A fairly standard spring 2021 day: freezing; equally likely to be snowed on, sunburned, or both. Wicket reminiscant of an early 2000s Hackney Council effort; dandilions on a length, had possibly seen the attention of a mower, but certainly not a roller. Still played better than that Albert Road fiasco.
In the build up to a game set just outside the walls of the stately Ham House we were told of polo clubs, ferries on the river and wisteria clad pubs called things like the Fox and Hound. Interpid Villagers thus turned up somewhere near Thommo's house expecting a picturesque setting to play some cricket at a lovely ground on the well-to-do side of London. What they found instead was a patch of grass adjacent to two tennis courts, a farm and a shooting gallery which looked as if its main purpose might have been for overflow parking.
In hindsight we should have known, the ground is called King George's Field and a field is pretty much what it was. After some discussion about whether we were in the right place and another pair of teams taking the nearest pitch, those cricketers who had arrived on time headed off to the far side of the field to claim the no.2 square. It would be fair to say that it was a square in shape only: Equal parts mud, grass and weeds, wet, and lumpier than the mattress you had to sleep on when you went to visit your grandparents. A pair of bright yellow dandilions on a length at one end the highlight of a truly shockingly prepared "wicket".
The Village brains trust got together and "bowl first" was the consensus, "75 all out might be a winning total on this" they said. They were wrong.
For the first time this season Morgs actually won a toss (a last minute WhatsApp message to Damon Wake, the club's official tosser, who should have been on duty owing to Morgs having triggered a long standing constitutional clause by losing three tosses in a row, went unanswered) and duly inserted the opposition on what looked like an absolute minefield.
What the pitch lacked in flatness The Village more than made up for with their bowling and fielding display. To be fair, the start of the innings didn't exactly get the cricket juices flowing for anyone - half volleys nearly decapitating the batsmen, pea-rollers, a lost ball through an unprotected fence into the shooting range after 10 deliveries, another after about 20, a short hiatus to move the stumps because they had been put in the junior spots and a longer break to move all the kit bags across the pitch to try to protect the shooting range fence which was gobbling balls with the sort of enthusiasm usually reserved for Gilo's party scene, did little to make anyone feel like this was a game of cricket they really wanted to be part of.
The only surprising thing about the first half dozen overs was the lack of wickets and Morgs, sensing a change in mood and tactics was required, called for some Louse Time. Not one to shirk a challenge, his first over was absolute vintage Louse; "getting it above the eyeline" doesn't do justice to the altitude of the delivery which ultimately foxed Wright batting at number 2 and left him staring in disbelief at his stumps which had been proptly destroyed by Morgs behind the stumps. Stumped, b. CA Woodhouse. We've all been there.
The middle of the innings was dominated by Winch (an Aussie Harold Shipman look-a-like whose team mates seemed as eager to sledge as we would have been if he were one of ours) who amassed a quite astonishing 109 without really looking in that much trouble. Bloody Aussies.
Things were already looking far from ideal despite a couple of wickets from Troja when Bant rocked up at 5 and embarked on a late-innings assault. His 60, including 3 boundaries off a single returning Thommo over, pushed Crossbats to an imposing 239 after 35 overs.
Yes, there were a few tough drops in the outfield (two mine, neither easy) and two dollys down, Troja off his own bowling and Louse "looking into the sun" at midwicket, but in all honesty 239 was a pretty fair reflection of a lack-luster bowling and fielding display.
In response Morgs reverted, after last week's "let the de Mellows get all the runs and the rest of us get pissed" tactics to the tried and trusted(?) of Bosh and Grey-Ham (not of Ham house, sadly) at the top of the order. Chasing 7 an over things needed to start well and to some extent they did, Johnny serving up a selecting of short, not very quick, not very straight deliveries which were dispatched for a dozen off the first over. Having spent a good chunk of time and money on coaching a couple years back, I can confirm that the forehand slap and the baseball shot remain solid weapons against rubbish bowling.
Partnering Johnny to open the bowling was "Fingers" (provinance of nickname unknown, probably for the best) who was a different proposition entirely. Not quick, but accurate and booming away swing he was enough to remove Bosh for 4 early doors. Morgs to the wicket in a rich vein of form saw a few deliveries from Fingers before taking a single which would have a certain run out if the throw and gone to the right end and then appolgising with "sorry, no run there, but I wanted to be at your end".
After a flying start, your author got back to what he does best; blocking (a lot of away swing) while Morgs made hay at the easy end. You're welcome, Morgs.
Johnny was removed from the attack rather quicker than we would have liked and replaced by Avi. It wouldn't be unreasonable to say that Avi had an "unusual" action. Two things are certain: he spun it a lot both ways, and his release would not have looked out of place if it had belonged to one of the first picks in this week's NFL draft. "We noball him for chucking during inter-club games" we were told later in the piece, nuff said.
Morgs and your author kept things ticking over reasonably well to 103-1 at drinks before Morgs inexplicably missed a straight ball from Humphrey. Your author departed 6 runs later, nicking off to Humphrey again, followed in quick succession by Tim and Avi and all hope seemed lost at 109-4 needing 9 an over.
Troja smashed 25 in double quick time to provide impetus and Thommo looked to be hitting his straps when we was removed by "that ***ing chucking **** ****** ***** ****". That's Avi, by the way.
Enter Pitcher who was advised "take your time, don't give it away" and promptly attempted to hit his first ball all the way back to East London and was bowled for a goldie. All over bar the shouting I hear you say, but no, Gilo and Louse added an additional 37 for the final wicket, Giles smashing a number of lusty blows and Louse hanging in to keep him company, to bring The Village within just 22 runs of an unlikely victory.
Not to be, but a valiant effort with the bat with runs throughout the innings.
To the sesh. Thommo had arrived earlier in the day (late, even though he lives in the next field) pushing a golf trolley laden with Dutch lager in celebration of the return of Tim de Wit and that Amstel/Heinekin/Grolsch triumvirate provided a solid backbone for 2 hours of keepie uppies in the fading light. "Quality Corner" was crowned, 25 passes were achived, a lot of warm lager was consumed, and Bosh read a good chunk of KP's autobiography. As the light died, those hardy souls remaining took the scenic route to the Fox and Duck for another a couple of pints of lager, this time not Dutch, and an in depth discussion of bowel habits. Trains were found and all Villagers returned home more or less unharmed.
GP, 2 May 2021