It seems that every week shows us yet another facet of Parks Cricket. This week, we arrived at a ground parched yellow and ochre in hue, with only odd tinges of green on what passed for an outfield, but which more closely resembled an unweeded garden. The pitch was barely distinguishable from the rest of the ground, but we were able to locate it successfully by virtue of the fact that some kindly soul had marked it out with stumps and a few white lines. A stark 1960s-style ?pavilion-cum-changing-shed? loomed over the ground, and provided only a searing hot concrete ledge as accommodation for the spectators who had braved the heat and cricketing mediocrity to show up yet again at one of our fixtures. Thus was the scene set for a fairly harrowing day under a hot sun. Indeed, the whole affair reminded me of nothing so much as a setting for a bush cricket match in Australia. One half expected to see Glenn McGrath resplendent in full pig-shooting regalia emerge from the undergrowth at the eastern end of the ground.
Finally, Quentin managed to win a toss, and elected to bat on a pitch which may as well have had inscribed upon it ?Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here?. In some places, the ground literally shifted underfoot, in others, there were saucer-like craters, and the whole was covered in a shaggy, unkempt rug of yellow grass. Recognising that most of the horrors in the pitch were liberally scattered around a good length, our wily skipper, vigorously defending his artificially inflated batting average, decided at last to drop himself down the order and send some other poor suckers in to face their doom. Enter myself and Ashwin. From the outset, it was clear that batting was not going to be easy, as we witnessed the full gamut of evils in the first two overs: variable pace, bounce, and extraordinary sideways movement. And to add insult to injury, the ball was also moving in the air! Comment was passed early that 150 would be a good total, and that 100/3 at 30 overs would be an admirable platform from which to launch some sort of an assault in the last 10 overs. Wickets in hand were always going to be crucial.
Notwithstanding the courage, manliness and good humour with which Ashwin and myself faced up to our ordeal, the usual people, redolent with advice, impoverished in runs on the board, were goading the poor openers for their slow progress. Nevertheless, as we managed to get some sort of a feel for the pitch, we made our way with few mishaps to 37 without loss after 15 overs. Enter Mike Price at the eastern end for an umpiring stint. Now, as Mike entered the fray, I had a feeling that simmering underneath his calm exterior was a deep well of loathing and resentment for Australians, especially as pertaining to the LBW laws. Deprived through no fault of his own of retribution towards Watto for the ?Piss off ? you?re out? comment a few weeks ago, I felt a clear and present danger that Mike would be looking to fire me out in order to gain revenge by proxy. Accordingly, as he passed me on his way to the umpiring position, I took the liberty of pointing out that I was batting about 2 feet outside my crease. To no avail?several balls later, a tall, subcontinental chap, bowling wide on the crease with an action which could only generously be described as ?suspicious?, pinged one in at my legs. Forward I went, aiming a drive to leg, but succeeded only in glancing the ball onto my front pad?and up went the finger! Now, I have given this matter some consideration in the cold light of day, and have come to the conclusion that, since Mike?s actions were clearly directed at Watto and not myself, and since Watto?s batting average is spuriously elevated, the dismissal should go onto his batting record and not mine. What do you think, lads?
Anyway, after Mike ?Shakoor Rana? Price had done the deed, the solid start was consolidated by some excellent batting under the difficult conditions. Chalky produced a delightful little cameo of 10, and was followed by Tom, who played an excellent knock of 21. All the while, Ashwin was accumulating his runs with deceptive ease, and finished up with a well deserved 50. Bumby came in towards the end and tried to show us this ?trucking? business he?s always on about, but if the truth be told, said business must surely be in receivership and Bumby filing for bankruptcy. In the end, a total of 170/6 was achieved off our 40 overs, a very respectable score under trying circumstances. The only real disappointments were that the two ?Red Ink Kings?, Quentin and Mike, had their averages protected yet again.
Tea was taken, and served only to shed light on how much we have been taking the OUCCC womenfolk for granted this season: no squash, no biscuits, no lively chat and certainly not a brownie in sight. It reminded me of the school cricket teas in the boarding house back home, except without the excessively touchy-feely schoolmasters...
Refreshed by the scalding hot tea, we took the field in 30+ degree heat, intent on defending our hard-earned runs. Mike and Deb took the new ball. Calamity struck for the batsmen in the first over: after a square cut straight to Tom at point, there was a ghastly mix-up, and both batsmen appeared to meet for a mid-pitch conference. Tom then decided to throw the ball at top speed straight at Quentin?s feet, knowing full well that Quentin refuses to use his gloves for anything below the knee roll. Of course, Quentin succeeded in bunting the ball away with his pads on the off side, but somehow had the time to regather and throw the stumps down with the batsman still 2 yards short of his ground. This dreadful start was compounded by some good bowling from both openers, especially Deb, although Mike was unlucky to have a difficult catch put down at gully early on. Deb bowled with good pace, kept a good length, and deservedly finished with the figures of 4/18. During his opening spell, those present witnessed what must have been the only recorded instance of macroscopic quantum tunnelling: a ball which seemed destined to uproot off stump somehow came to rest in Quentin?s gloves without the wicket being disturbed. I?m sure the physicists in the team will have the proofs at the publishers by the end of the week.
Martin and Bumby came on as the change bowlers, and finally we got to see what all this ?trucking? Bumby spouts is all about. Even for the Great Pie Chucker himself, what we saw was at best ordinary, and at worst utter rubbish, and he was deservedly smashed to all corners of the park. But keep ye faith, wicked doubters! It was, naturally, his worst ball of the day which secured his only wicket. This particular delivery, which would offend the sensibilities of virtually any true bowler in the world, pitched on the first occasion, just outside off stump, roughly 1/3 of the way down the pitch. On its second bounce, it was a half-volley, in the slot, begging to be flogged through the covers. As it whistled toward said boundary, Deb somehow managed to extend his left hand, and there the ball stopped as if shot and killed. Yet again, a pie of the worst kind had brought a dangerous batsman undone.
At the other end, Martin bowled with good movement and deservedly took 2/25. Tom and Aron relieved this pair, Tom adding to his good batting performance by chipping in with a couple of wickets. Deb returned late in the day to clean up the tail, but had singular difficulty in removing a particularly noisome chap who would be quite a batsman if he spent as much time in the nets as he did moaning about his predicament. Eventually, the last wicket fell, and victory was ours by 62 runs.
As usual, the team sages adjourned to the Kings Arms for post match analysis. Hot topics for discussion this week were falsely elevated batting averages, whether we should select 10 next week and put Watto in at 1 just so he can be timed out, the prospect of arranging fixtures against stronger opposition in future seasons, the possibility of holding a ?Ladies? Day? next year and the relative merits of the ?girlfriend who attends? and the ?girlfriend who bakes?. There was talk about nullifying any batsman whose average is higher than his highest score for the season, which might have several members of our outfit worried. All in all, an enjoyable match under difficult conditions avoided by those who most deserved to suffer them.
Fines for the day were as follows:
Batting: Wenderoth £0.50 Dismissed in the 20s AGAIN Bumby £0.50 Undeserved ?not out?
Bowling: Bumby £0.50 Worst pies of the season
Fielding: Booth £0.50 Dropped catch Bumby £0.50 Showing fear at short mid wicket Williams £0.50 Excessive use of pads while keeping
Umpiring: Price £0.50 Giving the Finesmaster out LBW
See you on Tuesday boys.