Friendly Match vs Village CC, Sat 12th May 2018, Parliament Hill

by Hugh McNaughtan

Doubt (me, with only the Met forecast for 12 hours of unrelenting rain) wrestled with hope (Alex, who just really wanted to play some bloody cricket). AG and their skip talked of cutting the game short, but if the adjacent dog show could handle conditions, we were b*ggered if we’d let some pampered, hand-fed, servile, a*se-sniffing species put us to shame. We don’t need dogs to help out there. In the end, Alex and I were both right: it rained incessantly, yet we played a full game.

Plenty of well-known and -respected Villagers made up the 11 who hosted us on Parliament Hill; for Fields, it was a case of the known leavening the unknown: we got 11 in the end, but only because first-gamers Lucas and Balakrishna were kind enough to join second-gamer Tom D to boost us to 11. There was more talk of a shortened game, respecting the weather, but with steady drops already falling, and no prospect of relief, AG agreed with their skipper that we might as well tell the weather gods to f*ck themselves, and decided on a ‘proper’ 35-over game.

An already greasy pitch, plus long wet grass and accurate opening bowling saw Tom H and Alex fight hard to put together an excellent, grafting opening stand of 47. The pitch was doing plenty, the bowling was ‘annoyingly good’ (Alex) and Tom kept cracking shots that, in August, would have him leaning on his bat in quiet satisfaction, but today brought 2s at best. Alex suppressed his nature (a bit) to play quite a few leaves, defensive shots and drives along the carpet. But it couldn’t last:- he is what he is, the innings demanded some adrenalin, and he started to unfurl. It wasn’t all aerial (or leg side), but it was good: biffs through the infield; some lovely on-drives that unfortunately pulled up short (earning him only what he was prepared to resentfully run for); and the best: an IPL-style sliced six over third man and a 5 earnt through pressuring a generally-tight field into 4 overthrows.

A change of bowling, tight, high armed and ideal for this increasingly-capricious (read: totally muddy) pitch, saw for Alex eventually. A huge off-cutter that I (umpiring) thought must have bounced over the stumps (it cut so far behind him I was totally unsighted) was claimed by the keeper as ‘bowled’. Alex took his word and trudged off, a tough 28 to his name.

Out strode Lucas, called on for the tough no.3 role by his pitiless skipper, and proceeded to play his first ball for the Fields, a nasty lifter heading for his eyebrows, languidly to the distant square boundary. A proper 4, we can assure you, and suddenly we were all paying much more attention.

Sadly, not having played for years, he struggled to get out of the shot-a-ball mode he admitted wasn’t right for the situation, and was soon bowled playing across a grubber.

AG to the wicket, drinks belatedly called, and a clear sense that Tommy H, who’d played out lots of good bowling, found his feet and timing, yet still had only 14 to show for it, was in the mindset to abandon his tried, true and straight method, and get some of those ‘cheap runs’ he’d heard about. Inevitably, he was also bowled playing across a low one. But, as he pointed out, he’d done his job (team ball-moistener), and another day might have brought 50 where value was on offer. Did I mention the incessant rain?

But Tommy’s fall brought the day’s highlight to the wicket, with Fields running on the spot at 60ish for 3 after 21: Balakrishna. With what transpired to be excessive modesty, he’d let AG know he bats and bowls ‘a bit’. A four whipped with lovely timing through square was just the amuse bouche. By the time his clean-hitting rampage was done, stumped off a wide doing the team thing in the last few overs, he’d put Village to the sword, with the most amazing display of clean, destructive hitting I’ve seen from a Fielder, debutant or not. He broke roof tiles in the adjoining school, he lost multiple balls, somewhere on Parliament Hill, and he had all the Village bowlers at his mercy. They lost their rag with each other, they sledged cricket’s most amiable man (PA had replaced AG, who spooned to point) and generally displayed signs of a team that expects to win easily, is being taken to the cleaners, has no idea how to stop it, and does not like it. There was even mumbling about ‘modern bats, (after a cover-driven six that Kohli couldn’t have middle any more sweetly) and jibes about ‘farming’ and not trusting Paul when tight singles were refused (and that with only 3 overs to go and only 170 odd on the board). Our feelings, as we pranced around the boundary, making flower garlands, playing tambourines and singing ‘My Sweet Lord! Balakrishna!, I really wanna know you! Balakrishna! I really wanna see you! Balakrishna’ were different.

