The Eleven for That Day arose that Saturday morning yawning and stretching, some perhaps more gingerly than would be the daily norm given Friday evening had preceded. Some perhaps even more ginger than usual even for a Saturday, that particular Friday being preceded by a Ploughman’s T20 Thursday. There we, with BLOODY SI CARSON, attended an evening at The Oval where we witnessed Surrey fail to generally turn-up as they spluttered and fumbled to a miserable 90 odd in 17.2 overs. Surrey couldn’t even play out their overs. It was a misleading, bastardised version of that confected, misleading, bastardised version of The Game. Glamorgan didn’t need Seventeen Point Two. They needed 12.2 with 8 remaining. Van der Gugten was quick.
I return to Saturday. The air glowed as if it were Fluorescent Syrup. It made the atmosphere feel warmer than it’s true temperance should have permitted. It was the the humid haze which sometimes visits London and hangs in the air, and therein the sunlight that day was caught and refracted and made to reveal itself more than it should, repeating and overwhelming the eye. Within this setting The Eleven for That Day arose, and they journeyed to Warlingham. Trains and cars were the order of the day, for it is truly in the Boonies. A classic Ploughmans’ away venue. Some perhaps travelled via a mixture of the two, negotiating lifts and favours. I know personally that BLOODY SI CARSON was generous enough to divert his journey and come to the aid of his fellow Plough, on this occasion denuded of rickshaw, camera or a sense of mischief. It was game day.
We settled into the facilities at Warlingham and performed our ablutions in the changing rooms. General good humour and nonsense being the topic of discussion. We didn’t need to venture into the middle and inspect the wicket. You could actually see the wicket from the boundary with its hay-hued emphasis, and we knew that it was good. Not the usual green-top that we are accustomed, where you discern the pitch from the rest of the square by way of micrometer and/or flambe.
Freddie tossed and won, no doubt feeling unsatisfied 20 minutes later. So it goes. He put them in to bat.
Standing at slip for the first over, the author pondered what a glorious day it was. Surrounded by a warm comforting glow, immersed like a prehistoric mosquito preserved in Syruppy amber. And what was to follow for the opening spell justified this euphoria, for he had the privilege of watching Tom and Matt chuck down splendid, deliberate, relentless, accurate bowling. Tom bowled in the corridor and took the openers cheaply, caught behind and in the cordon. Grant Wolledge and Duray Pretorius both taking excellent catches, rewarding good bowling. Matt bowled straighter, focussing on the stumps. The batsmen responded by going into their shell and all they could do was offer dead, bunting bats. His grunts eventually yielded an LBW that was perhaps slightly generous since the batsman was well forward. We were punished for this later, the umpire realising his error in giving this one and proceeding to turn down mulitple plumb LBW appeals. As Grant remarked to this effect, you should not make up for a bad decision with more bad decisions. Nonetheless we had them at this stage at about 3 for 30, or 30 for 3, however you want to say it, off 15.
A change of bowling ensued and it was Lilford and Puff. Lilford harpooned in with his left-handed inswing. He dismissed the decent #3 with aplomb, caught by Noodle. Alas he could get no further purchase that day, the pitch slightly too pudding-like though it was still a good track overall. Puff raced in with his slinging and nagging deliveries. He took two wickets cheaply, namely two ducks. And we were sitting pretty expecting the day to proceed as it had began and the opposition to roll over.
The #5 had entered by this stage. This guy was good, and he proceeded to score 140 so obviously he could bat, but it has to be said that throughout the day our admiration for him diminished. He clearly has a predilection for spinners, for Duray came onto the attack and was putting it on the spot, but this chap decided respect is a dirty word and Duray was hit for more runs than, in the author’s opinion, his bowling deserved. The #5 proceeded to hog the strike in a succesful effort to protect the soft underbelly of their tail. We reverted to a rather tedious ritual as he slapped and crashed for the first three or four of each over and then ran a single. Nausea and frustration ensued.
