Allstars in a Corridor of uncertainty

Great Missenden, Saturday 1 June 2019.

Corridor CC (185 all out; 34.4 overs) beat St Anne’s Allstars (103 all out; 25.3 overs) by 82 runs.

Report and photos by Maxie Allen

A lovely day out, marred only by our haphazard batting performance. The eventual margin of defeat – 82 runs – was deserved on account of our sclerotic display with the willow but gives a slightly misleading impression of the balance of power between the sides, as in truth we were pretty well matched.

This was our first ever fixture against Corridor CC (we’d hooked up with them last year on a cricketing version of Tinder) and the chief selling point – the promise of a classic semi-rural village ground – came good. This was a properly attractive venue – immaculate yet unstuffy, homely yet upmarket, chocolate-box yet unpretentious. All of this married neatly with perfect cricketing weather: sunny and warm but not too hot.

On arrival we immediately established that Corridor CC, led by the super-suave Duncan Mallard, were an awfully nice bunch of chaps and bang on our wavelength. Most of the side are VT editors who met while working at Sky Sports – which given my own profession afforded me some easy conversational ice-breakers. Their cricketing association began by playing in the corridor outside the edit suites (hence their name) using a poster-tube for a bat and a clump of sticky-tape for a ball.

We lost the toss and fielded. The innings which followed was an intriguing affair in that both sides seemed extremely well matched and at no stage did bat decisively hold sway, over ball, nor the converse. Every time we needed a wicket, we soon took one; every time Corridor needed to consolidate, they did.

What made this interesting was that while we were slightly short of alpha-grade bowlers (and Nick Chadwick had to withdraw from the attack with a twisted knee after 5.2 overs), we turned in one of our best-ever fielding performances, notching up six catches (several of which were tricky), with none dropped, plus both a stumping and a run-out.

On the wicket-keeping front, duties were shared between Dharani Ronanki and Richard Slatford (the latter making a very welcome guest appearance after a long absence): each turned in some neat and fluent glovework, standing up to the stumps, much of the time, with aplomb.

For their part, Corridor’s batsmen were all competent, at minimum, and in several cases rather stronger, but none appeared obviously out of our range.

Their innings began with a bilaterally cautious and probing approach until we struck in the fourth over, when Chadders trapped Kinnear in front. To me, it looked a mile down the pitch but everyone else seemed happy, including the umpire – at least in terms of height, as he took the unusual step of asking the batsman if he’d edged it, to which came an honest reply in the negative. I remain unconvinced that referring dismissals to the batsman will catch on, internationally, but in this instance it proved rather sporting.

The spine of Corridor’s total was provided by a nuggety knock from their other opener, the diminutive P. Smith. Or perhaps his name was Peasmith – as in, a bit like a locksmith, but someone who works with peas rather than locks. Either way, he oscillated between meaty punches and some edgier stuff which on other days might have gone to hand.

He and Sherlock had put on (roughly) seventy for the second wicket when the latter fell to a nifty stumping effected by the Dharani-Langridge axis. From this point onwards, wickets fell less frequently than we wanted but more frequently than the opposition did, and so the power-balance shifted into equilibrium.

We bowled some tidy stuff; we created and took chances at regular intervals; but we also served up plenty of hittable deliveries, which, when not biffed over the short boundary on one side of the field, usually ended up at long-on, causing a great of scurrying-about for the fielder stationed there: Jon “prince of payday loans” Hautot, another returnee, making a surprise comeback after leaving prison / fleeing to Acapulco / having faked his own death, or wherever he’s been hiding for the last seven years.

After a tidy spell from Tom Morris, Joe Silmon took over at the Pub End, his honest labours finally rewarded when Peasmith, having made a fine 57, hoiked him to square leg – the catch coolly snaffled by debutant Anthony Foster, whom I’d cajoled into playing by the simple expedient of letting him marry my sister.

Foster soon followed up his inaugural catch by taking another, and as it was off his own bowling (to dismiss Mallard, the captain) simultaneously bagged his first Allstars wicket, as part of an impressively composed debut spell. A few overs previously, Silmon had claimed his second scalp in almost identical fashion – a steepling c&b, deftly and patiently taken, off a leading edge – to account for Davies.

Meanwhile our other debutant – Andy Ireson, who seems an awfully nice chap – had come on at the other (railway) end, and his robust efforts bore fruit when Mackie, after compiling a muscular 36, prodded in the direction of silly point – whereupon Slats, who was now keeping, leapt in front of the stumps to pouch a splendid diving catch.

