Rinaldi, Darren Captain (2002-) (RH Bat; RA Fast-medium)
An instant revelation since being thrust into the limelight on the Millennium tour, the baptism of fire Darren received from the Saumurian bowlers must have seemed like a walk in the park compared to the stern examination handed down by Dan with a tennis ball in his mate's back garden the week before. Darren went on to play an instrumental role in both games and became a regular fixture in the side, notching a century a couple of games after our return.
Dunlop, Dan (LH opening bat; LA slow)
By anyone's standards, the turnaround in 'Big Daddi-O's' cricketing fortunes over the last couple of seasons has been nothing short of miraculous. Gone are the days when Dan's score creeping into double figures after a streaky boundary to third man in the 15th over would elicit ironic cheers from his team-mates in the pavilion. The new-look Dunlop has added an aggressive streak to his gritty, defensive game – So much so that he went and notched a maiden ton a couple of years ago and, at the beginning of this season, invested in a “50 millimetre Uzi” – a brute of a bat that seems certain to propel him to further glory.
Within a year and a half he graduated to skippering the side and has added a steely competitive edge to his considerable playing skills. To put it less politely, he has developed a hilariously apoplectic aggression and potty mouth whenever the team is underperforming. Many captains see a slide in form when asked to bear the extra burden of leadership, but it’s fair to say the Skip still sledges, swears and stamps his foot with the best of them.
But the boy can certainly play. In short, other sides may arrange illegal payments to keep their overseas players sweet – Dan sacrificed his cousin. It was a happy event. With Dazza’s elegant blade, decent pace and a string of useful brothers, we’re very happy to make Henley a corner of a foreign field that will be forever New Zealand.
Seasoned observers of Dan's form over the past decade have put this new found success down to his inspired purchase of a helmet (a move since aped by a number of colleagues) - although those same observers make sure they stand back whenever he removes it after a long stay at the crease, for one shake of his shaggy, greying mane leads to a torrential shower of blood, sweat and tears. His face may still resemble a medium-rare ham after any sort of exercise, but the inner-demons and insecurities that used to plague him have been expelled, and he now cuts a generally more confident figure whenever he strides out to bat.
Dan's bowling can also be useful if the pitch is a stodgy 'bunsen burner' and the batsmen is a seven-year-old girl.
Marshall, Peter (RH opening bat; RA off-spin)
Peter is the team's master-grafter turned master-statistician. Nowadays, in the scramble for places at the top of the batting order, this once proud opening batsman is happy to say airily over his shoulder: "Oh, bat me at seven or eight," as he wanders off to the scoring hut, lap-top tucked under his arm. Once his own worst critic, it now seems as if he is purposely getting himself out, simply so he can return to his beloved scorebook. Getting out to a sloppy shot in the past would have resulted in hours of soul-searching and self-flagellation; this season he would merely consult his Oracle, raise an eyebrow and say, "Hmm…. I was out in exactly the same way at CYPOS in '87…."
It wasn't always this way, of course. No one could ever question Peter's commitment to the MP cause. In the Bad Old Days when getting bowled out for under 75 was the rule rather that the exception, no one took defeat harder than Peter. He would cut a lonely, solitary figure as he slowly circumnavigated the boundary, helplessly watching his hapless colleagues scratch around, wondering why 'Extras' was always the team's top-scorer. Sometimes it would all be too much (on one occasion, he even ended up in IKEA).
Of course, most of this depression was completely unfounded. He has been (and indeed remains) one of the Money Programme's heaviest scorers (no pun intended) and has been the team's saviour on countless occasions. On top of that, he has been responsible for a veritable production line of gangly offspring - still, I suppose nobody's perfect.
Maund, John (RH Bat; RA Medium)
Every successful side needs an inspirational figure at number 3, and over the years, Johnny has made that coveted berth his own through a combination of top-quality batting and threats of physical violence. Often, the skipper will stroll casually back from the middle after winning the toss and electing to bat, and say "Number 5 OK, John?" - A gag, that, it must be said, would have become tiresome a long time ago were it not for the forlorn look on Johnny's face that it still provokes.
These days, John falls firmly into the category of devoted family man - however, the addition to his life of a wife and two small children does not seem to have dampened his enthusiasm for going out and getting plastered the night before important matches. Fortunately though, the degree of his queasiness seems to be directly proportional to the quality of his batting. The sight of Johnny sweating vodka and gulping nervously as he waits for the first wicket to fall is a sure sign that fireworks are imminent.
John has his uses in the field as well - few people can swing the ball as much as him at such a slow pace - and he has also cemented his position at backward-point. It is probably fair to say that he's no Ricky Ponting, but then Ponting doesn't have such an array of poor quality jokes to keep his team-mates amused.
Marshall, Chris (RH Bat; RA Fast) - Ex-Captain
One could say that Chris was only made the captain of the side because he is the biggest and the loudest - And one might be right. But there is a lot more to him than size and volume: On the cricket pitch, he is (much as it pains me to say it) a class act. Chris cuts an equally majestic figure whether he be effortlessly lofting an opposition bowler over mid-off for six, or scooping his own vomit out of a hotel bedroom window in Somerset after one Baileys too many (it was a large Baileys, mind you).
