Axminster Carpeted by Chigwell (Tour 15/6/2008)
Having set off early from Lyme Regis with the intention of having a walk around "quaint and charming Axminster" before the game Mitz and I arrived at the ground well in advance of the 2pm start, and well in advance of the remainder of the Chigs bleary eyed mob. Our 5 minute wander around the town seemed to take in all the delights of Axminster that our hung over brains could handle so we despatched ourselves early to the picturesque ground. On arrival we collapsed on a grassy bank overlooking the first team pitch to watch Axminster under 13's finish off their game against some local rivals. Tim and I agreed that the standard of cricket for these youngsters was high enough and shuddered to think what their senior club mates might have in store for us. We were soon to find out as three likely looking members of our oppo came into view on their walk around the boundary. They certainly looked fresher than the majority of the Chigwell line up, which wasn't difficult considering 2 games in 2 days in addition to a months alcohol consumption in 2 nights, but other than that I was confident we could raise ourselves for a competitive game.
As the junior game came to a victorious end for the home side, we rolled down the grassy bank into the club house and I introduced myself to the opposition skipper. We decided to get the formalities out of the way and after winning the toss I decided that we would have a bowl, for no other reason than I thought it might allow us to blow away some of the booze induced cob webs and get us into a match mentality as soon as possible. Their skipper informed me that "they were a mixture of 1's and 2's regulars supplemented with 4 or 5 youngsters" I duly passed this information onto the now assembled Chigwell ranks and the lethargy etched across their faces was enough to tell me this could be a difficult task. Nevertheless we took the field and I opened the bowling with Rob Allum coming from the pavilion end. Before the game had started I had discussed the right hand cover boundary with their skipper, he ensured me that the rope would be moved back to allow a more accommodating out field to an already cosy ground, nevertheless this hadn't happened and the ease with which Rob's and my first overs were despatched to said boundary indicated that this could be a high scoring game. The Axminster openers were pretty relentless in their aggressive start helped along with some ordinary and tired bowling from myself and Rob, and afore mentioned short boundary. A couple of forced fielding changes helped shore things up a bit but Axminster had notched up 58 off 10 overs before the first wicket fell to me; a ball which held its line to sneak between the openers bat and pad to rattle middle and off.
"Basher" the remaining opener, was joined at the crease by "Burly" and the run fest seemed destined to continue, but Rob had other ideas and had the number 3 caught behind after he nibbled at one outside off, James completing the catch behind the stumps. Wary of more first and second team regulars to come I decided to bowl Rob and myself through our 8 over allotted spells in an attempt to try and keep things as tight as possible. As it materialised their number 4 batsman was one of the youngsters and after some brave, swash buckling stuff he was bowled by Rob to finish off his spell with a deserved 2 wickets. Mitz replaced me and Nick, with a tentative glance at the short boundaries as well as at the free flowing "Basher" still at the crease, reluctantly took over from his younger sibling. The reassurance I tried to offer Nick about potentially being carted wasn't necessary as he and Mitz both bowled very tight spells to keep the run rate well within check. Nick gathered 4 wickets in his 8 overs, the best of which was "Basher" caught behind to a neat low catch by James. After Mitz's spell of 4 overs I replaced him with Wiskin Jr, who in the previous 2 tour matches had bowled well exhibiting prodigious swing reminiscent of Wiskin Sr in the good old days. Despite bowling well in the Friday and Saturday games, Tom hadn't had much return but I thought if he could keep the same shape in this game on a small ground he might get his reward. Sure enough his reward came in historic fashion as his victim, confused and frustrated by the swing he was creating, lashed at a full length ball only to sky it towards mid on. Wiskin senior was on guard and the usual wobbles under the high ball were banished as Graeme took an extra wide and sturdy stance to steady himself, being sure not to ruin the possibility of a proud family moment. One can only be grateful that Linda hadn't arrived at the ground yet, or if she had, at least wasn't watching this magical moment unfold on the field as her unbridled excitement would surely have resulted in Graeme shelling the opportunity. Graeme pouched the red nugget without hesitation and an enthusiastic celebration was enjoyed by all; Bowled Wiskin Caught Wiskin, Bowled Veal Caught Beef, Bowled Go-Cat Caught Whiskas however you want to put it, the moment is part of Chigwell history. The Axminster innings was mopped up with another wicket for Tom and the final wicket going to Brad who had replaced Nick. From a fast and furious start Axminster had been bowled out for 147 within their allotted 40 overs.
