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July 12, 2007

Hadley Wood Grin - Then Groan (10/7/2007)

T'was a happy band of Chigsters who arrived in sunshine at the Hadley Wood Cricketing Arena. Everyone was on time and all were eager to make up for the loss of our previous two fixtures to the June Monsoons.

I won the toss and reverted to type - bowl first. HWG are notoriously difficult to bowl out, so I considered our best chance of winning was to chase a score, not wickets. Considering the weather of the previous 3 weeks the pitch looked pretty good too.

Mike Davey and Jim Wallace opened the batting with Zarghum and Adam Peters having first go with the ball. Both bowled well, with Adam in particular finding a degree of swing and the edge of the bat several times. Jim seemed to be living a charmed life as the ball whistled through the slip/gulley area on several occasions, but never to a fielder. The HWG openers scored at a reasonable rate, a run a minute for the first hour, until eventually Mike's wicket fell, bowled by a corker from Richard "scar face" Hannan in the middle of a decent spell.

Jim, having ridden his luck, made the most of his opportunity and took his score beyond 50. Mike De Villiers, aka (to us) Cruella, batted steadily but never quite got going. Pete claimed his wicket in the end, Nigel pouching the first of two catches which helped to make up for his earlier drop. There followed a productive spell for Chigwell as wickets fell and runs were scored slowly. Brad had Jim caught at gully for 70, while Dan, HWG skipper went for a duck, unable to cope with the drift and turn of his Chigwell counterpart. I finished with 3 for 19 from 9 overs, which was flattering, but I'll take it! The tonk was on for the last few overs; HWG clearly had a target of 200 in mind and declared on that score. Some Chigwellians thought the innings had gone on an over or two too long, but subsequent events made Dan's decision seem justified.

The usual fine tea was scoffed, and we contemplated scoring 201 in about 40 overs.
"Five an over, we can do that..." was the vibe of the eager Chigwell leather-beaters. Before long however victory seemed extremely unlikely; John departed to the first ball of the innings, Mr. Turner doing his stuff as usual. Rob A followed, out to an ugly swipe across the line. A short innings for the BCG, and I'd not asked him to bowl either, so an unusually quiet game for him. Nigel followed for a duck and the score was 14 for 3. We'd been here before! The fourth wicket pair was Adam and James, a lot rested on their shoulders. They bore the weight superbly and gradually but unmistakably the balance of power began to shift. Both posted half centuries in a stand of 108, it taking a marvellous piece of fielding by MDV to end the partnership, Adam run out for 60. 122 for 4 became 122 for 5 when Pete joined John and Nigel in the duck pond.

The run rate was still at 5 an over thanks to Adam and James, and as I joined James we felt positive about our chances. To my relief I found that the ball seemed to be finding the middle of the bat, and that the bowling offered sufficient opportunity to score at the required rate. Dave Turner returned and I did find that he was reasonably quick, and could indeed move the ball, one or two jaffas seaming away from my groping edge. James mixed prudence with bludgeonry, while we both survived the odd chance that, if taken, might have exposed our tail, although I think we had enough talent in that tail to finish the job.

So it came to pass that we needed 3 more runs to win from 3 overs and one ball. I saw that one ball out with a strange nothingy shot, but as the field changed the thought occurred to me for the first time that James might be within reach of his century. He struck the first ball of the antepenultimate over through wide mid-off; we ran hard, wanting to finish the game on that delivery. We thought the excited shouts from the boundary were solely in anticipation of our excellent victory, but no! They were also in celebration of James registering his 3rd Century for the club - 101 not out; a really fine innings, and a matching winning effort. I scored 33 in our unbroken stand of 79 for the sixth wicket, captain and vice-captain bringing home the bacon.

So the mood was jolly as we exposed our pants to the Hadley Wood air, changing back into our civvies on the outfield. Nobody could quite be bothered to shower at the tennis club where we go for drinks after the match, so we were home, but not hosed on this occasion. Hadley Wood were gracious hosts as always. A pleasant bottle of beer or two were quaffed, many as part of James "jug", which must have been expensive. I only hope being awarded man of the match for his dazzling ton helps compensate him.

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