Dash, Ben (RH Bat; RA Leg Spin)
Another Kiwi unearthed during the golden summer of 2002, Ben seems the natural successor to Bernard Clark as the Money Programme’s wily spin option (although Chris Balch may have something to say about that). A genuine “leggy”, Ben only stumbled upon his considerable gift when he decided to jack in his medium pacers on account of them being really, really bad. Happily, when he gives it a rip, and pitches it right, he is almost unplayable – a fact that has probably cost him a few more wickets as bemused batsmen fail get anywhere near the ball.
When discussing tactics with his bowler, the Skip becomes almost undecipherable as the two of them degenerate into unadulterated vowel-abuse: “Bin” this and “Dish” that – when he calls for a “sicond slup”, it really is time to reach for the dictionary.
Ben hasn’t had many chances to impress with the bat, but Saumur is certainly his playground – promoted to open the innings on the second day a couple of years ago, he cracked a classy 82, and he seems to thrive on the dross chucked down by the Croy-fish and co while others struggle. A disappointing 2005 season where he averaged just seven, now seems a distant memory as he has obtained a smart new bat for his 30th birthday – smashing forever the theory that turning up with no kit is an excuse for under-performance.
Balch, Chris (RH Bat; LA Sloooooow. (Ed.))
To follow soon...
(NB. I did a cracking profile of Chris some time ago and I seem to have lost it - suffice it to say it involved glittering description of the doomed batsman's psychological angst as the ball arcs towards his wicket.)
Marshall, Richard (RH Bat; LA Fast)
Not since the heady days when Ian Sadgrove was in his pomp, have the Money Programme possessed such an unlucky opening bowler. Time and again Ian would steam in and bowl five literally unplayable deliveries before losing his rag and getting hit for four off the sixth. After eight overs, no wicket for 32 runs, he would snatch his sweater and stalk off to the boundary, muttering furiously to himself as Tim Hopkinson jogged in and took six for eight with his wobbly medium-pacers. To the added chagrin of Richard, the bowler stealing all his accolades is invariably his little brother. However, while they might both bowl quite fast and stamp their feet fairly frequently, the similarities with Sadgrove end there - For starters, Richard, thankfully, seems less inclined to stand at fine leg farting, burping and scratching himself.
When he bowls in tandem with Chris (and they both put their minds to it) they are capable of blowing away any team we come across. Unfortunately, good manners and charity dictate that this is not usually possible (except, perhaps against Aldenham/The Lee/Gareth Butlers/Wellcome…. - OK, perhaps they don't put their minds to it enough).
Rich has also shown glimpses of what amazing potential he has with the bat - solid and compact defence with a dreamy cover drive, but with the quality of batting above him in the order, his chances really to build an innings have been few and far between.
Balch, Roger (RH Bat; RA Medium; WK) and Balch, Sam (RH Bat; RA Medium)
While longevity and loyalty are all well and good, youth will still have its day. There is still the niggling feeling that Sam ‘n’ Roger do not have the Money Programme in their blood and are dragged to games against their will by their cricket-mad father when they could be going out drinking, fighting or romancing girls from Milton Keynes, but when they do grace us with an appearance, these young whipper-snappers rarely disappoint.
Roger probably graces the team more frequently than his brother, and he is an extremely useful all-rounder and exceptional fielder – more pertinently, judging by his fragility most Sundays, he has a capacity for alcohol that rivals John Maund at a low-key family barbeque. If Sam played more often the law of averages dictates that someone (probably an umpire) would sustain a serious injury. He hits the ball as hard Andrew Symonds but does not have the annoying haircut. Both boys lead the good-natured joshing of their father’s bowling pace – but then they don’t have to face it, do they?
Marshall, Duncan (RH Bat; RA Fast-medium)
One simply cannot deny that, over the last few years, the boy has well and truly become a man. After taking all of the bowling accolades in 2001 at the age of just 17, Duncan is growing in stature every day (indeed, after a huge McDonalds and ice-cream binge a couple of weeks back, it is rumoured that he tipped the scales at the mythical 8 stone mark). Aside from gorging himself on fast food, Duncs has gone to great lengths to persuade his team-mates that he's not a kid any more: "How do you expect me to pull girls if you keep calling me 'Little Shnunkles'", he once grumbled.
Has worked on his action after being called for chucking early in his career and now bowls at a good pace with plenty of lateral movement. Some people (mainly jealous older brothers) used to scoff that he only got his wickets because the good batsmen had been 'softened' up by the opening bowlers, but Duncan has since proved beyond dispute that this simply isn't the case - after all, you don't get over thirty wickets in a season without being a genuinely class act (unless you're called Hopkinson). Duncs has also worked hard on his batting, and in the next couple of years is quietly confident of pushing his career runs into double figures.
