Familiar Old Faces in the Newman XI Make It A Special Day (Newman International 29/6/08)
Speculation had reached fever pitch on the Chigwell mail group, with ever more wild and even metaphysical suggestions as to who would be the “Very Special Guest” in Paul’s team for the Newman International. Two years earlier Nasser Hussain had been coaxed out of retirement, but even he couldn’t prevent a Chigwell win, and with last year’s fixture cancelled I wondered how 2 years of networking might help Paul in getting a strong outfit together. So who could the VSG be? Another ex-international? Someone from Chigwell CC’s past? Only time would tell…
Paul and I both arrived at the ground at least twice, me having to return home to get my bat – doh!- and Paul disappearing to ferry people to the ground from the station. When I returned Brad told me “It’s Gus - Angus Fraser.” Thinking the mystery of the VSG solved. I can understand why; ex-international bowler, TMS commentator and ICC Cricket Committee panel member seemed like a very special guest indeed… until Paul arrived with Mr. Graham “Patto” Patterson, Chigwell legend, all the way from New Zealand, looking pretty much the same as ten or so years ago, when he was striking fear into the hearts of Garden CC’s opponents. I can remember one batsman at WG Gracefully’s home ground pleading for mercy, citing his children as the reason why Patto should avoid doing him serious injury… happy days. Once at Ray Park I set a field with not one person in front of the bat, and Patto still bowled a maiden. What makes him such a VSG however is that he’s simply a fantastic bloke. It was a great surprise to us all, but Tim Hall’s double-take reaction and joyous cry of “Patto!” summed up the pleasure we all took from seeing him again.
Paul had pulled together a very strong side, whereas Chigwell were looking a little below their optimal strength. With visions of Gus and Patto blowing our innings apart, not to mention Ricky Elcock as first change plus god knew who as second, I won the toss and practically screamed “We’ll field!” at Paul, who, having a degree of cricketing nous about him, was grateful to achieve his own desired outcome from the toss without having to go to the trouble of calling correctly.
Mr. A. Akram (a first XI player from Wanstead) batted at number 1, his partner M. Gymer a familiar face from the previous running of this fixture, it being he who had scored a patient 50, including a spell (albeit brief) of batting with Nasser during which he managed to avoid being run out, a rare honour. Dom was given the cherry, with which he was reasonably economical and occasionally threatening. It was however soon obvious that the Old Chigs pitch was playing to type – a feather bed, a shirt front, a batsman’s paradise. Frank was the first to suffer, his 4 overs going for 34. Rob replaced him and saw his first ball disappear for 6, young Mr. Gymer showing that, 2 years on, he had added strength to his excellent technique. 3 balls later Rob had his revenge when Dom took an excellent low slip catch that was in his hands before I had even realised there had been a snick. In strolled Patto who set about reminding his erstwhile team mates that he wasn’t just a great bowler, he was also more than useful with the bat. The Wanstead opener was meanwhile moving through the gears and between them the second wicket pair added 68 before Patto holed out to Dom in the deep; another great catch fully appreciated by me as captain and bowler. An even better catch in my next over saw the demise of A. Akram for 91 (out of a total of 139), and once again it was Dom in the deep who pouched the ball which seemed to stall in the wind, having at first looked like another maximum.
If 139 for three wasn’t a great position for Chigwell, things progressively got worse as the strong Newman middle order took command. D. Wilson scored 56, G. Marcus, hopefully a future Chigwell player, finishing on 58 not out. Only Nick was able to cause any problems, taking 3 wickets (one bowled, one LBW and one excellently stumped by Adam) for 63 in 11 overs. Brad never quite got line and length together and went for 42 in 5 overs and Zarghum was spanked for 21 in 2.2 overs before the declaration came, with the score on 302 for 6 from 42.2 overs. As we neared the end I ventured that this could be the most one sided match since Australia played the under 12 paraplegic XI, which wasn’t in the best of taste, but reflected my rather pessimistic prospects of Chigwell getting anything out of the game.
During tea I cheered up a little as Rob, far from being cowed, relished the chance to see what he could do against the potentially fearsome Newman attack. He was paired with Adam to start our batting effort and immediately they were confronted by a Fraser/Patterson opening attack. Both may have lost a yard or two of pace over the years, but it was still awe inspiring to see Rob spank them both around the park.
It seemed too good to last, and eventually Rob fell to Rick Elcock, Patto making the extra-cover catch look easy. By this time Rob had reach 54 and had every reason to be jolly chuffed with his knock. Inevitably the run rate declined from this point and the very faint possibility of a win become a rock solid impossibility. Nick scored 11 before playing over a straight one. Dom joined Adam at the crease and I assumed umpiring duties. It was an interesting umpiring spell to say the least. The first shout was for a run out, which I gave not out, Adam just making his ground. Paul later agreed with me, but it seemed to inspire Gus Fraser to assume the role of comedic sledger, with me rather than the batsmen as the primary target. Next up a massive appeal for a ball that clearly hit Dom’s pad. More rye comments from slip. Then an LBW going down the leg side, whereupon it was suggested that a fully sighted umpire might improve Newman XI’s chances of winning. I wasn’t the only one to suffer: following 4 byes off his bowling a ball was hit gently to Hannah at square leg whereupon Gus applauded her and said “Well done Hannah – at least there’s one Newman here who can get behind the ball!”
I was relieved when the drinks break arrived and I was able to prematurely pass the white coat on to Owen. Almost immediately wickets began to tumble. Adam was caught behind for 23 off the left arm spin of Mr. Marcuis; Richard played across a straight one and departed for 4, a score matched by Nigel who was caught, both off the bowling of A.Akram. I was now at the crease and as I was about to face my first ball Gus chirped up “Shouldn’t take long to get this one lads – he can’t see!”
In the end Brad and I managed to stonewall for 8 or 9 overs. Angus declared that there was more life in W.G. Grace than in Brad’s bat. It was a nice retort when Brad called a single saying “There’s one there – there’s always one to Gus”. The game petered out to a draw and as we left the field I told Gus that it had been a pleasure to be sledged by him – which indeed it was.
Angus Fraser finished with none for 24 off 8, Patto with none for 26 off 5. Chigwell managed 181 off the same number of overs that the Newman XI had scored their 302, but we had earned an honourable draw nonetheless.
While most of Paul’s team slipped away we enjoyed a few beers and reminiscences with Patto; what a delight it was to see him again. Good on Paul for raising with him the possibility of a surprise visit to Old Chigs when he was on tour with England in New Zealand.
Paul mentioned that in the whole history of the Newman International fixture he had never won, and that he had considered retiring from playing the game if he had emerged victorious from this one. That made me doubly glad we had avoided defeat. The day wasn’t really about the result though it was about sharing the field with some great ex-pros and spending some time with our great friend Graham “Patto” Patterson.