To Ansty. No Jerry, no Del, no EO, no Ricky, a crippled Robbie H… and, oh for a third umpire!
This time last year we apparently numbered 12 on arrival (‘cos Biff don’t count that goood), got an iron-handed trouncing (courtesy of two Ansty 1st XI batsmen) and left for home with a bellyful of Hophead having managed a mere half of the required total.
Little wonder then, that trepidation circled the ranks as Ansty’s ridiculously youthful eleven (is that a toddler?) huddled pre-match in their blue ‘summer strip’ (totally unnecessary and surely meant only to intimidate), before eventually changing to their whites and ending this futile display of peacockery.
Undaunted, the Greys took to the field in buoyant mood, bathed in sunshine and eager to restore the status quo. Apparently no sign of last year’s opening centurion either… Good.
With chronic middle age taking it’s toll on both opening bowlers Robbie H decided to limp down the order making room for Alan to step up in his place. It was to be a double-ended left-armed attack (ooer) – and a good one at that.
Despite his gammy shoulder, Double D maintained a steadfast spirit, powered through the pain and offered up two fine maidens. Seam movement, pace change and general cocksure professionalism amounted to some seriously close calls that both rattled Carey and wobbled Hatfield.
What no wicket?
Alan was on stellar form at the other end too, turning in a succession of good-looking maidens up the hill before forcing a weak upward paddle from Hatfield and with it the first wicket – caught and bowled for 29.
‘So who’s this little fella then?’ said someone (probably) as Ansty’s boyish No. 3 (11? 12? 13?) strolled out to the middle.
Bewilderment fell across Alan’s face as he felt the apparent weight of the dilemma. Did he continue at a pace so as not to condescend the little blighter? Did he lay off the gas so as not to offend the dad (the umpire)? Underarm? Dressed as a party clown? On his knees?
As it turned out, young Peberdy turned out to be a half decent cricketling with a fair few strokes in his arsenal. But alas! Nothing could prevent the Grey’s unstoppable transformation from streamlined pride of eleven competitive Sunday sportsmen to fieldful of trepidatious demi-dads, hesitant as to how to deal with the little tyke. He was barely taller than the wickets ffs.
So how did we deal with this half-pint ferreter?
Alan G chose to put the brakes on a little, but kept his line true providing the wee pup with scant opportunity to chalk up runs. Double D changed little, forcing the little guy permanently onto the back foot. From behind the sticks Alex F tried a perfidious – yet ultimately unsuccessful – stratagem and his perfectly timed man-sneeze did little to unnerve the youngster.
Yours truly chose to smash him hard in the barely-calcified ribs with a viscous unplanned in-swinger – a lone viper of a delivery in amongst three overs of utter, utter tripe. (If I can’t bloody have one of my own then I’m going to do my damndest to hurt other people’s, alright?!)
Thankfully, Richie Partridge stepped in and brought my wayward, minor-injuring wide-fest to a close. What’s more, Richie P deserves props for what was a steadfast display of Yorkie-chunk chewing manliness. Despite having taken a robust off-drive smack dab on the shin bone direct from the sweet spot of Anderson’s bat, he stood tall with barely a whimper and eeked out an ultimately wicket-less, yet economical 7-over spell. (Meanwhile the purple ‘shin egg’ sprouted slowly beneath his whites… (eew))
A crippled Robbie H took over from Ali G up the slope to try his hand at spin. Turns out he harboured the fox-like nous required to outwit Ansty’s attack and – after a prolonged period of frankly surreal ‘dads v lad’ weirdness – swiftly removed both the little’un – caught and bowled – and Martin (I think), lbw for a duck. (I was on the boundary, ok. From there they all looked like Roly from Grange Hill.)
A rare bowling masterclass followed from Shadow who finally relieved their No. 2 Carey – Ansty’s highest scoring batsmen at 59 – of his wicket, confidently caught behind by Alex. Shadow’s celebration of said achievement? A booming, resonant tremble… and strangely moving when viewed from the rope (a close second for PSM).
A return to manfolk didn’t do Ansty any favours whatsoever with Best, Champ and Anderson all mustering a mere dozen between them and all expertly dispatched by Biff’s clement spell of searching outswingers that teased out two nice catches from DD and Alan, as well as the third (!) caught and bowled of the match. 5 for 13 – inspiring stuff Skip.
The overs came to an end and it was looking good. With 152 as our target, this was eminently do-able, even though Del had decided to swerve the game in favour of another ‘sport’ involving nets and odd-shaped snow shoe bats, and Scottish people.
Ansty offered up a fine spread at tea and batting order was discussed, nay, insisted upon.
As Jerry was sherking his batting responsibilities this week too – doubtless lindy-hopping in a far flung field somewhere – it fell upon the reliable willow-wielding strongarm of Guy to take on the first ball, with Biff backing him up at the other end. A fine partnership ensued that saw off both opening bowlers with ease – securing a smattering of runs in the process – some decisive pulls from Guy finding the leg side boundary for plentiful one-bounce fours – and the rest.
