Last week it was raining sixes. This week it was just raining. Having had lovely summer vibes for days things had taken a turn for the worst as Villagers headed down towards the Civil Service ground in Chiswick for this game against the Greenpeace Botherers.
Your correspondent checked every app going and the outlook was bleak - and that was just the transport! Engineering works meant no trains out of Waterloo which is no good for team morale. Even worse was the rain which started to come down between us arriving at the ground and the scheduled start time. Boom Boom messaged the group to say that he was waiting things out at Chez Bilal given that his new residence was only five minutes away and clearly there was not going to be any cricket. No two ways about it, a hefty session in the bar looked odds on favourite with some Villagers remembering the infamous HAC abandonment and the collective disaster that followed. However, one of the other teams at the ground were clearly more pumped and/or less loose than us and started playing despite the falling rain. Another game followed suit. We were basically shamed into playing.
There was a toss and the website claims that Morgs won it, but of course there is no actual evidence that this is true. Village would bat with the skipper obviously thinking that conditions could only deteriorate later on from the grey, cold, soul-sapping soggy conditions that we were going out to face up in. 30 overs was the format in the only concession to the elements.
Original Village elders Pontin and Morgs got off to a tepid start, both strike rates hovering around the temperature on the day. Things started to improve slightly until GCP got a jaffa, one that was heading leg-ish then straightened off a lake and toppled the middle stump.
TdM came to the crease and started to put away the bowling in a very TdM way. At the other end, Morgs looked as stodgy as the run ups at both ends which were starting to resemble something out of a teenager’s wrestling fantasy. If this were Dulwich there would have been a mass murder.
Just as a partnership was starting to develop, TdM called Morgs through for a run off a wide but the skipper was stuck in the mud and was run out by a direct hit from the keeper. This brought Bilal to the crease, then Bilal left again. This brought Nick to the crease who formed a partnership with Tobes forged on mutual understanding between two players both with more names than strictly necessary.
It was proper raining at drinks and in normal circumstances it is fair to say this game would have been over but it is a credit to both teams that play continued. NPT got out for 10; Boshy came in and Boshed it around a bit. Late in the innings Bosh went down swinging, bowled for a very handy 26 at which point all eyes were on TdM who needed a few off the final over to hit triple figures. It was looking on until the penultimate ball when Tobes got down to sweep but missed and got hit on the chin in the exact same spot which had required the attention of a passing nurse in Wandsworth several years previous. Claret was spilt but Toby wanted to continue and face the final ball, except it wasn’t, as he swatted away a chest-high full toss for four, taking him to 97. Except that it was, because Umpire Pontin was so distracted and concerned by Toby’s mushy mush that he opted not to call the no ball.
Whatever. There was absolutely no way this could possibly come back to bite us in the arse.
Village came off 198 runs to the good in tricky conditions and TdM went off to hospital with what looked like a match-winning knock to ease his pain.
A tasty tea was enjoyed by both sides - Dulwich springs to mind again at this point for some reason - before battle resumed in conditions that were starting to improve with the rain all but gone. Handy left-hander Dean carried on where he left off in the same fixture the previous year, bludgeoning anything remotely short to all corners. He was ably assisted by Al. “No data recorded” on the website for the fall of oppo wickets, possibly to spare the blushes of some Village bowlers. At one point it really did look like the Whalers might chase this down without losing a wicket.
We needed a miracle and lo! God saved us. Dean missed, Eddie hit, and we were back in the game. NPT had bowled tight like always down the other end and got no wickets to show for his first spell, again like always. There may have been a drop off his second ball by our skipper keeper but your correspondent was far more concerned about the trench foot he was developing at mid off than paying full attention to the game.
Sandesh was tidy in his opening spell too. Then it was Louse time. Despite this being his first outing of the season it was like he had never been away, the balls had never been higher, the deliveries had never been slower, the batters had never been so bewildered. Al fell victim to a classic Craig dismissal, perhaps falling asleep waiting for one to arrive only to be woken from his slumber by the rattle behind him.
Avi took a strong early “catch of the season” contender off my bowling, running in from the on-side boundary to grab a stunner about two inches off the ground at full pelt. In other fielding news, at some point in all this the sub (oppo skipper) shelled an absolute dolly off Louse. There were no suspicions of shenanigans - it was just one of those we have all had from time to time - but it is fair to say that Mr Woodhouse was as unimpressed as ever at the damage to his figures.
At this point we really had a game on. Village were probably slight favourites as it came down to the wire, the Whalers needed one big over. Ross provided it, hitting a few big boundaries in the penultimate over. Bilal was given the last set as a thank you for having prised himself out of his house. Ross got a big top edge that went straight up and was coming back down pretty much exactly in the middle of the wicket. In almost all circumstances this should have been keeper's catch. With Bilal underneath it, all the more so. But throughout history somehow players lift when it is off their own bowling and sure enough BB pouched it like it was the most normal thing ever. “I don’t catch them very often” Bilal explained to the bat as he trudged off, which undoubtedly improved the fallen player’s mood.
Last ball. Whalers needed two to tie, three to win. Village needed to avoid a no ball, or at least avoid the umpire calling it, not that that ever happens, eh Graham! Barney heaved it into the leg side, his partner Josh went up and down and slid in feet first in a way more synonymous with baseball than cricket and was adjudicated to have made his ground in unconventional fashion.
A tie! Would the Village website cope? The webmaster was concerned.
A game for the ages, one which should live long in both team’s collective memory. It should never have happened given the weather but all concerned should be happy it did, given that it ebbed and flowed more like a classic test match than a 30 over game played mostly in the rain.
Both teams tried to retire to the clubhouse only to find that it was shuttered. Villagers discovered the other clubhouse next door and watched the end of their match over a couple of jugs. As it was a Sunday their kitchen was closed so the barmaid encouraged us to “feel free to order some Deliveroo or whatever” and you know what came next. Yet another stark contrast to a certain place!