With a surprisingly small target to chase and after a hearty tea was gratefully consumed, I tore up my original batting order and considered the opportunity to bat those who wouldn't normally spend too much time in the middle; accordingly Tim was joined by Brad for the opening partnership. Unfortunately Tim was soon trotting back into the clubhouse after delaying over a debatable second run in the first over, despite his nimble sprint to make up the ground he couldn't quite do it and without even breaking stride to check for the umpires decision, he knew his fate and accelerated straight over the boundary and in for an early shower. Nige strode out to the middle to replace him and doggedly hung around with Brad for another six overs, unfortunately for him without accruing a score before being skittled. Graham was next to the crease and Brad warmly accepted his next victim, er I mean partner. Despite some tutelage on clear and concise calling from Graham, Brad was guilty of ball watching on the few occasions that the ball left the square, late and confused calling ensued and a few near misses from scrambled singles were agonisingly witnessed at the boundary. Inevitably, as Graham was trying to push the run rate on, another tight single was attempted and he met his end. James was in next and I was sure that he would provide the boost to the run rate that was needed, this didn't materialise and James fell cheaply. Rob A joined Brad in the middle at a time when the score wasn't so much of a concern, however the dwindling number of wickets and overs was. Rob and Brad continued to scratch around with the odd single coming here and there but no real inroads were being made. Eventually Brad's valiant resolve came to an end as he was bowled for 30. Contributing to his score were some proper cricket shots and he did a great job; I think if one of our recognised batsmen had stuck around with him for a bit longer he could have indeed gone on and surpassed his personal best of 38. Nevertheless, well done Brad! Rob O joined Rob A with some 60-70 runs still required off around 12 overs, we were making heavy work of chasing the low total! Rob Allum admittedly batting out of position was experiencing whatever the opposite of vertigo is batting so low down the order, the dizzying effect obviously contributing to his downfall as another connoisseur of the willow fell without reaching double figures. I joined Rob O in the middle hoping to provide the steroid injection that our innings needed. Up until now we had batted poorly but in doing so hadn't really threatened our chances of a win so I was still upbeat that the victory could be secured especially with 3 wickets still in the hutch. Rob and I started steadily building towards the required 5/6 per over required to get us over the line, Rob constantly assuring me that if we stuck it out we'd be ok. Things were on target and I was trying to apply myself as per Rob's advice. With about 6 overs to go "Basher", the Axminster half centurion hero, was tossed the ball by their skipper to try and wrestle the initiative back into their favour. If his bowling was as explosive as his batting then we could have been in trouble, fortunately "Basher" became the "Bashed" as he bowled right in the preferred slot of Rob O; short and wide down leg side. Rob duly obliged and turned the first 2 balls of the over down to fine leg for four. "Basher", slightly peeved at Rob's treatment of his leg spin, decided to try a new approach for the third ball of the over; no run up. This brought immediate results as Robs off stump was pinged from the ground, fortunately for us Rob was still staring at the crease so the ball was adjudged void. Basher continued with the no run up approach, but this time Rob was on duty and normal service was resumed; the 3rd, 4th & 5th balls of the over were guided down to the fine leg boundary for 4, the only the respite to save Bashers Blushes was a dot ball on the last of his over. Consequently Rob had scythed our required total in 5 balls leaving me to edge one for 4 and VICTORY!
Always good to have a win to finish off the tour and what a great tour it was. I thought the opposition teams were really friendly and hospitable and I hope the talk of re-visiting next year comes to fruition.