We tried various combinations and tactics to dismiss this guy but unfortunately he was in for the long run. Puff, Lilford and Biggy bowled admirably but it was a long day in the office. BLOODY SI CARSON came in for a bowl, and because of his unwaivering faith in stump to stump theory he dismissed this pesty #5, who flashed yet again at a good ball and finally getting what he deserved ? BLOODY SI CARSON taking possession of the bails. At this stage our opposition were 7-204. From here it was rather smoother sailing, Harry Madley taking two very competent catches off the bowling of Freddie and BLOODY SI CARSON so that by the end of their innings they were a very “get able” 229.
Tea was taken. It was a very good tea. Notable mentions were the Chicken Tikka rolls and the general ambience of the club room. The staff at the ground were excellent, at one stage asking if there was anything which could be done better, displaying a level of customer care that was so foreign that we almost fell off our collective chairs when asked as such. We were well accomodated.
Our batsmen did the job. The author and Noodle opened. The first over consisted of general non-threatening off-cutters but with great dissappointment a run out occurred. A wide leg side delivery hit the pad and rolled past the keeper into a location that proved not quite too far for a return throw and run-out. The excitability and exuberance of the opposition here worked against us, with the shouts of “yes, yes, yes!” from the fielders generating confusion and both batsmen thinking the other was being called through, causing them to run when they shouldn’t. Dear Noodle was dimissed without facing a ball, bringing his brother to the crease. The batsmen then proceeded to methodically and deliberately acquire runs where possible, stroking the ball into the field and capitalising on the various gaps and loose deliveries to move the total along.
I will digress for a moment to give a brief lecture about fielding and its importance. Cricket is often maligned as a team sport since it is seen as a sport that relies on individual performances. A good spell of bowling here and a century there, resulting in the team being in a good position overall. That is true to an extent. A bowler, however, can only do so much. They can put the ball on the spot and create opportunities but they rely on their fieldsmen to convert those opportunities into wickets. They also rely on their fieldsmen to competently seize the ball when it is struck, preventing ones from becoming twos etcetera and also occassionally stopping the ball so it does not make the gap and proceed to the boundary. The opposition failed to do either on Saturday, their astounding lack of competence enabling our batsmen to relax in the crease safe in the knowledge that if the short-cut outfield did not propel their stroke to the boundary, the ineptitude of the opposition would. These guys literally kicked the ball over the boundary. Fielding is important.
M Ridgway was brought undone for 27, putting a ball in the air behind point and being taken by a decent catch, which was somewhat uncharacteristic given the attrocious fielding which was the general theme from the oppo. Later, the author began to sense his eye was in and so thought that would be a good opportunity to start a different batting strategy, which makes no sense whatsoever. If you have come so far batting in a certain manner, why change your approach? And so he decided it would be a good idea to leave a delivery that was dangerously in the vicinity of off stump and which he would usually defend, the same delivery taking bite off the pitch and proceeding to dismantle his house.
This meant Freddie and Grant now occupied the crease. These men proceeded to methodically and confidently dismantle the opposition bowling, dispatching the bad balls when presented and sensibly batting back the good. They were the beneficiaries on occasion of the above mentioned fielding, which I would say was ultimately the difference between the two sides along with the bowling. Perhaps the batting too. They were also the subject of some absurd appeals, either for LBWs or stumpings. Our umpires though were up to the task, rebutting their appeals with unquestionable logic, being so generous sometimes as to provide substantive reasons with explanations invoking elephants. Some fielding coaching was also provided.
The monarchical style with which these batsmen proceeded to put the game beyond reach was most satisfying to watch. Grant’s measured aggession was brought to an end for 23 however so as to bring T Lonnen to the crease. He and Freddie saw the Ploughman home, and it was never in doubt. Freddie’s figures consisted of four 6s and five 4s, resulting in a total of 67. It was a stamp of authority. Lonnen was also not out, showing what a well-rounded player he is following his bowling spell, contributing 16 not out, which included a 6.
And so victory was seized by The Plough, chasing down the target of 229 with more than 10 overs to spare. Not quite the Glamorgan pantsing which had been exhibited upon Surrey, but still very convincing. Beers, ciders and G&Ts were the order of the day afterwards and more than well deserved.