Chris has mellowed considerably since handing the captaincy over to Darren due to his Saturday commitments to league cricket – but that doesn’t mean he takes the knockabout Sunday stuff lightly. If he is out cheaply when we bat, it is a fair bet that when the opposition goes in, he will be coming in off the long run and pinging the short stuff around their ears despite the creaking body and aching legs. Chris also learned during his spell captaining the side that smashing teams out of sight may be extremely good fun, but sometimes it is prudent to exercise a little decorum. Hence it became customary during his tenure for the lesser-known bowlers in the side to turn their arms over once the game had been made safe. This provided an excellent opportunity for the likes of Dan and Peter to perfect their loopy spinners - Unfortunately the chance was rarely taken. Instead, with the score at 18-5 and batsmen six and seven twitching nervously at the prospect of a fired up Richard roaring in and re-arranging the contents of their boxes, Chris would frown slightly, re-arrange his Oakley's, smooth down the Zinc cream on his bottom lip and murmur: "Right, time for my off-spin, I think…" and Richard would be banished to fine leg.
Three overs later, with the score at 53-5, Dan and Peter would come on and wipe up the tail, and Richard wouldn’t speak to his brother again until the following Thursday.
Marshall, Tim (RH Bat; RA Fast Medium)
A curious tale, this. The second eldest of the Marshall dynasty, Tim shunned Money Programme life until well into his early twenties. A calm, level-headed individual, he was more concerned with the finer things in life: university, travel and a career in the city were what floated his boat. He maintained an interest in the team’s fortunes, however (with that family, how could one not?), But you got the impression that his siblings’ breathless tales of centuries and five wicket hauls barely registered on his radar – a quick nod or a raised eyebrow, then it was back to the share prices in the FT.
Occasionally he deigned to put in a guest appearance in between jetting around the world and sitting in wine bars, but he hardly ever set the world alight with his play – he had the batting average of a blind rabbit, and his bowling was embarrassingly pedestrian in comparison to his younger brothers.
Then something happened. He went out to bat against The Lee and scored some runs. A lot of runs. In the second innings he scored more runs. It was not just the volume, more the manner in which he scored them – big, clean, straight hits that went for miles. I missed a game at Wendons Ambo soon afterwards. “How d’you get on?” I asked. “Caught on the boundary for 90 going for my tenth six,” was the airy reply. And that was that – the lightning quick scoring persisted and the bowing speed sharpened considerably. This rare breed of Marshall, this cultured, enigmatic gentleman had gone and conformed to all the others. It’s the mother I feel sorry for…
Clarke, Tom (RH Bat; WK)
When his eye is in and his arm strong, there is no more terrifying sight than Tom in full flight. He is responsible for some of the fiercest punishment ever meted out to opposition bowlers. Only two others have scored more sixes, and none has ever carried the trees at Wendens Ambo and rattled the barn beyond the graveyard. Yet he is also subject to periods of intense disappointment and frustration. When his bat lets him down, he is inconsolable. He gives the game up once or twice each season.
Oddly, these peaks and troughs cannot be directly related to what happened on the Saturday night. And/or the Friday night. And/or the Thursday night before the match. As we drive to the ground, the darkly muttered, ‘I’ll bat eight. I might have woken up by then,’ is no real guide to his performance. It’s a mystery to us, and to him.
In the meantime, he has become a fiercely competitive wicket-keeper, who hates byes with a vengeance, and who hates all Marshalls when they arrow unreachable balls down the leg-side. Tom is also a fine out-fielder, and an occasional leg-spin bowler capable of sharp turn and absolute bollocks in more or less equal measure.
An inauspicious start, but our eagle-eyed captain had spotted a ray of light. Looking through the façade - this broken battered, shell of a man – Darren had detected an iota of batting ability. Inspired, he promoted Dave up the order for the following game at Wellcome. We were soon in trouble, wobbling at about 30-3, but the skipper was to get a front-row seat as his gamble paid off. Dave joined him for a cultured partnership of 150 as we swept to victory.
Bucking the Money Programme trend of maverick, elaborate shot-makers, Dave plays it straight and solid, and acts as a perfect foil to the kamikaze antics of those around him. His bowling has come on too – he climbs into the delivery stride with Harmison-esque gusto – but it’s the stare that really puts the heebie-jeebies up the opposing batsmen. Hands on hips, eyes bulging, nostrils flaring – it’s genuinely scary stuff evocative of a serial killer in a cricket sweater. If he didn’t unveil it after EVERY delivery it might even work…
Friend, David (RH Bat; RA Medium Fast)
Introduced to the squad in the middle of the 2002 season, Dave’s initial impact was to further increase the insecurities of those of us under 6 foot 4. A commanding figure who cut his teeth in the big leagues of Sussex and Devon, he was billed as a firebrand capable of destroying even the most potent of batting forces. Eager anticipation greeted his debut and a hush descended as he confidently and expertly marked out his run. Whispers of admiration swept the slips cordon – I felt a tingle of pride in being responsible for unearthing such a find. Four overs and several dozen runs later, David was limping off to the boundary, tail firmly between legs. The whispers turned to mutters of derision – I stared hard at my boot-laces. Turns out Dave had not played cricket (or indeed exercised at all) for about four years.
Meet the Lads:
(Yes, the one on the left really is Bernard. Not Peter Sutcliffe.)