Appearances have been rarer over the past few years due to a worrying devotion to the well-being of American schoolchildren at summer camp in Boston.
Clarke, Nick (Umpire, Secretary, Founder)
Although he often signs his communal email missives 'your beleaguered Secretary….', secretly Nick thrives on the pressures that come with being the team's co-founder, Treasurer, Chairman of Selectors, occasional tea-lady and former combative middle-order batsman. Put quite simply, were it not for him, there would be no team. From the very start of it all, twenty four summers ago when his inherent love of the game combined with his rather more pressing physical needs to get out and do some bloody exercise, The Money Programme CC has been one of his great passions. The early days weren't easy - players came and went - many more games were lost than won, and, on a number of occasions, he was mighty close to packing it all in.
But from small acorns, mighty oaks do grow (or to be more accurate, from crap cricket teams, half-decent ones do grow), and all Nick's hard work is beginning to pay off. No more is there the frantic scramble on a Saturday night to try to cobble together eleven players. A niggling leg injury has put paid to his playing days, but Nick remains the Money Programme’s biggest fan and is putting all his efforts into creating Andrew Flintoffs out of his two youngest children. This may be a tricky ask as the boys in question remain steadfast in their commitment to being either cheetahs or princesses when they grow up. But let’s not give up hope – apparently Ian Bell harboured similar ambitions as a raw youth, and he didn’t turn out at all girly.
Clark, Bernard (RH Bat; RA Off-cutters)
Bernard’s right arm is a symbol of the passing years. When it all began, his action was high(-ish) – say 20% off the vertical. Each year, perceptibly, it has dropped by a few degrees, until it has now reached perilously close to the horizontal. Bizarrely, he has – if anything – become more difficult to deal with. The ball comes out like sling-shot, bites into that specially prepared square foot of the Henley pitch, and turns viciously. We have all become used to the sight of a batsman executing a desperate last-minute correction to deal with this unlikely phenomenon. There is no better man to hold up an end.
Bernard’s pitch, of course, is a mainstay of the team’s existence. His selfless hard labour with mower and roller, his battles with planning authorities, and his undemanding generosity have created an invaluable resource. In return, we take him for granted, put up with fielding knee-deep in Gitane-butts, and use his bat shamelessly.
Occasionally he uses his own bat to good effect – most notably, on tour in Somerset, against the fastest bowling we’d ever seen. As the only man capable of holding the bat (after the night before) he scored an unforgettable 40 in an arc between third man and long-leg.
Unbelievably athletic for one of his advancing years, John somehow manages to get his body behind anything the bowler hurls at him, be it a beamer, leg-side wide or pea-shooter (although admittedly, he doesn't have far to go to get down to those). Incidentally, despite his lack of inches, John also drives one of the biggest cars I've ever seen - Psychologists can make what they like of that.
Like Peter, John has carved out a prospective new career in cricket after he hangs up his gloves. His low berth in the batting order has seen him spend a lot of time umpiring (indeed, I remember one occasion where he umpired the whole forty overs - and we practically had to drag him back in after that) - so it would seem that the white coat and Panama hat will see a lot of action in the years to come.
Morrell, John (RH Bat; WK)
A relative new-comer to the side, John's blend of experience and enthusiasm have seen him ease nonchalantly into the team's 'senior' circle. The array of bruises he proudly displays after each gruelling innings in the field are a testament to the commitment he shows behind the stumps - and (take it from one who knows), the combination of our quick bowlers and the pitch at Henley, makes just stopping the ball no mean feat.
Todd, Bruce (RH Bat)
Always immaculately groomed, whites beautifully pressed and old boy's cap perched neatly on his head, Bruce is living proof that while youthful exuberance is all well and good, there is no substitute for class. Patrolling the covers in his customary predatory manner, the Money Programme's own 'Silver Fox' can often be seen looking on disdainfully as his raucous young team-mates rile and heckle the opposition. "What am I doing surrounded by all these oiks?" he seems to be saying to himself as the falling of a wicket leads to much whooping and high-fiving from his colleagues. "I remember when this was a Gentleman's game, and a simple manly hand-shake was more than sufficient….."
Bruce first graced the side in the early days, and his return after a decade injected some much-needed stability to what had the propensity to be a fairly brittle batting line-up. The proud owner of the most solid forward-defensive shot this side of Chris Tavare, he is immensely difficult to get out, but can also cut a dash when required.