Findon Cricket Club, nestling under the Downs; deer cavorting in the lynchets – was a perfect setting. The Greys were keen to get a forty over game under their belts after a Twenty20 victory at Scaynes Hill and a wash-out the previous week. The Greys felt they were hitting their straps at last especially after an exciting midweek victory in The Slam!
The Greys skipper Ben Newland lost the toss and was asked to bowl on the grassiest wicket this correspondent has seen since the Battle of Baxters Field.
Findon are never short of battling and the openers had a capable feel about them. Apart that is from the one out first ball from Post Office Dan, whose cheery face it was good to see again! He caused the batsman to top edge to The Chief at slip. The rest of us feared the worst for the poor injury-raddled Papp, as Ben mumbled “I got!” and assumed ‘The Dreaded, Charging Rhino’. Thankfully he pulled out and went on to enjoy an excellent first-ever stint as wicketkeeper. No byes and only two leg-byes!
The other opener progressed steadily, not without being dropped though, to 104 before he “retired” – attempting a scoop off a low straight one. Zack was needed to patrol the bottom fence in the way only he can. (N.B. he wasn’t playing). Dan, Zonk, and Sewell bowled fairly tightly but loose balls were thrashed into the kennels and the outfield was lightning. Another danger man, indeed he looked the most threatening at that point, was well-caught off Sewell by Bob running round on the long mid-on boundary.
The Chief, Rick the Hat, and Bob all bowled well but the Findon No. 5 was allowed to get past fifty and the run rate remained around six an over. The Greys maintained their discipline and a much larger total was avoided. Findon had scored 234 but the wicket was fairly true and the outfield fast.
In this game the ball and players hands were sanitised regularly but nobody seemed to mind if you forgot and rubbed spit on the scuffs.
The Greys Covid-Safe Tea was a giddying maelstrom of boiled pulses, grains, Tupperware, sweet fucking potato and leaves. Like excited children on a school trip, “I say, What have you got, Puy Lentils?” “No, brown! they’re so tasty, Hooray!”. Players from less privileged households had to watch on and try to make their Monster Munch fill the aching chasm in their guts. This is food poverty glaringly highlighted. We need a high profile cricketer to campaign for Free Cricket Teas for needy and vulnerable players and force a U-turn by this heartless government.
And a pot of tea would be nice.
The Greys needed a repeat of Bob’s innings from a year earlier in which he stitched together a faltering innings and led us to the brink of victory. He was at the crease soon enough as Jerry was bowled by his third delivery which ‘nipped back’ at him. Rob and opener Rick Flynn cautiously put on 35 for the next wicket against naggingly accurate bowling. Rick was bowled for 16 bringing Twenty20, pinch-hitter, Biff, to the crease. He uncharacteristically struggled, facing nearly 30 balls for three runs. The innings had lost some momentum, but Bob was still ticking along and the situation was far from desperate. However, Biffs not altogether lamented exit, caught behind, precipitated a horrid collapse. Four wickets for one run as Rob, Alex then Dunc failed to defend their wicket from E. Hawk.
At 70-6, The Greys’ reply was in tatters. New pairing, Ben and Zonk went about restoring some dignity to the proceedings and smashed 62 runs off 10 overs. There is no suggestion that the bowling at this point was any less exacting than it had been all long. K. Hamesley, who had been bowling tidily exploded into life in his fifth over. Ben was caught trying to force the pace for a battling 22. Sewell strode out to the wicket to manfully support The Zonk who was on a buccaneering 42, including 4 fours and an effortless six. The Zonk thrashed the next ball straight back at the spin bowler. The only danger seemed to be that he might deflect the sizzling return onto the stumps but he stooped to get two hands on it for a marvellous catch.
In came The Chief with a mischievous glint in his eyes. There were ten overs left in which we could learn and mature as batsmen and Greysmen. The scoring of the hundred runs necessary for a win is surely impossible. Would he spurn this rare opportunity for cricketing growth for the fleeting release of an attempted hoik over Cow? Never mind! The first ball he received went through his defences and the close field appealed. Nothing obvious had been seen from the other end. The Chief looked at Umpire Edwards, who made no motion. Time glitched imperceptibly and through a fissure in the time-space continuum a scintilla of decency from a parallel existence entered the barren wastes of this Chief’s bosom. His eyes betrayed a flicker of terror as, unbidded, he felt his legs turn and his bat tuck under his arm. He walked uncomprehendingly. Only now the finger goes up.
Sewell spoke soothingly to Post Office Dan as they met on the square. “Let’s take our time and enjoy ourselves! Time in the middle is priceless, young man. You cannot recreate the experience of being at the crease with eleven strangers mercilessly trying to finish you off. How else can anyone learn to apply the skills learned in the nets, build resilience, control nerves, improve decision making without regular time playing under pressure. Let us take this windfall and not squander it thus with any rank foolishness!” The young bearded man looked up at the older and taller man and nodded at these sage words.
Forty five seconds later the smart-arse young postie could barely conceal a smirk as they walked up to the pavilion.