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September 21, 2004

Chigwell Five Hold the Fort as Stragglers Straggle (St. John's Billericay Away 18/9/2004)

As the 50p coin spun from the St. John's skipper's thumb I called tails, and prayed to the gods of cricket. Win and we bat; lose and we might be asked to take the field with only 5 players! A tangle of circumstances had led to 3 separate cars, each with two Chigwellians inside, speeding across the Essex countryside, hopelessly late for the one o'clock start. Tails. We'll bat. Then came the logistics of batting first: Two batting, two umpiring, one padded up, and scoring. Should an early wicket fall, the outgoing batsman would be required to strip off his pads, and immediately assume umpiring duties, while the out-going umpire would have to attempt to pad up and score at the same time! It can be appreciated that as Tim and I went out to bat the initial priority was to avoid losing wickets at all cost. Tim had seen the arrival of Paul and Hannah before he cut at a wide one, and was caught at point. Nick joined me in the middle and we negotiated a nervous opening to share a partnership of 80 runs. The outfield was awfully slow, the grass length more suited to rugby than cricket, but after my departure for 47 things began to pick up. Nick remained solid, mixing patience with the odd flashing drive, while at the other end first Nigel, then Olly, and finally Tim Mitzman, biffed the runs at a rather faster lick. Nick finished unbeaten on 62, and the Chigwell innings closed with the score on 203, worth at least 250 given the slow pitch and outfield. During a jolly nice tea, the highlight of which was a superb chocolate cake, ("Oh Aggers, stop it"), I laid my fiendish plans for the St. John's innings. I decided to attack with Dom (now recovered from chasing Tim's car up the A10) at one end, with Brad providing temptation towards indiscretion at the other. Before long Dom had bowled the useful looking opener, and then Brad took over. Firstly the batsman skied one to Nigel at mid-wicket, who took a great catch at the end of ten yards of furious back-pedalling. Next ball was driven at Owen fielding at extra cover. It must have been chest high, because it hit him in the chest, making a hollow thump, before he clutched it gratefully back to his bosom. Brad was on a hat-trick, but failed to make the new man play at the hat-trick ball, it being three feet outside the off stump. There followed a quiet period, Dom having been replaced by Owen, Brad fearing being taken out of the attack with each successive wicketless over. I was just clearing my throat to ensure correct enunciation of the phrase "Take a blow there Brad", when the batsman lost patience and hit a straight-forward catch to me at mid on. As the rain clouds gathered, and a steady drizzle began to fall, a battle royale took place between a sturdy and capable batsman, and Brad, on three wickets and sensing his chance for his first ever "5 for". After smashing a good few boundaries in quick time the batsman gained confidence. Brad began his 9th over. First ball 6 over mid-wicket. Second ball 6 over mid-wicket. Third ball 6 over mid-wicket. Paul shrewdly passed comment from behind the stumps: "I reckon you could do the six sixes in an over here mate". He went for it. He failed. Olly on the mid-wicket boundary made the crucial catch look easy, not even put off by the helpful shout of "It's yours Olly" from the skipper. Four wickets to Brad. As he punched the air he informed us that "nobody hits me for 4 consecutive sixes!" Hannah bowled a good couple of overs from the other end, especially given the soaking wet ball, the game now taking place in the annoyingly persistent rain. We left the field for a while, but in the end continued the match when perhaps good sense might have dictated an abandonment. Good on St. John's, who could have chosen to claim a rain induced draw, but instead insisted the game continued. Sadly Brad, although bowled for 15 overs unchanged in total never got his fifth wicket. Tim Mitzman combined twice with Paul to effect run outs, and then without Paul's help bowled two more tailenders to finish the innings. St. John's finished on a creditable 150 odd, Chigwell winning by 50 runs or so. A fine couple of hours at the local tavern followed. Apart from the regrettable late arrival of over half the team, everything had worked out perfectly, with everyone contributing to Chigwell's third consecutive victory.

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