Cricketers season ends in defeat
All down to Kent then for our usual Friday afternoon season finale at the Ex Blues ground in West Wickham. An encouraging start as there was a distinct lack of jug avoidance with only the Speedtwin and Quinn Senior of the 9 duck trophy contenders pulling out. A shame the same can’t be said for our opponents as Stuart, their usual organiser, was unavailable and his replacement found it difficult to raise a team due to other commitments. Their numbers estimated at 9, at the start of play, diminished to 7 but fortunately we had 13 players so a good game could be had by all especially as all their 7 players were of a good standard.
We even made it to the ground early and had to wait to be let in until their organiser arrived and duly opened up the bar, which was the main cause of our angst. The Skippers decided that Ex Blues should bat first and the London Saints chase on a lovely sunny afternoon.
Fielding eleven, the regulars volunteered for their favourite fielding positions which in the case of Griffiths and Keenan meant on the boundary next to the blackberry bushes. When Steve could be prised away from the aforementioned bushes he opened the bowling. His seniority meant that he bowled down the hill with his junior partner – Baker Burrell bowling uphill. Both bowled tidily without success and the same could be said for the change bowlers of Thomas and Short until eventually Warren broke through with their score on 87. None of the bowlers (we used 10 in total) let us down on a very fast outfield and short boundaries. The spin twins of Grimes and Pearce slowed the rate down for a while with Paul picking up two wickets including a stumping by stand-in keeper Andy Mayhew who celebrated by demolishing all 3 stumps. Thankfully we didn’t have DRS present as some of the fielders queried whether the ball was anywhere near the stumps when Andy proceeded to obliterate them.
With 13 players, two, at a time, had to take a five over break off the field and when it was the Skippers turn to take a break the captaincy was handed over to Andy although this led to a ‘ surprised ‘ glance from ex Vice-Skipper Johnny G. Andy was controlling the situation and all was well (especially as the Skipper had been bought a pint by the opposition and had his feet up relaxing in the knowledge that Hilda Berkeley and Roy Rogers McIntyre were bowling well and would probably bowl through to the end of the innings) until the words “ Johnny next over “ from Andy caused the Skipper to spill his pint and make a return to the field to take back the captaincy. It was too late though as Johnny already had the ball in his hand. The Skipper though had to hold his hands up and admit he was wrong as Johnny took a wicket in his first over although even this was strange as he danced up and down (almost Grimes like) appealing vociferously to the umpire for an LBW until he was told that he had bowled the batsman.
There was not much else to do other than give Mr Scones the final over in the hope that his bowling average would be raised to a more realistic level. Overall there was a mixed performance in the field with the bowling tight but the outfield less so with some of our fielding being less than athletic. Lord Lucan had the excuse that he had blackberry juice on his hands but some of the rest of us had trouble bending down. More of Johnny G’s failure to dive for a ball later. Numerous catches went down with the Skipper blaming his lack of a hat (bad preparation) Hilda blaming the fact that he had turned up late for his 2 or was it 3 dropped catches and Pike blaming the fact that the bar was not open, when we turned up, for his 2 dropped catches (though he finally clung onto his 3rd chance). As we left the field a few of us, with some trepidation, mused over the fact that the next time we would be fielding would be in the West Indies in tropical heat ! Perhaps this was the drive for Lord Lucan’s idea of a (self) sponsored weight loss for the team – and more to come of this in the coming weeks – we certainly though could do with a fitness regime over the winter – ideas on a postcard please.
There was a quick turn-around between innings as the main food (a bar-b-cue) was at the end though Private Pike still managed to fit in another pint at the bar in the ‘ tea ‘ interval.
Just as we were preparing to bat the cast from ‘ The Last of the Summer Wine ‘ turned up. Messers (Reggie) Betts, (Chairman Mick) Strickland, (Bad Pint) Smith and (Where’s Jon) Loomes aka Compo, Clegg, Foggy and Nora Batty had been at Lords watching Somerset defeat Middlesex and deciding to take in some real grass roots cricket.
