(The Original)

Amateur Scribe

ITN v. Money Programme (Harpenden)

Sunday 30th April

Weather: In the sun – pleasant; In the shade: Double-sweater conker-shrinking nipple-hardener
Pitch: Soporific
Preparation: Over-zealous

Toss won by: Rinaldi. Really.

ITN

Frustrated by the weather last week, we were understandably keen to break the shackles against ITN and atone for last year’s bore draw. So much so that more than half the team were presenting for duty a full half an hour earlier than Peter had stipulated on his spreadsheet.

Faced with a pristine net and no fewer than four sparkling new blades, we didn’t need a second invitation and were soon veering dangerously close to what can only be described as a full-blown warm-up. Dan, in particular, looked in fine fettle – his 50 millimetre (count ‘em) Uzi booming drives at knee-height past nervous debutant Jaden and making Johnny’s purchase look like a plank of balsa wood. Gordon too was encouragingly muscular on anything short of a length and all looked good for a healthy total when Darren miraculously won the toss and decided to bat first.

But within two balls of our innings it was clear that pre-match warm-ups are not necessarily conducive to on-pitch excellence.

Because before we’d even had time to start the heckling Dan’s confident prod was athletically pouched by their chubby opening bowler, and he trudged off disconsolately contemplating his bat with wounded tear-filled eyes as if it were a treacherous Judas or an unfaithful lover.

The Uzi fared little better in Gordon’s hands as he was also cleaned up second ball. Overall, we calculated this impressive piece of cricketing engineering (the bat, not Gordon) had yielded a paltry three runs and was responsible for four wickets to fall. Things can only get better.

Luckily, through a combination of luck and rusty ability, others were accumulating runs at a reasonable rate. Though John took an unprecedented 16 balls to get off the mark, he eventually found some fluency and had got to 32 before being lured down the pitch and bowled by their spinner. Tim and Chris traded in lusty blows and ugly heaves but both made useful contributions, and Jaden looked good before falling for 19.

But it was the skipper who, like last year here, rescued the innings with a controlled half century culminating in an enormous straight six into the adjacent car park. In partnership with a desperately hungover Roger, he guided us to a respectable 196-6 before declaring.

It was a total that was never really threatened, but the key was always going to be getting them all out and avoiding a frustratingly tepid draw. Darren and Chris flew out of the blocks and removed both openers without scoring and further wickets fell to Roger and John’s tight medium pace. But the lower middle order hung on like limpets – even refusing to be lured into indiscretions off Chris Balch’s tempting loopers. We still needed four wickets off the last six overs when Darren took a good slip catch in the gloom, and Roger bagged another off his father’s bowling.

An eager Peter had arranged to substitute Tom half way through the innings (the latter complaining of a dead leg after some idiotic footballing shenanigans the previous day), but ended up coming for his second son after Tim’s phantom knee injury flared up again (or was it simply an excuse to go and sit in his new convertible and smoulder in the forlorn hope that some pretty girls might walk by?)

Either way, it was an inspired move – Peter pouched the penultimate wicket at first slip of all places. Chris aimed the next ball at the middle stump of their gurning apologist of a number 11 (“I’m crap, me – hurrrr hurrrr”) – and we’d knocked them over with three overs to spare.

Special mention must go to Gordon who not only safely snaffled three nicks behind the stumps, but also displayed impressive Gilchrist-esque sledging skills. A little impertinent, perhaps, considering this was his first game – but he has clearly judged the mood of conference perfectly.

Tom Clarke

Result: Money Programme won by quite a few runs

Team:

Dan Dunlop: Uzi firing blanks
Chris Marshall: On a hat-trick, the insufferable git
John Maund: Mourning his old bat as keenly as one might an old friend
Jaden Rinaldi: Like Rhian only taller. A bit.
Darren Rinaldi: Stonking
Tim Marshall: Nice car
Gordon Hooper: Give that man some electric tape
Roger Balch: At least this one wasn’t from Milton Keynes…
Ben Dash: Maybe next week…
Tom Clarke: Dropped for an Aussie?
Chris Balch: Dibbly dobbly assassin
Peter Marshall: Call me “Sub”

Man of the Match: Darren

Darren

Too much red wine out of a watering can made the Skip all boss-eyed and giggly

Wendens Ambo v. Money Programme (Wendens Ambo)

Sunday 7th May 2006

Weather: Grey, dreary, drab, cold enough to freeze your chebs off – Is it still January?
Pitch: A sloping, sub-Saharan dust bowl

Toss won by: Rinaldi, again

The MPCC have not played well at Wendens Ambo since Tim’s legendary knock of 92 three long years ago. The combination of a deadly slow wicket on a 30 degree gradient and very short boundaries has always conspired against the team batting first and made winning the toss vital. Now, everyone knows the skipper brings a multitude of skills to the game but winning the toss has never been one of them. Mindful of all the above facts Darren had been practicing his tossing (oo-er) all week and felt confident that he could perform at the crucial moment. Sure enough the coin went up, “Tails” was called and tails it was. Fortunately for the skipper as it was his last meaningful contribution of the day. The decision to bowl first was slightly delayed but inevitable.