But our most dominant phase of the innings was still to come. Paul “KP” Bowman and Martyn “Lofty” Langridge returned at the death and closed out the final overs with precision and guile, aided by some sharp fielding. Few runs were conceded – the scorebook doesn’t reveal exactly how many – and four wickets taken.

KP bowled Ewens, then had Aggeti LBW (a bit too far forward). At his end, Lofty persuaded E. Smith to slice him to gully, where Joe took another sharp catch, then pulled off a natty single-handed run-out to dismiss Aggeti for a second time. The unfortunate chap had batted at both 9 and 11 (Corridor were a man short, so we suggested their lowest-scorer could bat again) and made a duck in both his innings.

What this all meant is that we’d bowled out Corridor for 185. During a generous and high-quality tea, we generally agreed that this was an almost exactly par total. Our XI was well-stocked with capable batsmen, and on paper, we had every chance of chasing down the target.

But then the inevitable occurred. It always seems to happen, due to some obscure physical law of the cricketing universe, that whenever we have lots of proper batsmen in the side, they all find ways of getting out cheaply. And so it fatefully proved, yet again, on this particular occasion. As our gun-bats took turns to self-immolate, our forlorn innings came to resemble a slowly deflating bicycle tyre.

Matters weren’t helped by Corridor deploying the devious tactic of bowling consistently full and straight, often quite briskly. In consequence, oppo skipper Mallard presided over a row of ducks.

After Silmon was bowled for 5, off his pads and through the gate, Morris arrived at the crease bristling with intent but with eyes bigger than his tummy, and smacked his fifth ball straight down the throat of deep extra cover, after failing to get enough middle on a wide-ish long-hop from Oddball (sic). Dharani soon followed, LBW to Smurf (albeit a bit far forward).

Next to the crease was Andy Ireson, who plies his trade in the ice-cream industry. While there was nothing flaky about his batting, he sadly failed to make 99, falling 97 runs short when Davies removed his off stump.

Standing tall amid the wreckage was Slatford, who’d opened the batting and not only survived but prospered. The only one of our recognised batsmen to make a score, he went on to carry his bat – only the second player to do so in Allstars history. He’s a proper cricketer, Slats, and at our level makes batting look easy. His eventual score of 35 saved us from genuine embarrassment.

At 33 for 4 he was joined in the middle by Foster, my brother-in-law, who insouciantly swept his third ball over the midwicket boundary to register his very first Allstars runs. It was a remarkably confident start, and suggested he has a keen eye for length – an impression reinforced when he repeated the exact same feat a few deliveries later.

Foster was no mere flash in the pan, though, and proceeded to play an equal part with Slatford in a face-saving stand of 33 for the fifth wicket. From the outset he appeared calm, authoritative, technically sound, and untroubled by the bowling. In a word, he looked experienced. Only after he returned to the pavilion (having made 18, and ending up our second highest scorer after Slats) did Anthony reveal that this was the first real cricket match he’d ever played in. In a way, that wasn’t surprising. An accomplished guitarist and songwriter, who plays golf off 16, he’s one of those total gits who are good at anything they turn their hand to.

Next to bat was Jon Hautot, who hadn’t faced a single delivery since 2012. I’d advised him to take his time, settle in, and get used to the feel of bat on ball before attempting much in the way of shots. I suspect he did not take this advice to heart, because after missing his first two cherries, he tried to smash his third out of the ground but succeeded only in lobbing it gently to mid-on.

At least we still had Paul Bowman’s batting to rely on, and as he strode to the middle we savoured the prospect of a productive partnership between him and his old mate Slats. Things did not go to plan. After facing two dot balls, KP then called for a non-existent single to square leg, from the non-striker’s end, and ran himself out for our fourth duck.

Martyn and Chadders then struck a few meaty blows, against some slightly gentler bowling, to notch up 9 and 17 respectively and add some gloss to our total. And then I shuffled out at jack with only 83 needed for victory. I handled my first delivery with skill and elan, but my second was less successful. At some point after Peasmith released the ball, I began pondering my gas bill, or the finer points of WTO rules, or something or other, and completely forgot to try and hit it with my bat. As a result I was adjudged LBW – even though I was a bit far forward.

And that was that. But we weren’t too downhearted, especially as a nice pub with a very jolly beer garden was only a hundred yards away. I’d like to think everyone enjoyed the day. And well done to Corridor CC for being excellent opponents all round. We look forward to seeing them again in 2020.

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