpark.
Then, with the score on 33 in the 8th over, in a tiz of flustered confusion and annoyance the scum flat batted one to the square leg boundary and was caught easily for 27 off his first ball from Best. The skipper and Guy (36) batted professionally to keep the runs ticking over, punishing everything short and racing through for quick singles to mix things up before Biff was caught behind off Chapman for 18, followed by Guy who was also caught behind for 36 off De Souza with the score on 90 in the 24th over. The Shadow and Alex kept things steady, but the bowling was tight now and with the need to get things moving the shadow was bowled by Woodward for 4 and Alex was LBW in the next over for 1.
That brought Dave and Alan together, and these two were able to lift the intensity just at the right time, with Dave lofting a few early doors to spread the field in a way that only he could, with Alan sitting tight early, just focusing on running hard between the wickets to put the pressure back on the Row fielders. Then Dave slowed up, scoring just the odd single and Alan stepped up, cracking a few boundaries to move us quickly towards the finish line, before finally with only 3 needed and still more than 5 overs remaining, Woodward dropped one short and Alan, with a quick shuffle of the feet, lent back and pulled the lifting ball marvellously for four runs. We’d won, by 5 wickets! The same margin as last year, only with roles reversed.
The Rowers scattered quickly, upset with the clinical nature by which they had been dissected, upset with the way they had played in contrast to last year and annoyed still by the arguments they’d waged amongst themselves when the wheels fell off at the end. It was a shame, but there’s always next year, and now it’s 1-1, both teams sharing a 5 wicket victory. What will happen next year?