Wendens Ambo 2008
Result – Won by 6 wickets
Were it not for the general ineptitude of the Money Programme’s bowling and fielding on Sunday, this report may have been a forlorn letter of resignation rather than the usual whimsical review of on-field excellence.
Certainly, my own comical attempts at catching were worth their own blooper reel, but others seemed grimly focussed on upstaging their hapless wicket-keeper. Sailesh, Tim and Simon kept up proud levels of butter-fingered-ness, and were admirably backed up by most of the bowlers, who decided that slow full tosses were the order of the day on a pitch with the shortest boundaries in Essex.
Sentenced to fielding first in the broiling heat (Darren’s tossing to blame there, I fear), we managed to muster just seven men for the first over, with John bravely donning over-sized pads to face Richard’s first over. Tim pitched up late with the remaining fielders after a second successive failure to negotiate the rat-runs of central London (perhaps showing more interest in inducing eye contact from the bikini-clad lovelies on Clapham Common, than in pointing the car in the general direction of the M11). Tom took the gloves from Maund with a cheerily scornful flourish. First mistake of the day, right there.
It took us most of the Wendens Ambo innings to realise that this was far from their full-strength team – even after Richard pinged the top of the opener’s middle stump. Because the next hour was one of the least pleasant most of us have ever spent in Money Programme colours. Darren must have wished he was back in that filthy Delhi toilet watching the rats and negotiating the squits, as ball after ball sped to the boundary, and routine catches dropped to the deck faster than his trousers after a dodgy “goat” curry and a pint of local firewater.
Most annoying was the left-handed opener who chipped away both literally and verbally, until he was well past fifty, enjoying the kind of charmed life usually reserved for some of the friskier Leprechauns. Keeping gloves were slung petulantly to the floor, balls kicked angrily back to the bowler and colourful language rang around the beautiful churchyard until, eventually, he popped up the kind of chance even we couldn’t drop.
But Wendens were approaching 200 by this stage and their middle order continued to accumulate without ever looking particularly dominant. There was just time for Dave to stare out a spectator from an unaccustomed position at deep-midwicket after missing a helpful throw back from the boundary, and Darren to chunter undiplomatically as the home side managed to eke one more cheeky over before tea (welcome back, Skip), before Wendens declared on the frankly improbable 245-7.
But the one thing you can always rely on is that there will be runs at Wendens Ambo. Dave and Sailesh looked well capable of making inroads into the target and we were assisted by an exceedingly generous number of wides and byes, before Dave played on to a rare straight one and John was horrified to hoik a long-hop straight to long-on.
Unfortunately for Wendens, that was as good as it got. Several circumstances collided to swing the match in our favour:
1) they had no bowlers
2) they only had ten fielders
3) the boundaries are shorter than most council estate back gardens
4) Sailesh was in terrific touch
5) Richard was coming off the back of a maiden ton so his self-confidence was at its peak
6) The peak of Richard’s self-confidence is pretty damn high
It seemed he would only be thwarted in his quest for another hundred by the rapidly approaching target. Certainly Sailesh was in no mood to play second fiddle, and he swept to an excellent fifty despite an alarming lack of communication in his running between the wickets. Remarkably, the only time he called, was when dropping the ball at his feet and screaming “TWO!” as Richard day-dreamed (presumably about going for a beer with Fernando Torres and talking about hair products and stuff) at the other end.
When Sailesh was out, Mike trotted to the middle with a brand new forward defensive in his armoury. Sadly for Rich, he seemed reluctant to use it, instead bludgeoning a six and a four leaving four to win with Rich stranded on 96. Selfishly he then got himself comprehensively bowled, leaving a cursing Simon the job of blocking out an over, so Richard could triumphantly hoist the winning boundary and his second successive hundred with one dashing flash of the blade.
What a guy (even if I did have to tell Gemma when to whoop…). If he makes it a hat-trick we will quite literally never hear the end of it, so make sure you get the trigger fingers and running out skills ready before the next outing.
Dave: Over-looked in the bowling department. Skip evidently beard-ist
Sailesh: The batting skills of Boycott. The kamikaze calling of Botham trying to run out Boycott.
John: “Why do they only catch it when I hit it to them?”
Richard: Two-ton-khamun? Anyone?
Mike: “Whoah! That hot blonde just eye-f*cked the sh*t out of me!”