Deciding upon the batting order at Ex Blues when the Duck trophy is at stake is always difficult as all the contenders must bat and there is the added incentive that as soon as you are out you can go to the bar. This year, with 7 contenders having to bat fairly early on, made it more difficult as we also have a game to win so we also have to play the more ‘ experienced ‘ batsmen. Criticism of the Skipper that the batting order should have been set in stone was unfounded as it is always an ever moving feast with players and duck trophy contenders dropping out late on. Anyway a compromise was made and we set off in pursuit of the 200 run winning target with the full support of the team and the Summer Wine cast.
Although Ex Blues only had 7 players, they were all good and the bowling was strong and we struggled to make headway. We also gave them 4 fielders from our squad in return for them letting us bat all 13 players and this led ultimately to the decisive moment in the duck trophy season. One by one the contenders avoided another duck leaving Paul Pearce, who was in pole position, sweating and looking desperately for one of the contenders to get another duck and take the lead. Paul didn’t have to wait long as 5 time duck trophy winner Garry Burrell strode to the crease to join Steve Keenan who was batting his elegant best. For some inexplicable reason Garry decided on hitting the ball straight to the Skipper (who was one of our 4 players fielding for Ex Blues – come on keep up) to call his Lordship for a crazy single. Garry perhaps, with his speed, could have got home but his Lordship does not do ‘ quick ‘ and refused to run meaning that Garry was stranded half way down the pitch and had to run back to the non-strikers end. Garry also said post match that he thought it was an easy single as since his shoulder operation the Skipper could not throw the ball – unfortunately the Skipper decided to try out his arm for the first time since last season and Garry was run out by yards, courtesy of his own player !. The Skipper felt some pangs of guilt as it was also he, who five years previously at Ex Blues, had given Garry out LBW to claim his 5th duck trophy. His 6th was in the bag as long as Paul Pearce avoided another duck and he duly did to a huge sigh of relief from Paul and an acceptance from Garry that the duck trophy had once again found its rightful home.
Matters were becoming complicated as we had to provide 4 rotating fielders for Ex Blues as well as 2 batsmen, 2 more padded up and an umpire. As well as the Skipper running out Garry, Mr Scones also helped dismiss his Lordship by catching him though these were countered by Pete dropping another two catches whilst fielding for Ex Blues, making 4 or was it 5 for the day ? and no I cannot go back through all the scorebooks to see if this is an individual record. Andy Mayhew also in contention for the duck trophy volunteered for everything on the field, fielder, umpire, fielder again, in extreme duck avoidance measures but eventually even he had to bat at No 12 as wickets fell on a regular basis. The only real resistance (apart from his Lordship and a few fine blows from Pete) was Warren, who smashed the only six of the day, and was looking well set on 26 when controversially given out LBW when hit in the box. DRS would probably have shown the ball heading off somewhere in the direction of Heathrow but nonetheless the umpire is always right even when he is wrong !
One other duck was scored by the Skipper and there were mixed fortunes for the promising middle order youth policy of Pike and Roy Rogers. Mike, whose batting stance has perhaps unfairly been compared to a cowboy continued his fine recent form and would unquestionably be crowned ‘ most improved player of the season ‘ if we actually had such a trophy. Private Pike on the other hand peaked (or should we say piked) mid-season and has had a poor recent run, Far be it from the Skipper to pronounce BUT …… drinking 6 pints of beer (though Pike claimed it was 7 by the time he had to leave early) prior to batting is not the ideal preparation. Hopefully next year at Ex Blues, Pike will understand the whole idea of Ex Blues a bit better, in that we play hard and then get drunk in the bar afterwards and not the other way around. Saying that Ed has been a brilliant and welcome addition to the squad and hope he will grace our team for many years to come.
