Giving up fags was never going to be easy, and my mood was already grim before I received the call from Brad that over half the team were going to be late. I snapped, barked a few sharp words at Brad down the phone and set off seething for the South Woodford Ground. On arrival I had to spend an uncomfortable few minutes explaining that the early start required by the opposition (to prevent a clash of teas with the game taking place on the adjacent pitch) was not going to happen. I then had to talk the opposing team out of making the game a limited overs affair.
We eventually started (a couple of men short) about half an hour late, but the South Woodford Batsmen were in the mood to make up for lost time. One opener in particular treated all Chigwell bowlers with more or less equal disdain, flaying them far and straight, the ball often clearing the rope by 30 yards. He finally departed, to our immense relief, for an amazingly quick 84, stumped smartly off Nick's bowling by Paul Newman who had by then arrived with Hannah to take his place behind the timbers. Paul at least had had a very good excuse, nay reason, for being late as his interview with Adam Gilchrist had been delayed by the Aussie keeper insisting on extra batting practise beforehand. Fat lot of good it did him! Before Paul's arrival the one bright spot for the Chigs had been Dom tempting the other opener into an indiscretion with a wide ball that the skipper as temporary keeper had caught off a thin edge.
The scoring rate did slow down for a while but the damage had been done and a huge total of 281 was made in very good time. Dom bowled very well and took 3 wickets in all, Nick (2 wickets) and myself, liberated from keeping duties managed a degree of control for a while, but 281 in 46 overs was too many to give away.
We were short of batting really and the tail was lengthened by a concussed Owen having to drop down the order after bashing his head on the deck attempting a catch. I could write many more sentences that contain the word "Owen" and the word "drop", but that would be senselessly cruel. Tim Hall and Brad opened the batting and closed up shop simultaneously. There was never any prospect of Chigwell realistically attempting to scale the run mountain that lay before us, but we tried to play a few shots, and after the openers departed Paul and I shared a decent partnership, becoming so close that I even allowed him use of my helmet. This helped to stop him drifting too far towards leg when facing the fast bowler, but proved no help in preventing the useful off-spinner turning one through his gate and Newers innings ended on 24. Dom zonked a few before the fast bowler bowled him, then Nick arrived to share a long slow partnership with me that realised 52 almost incidental runs. A tiring skipper reached 52 before scooping one politely to not-at-all-deep mid-wicket and a mini collapse ensued, the wickets of Nigel, Ritchie and Charlie falling in rapid succession. Hannah looked technically excellent in blocking one end while Nick suddenly came to life and smacked the quick bowler for 2 delightful fours in the last over, which meant we finished only 103 short of the South Woodford total.
Jugs and banter flowed after the game and I made sure I sat close to the smokers to savour the benefits of passive smoking. Shame it had been preceded by passive cricket!