Simon: Bernie-esque off-cutters
Tim: “I know a short-cut…”
Tom (W): Come back Gordon, for God’s sake
Troy: Finally caught one
Darren (C): Dreaming of Delhi
Peter: In stat heaven after this one
Stowe - 1st June
Result - Match Drawn
The visit to Stowe is fast becoming a highlight of each season. The day provides a first class playing surface (the touring Kiwis were using it last week), impressive surroundings and culinary delights. Selection is a much sought after, and fought over, commodity. Strange then that we took to the field with seven players (plus a loaned sub), no match ball, and no keeper’s pads. First impressions are everything.
Things took a while to improve. Richard’s first two balls were spanked to the boundary and he was forced to resort to a long run-up for the first time since shaving the first flecks of bum fluff from his upper lip.
To be fair, runs would be free flowing throughout the rest of the day. David was the pick of the bowlers, getting a decent amount of pace and bounce from a fairly helpful track. There was an accusation, from Darren, of him only turning up for the big games, but at least he had turned up. Tim would arrive around three days late after foolishly believing train timetables in the West Country mean anything other than a hodgepodge of random place names and clock times. After eventually making it back from the wilderness he would however chip in with a catch and a wicket with his second ball.
By lunch, Stowe had racked up around 160 and after we’d gorged ourselves on a hefty pork pie with egg through the middle (clever chickens!) they eventually reached 310-9 off around fifty overs. Lunch is never a good idea for the Money Programme. Before feasting, Richard and Sam had put on a catching masterclass and the collective fielding display had been nigh-on professional. After lunch American visitors to the public gardens next door were heard to comment on how sweet it was, that Stowe allows the “special people” to come and “play ball” with them. Sam was hobbling around after his first post-BMW interface injury, and Gordon’s pained howls on dropping a straight-forward catch behind the stumps, only added to the need for pity. We were up against it.
The run chase looked to be starting steadily before David gave away his wicket with a shot of almost incomprehensible stupidity but Simon was more or less untroubled and by tea, with John cruising (not like that), the ship was looking steady.
Unfortunately, from fairly early on, in seemed that Stowe were intent on killing the game. Although not taking wickets quickly they sure as hell weren’t going to try and open things up. With Simon and John eventually departing, Dan and Richard were brought together to battle against some relentless, tedious leg spin. Dan wouldn’t hang around for too long (leaving a ball to plough into his stumps), so Richard and Tim joined forces needing 165 from around twenty-five overs. Richard had to grind his way to a half century but then the boundaries started to flow.
It was soon becoming clear Richard was heading for another big score. In the seventies, it looked like he’d messed it all up, lobbing a ball to mid-off. Luckily the glare from his ever-increasing ego was enough to distract the fielder so he was free to make a third century in as many appearances. It should go without saying that three hundreds in three innings is a quite tremendous achievement. Anyone watching him bat this season would have to be a gibbering buffoon not to have enjoyed his batting. Having said that, make it four in a row and we’ll all have to kick the living crap out of him for showing us all up so miserably.
Stowe’s fielding had obviously been inspired by our post-lunch performance. Within fifteen overs, each of their three most vocal players was silenced as catches went down. Nothing stops the giggling merriment of taking to the field in fake moustache and beard more effectively than spilling potentially match-winning opportunities. Richard would eventually depart bang on 100 and his partnership with Marshall, T. had almost reached a ton itself. The partnership was made no less impressive for the fact that Tim managed to leave his footwork somewhere near Bristol Temple Meads. Nevermind; the home side’s hopes of victory were now virtually none.
We still had a fighting chance. Gordon came in with 60 to get off the last five or so overs. There were hopes he could repeat his rapid-fire fifty scored here two years ago, but he was pinned down with some familiar round the wicket defensive tripe. He and Tim, (who ended up just short of an unbeaten half century), put on another thirty, taking us up to 280-odd for five at the end of our allotted overs. Troy’s patient, padded-up expectance of going in to hit the winning runs would sadly come to nothing for another week.
It was a damp squib of an ending. An earlier Stowe declaration could have made for a much tighter, more exciting result. Still, there’s always next year; if we can get eleven men there on time…
1. David – Fiery bowling, flatulent batting.
2. Dan – Finding himself in his new berth.
3. Tim – Better late than never.
4. Chris B – Drop two catches in as many balls? Not on my watch!
5. Richard – Third time lucky – dare you to make it four?
6. Simon – Showing himself to be far too much like an all-round talent.
7. Darren – Needing fielders, a match ball and wicket-keeping kit - now known in Stowe as: The Borrower.
8. Troy – Will he ever get another bat?
9. John – Surely time to challenge Richard in the century stakes.
10. Sam – Battling through the pain barrier, but his mouth keeps going.
11. Gordon – Blame it on the dodgy playing surface. Oh…