The chirp continued after Village’s understandable happiness at getting the ball-losing machine out, and may have distracted PA, who heard chatting from behind the wicket as the bowler ran in, and bowled an accurate ball that grubbed and hit him right in front. Anyway, he made no excuses.

Tom Damant, next, showed his big straight hitting at Pacific was no fluke, cracking a six and four over the bowler’s head, before succumbing to the last ball of the innings, trying to cream Village’s excellent opener (who returned to bowl a wicket-maiden, finishing with figures of 7 overs, 2 maidens, one wicket). Still, we’d set them 180, thanks largely to our openers and Bala’s awe-inspiring 83.

Phil opened, but quickly discovered what would plague all the bowlers - with no grass left on the popping crease, a greasy run up, and nothing but slick mud to follow through on, bowling was hard work. Still he bowled good areas (the man’s a highly-fertile phenomenon). I generously backed up his hard work by bowling half-trackers and full tosses from the other end – unable to trust my feet, the ball, or my ‘ability’. Moderating the ‘run up’ to a leisurely amble, I managed to sometimes hit a pitch that, approaches aside, should have favoured the bowlers. I yorked one opener, got the other with a slightly back of a length ball (pouched by an agile Lucas in covers), then bowled what I’m self-effacingly calling ‘the ball of 2018’: on a length, swinging away from mid/leg, then leg cutting to nip the off bail. On a most unexpected hat trick, I naturally floated up a full toss that their very competent no 5 punched through cover for a couple. Bugger.

Despite getting the first 3, I’d leaked 33 in 5, and was not providing the control and pressure the situation demanded (and AG requested in a superbly polite manner from mid off). They were 37 for 3 after 8, Clarkey was bowling beautifully from the other end, and wickets or no, a change was needed. On came Tom Damant, falling flat on his *rse first ball, but still hitting a good spot with energy. But that, a couple of edges from Phil that found no receiver, and some very good bowling from Vince, more Tom D, and eventually Lucas and Georgious, was the last of our joy. The ball was a swollen piñata, no one could bowl right-arm over without falling arse-on-tit, and two set, quality batsmen were in total control. We kept our spirits up (thanks largely to the wit of our ball-drying sock puppets, and the kind of banter that other teams can only meet with slack-jawed envy) but it felt like game over 40 runs before the fact.

Their two set batsmen played fantastically (their no 3 bringing up a match-winning ton with his last scoring shot, an emphatic straight six off Lucas, who only got a couple of (excellent) overs once the game was lost) and that was it. A 7-wicket, 13-over thrashing, despite moments when we felt genuinely in the contest. F*ck those moments, and their hollow promises.

Anyway good spirits were maintained with the gracious Village boys, and both teams repaired to the Vine to tell stories, drink pints, dry out the scorebook, and talk utterly enjoyable b*llocks. In the rain, which never, ever bloody stopped.

London Fields Batting

 NameScoringHow OutBowlerRuns
1Alex Turner BowledRich28
2Tom Hughes BowledJosh14
3Lucas  BowledJosh5
4Adam Graham CaughtEddie6
5Balakrishna  StumpedEddie85
6Paul Alexander LBWEddie0
7Tom Damant BowledUnknown13
8Phil Clark RunOut3
9Vincent Croft NotOut1
10George Sargent NotOut0
11Hugh McNaughtonDidNotBat-
Extras25
    Total 180 for 8

Village CC Bowling

No Details

Village CC Batting

No Details

London Fields Bowling

 NameOMRWAvg
1Phil Clark70300-
2Hugh McNaughton5037312.33
3Tom Damant40410-
4Vincent Croft30210-
5George Sargent20300-
6Lucas 20220-

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