‘Make ’em bacon sarnies and they will come!’
This one was a first for London Saints. Long-time Saints stalwart Tiger Pearce, our answer to Derek Underwood in slow motion and regular long-distance driver to away matches had arranged a fixture with his local team, all of 15 yards from his front door.
Such were his nerves in the run-up to the games it is odds-on that Tiger had soiled himself – the main reason for which, we later learned, was his fear that Saints would turn up and put in such a shambolic performance that he would be the laughing stock of the village.
Or, as he initially claimed, it was because he was worried about his loyal and trusting team mates coming so far – Leighton Buzzard? Sounds like a children’s TV character – and so to pre-empt that The London Saints team turned up at his house to find a pile of bacon sarnies waiting us. Despite this, Il (yes ‘Il’ not El) Duce had stuffed himself with a fry-up before setting off from Euston.
Anyway, it was a glorious day, the sun beating down; the sort of day that if you win the toss you say, “We’ll have a bat.”
Unless, that is, you’ve had Tiger whispering mind games in your ear, “they’re a bowling team skip, if you make them bat first it’ll put them off their stride.”
Now, I always thought that one of the first principles of sport was to play to one’s strengths rather than the perceived weakness of the opposition, but what do I know?
With bacon sarnies sitting heavy in the gut and sweat forming on the brow, Saints’ opening bowlers, the alliterative pairing of Floater and Flatliner proceeded to bowl a mixture of good balls and pies (mostly the latter). Roadrunner’s opening bat Noops was unlucky to chip a leg full toss from Floater to Berkeley at square leg, while his partner Hassle played himself in against some pretty dog stuff, although the umpires took a very liberal attitude to wide.
Noops’ dismissal brought Kerry to crease, who immediately showed his class with a couple of fine cuts. For a number of overs it appeared that LSCC would be looking at chasing one of those impregnable totals as Hassle and Kerry gave not a sniff of a chance and the quick outfield saw the ball repeated race to the boundary.
Then Berkeley bowled Hassle, and Tiger was brought into the attack. The moment he had been waiting for. We have been told that Tiger has bowled at a few of the Roadrunner lads in the nets, but even they seemed surprised by the indescribable (and it really is) slowness of his bowling. Harley was bowled having visibly changed his mind on which shot to play several times, while Phil (I’m switching from surname to forename but I’ve only got the scorebook to go by), who clearly didn’t realise that you need to stand behind the crease to be considered in, left a wide one down the leg from Tiger, only to be stumped by Mayhew, as acting keeper – and he absolutely demolished the stumps as if they’d personally insulted his mother.
The wickets, while not exactly tumbling, continued to fall regularly, except for Kerry, who played an almost unblemished innings, with some fine strokes. The other batsmen also went for their shots, particularly as the innings wore on to its conclusion, with Wath having two balls in a row dropped – first Berkeley got a zinger that didn’t stick, then Tiger let a skier spin up out of his cupped hands.
Roadrunners finished on 194 for 7, which to my mind looked a little high for our heroes.
After a pleasant tea (including a packet of crisps each), Mayhew and Griffiths took to the field. What I hadn’t realised was quite what retirement has done for Mayhew’s form. DT reckons it to be the classiest innings he has seen him play, and it was full of delicately timed leg glances, glorious cover drives and powerful pulls. He was ably assisted in opening stand of 106 by Dishonest John, who, desperate to earn himself a new nickname seemed intent on attacking the ball and playing for the team rather than his average.
That might have worked, if he had actually been honest. By the end of his innings DJ had survived 5 separate chances. Three catches were put down and two run-out appeals survived – but only survived because of his own limitless mendacity. In the first instance Mayhew drove a ball straight back at the bowler who diverted onto the stumps. Berkeley was umpiring – thinking about who knows what – and missed the incident altogether and honest enough to admit it. The bowler was honest enough to say he didn’t know, and DJ, who knew perfectly well that he was miles out of his crease, kept his council as if a terrible deafness had suddenly afflicted him. We knew this because the dishonest fellow admitted the whole thing to us later, and worse, to one of the opposition in the bar afterwards, who looked at him incredulously, “Why didn’t you walk?”
The second run-out would have been given by umpire Ralph, if Roadrunners had appealed… on such small things do cricket matches hinge.
Despite Mayhew’s innings it remained an incredibly tight match. With DJ finally bowled on 46 by ‘V’, Nanton strode to the crease with a lot of work to be done. LSCC still required around 60 runs at a rate of around five an over. Nanton was joined by Clive Dunn, who approached the situation with all the urgency of a sleeping policeman while on the boundary the remaining Saints chewed their fingernails. But they kept the scoreboard ticking over, an absolutely massive 6 into the adjoining allotments from Nanton the highlight.
Grimes departed with the game still delicately poised, and out strode Tiger to join Nanton (on Nanton) who continued with his ‘all or nothing’ policy. Pearcey clubbed an exquisite four that left with three to score off ten balls but Dave then proceeded to try and smash the winning runs only to miss the next five balls. Three from six! Eventually he connected and found the boundary and we were home.
A brilliant game. The two teams gained the upper hand and lost it again several times over, almost on a par the entire time. It was batsman’s game – a wonderful unbeaten innings from Kerry was the spine for Dunstable while Mayhew’s innings was simply sublime. It went right to the wire, and created a kind of camaraderie between the two sides that epitomises Test Village Cricket at its finest. Huge thanks from the Saints to Dunstable Roadrunners for the hospitality, scorers and for being a genuinely fine bunch of lads.
Champagne Moment: DJ hit his first 6 for the Saints; while Nanton’s pulled six was the monster of the season; Ralph took a fine running catch off Il Duce’s bowling… but champagne moments for Saints are about celebrating our ineptitude: there were a couple of ridiculous fielding “surprised expression” from Floater and Il Duce as they lost the ball in the red brick background; there was Ralph’s first attempt at umpiring; but the clear winner in my mind is Tiger’s attempted run out of a batsman who was already standing in his crease leaning on his bat while behind Tiger’s back the other batsman scampered the 19 yards he still had to make up his ground.
Man of the Match: I would love to give this to Tiger. The best bowling figures and an archetypal Gilchrist-esque four, as well as arranging such a great day, but it has to go to Mayhew. His innings was a thing of beauty. Let’s hope he retires again next season.
Hassle b Berkeley 31
Noops c Berkeley b van Marle 2
Kerry no 83
Harley b Pearce 4
Jamie c Wilson b Thomas 12
Phil st Mayhew b Pearce 0
Paz b Pearce 17
‘V’ retired hurt 25
Steve b van Marle 5
Rich not out 3
Total 194 – 7
van Marle 6 overs 0 mdns 28 runs 2wkts
Nanton 3 0 19 0
Berkeley 5 1 27 1
Keenan 3 0 23 0
Thomas 4 0 19 1
Pearce 5 0 27 3
Grimes 5 0 19 0
Wath 4 0 31 0
Mayhew c Paz b Kerry 81
Griffiths b V 46
Nanton not out 39
Grimes b Noops 10
Pearce not out 5
(Did not bat: Wathan, Keenan, Van Marle, Wilson, Berkeley, Thomas)
Total 198 – 3
Twyford 5 0 42 0
Catlin 5.4 0 29 0
Noops 6 0 27 1
Hassle 4 0 22 0
V 5 0 27 1
Davies 6 1 25 1
Paz 3 0 15 0