The chuntering about the pitch – astroturf – started early. “Really?” fumed Piers, by text, when advised about bringing trainers. In retrospect, he may want to take this track everywhere he goes. The powers that be decreed the square too wet, even though it was scarcely moist to the touch. Capt Elliott might have put his finger on it by saying the “groundstaff” probably had no time to prepare it. For whatever reason. The Bumblers said they’d play in flip-flops if need be. Game lads. Astro it was then.
Jamie tossed and inserted, as is now the Gardeners way. He wanted to see how the astro would play. Well and true was the answer, with maybe a hint of nibble. Little happened in the first 10 overs. Rob and Cunners passed the bat on a couple of occasions; the bounce being sufficient for Cunners to station a second and a third slip. Sorta thereish. Yeah. The crabby left-hand batter had few shots; the rightie ultimately one too many. Quick on anything short, he drove uppishly but unerringly to begin with. Piers’s three fans cleared off. Perhaps they prefer tennis. An over of Dudders was more a test of Fletch’s adherence to the Jane Fonda Workout (yes, PG Woodhouse was keeping) than of the batsmen. Just when we needed a lift from the crowd, a familiar figure strode towards the team picnic table… John Lloyd!
Yes, CliveLloydDavidLloydJOHNLloyd, his head shining like a beacon of hope in the now pleasant afternoon sunshine. Piers was unleashed off his long run, which seemed to get longer as his spell went on. His first delivery was paddled aerially towards square leg, where Clayders had only just returned from a comfort break. Maybe the batsman had forgotten he was there. After anxiously thinking, “I’d better not drop this in front of Mum” (another spectator), Clayders held his first on-field catch in ages. “That was a shocking ball,” he exclaimed, underestimating the Teakler’s guile in bowling a slow bouncer first up. (Pigs soared with the local parakeets.) Piers fired out the other opener LBW in the same over. Game on.
The clean-hitting Bumblers captain/keeper was now at the crease. His square drives searing, his swings to leg concerning. Dan took him on in a personal duel, beating him outside off stump and probing the gap between bat and pad. Jamie mumbled sagely about “racket sports”. After taking a bit of tap, Dan won the battle, nipping one back and hitting middle. Piers, meanwhile, was purring – in more of a zone than Bob Willis at Headingley and more rhythmical than Sly & Robbie at a krautrock convention. He bowled the No 3, whereupon the elder Odell convened a photocall for the benefit of his American friend. If only we’d had a picture of what happened next. Another snorter from Piers knocked out his off stump and Teakle ran straight pass the sticks, his index finger pointing the way to go. Stuart Broad couldn’t have done it better.
In the event, we let Bumblers off the hook. At least to an extent. After “Hang Time” Humphries has airlifted two wickets – one off a rank full toss (caught by Poker Face, like a small animal emerging from hibernation), the other bowled all ends up having been done in the flight – a ninth-wicket partnership put on 30 too many. Piers blotted his copybook by dropping one in the deep. The parakeets sledged him. Bumblers closed on 172-8 off their 40 overs.
Woodhouse was fit to open with Offord. The former had tried to injure himself in the field by running after a loopy one and forgetting he was wearing a lid. He bumped his nose on the grill. “Lost it in the rim,” concluded the Chancellor (hey, this is the family website). Andy looked a bit out of sorts, playing drop volleys into the ring as if he were at Wimbers. But it took a smart catch behind square to dismiss him. Fletch had succumbed to playing an attempted glide, but could hardly be blamed for wanting to use the pace on the ball, having seen so little of it hitherto this season. Dudders had a swish; Dan seemed in his usual business-like form but lifted a foot and was stumped. So it fell to Jamie to play a captain’s knock. First in the company of Clayders, who contributed two to a partnership of 64 (but what a best-supporting two: ahem). Then with a tremendous cameo from Cunners that featured possibly the shot of the day: a punched straight drive down the ground. All timing that.
It was only possibly the shot of the day because Jamie was treating us to a Quality Street innings. Graceful strokes through the off-side; a lofted on-drive for six; dismissive slaps of full tosses through the leg-side. My favourite was when he moved back and across and hit the off-spinner through wide mid-on. The Elliott mini-men were now encamped on the boundary and thought daddy was being “jammy” because a few of the fielders had sprawled before the majesty of the some of his fours. If this was being jammy, the bowling would be toast if he ever got really in.
Piers, however, could not be kept out of the action. Hugo and Clayders were admiring his high elbow in defence (“How English,” laughed Huggie), but with one or two needed, Piers finished it in style: launching his contractually obligated six over long-on. From Random Ball Generator to Compleat All-Rounder. A four-wicket win. RC
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Oliver Cunningham (life)
Jamie Elliot (life)
Rob Navratil (life)
Hugo Nisbet (life)
David Woodhouse (life)
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