By Tristan Haddow-Allen
St Anne’s Allstars versus The Gentlemen of West London, April 24th, Barnes Common
Rust, Rust, As Far As The Eye Can See
The day was unseasonably warm, the sun was shining, dew glistened underfoot as Howard Carter opened the St Anne’s tomb and released what remained of the Allstars to stumble stiff-limbed and bleary-eyed in to the light. The Allstars have never started the season well. We don’t keep fit in winter, we don’t have pre-season nets, we often barely fit in to our whites come April, and we always come up against the Gents first game of the year. The Gents are renowned for doing sneaky things such as practising. Bastards.
We have been playing the Gents for a decade, largely unsuccessfully, and nearly always on their minefield of a pitch, where luck often plays a greater role than skill (eight people clean bowled by shooters without a single run being scored, in one memorable exchange). Today was going to be different. Today we were playing at HQ and were going to re-write history.
The pitch was soft and damp as they gathered for an inspection. ‘Bat first’, says MHA. ‘Bollocks, field first’, says THA. ‘It’s always the same. It’ll be a bugger to bat on when it’s wet, then dry out and we’ll look silly when they knock the runs off’.
Not really convinced, Maxie won the toss and elected to field. KP took the new ball and bowled reasonably straight, but at about half pace. Chadders did much the same from the other end. Thus began the story of the day, clownish fielding, wides, full-tosses and dropped catches galore, overthrows, misfields, missed run-outs and stumpings. The Gents’ openers – Kumar, and Boden on début – took full advantage, and chance after chance went down. Paul ‘Crazy Horse’ Nicol replaced KP at the top end and had a horror of a time, verging on the yips. After five full-tosses were dispatched to all parts, MHA was heard to ask ‘Who said this was a good pitch to bowl
Nicol recovered admirably, but runs were still gushing, and wickets were going begging. A big score loomed. THA and TG combined in attack and brought about some order, staunching the flow of runs. Grant dismissed Boden for 52, and Denton next ball for a duck, then THA had their star bat Chris Wright caught for 1. Game on. Ball after ball skimmed the stumps, caught the edge, or just eluded the catcher’s grasp, but nothing else would stick.
KP returned to bowl Kumar for a chance-filled 64, and new boy Martyn Langridge added to his two catches by bowling the Gents’ captain, Richard Gilkes. The gush had slowed to a trickle, till a late order thrash from Hemin Patel took the gents to 181-6 at the close of their 35. Truth be told, had the Allstars fielded better they could have dismissed the Gents for half that, and 181 looked as if it may be a tricky chase on a lively early season pitch.
THA and Tarka opened the Allstars’ reply, and THA looked in a hurry. He thrashed a couple of his early balls through the covers, then went down the pitch to hit the opener back over his head to race to 17, but just as early season rust had cost the Allstars in the field, it cost them with the bat, too. Boden, the pick of the Gents’ bowlers, caught THA with a good slower ball that cut back sharply, gating him while trying to hit out far too early in his innings, then had Reid caught behind immediately for a duck.
The pendulum continued to swing, and 181 looked a long way off again. KP joined Tarka at the crease, and started slowly while Tarka chipped away with his unorthodox brand of batting. The pitch began to ease in the sun, and KP pulled out the long handle.
Chris Wright bowled excellently but for no luck, missing KP’s edge countless times, Hemin came on to bowl his off-spin, and KP’s stand-and-deliver style came in to its own, carting him around the ground for an expensive four overs. The swing-and-a-miss, swing-and-a-four continued, the score climbed steadily, and Allstars’ fears started to fade. Tarka was caught for a useful 28, and KP continued his chancy thrashfest till he was bowled by Boden for a match-winning 91. A lusty cameo from Hautot, included a thumping straight six, brought the Allstars home in 27 overs. Despite our faults, lapses and rust, we had played better cricket and deserved to
Both teams retired to the Sun Inn. Backs were slapped, stories were told, and beer was drunk, as everyone knew it was going to hurt terribly in the morning….