Then on came Ansty’s new bowling pair – Best and Martin – who sped things up dramatically, drawing plentiful bounce and voodoo happenings from a track as unpredictable as the umpire. Biff scored steadily (and stylishly) for a while, then took a sharp one in the clock via a top edge – Alex’s yearly lid usage warning had finally come to fruition.
Unfazed Biffo paddled onward, before falling for a swift seamer – not to be scoffed at.
Guy battled on too until, with 43 under his belt (and a hefty 300 runs already scored this season – Bravo!), he did the gentlemanly thing and tucked bat under arm after a clear edge –audible in Hassocks – fell plumb into the keeper ‘s gloves. Not that the umpire noticed… three 7-ball overs had already put his abilities under serious scrutiny and more questionable finger-wagging was yet to come our way.
Shadow fought on, at first (only just) dropped by a deft keeper-gully one-two, before the same off-side waft took him out a few balls later, caught at gully off a lively delivery from Best for 1. Unlucky.
Next came Darryl. Back into the fray with a bat he’d been given as a 16th birthday present from his dad. Aww. He brimmed with confidence having scored Biff’s ‘Kit bag of the day’ award – a reusable hessian number that had likely once held organic wood pigeon breasts and gentleman’s relish (see photo). A true pro if ever there was one.
His ancient willowed Gray Nichols Scoop had obviously maintained some of the old school-day magic as he proceeded to hook another of Best’s pacy deliveries for 4 – securing him a podium place for shot of the day and a deserved PSM nomination. Sadly for Darryl, yet another unruly bounce and a wanton whip of his foppish fringe led to a cinch of a catch for Best. Darryl was gone for 8.
Though the run rate was ticking over nicely, a minor collapse of sorts was soon to follow.
Alex fell for 3, caught in the gully – again at the hands of Best, Rob the Cab – who’d made the pilgrimage from Eastbourne to play (that’s what you call dedication Del) – was dispatched for a duck via the first of the contentious lbw decisions of the day and Richie P was lost for 2. Gulp.
Five down, but we could still do this. All we had to do was sit out the overs and the runs would look after themselves. Just… stay… in.
After all, Double D was taking to the crease and he’s got the skills to pay the bills, despite the Ansty juveniles muttering of their plans to sledge him about his apparent resemblance to Heisenberg… (It’s usually me that gets that one).
Turns out they didn’t have a pair of huevos between them and kept schtum. We weren’t surprised Double D looked like a man on a mission.
The fact that Biff relieved yours truly of umpiring duties early, in order to pad up, raised personal doubts in the locker room as to our likelihood of success, so much so that I realized halfway down the stairs that I had forgot to put my pads. But no-one saw. So it was ok.
Pads or no pads, the mantra remained – WE CAN STILL DO THIS!
Our esteemed umpire – Blind Willie McTell? – Ming The Merciless? – then took matters into his own hands waggling his digit at every available opportunity.
Ming soon sent Alan packing for nought even though the ball had no designs on the stumps whatsoever.
Double looked sturdy as yours truly took to the crease for my Greys batting debut. Things looked rosy for a while as both myself and Dave managed a few quick singles, the odd four and one proud cover drive (bagging this week’s PSM – schucks).
However, tragedy was soon to strike as Ming chose to give his trigger finger one more taste of the open air despite Hadfield’s loose consignment being well and truly outside the line.
Was this man truly a visually impaired, unseeing, amaurotic, typholic, visionless fellow intent on ruining our fun? Or were we just really, really bad losers?
But it wasn’t over yet. Could Robbie H and yours truly conjoin to paddle the final 16 runs and steer the Greys to a memorable victory. Could the men separate from the boys?
A departing Dave passed Robbie in the outfield. “Just don’t let it hit your pad,” he rightfully advised, providing fate with the ultimate sweet temptation. “Don’t run any quick singles,” a crook Rob muttered in my ear as he took to the crease and struck the pose.
Hadfield rippled up to the crease, let fly an average in-swinger that met Robbie’s pad at the knee joint, rising fast. He was safe. By a country mile, he was clear. Thank fuu…. Wait… what’s that? It wasn’t! It bloody well was!
The farsical finger was to be drawn once more and there was jack diddley squat any of us could do about it (bar quietly moaning about it on the way home in the car afterwards).
As the final two Greys stood mouths agape for a seemingly endless slo-mo moment of reckoning, Ming paused, smirked… and proudly reintroduced the now infamous doom digit high above his head.
Was it out? Maybe. Maybe not.
But the finger had certainly had its 15 minutes. And some. Robbie was out, lbw for a golden.
A painful loss in more ways than one.
Still the sun was high in the sky for the entire day, the ale flowed in the clubhouse post-match and Biff and Richie wore their battle-injuries with pride. The Greys had fought well.
Rematch in two weeks. Bring it.
Just to reiterate Ian’s (Wig) parting comment in his match report a few weeks back – cheers for the welcome everyone. DFWTMG.
I’m of to Kefalonia – I’m free in two weeks if you need me Biff…