Even as Village matches go this one started in superbly disorganised fashion. The game was OFF due to lack of numbers, back ON again cos we found some ringers, OFF again cos it was pissing it down all morning, ON again because Hilly Fields was deemed playable, OFF again because the groundsman had double booked the pitch with old foes Hobgoblins and then finally ON when the groundman miraculously found us a new pitch that was described as "close" and "better". It was inarguably close. If it was better I dread to think what the wicket at Hilly Fields looks like. In a dramatic step up from last week, we did at least have stumps.
With a new skipper (or a very old skipper, depending on your point of view), 25% of a new team, a new ground and a new opposition it was hard to know what to expect. The ground it must be said was rather nice, a tree-encricled bowl not unlike London Fields only with more generous boundaries, fewer rabid dogs on chains and bloody miles away from Hackney. The latter two may be related. Choice of wickets was three fold: a children's pitch, a heavily used pitch and a fresh pitch laced with weeds and mud patches. Obvious choice - playing on weeds and ridiculously long outfields has become the New Normal this season. It's been a while since I've last captained a Village side, so much so that I strolled to middle bereft of coin or firm plan in mind about what to do if the coin should fall my way. As it happend the opposition skipper was also without coinage and so a contactless payment card was tossed into the air (Monzo, since you asked) and a correct call of "magnetic strip" exposed my lack of perparedness to make a decision. We'll have a bowl. Come on, it's been pissing it down all morning and the pitch is in worse condition than most self respecting home owners' lawns.
The only problem with having a bowl was the lack of opening bowlers. Spin options a plenty; Klav's darts probably the quickest option amongst the recognised team members. And so to our collection of ringers: "Goose", Kaspar and Anna. "Goose is rapid and bowls in swing, I'm quick too and bowl away swing" Kaspar confidently informed me. Done, here's the new cherry.
As the scorecard attests Kaspar wasn't far off the mark, his spell of 5-1-3-11 taking care of much of Lawnmower's top order. Away swing there was, Kaspar ghosting past the outside edge on a number of occasions. The undoubted highlight of the spell being when opposotion no.3 declared "I'm also called Caspar" leading to what is almost certainly another Village first: a Caspar-off, hence forth to be known as a Gary. 14 runs later (a solid effort in the circumstance) it was check-mate as Kaspar had Caspar pinned in front (sadly not castled) and then Woodhouse (no relation) for a duck to complete an excellent 3-fer.
"Goose" from the other end opened up in slightly Maverik fashion, stuggling to find his length and sending down something of a bouncer barrage which had the batsman ducking and the skipper installing himself at leg-gully. 5 overs for 15 is evidence of a much tidier finish, "Goose" really growing into his work as the outfielders continued to plough a rich furrow of water foul related humour.
10 overs on the board and it was time to ring the changes, Klav and Eddie entering the fray to provide a very different challenge. Klav picking up a rapid 2-for-6 and Eddie bowling a quite astonishing 6 wicketless overs for only 3 runs and 4 drops. Sorry Eddie. Brabbs (at least I assume it was Brabbs since he was the chap who scored some runs) spent much of these 6 overs apparently playing one-hand-one-bounce, but runs is runs, however you get them.
At drinks Mower were in all sorts of bother at 35-5 and talk between myself and JdM turned to "how many do we want to chase here? Forty is no fun for anyone". This sort of thinking, anyone who has played for Village should know, is dangerous indeed.
And so, Eddie and Klav's spin having proved tough to face another double change it was, to the medium pace of Jamie and Pitcher in the hope that perpaps the 'Mower would manage to find a few more scoring opportunities. Pitcher, though clearly didn't read the script as took a wicket with his third ball and then asked to be withdrawn from the attack. 1.3 overs 2 for 1 Pitcher's return, following on from a double wicket maiden to end his last spell. At least the dismissals this week were all old enough to drive.
Jamie at the other end bowled a tidy spell of 6 overs 2 for 25 mainly to Brabbs who, by this point it was apparent only had one scoring shot. Now I know we say that a lot, but if you end up with a field including 3 mid-wickets, two mid-ons, no extra, cover, point, or gully then clearly something is afoot. And still Brabbs persisted, top scoring with 31 identical runs before finally picking out Eddie at square leg (sadly not one of the mid-wickets) for a very well played 31.
The score now approached 80 and the chat from before turned into "I don't fancy chasing 120 on this", so on came Avi (1 for 16 off 4) and back came Pitcher the Destroyer to finish things off, debutant Anna taking an excellent low catch (at midwicket, finally!) to close out the innings. 79 to get. Easy right? Wrong.
This Village XI was something of an unknown with the bat. JdM and myself to open was easy enough, Abs to provide solidity at 4/5 where he's done so well this season I thought, then fit people around that.
I should have mentioned the injuries - Abs pulled a hammy (at mid-wicket) and declared himself unfit to bat, Anna spent all but 5 of the 20-odd overs in the field massaging a quad and Kaspar was valiantly hopping around trying to stop runs while declaring himself fit to come back and finish off the tail. Opening bowlers and cheap wickets eh?
Having cobbled together something of a top 5 I was then reminded Goose "had to leave" at 4:30 for "an engagement". So was promoted to 3. Given the way I've been batting this season it will be no surprise that Goose was soon into the action, his contribution of 24 absolutely critical in what was rapidly heading towards sqeaky bum time. Suffice to say that 4:30 came and went and Goose batted on, presumably the person or persons being stood up understand the principal of not giving away your wicket.
JdM was done for 4, Kaspar (3), Anna(1) and Pitcher(1) came and went in quick succession to leave the chase teetering at 52-6.
Never fear though, there was batting to come and Avi and Klav steered the good ship Village home for a 4 wicket victory. Phew.
A word on The Mower, who were very reminicent of the Village of a few years ago - enjoyed their cricket played some really good stuff at times (Skipper Woodhouse bowled some excellent Leggies) and some decidely less good stuff at times, but always in the right spirit. No more so than in the awarding of a bizarre giant stanly cup replica trophy at the end of the match given to the player with the "finest buttocks" on the field. JdM looked aghast as this was awarded to one of the oppo on his debut; next time, James.
Great game, old school low scoring win and a few great debuts just a shame I had the car so there was no sesh for me.