Saturday, September 03, 2011
No icing on the cake (but at least a cake)
Easton Cowboys C.C. Saturday XI v Midsomer Norton C.C. 3rd XI
How far are you prepared to go to get a run? 22 yards? And how would you like to get there? An amble, a gentle stroll, a jog, a canter, a sprint, a horizontal dive that nearly dislocates your shoulder? All these options and more are open to a batsman in the game of cricket, but rightly or wrongly, probably wrongly, the former is more likely to be chosen at the start of an innings, the latter at the end.
And so to Frenchay for the last league match of the season, at stake a firm grip on third place in Division 3 and the slimmest outside chance of promotion. The opposition were clear of the relegation zone and in the fortunate position of being able to inject their team with seven players from their other teams who hadn't played in the season's earlier encounter.
The wicket and outfield was hard and dry but the dense low cloud still suggested that bowling first would be the best option, so it was no bad thing for Budge to lose the toss and to be asked to bowl first.
Far more calamitous was Ange's realisation, mid pitch inspection, that he'd forgotten to do the teas: Before donning the wicket keeping gloves he made a few frantic phone calls to the Cricket Tea Emergency Hotline and moments later the Cowboys took to the field.
Everybody knows how fast the ball can travel across the Frenchay outfield, but it was still a bit shocking to see the opposition get off to a very fluid start, taking Budge and Garner for nearly seven an over for the first few overs. Besides the boundaries, the running between the wickets was purposeful and although the fielding was mostly exemplary, unfortunate ricochets off the stumps resulted in some unavoidable overthrows.
Budge made the breakthrough at 37-1 thanks to a sharp but regulation catch for Justin. RT1 replaced Garner at the shed end (who'd appeared to struggle to execute whichever theory he'd been devising) and had the other opener well caught by DB at slip: 58-2.
DB took a second slip catch off RT1 to have the opposition 78-3, the run rate falling, thanks to a very economical spell, although still just above four an over. Ev had replaced Budge at the top end and the skipper took another tricky variation on one of his many catches at mid-off this season to claim the fourth wicket with the score just short of a hundred.
The drinks interval was expertly stage managed by the spectating, camera clicking SteveO, after which your correspondent took the top end and set to work against the middle order. After being hit for a couple of boundaries, one of them under the foot of a man who believed he was playing for Stenhousemuir, DB held an edge to take a third catch and a while later, Budge took his tenth catch of the season when he pouched a lofted drive: 116-6.
Rog had meanwhile delivered some welcome maidens from the shed end, but then the tail began to wag, punishing him and the returning Ev, not assisted by your butterfingered hack, who spilled a catch in the deep but was reprieved very soon afterwards when he clung onto a possibly more difficult swirler: 165-7.
The skipper returned and got a second wicket when he bowled his opposite number with a slower ball: 171-8, after which Midsomer Norton added another dozen runs in the remaining few overs to finish on 183-8, some way short of what had been feared earlier and, it was confidently stated by a few Cowboys, below par for the ground.
Praise be! The tea had arrived in the final overs of the innings, to a smattering of applause from the field and Ange's undying gratitude. And what a tea it was to behold and scoff, slurp and trough: The inclusion of falafel wraps surely has to make it the tea of the season. Nice one.
DB and Ev went out to open the batting and looked in little danger from the start against a slow attack, but soon fell behind the required run rate of 4.6 an over: After ten overs the score had dribbled up to twenty-three, but then that doubled during the next five overs as the tempo increased, DB found boundaries more often, several times aerially and Ev accumulated singles which the bench urged his partner to inflate into twos.
After twenty overs the score was 62-0, leaving the required run rate at just above six.The following over Ev hit six off one ball, as he sought to push things along without involving his partner in running. Shortly afterwards he was stumped during positive intent for 21, the Cowboys now on 81-1, from which DB had already struck more than a very solid fifty.
The incoming BenP nearly went in a similar fashion after a very confident appeal was rejected by a less convinced Garner at deep square leg, who somewhat inevitably suffered the fallout from this for the remainder of his time as umpire.
DB hit his fourth six around the 26th over to bring the innings total past a hundred, the Cowboys still requiring a run a ball. Had it been cleanly struck, Ben's shot to mid-wicket would have cleared the boundary too, but a top edge saw him caught there. Not long after, DB tried to reverse sweep the spinner from the top end, missed a straight one and was on his way LBW for 84 after a second century of the season had beckoned: 127-3 in the 31st over.
Alan and Justin, the two new batsmen, set about knocking off the required seven an over, not getting very far before Justin was caught for a single: 132-4. Ange joined Alan, walloping a large six over long-on into the road to keep the chase alive, before they were both bowled, Alan by the most outrageous grubber ever to roll instead of bounce: 149-6; seven an over from the final five.
There's never a good time to get out for a golden duck, but the eventual leading wicket taker in the division bowled Rog first ball, leaving RT1, or was it Garner (nerves were fraying then) to face the hat-trick ball, and survive. RT1 cracked a couple of boundaries and the running between the wickets was a little more urgent now than it had been earlier, but then he didn't make it home and was run out in the 38th over with just less than twenty runs still required.
The incoming batsman managed to drill a ball to the extra cover boundary, but the dot balls before didn't help. He and Garner now tore up and down the 22 yards at any excuse, still leaving eleven runs to win from the final over. They both narrowly avoided being run out at both ends, surviving due to fumbles and a painful dive, scraping together six runs from the first five balls, leaving five runs to win and four to tie. Garner's hefty blow straight down the ground was boundary bound, until a fine piece of fielding cut it off, terminating the Cowboys' dreams.
Martinis were served on the lawn as the Cowboys licked their wounds and tried not to dwell for too long on where those missing four runs might have come from. DB received the majority of the Man of the Match votes for his three catches and 84 runs, with RT1's bowling, (most of his) fielding and batting also in contention. Cider Moments included Ange's tea angst and colossal six, fines were too numerous to mention. Later, there was another farewell to the Frenchay staff and possibly the ground, the future uncertain. Less in doubt is the ability, cohesion, commitment and character of the Saturday XI, very ably led by Budge and RT1 throughout a great summer.