Four seasons in one day. Absolutely every kind of weather, including - and I cannot stress this enough - snow showers.
Village would ultimately prevail in this opening match of the 2021 Covid 2.0 season against Pacific CC, a rival so old that Eddie was still in short trousers the first time we met them.
In the build-up to the game during the week there had been some hints that a regular, potentially illegal football game may interfere with the scheduled 1pm start time, but Villagers that had been couped up even more than usual over the dark months assembled promptly to bump elbows and address some of the rust in the nets.
We perhaps should have paid more heed to these warnings as sure enough 30+ blokes with bibs, spectators, a sound system and implausibly small goals arrived around the same time as us cricketers and gave precisely zero fooks about our booking. It was a game low in quality and high in aggro. Neither team appeared match fit. The Bibs appeared to be playing a 6-6-4-2 system, with the only bloke under the age of thirty playing through the middle or sometimes drifting out to the left to try and get past the seven or so geriatrics occupying the Shirt’s right back area. Uncle Phil started in goal and pulled off a number of frankly easy saves given that the goals were less than half his size. Neither team created many clear-cut chances over the course of the 130 minutes or so which was unsurprising given the lack of space on offer, the lack of skill exhibited, the five-a-side goals and the amount of shouting that was going on. It would end 1-0 to the bibs.
Your correspondent was less than convinced that the 3pm start time for our game which had been agreed with the leader of the football rabble would come to pass, thus went to the local Tesco Metro with Bosh to buy in some tins and relax on the sidelines. I should have had more faith however as sure enough, when 3pm came around, the footballers kept their word and retired to what was now the boundary to continue what could be discussed as a lively post-match arbitration meeting.
There may or may not have been a toss, we almost certainly lost it, either way Village would bat first in what was now a 25 over match. Captain Morgans in either his first or second season as skipper depending on one’s view of what on earth actually happened in 2020 – or for that matter, if 2020 even actually happened – elected to open up with the easy-breezy fire power of Bosh at one end counterbalanced with the steady-as-she-goes back-and-across doughtiness of Potty at the other.
It would soon end in catastrophe. Early in the first over, Graham “one hip wonder” Pontin pushed one out towards mid-off and called his partner through for the single. A few minutes later he arrived at the other end to find Prashant “Ever Given” Misra unmoved. A scholarly debate began between the two teammates: Pontin taking a highly classical position, quoting Aristotle as he explained to Misra that “the source of the moving of the parts that are instrumental in such actions is in oneself” before deftly moving a position which may or may not have been influenced by Foucault, suggesting that in this particular relationship the power clearly lies with the caller and that, at least on a micro-level, he posited that Misra should have recognised his authority. Readers will probably be unsurprised to learn that Misra countered with a highly post-modern interpretation, suggesting that he (Misra) self-identifies as an “Übermensch” and that he should be recognised for having had the courage to resist this oppressive running demanded of a batsman in a post-capitalist society.
This discussion was taking place under the nose of Umpire Thomo who was clearly basking in the quality of this argument, the likes of which is normally only seen when we are collectively eight pints deep sat outside The Vine. Meanwhile, the mid-off fielder had collected the ball and launched it in a fashion which threatened yours truly officiating from square leg more than it did the stumps or the keeper’s gloves. As Pontin politely attempted to correct Misa’s understanding of Nietzsche, another fielder tidied up and finally affected the run out. Critics might suggest that during this time Misra and Pontin could almost certainly have actually run two, but the meeting of minds that we enjoyed instead was more than worth it. As Pontin retired to the pavilion he could be heard shouting that he “fully accepted” Misra’s position to the backdrop of hearty applause from the opposition.
Morgs came to the crease to join Bosh, the latter dispatched a lovely blow over cow for six before nicking off leaving Village looking a bit shaky on 16-2. TdM was in at four and produced what would ultimately be a match winning knock. He and the skipper made hay on what was an artificial track but both players were all over the bowling attack, hitting boundaries with ease including a pair of sixes each. This pair plundered over 100 more for the third wicket until Morgs was disappointed to shovel one to point for 54, 44 of which had been scored in boundaries. Abrar was next in to support TdM who was still motoring at the other end and these two moved the score up to 185 when Abrar succumbed to a lifter that got big off the astro and he was unlucky to glove it on the way through to the keeper. Deano hit a lovely shot for two before missing a straight one.
Boom Boom Bilal was next in and was not going to miss out on the fun, launching some massive hits of his own as it looked like Village might be able to really push on at the death and set a monster total. Unfortunately Tobes picked out the fielder at cow, who had put down a couple of tough chances but clung on to this one, so TdM had to depart but took with him the fastest Village ton to date, scored off only 48 balls. His total of 113 was scored off 56 which is a strike rate of just over 200. Well done young man, one for the ages.
Bilal and Troj launched a few more, taking Village up to 247-7 off the allotted 25 overs. Village started well in the field, with NPT and Bosh opening the bowling. This was vintage Thomo, really disciplined with line and length, slightly less disciplined with his feedback, and no wickets. It was Bosh that drew first blood, cleaning up one of the opening bats for none. “Batter 1” and “Batter 3” started to settle in and launched some big ones of their own, one hit in particular was a beauty which took the ball clear over the trees never to be seen again. A couple of shouts against 1 came and went before your correspondent clung on to a fairly regulation knee-high caught and bowled to send 1 back to the hutch for 44.
For the rest of the innings 3 looked like the big threat and was scoring well, so all the other wickets came at the other end. Pitcher bagged a couple more in the third person, one plumb lbw and one clean bowled. The rate always looked too high for Pacific right up until 7 came in and started to tee off. Almost out of nowhere, we had a game on our hands. With two overs remaining Pacific required 30 odd to win and with the way 3 and 7 were seeing it this felt a little bit too possible. Fortunately EK, who had bowled well but for no reward in the wickets column, showed off his skills at the death and his barrage of darts gave the oppo nothing to work with in an over that went for about 4, game over.
Sadly the game was slightly marred by some injuries, two Pacific players had to hobble off, we wish them both well, and TdM after his heroics with the bat pulled a hamstring chasing one down to the boundary that hopefully is not a bad one.
Some Villagers hung around to enjoy some tinnies on the boundary before going back into some kind of lockdown for another week.