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August 21, 2008

Chigwell Cough & Splutter to a Draw Against Hainault & Clayhall

Blessed by weather which was far better than the forecasts had suggested Chigwell revved up for their final league game with a friendly fixture which we have often won in the past and optimism was high enough for the skipper to consider batting first. The toss was lost however and I could rest easy that batting first, as we were required to do, was not my fault.

A top three of Rob A, Adam & Charlie is unlikely to get the pulses racing and we settled in for a bit of a grind. Adam, fresh from the David Lloyd Jacuzzi smacked his second ball for four, then called a sharp single and looked as if he was in uncharacteristically aggressive form. This proved to be short lived when he was run out when Rob called a very tight run which resulted in a surprising run out, the perpetrator in baggy grey tracksuit bottoms hitting one stump from 20 yards despite looking like someone who had been recruited from the gym half an hour before the game.

Charlie joined Rob and the expected slow pace was now realised. After an hour and a quarter's play the score was on about 60 for 1 and as I left my umpiring position for a well earned rest on the boundary I mentioned to Charlie that it was time to kick on. Chas flicked a mental switch and went ballistic. In one over he smacked four fours, his best shot a sublime off drive along the ground for four. Unfortunately he fell one short of a deserved half-century, leaving the field cursing the decision, his dignity and sportsmanship not yet the equal of his batting.

James had been promoted to number four, and hit some good (and some not so good) shots in his 35. He eventually top-edged one to point and had to go. Rob A was dismissed for 39, caught by Master Trackie Bottoms off a full-blooded pull to the square-leg boundary. The ball initially bounced out of his hands, but was coolly pouched on the rebound. Tahir and Nigel went cheaply, as did I, bowled through an enormous gate. Angela, not sure if I was bowled or stumped, said "What was that?" as I neared the boundary, a question echoed by Rob A for different reasons.

We were well short of a competitive total with 3 wickets remaining. It was looking as if we would have to bat for at least 3 hours, but one amazing over brought us back towards a reasonable rate. Nick had already begun to look in the mood when suddenly he launched a straight ball over the head of the man at mid-off for a maximum! It was the first six I can remember him hitting since his golden period in the early 90's and the Chigwell faithful roared their approval. He ran a single and then it was Brad's turn to wallop the ball, his rather more agricultural shot clearing the fielder at "cow" and registering his second ever six! The first was at Low Hall Farm in 1989. This feat was greeted by a strange mixture of cheers and stunned silence. Brad perished trying to repeat the feat - caught by the lad in trackie bottoms - and after a few more added by Nick and Owen the time was right to declare, the score a barely passable 193.

After the interval Chigwell did not perform well in the field. Frank and I opened the bowling but although we were not being taken for many runs by the cautious batsmen we never looked particularly threatening and after 5 overs apiece we turned to Nick and Charlie. After six more overs nothing much had changed, so I turned to the relationship breaker. Brad is cursed this year as the bowler who has had most catches dropped off his bowling; this day was no exception as Chigwell contrived to drop at least four chances. By now things were beginning to look grim, so I tried the pace option of Adam and Rob. Adam had an immediate effect, but not the one we really wanted, the H&C skipper top edging one into his cheek. Dr. T led him from the field, recommending ice and a dressing as Mr. Shinn took his place. A wicket finally fell in the27th over, Adam hitting the pad of the surviving opener in front. It took another 7 overs for the next wicket to come, that to a run out well executed by Tahir. By now the pace of Rob and Adam had pushed the asking rate up, and wickets began to fall – Adam bowled Mr. Hoskins and Rob ran out Mr. Sharif. Glory be, we even took a catch when Mr. Shinn, forced to up the scoring rate, flayed one to extra-cover where I was patrolling.

We arrived at the last over with a draw seemingly secured. Adam bowled the last over knowing that they needed 20 to win, while we needed 4 wickets. It was not Adam’s best over. First ball was a wide no ball which scooted to the boundary. After a dot the third ball was a wide. Then he accidentally let slip a horrible beamer (called no ball) which Mr. Trackie Bottoms pulled off his face for 6. With one ball to go 3 were required. The ball was hit to Frank at deep mid off who to his credit returned the ball well enough to prevent a third run and the game ended as a scores level draw – phew!

It was quite dark by the end and in retrospect it would have been sensible and sportsman-like for me not to have fast bowlers on, especially from the end with no sight screen. A black mark to the skipper there – I hope the opposition won’t hold it against me.

Man of the match: Unusually it goes to one of the opposition, M. Bullman. 2 superb catches, a dazzling run out and a spirited last over that nearly won his team the game – all done in tracksuit bottoms.

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