We eventually finished 80 runs short of our target as we decided to have a go at getting the runs which ultimately led to some sacrificing of wickets. So off to the bar and the buying of ‘ 8 pint ‘ jugs to celebrate the season and vote for our Player of the Year. This was a very close affair with two players standing out – Johnny G and Lui for their outstanding batting (and some bowling). After 20 votes (including postal votes from missing players) had been cast Johnny was ahead 8 to 7 with only Flatliner Nanton to vote as he was yet to arrive. Working it all out clearly something was amiss as 19 players had delivered 20 votes and more surprisingly someone had voted for Mr Scones (sorry Steve). Was there some skulduggery going on or had some prat voted twice ? Eventually in a very long and rather convoluted answer Mark (QE2) Barber owned up to not realising that we were voting for Player of the Year and that he thought we were voting for ‘ Clubman of the Year ‘ !! as he had already sent in his postal vote for Player of the Year. I think you had to be there to see the incredulous reaction from his teammates and to fully grasp how Mark’s mind was working but single handed he had nearly undermined our democratic process. Anyway the conviction that Mark had in voting for Mr Scones persuaded us that Mark should be allowed to present his own ‘ Clubman of the Year ‘ trophy at the presentation evening – and we have a worthy unanimous (of 1) winner in Steve as he picked up his maiden London Saints century a few weeks earlier.
Back to the all-important vote and it was now all square at 7 votes each (is the momentum building ?) between Johnny and Lui and when Dave eventually arrived he plumped for Lui who then won the vote outright with 8 votes to John’s 7 (Dave also got 4 votes and Pete one). Congratulations to Lui, well deserved and a new name on the trophy.
Now we will never know if this vote triggered John off but something had obviously affected his thinking as he returned from the bar with a FOUR PINT (Half) Jug of bitter! Newcomer Mike McIntyre picked up on the tradition and returned at the same time as John with his EIGHT PINT (acceptable) Jug of lager. The look on everyone’s faces was a picture as an experienced, well respected, ex Player of the Year had gone against all the tradition of 24 years at Ex Blues (of each player buying an 8 pint jug) and presented the team with ‘ A HALF ‘. Rumours that John also split the cost of the HALF jug with his father in law have been denied. It took quite a long time for the furore to die down and some say it may take an even longer time for John to be fully accepted back into the fold as club stalwart. First the ‘ not walking ‘ incident in Brussels and now this ! Investigative reporters have also been alerted to the fact that Ex Blues are looking into the allegation that a portly figure with moobs was seen much later in the darkness urinating on the pitch crying out “ it was only one vote “. These allegations have so far proved totally groundless.
Overall, certain incidents apart, another excellent end to the season at Ex Blues. We even managed to shut the Chairman up late in the evening just as he was on the verge of one of his long intoxicated speeches.
Man of the Match: Warren Short for our top score and an excellent spell of bowling
Champagne Moment: Where do you start ? John’s vociferous LBW appeal against a batsman who had been clean bowled was a good start. Andy’s demolition of the stumps, some comical fielding, the appearance of Compo, Clegg, Foggy and Nora, Garry’s inexplicable run-out and Pike peaking too early in the drinking stakes were all contenders. It came down to three though. The QE2’s performance in our democratic process may have won it on another day but as he is being allowed to present his own trophy that will suffice. Next the behaviour of some of our Summer Wine cast. Reggie’s last pearl of wisdom was to tell Big Dave to give every 3rd appeal out. Today he decided on educating John (Bad Pint) Smith in the art of catching a ball. Probably not a wise move after a day out drinking as John missed the ball and came off worse with a bench, resulting in a rather bloody forehead and no doubt a headache in the morning. Shouldn’t these old people know better by now ? The winner goes to another you had to be there moment. An Ex Blues batsman firmly pulled a shot down to the boundary where Johnny G was fielding. Cries of “ dive John dive “ rang out from our fielders as John hurtled towards the ball and let it cross the ropes. John obviously not hearing our previous cries held his hand up and said “ sorry lads I should have dived “ – classic timing or lack of it !
Beer Moment: For the first time ever we have awarded a beer moment as it stands out so far and could not be correctly placed in the champagne category. John (Half Pint) Griffiths should we create yet another trophy just for you ? – this incident though has to be recorded and will be included in the end of season overall champagne / beer trophy voting that will come out in a few weeks.
Cheers and here’s to a winter fitness campaign