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2014: Opening day of the new season

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O ur day begins at 09:30 in the car park of Sainsbury’s in Bath, where the 3rd team (off-field) skipper receives a call on his mobile from his Burbage E&R 3rd XI counterpart to say that the game scheduled later that afternoon at Marden was off due to the unplayable state of the pitch.  Given that the sun was blazing down from a cloudless sky, this seemed like some sort of crank call (or was my wife winding me up in a less-then-subtle way?).  Sadly, however, and despite a vain attempt to switch the match to the Withy, this turned out to be no joke and, having already suffered the pain of the weekly shop, I now had to ring around my eager colleagues and let them know that their Saturday freedom had been snatched away. To be fair to Burbage, ours was one of 3 (out of 5) games in the WCCL Division 6 to be called off, the persistent rain during the week proving too much for a number of grounds in Wiltshire.

calamityBy way of a short aside, the eagle-eyed among you will have noted that I wrote “Division 6” in the above paragraph and you will have appreciated the fact that the MCC 3rd team had indeed jumped straight back from the depths of Div. 7.  Given that we had finished 6th in the league, the feat of leadership involved in this miracle will not have escaped your attention.

So, what to do with a lovely afternoon in prospect and no game of cricket?  The obvious solution was to go home, put the groceries away, arrange flowers in a vase, make coffee and then look down-in-the-mouth with disappointment, thereby provoking (successfully, it turned out) a suggestion from SWMBO1  to go and watch the game at Broadleys and maybe get in some practice.  “Are you sure, dearest?”, I replied over my shoulder as I made my way quickly to the car.The details of the 1st XI’s victory have been eloquently reported by our favourite Prodigal Son, but a couple of observations made in the most agreeable company of the club’s older academic, also slumming away the afternoon, are noteworthy.  First off, there was a marvelous feeling of time warp when, after the Marshfield opening attack had starved the opposition of scoring opportunities, we watched two teenage leg spinners bowling in tandem and eventually taking 6 scalps between them.  Lovely contrasting styles too, with Will Pascall delivering with a high action and nice variation in flight, while Bernie Burnstone seems to draw his head into his body at the crease and then whip the ball rapidly from one end of the pitch to the other.  Second, it was reassuring for the 3rd XI codgers to see that comedy fielding is not the unique domain of the Withymead Occasionals.  Two examples: Bernie finds the leading edge with a perfectly pitched delivery and the ball balloons into the air in a steep parabola that ends about halfway down the wicket, slightly to off.  What happened next? A simple caught & bowled? A short trot for the keeper to claim the catch in those capacious gloves? A call-less collision between bowler and keeper with ball falling harmlessly to ground?  Answers on a postcard, please.  Not too long after that, another opposition batsman attempted to take liberties with a delivery from Will that was held back a little. The mishit was skied to deep mid-off over the head of J. Williams, who turned and set off in pursuit of the catch.  Amazingly, the intrepid fielder decided that a full-length diving catch with his hands was simply too mundane and, instead, he attempted to effect the dismissal by clutching the descending projectile in his mouth (also known for its capaciousness, it must be said).  Sadly, from a cricketing perspective, this didn’t quite come off; on the other hand, in terms of entertainment, for what more could one ask?

run-outUnable to take any more of this sort of excitement, it was time to head off to Winsley to see how the 2nd XI were progressing.  Word had reached Broadleys that our batting had undergone a 3rd XI-esque collapse and things did not look good on my arrival with the opposition’s reply approaching 50 without loss off less than 10 overs…  The gory details have been starkly rendered in the Cricket Manager’s report on the game, so I’ll limit my remarks to a couple of eye- and ear-catching vignettes.  An initial glance around field took in some familiar sights: Hodders wheeling away, Wayne waving his arms, and Jim Creed smiling sardonically.  However, what really caught the eye and ear, respectively, was the unmistakable figure and voice of Mark Dixon, making his 2nd XI debut after 8 years at the club.  The scorebook confirmed that it was really him and that he had indeed batted at no. 10, ending not out in fact, but that the 9th and 10th MCC wickets had been run outs.  I’ll let my readers draw their own conclusions from that piece of information.  More details can be had from poor Matt Green, one of the victims, dismissed without facing a ball.  But, back to the action, where Wayne and Jim were wheeling away together and applying an impressive brake to Winsley’s theretofore-serene progress.  The skipper held on to two excellent diving catches (one off his own bowling, which is understandable, the other off Jim, which is less so… what bad back?), while Jim produced a non-ripping ripper to remove the opener who was threatening to finish the game quickly.  Here, I must digress again to report on the issue of respect.  It was relayed to me that earlier in the game, a younger member of the 2nd’s had referred to Lord Jim by the sobriquet “Jimmer Frame”, a not unamusing play on words, I admit, but really rather inappropriate in its implication of JC’s mobility and ‘seniority’.  I wouldn’t normally name names here, but credit must go where it’s due, so I’ll reveal that my source, Andy Elliott, said that “Chopper did it”.

Sadly, I couldn’t stay for the final denouement, but I did have the chance to see Dicko’s first few overs as a 2nd-teamer including an enormous six struck over the longest boundary and a ‘refused’ caught & bowled which caused the autistic outburst (that I won’t try to paraphrase) from his Creedness of “you lardass, Dicko!”  Cruel, but fair?
So, the season opened with a win, a defeat and a 10-pointer, only to be followed one week later with three washouts.  But, don’t worry, I won’t be reporting on what I got up to last Saturday afternoon…  Roll on a real game to write about.

[1]SWMBO: “she who must be obeyed” – see Rumpole of the Bailey

It was relayed to me that earlier in the game, a younger member of the 2nd’s had referred to Lord Jim by the sobriquet “Jimmer Frame”, a not unamusing play on words. 

Roving reporter Richard Guy

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