Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud (South Loughton 13/4/2008)
"Oh boy!" we thought as the morning showers made way for a brightish start to the season opener. South Loughton won the toss and wisely decided to bat first, the odds being that the game might not go the distance. The openers hung around for quite a while, but scored at a modest pace, the slow pitch and outfield seemingly not conducive to an aggressive approach.
Although it had started bright enough one of the heavy showers promised soon arrived, and the teams left the field as heavy hail began to sting their faces. No one seemed keen to call the match off, so shortly after the rain stopped the still intact opening pair took to the field, followed by the umpires clutching a decidedly small looking bag of sawdust.
Brad and Nick bowled extremely well in their spells which spanned the hail-break. Nick bowled through his eight overs for a mere 15 runs, and saw his brother drop a tricky running chance into the bargain [It was a dolly - Ed.]. Brad went for just ten in his first five overs and took a wicket, our first of the season when Mr. Farthing misjudged a full toss, skying it to Nigel, whose safe hands held a fine catch, which was the icing on the cake of his dedicated fielding.
Brad's sixth over cost as many as his previous five, and it was clear that having preserved wickets in hand South Loughton were now poised to attack. I continued the wicket taking trend in inducing a top edge from a full toss, James holding on well at square leg.
The South African middle order, and in particular Mr. Obendaal drove the score upwards. He hit five 6's and no 4's, which showed how hard it was to score with ground shots, the wetness compounded by the lush outfield, mysteriously longer than the grass beyond the boundary.
Frank eventually dismissed the doughty Mr. Henman for 56 with, yes, a full toss - this one dipping just enough to clip the top of leg stump as Frank stifled an apology. In the last over I broke the trend by bowling the number 5 with one that pitched! The innings finished on 184, a fine total given the conditions.
Tea was well timed as the heavens re-opened and it looked extremely unlikely that play would resume. Sadly for Chigwell's dignity the sky became less grey, while the pitch was becoming Les Gray, plus all the other members of Mud.
We batted poorly, for sure, but the conditions were ludicrous. The area around the crease was awash, and foot movement, usually such a vital component of a batsman's skill, became unwise, it serving only to cause skidding and destabilisation. We probably needed tiger feet rather than spikes to bat properly on that.
Suffice to say we were all out for 63, extras top scoring with 17, me next with 16.
Was it worth it? Just about in that it was good practice in the field, and great to see some of the non-netting faces again.
So; onward and upward to league cricket. We will need a lot of strength and honour for that!