After only 2 overs the decision seemed to have backfired spectacularly. A combination of wayward bowling and the exuberant batting of youth saw 22 runs on the board with the ball pinging to all areas of the park and the comments from batsmen, bowlers and fielders pinging around even quicker. Chris M’s first ball was pitched up and unceremoniously deposited back over his head one bounce for four. The incredulous look on his face was replaced by an even more incredulous one when the batsmen dared to comment on the quality of his bowling!

Luckily the MPCC have recruited well in the closed season. Unable to prise Shane Warne away from Hampshire, Darren tried the next best thing and organised a Shane Warne look alike (in his pizza eating years) in the form of his brother Jaden. After only one over the Skipper looked at the pitch, looked at the batsmen and decided that he didn’t really fancy wrecking his hard earned bowling average and so he chucked the ball to his brother to try some devious off breaks. First ball the young Wendens Ambo opener rushed down the wicket and missed the ball by a mile. Unfortunately this outrageous act seemed to bemuse everyone, particularly Chris S. behind the stumps, and the batsman was able to nonchalantly saunter back into his ground as Chris scrambled around in the dust for the ball like a farm yard animal after a morsel of corn. This let off barely mattered as Jaden quickly snared the opposition skipper with a well flighted full toss. This was much to Chris M’s delight, who gave the departing batsman a polite reminder of where the changing rooms were as he wandered off in, what I can only assume, was the wrong direction?

After the frenetic action of the first few overs normal service was resumed and the MPCC bowlers slowly strangled the life out of the opposition. Jaden picked up two more top order wickets and then Lenny made his first appearance in England for over three years and in a stunning impression of Glen McGrath landed his entire spell on a good length in a corridor 3 inches wide outside the off stump. For this unorthodox approach he was rewarded with two excellent wickets.

The sight of another spinner operating and a wicket crumblier then a coconut rough made Chris B. even more enthusiastic than normal and he virtually demanded a bowl. To reassert his equally crumbling authority the skipper asked Chris which end he preferred to bowl and after he heard his answer promptly put him on at the other end! This proved a masterstroke as Chris weaved a spell of masterful flight and loop, and even more flight and even more loop, which completely flummoxed the batsmen. His control of both line and length (sometimes at the same time) was so good that even Sam couldn’t manage more than a begrudging “well bowled dad” rather than his usual barrage of advice and scorn from deep on the boundary. Three wickets later, with the opposition innings in tatters, Chris B. sauntered off the field for his tea with a grin on his face like a cat that had been given the key to the creamery for his birthday.

After having his manhood questioned so publicly at the bowling crease, Chris M ate his tea in glowering silence and then strode to the wicket like a magnolia colossus determined to extract a bitter revenge on the Wendens Ambo bowlers. For a couple of overs he seemed to be doing just this. A six, a pair of fours, woe to those who dared incur the wrath of the man who leads the MPCC batting in almost every category and then, disaster! A low full toss that squibed off the bottom of his bat and plonked past the firmly closed eyes and into the upraised hands of the fielder at mid-off. Goliath had fallen, David had slain him with his sling(y action) and the Philistines of the MPCC were dejected. Another quick wicket, as Peter’s feet overruled his brain and went back instead of forward, and the MPCC were in deep trouble.

John M shuffled to the crease like a condemned man his gaze constantly wandering to the new blade in his hand before flashing away in disbelief at what he was holding. Trust is a slow thing to build, it can take years to develop and then can be shattered in an instant. Hopefully the trust between John and his bat can develop and prosper over the season and John can overcome the trepidation that seems to have overtaken his batting? But today was not that day.

Still not really fancying the pitch and not wanting to ruin his batting average either Darren inserted his brother at number four and dropped way down the order. It proved a decisive move as Jaden, now resembling no less a figure than Mike Gatting in his prime, tamed the bowling in a series of effective partnerships with John, Tim, Lenny (OK, not Lenny – who seemed to follow the example of Glen McGrath’s batting as well as his bowling) and Sam that saw the team safely through to the victory total with over ten overs to spare.

Unfortunately the scorers neglected to inform Jaden he was approaching his ton as quickly as the team were approaching the victory total and Jaden was left stranded and alone in the middle of the pitch on 97 not out wondering why everyone else was getting in their cars and heading home before he’d reached three figures?

Darren Rinaldi

Result: Money Programme won by 4 Wickets

Team

C Marshall – The colossus must rise from the ashes
P Marshall – Selector Supreme
J Maund – A shadow on a dreary day
J Rinaldi - Superb
T Marshall - Crocked
L Esterhauizen – The L stands for “line and length”
S Balch – Out bowled and out sledged by his dad
R Marshall – Nice to see him back
D Rinaldi – He won the toss
C Stride (W) – “Owww..sh*t..b*gger..f*ck..owww..f*ck”
C Balch – Like a fine wine

Man of the Match: Jaden 

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