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June 14, 2007

CX n.o. for FCC (Woodford Green 10/6/07)

Woodford Green at home (of course) on 10th June 2007. A fixture that will live long in the memory of the most excellent Mr John Clifford, for it was this game where he scored his first ever century; a magnificent innings of timing and subtle touches on his favourite old Chigwellians pitch.

Alan of Woodford Green surprised me when, on winning the toss on a warm summer's afternoon, he chose to field first. I was relieved not to have to face the irritation of the Chigwell troops, but aware that this reflected a lack of confidence on the part of Alan. Next step was to decide on a batting order, the side replete with talented willow-wielders. After much consideration I gave the openers' slots to Rob A and John. Rob had performed well on difficult pitches and deserved a crack at an innings on the Old Chigs shirt-front; John had had no luck so far this season, but has been batting well and similarly deserved his opportunity. Of course I could have made a case for Alex, Harvey, James, Oli or Nick too, but that's captaincy for you.

I was not disappointed with my choice. Rob and John settled in, then tucked in to the bowling. The odd ball bounced a bit early on, but with this storm weathered, and a very difficult chance off John to backward square survived, progress become smooth. A century stand was achieved by the 24th over, and half-centuries were soon posted by each partner, Rob winning the race by an over or so. On 57 Rob fell to a juggled catch at square-leg having picked out the fielder with a well hit pull. 129 for the first wicket was an encouraging start!

Harvey entered the dance-floor and looked pretty good, especially his straight six, a beauty into the car park. While he was whistling his way to 37 in 27 balls, John was retaining his composure and continuing to accumulate quality runs. The 55 run stand for the second wicket ended with Harvey sending another attempted heave high into the air, to be taken by the keeper. Alex took the bull by the horns and continued the assault, scoring 10 off 5 balls before hitting one in the air to mid-off, the third wicket falling on 200.

As Oli joined John in the combat zone, all thoughts on the boundary turned to the possibility of a ton for John. It seemed likely as the now mud-streaked opener (he had dived to avoid a run out a little earlier) was showing no signs of fatigue, and seeing the ball like an over-inflated fluorescent football.

As the moment neared the comrades around the scorebook prepared to acclaim their hero, but John, apparently, was unaware of how close he was. When he pushed the single that took him to three figures he had to ask Rob, the bowler's end umpire why we were all cheering.
"That's it mate - that's your ton!" exclaimed Rob.

John sank to the ground at first. We thought he might kiss the Old Chigs turf, but after holding his arms and bat aloft he rose and leapt on Rob clinging koala-like to the BGC for what seemed like minutes. What I didn't realise at the time was that this was not just his first century for Chigwell, but his first century for anybody! Hard to believe, given his talent, but there you are: a life ambition achieved, and in such style.

The innings closed on 253 for 3, Oli hitting 24 in no time, including 5 boundaries. A powerful batting display from the team, with plenty in the tank, lets keep it up for the rest of the season! It was certainly a long way from the nadir of our batting performance at Broxbourne!

The quality of the tea at Old Chigs seems to have improved a little too, thankfully. The teams took their time over eating it and the benefit of a slightly early declaration was squandered.
Ultimately the second innings was an anti-climax, with Chigwell unable to extract 10 wickets from the Old Chigs feather-bed. Tim Hall opened the bowling, with me at the other end. We tried to keep Woodford Green interested, but they never really got near the rate. Brad and Nick bowled well, Brad taking a wicket thanks to another stupendous catch at slip by Rob, Nick taking 3 after an early struggle to find his length. In all 5 wickets fell and the game petered out.

But what did that matter as we sat supping from the jugs of John and Rob, watching the sun set over the Buckhurst Hill horizon? John had achieved his ambition, and now he revealed his next; for Chigwell to appear in the village cup final at Lords! Might need a bit of work that one...

Man of the Match.... Rob Allum for his unstinting support of John during his celebrations. Oh, all right then - John, obviously, 110 not out!

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