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August 2008

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.

August 14, 2008

Essex Sunday League - 3 Caps at Old Chigs

Sunday 3 August

With the clouds gathering over Old Chigs, I arrived for my first outing as captain in a league fixture in apprehensive mood, writes James Laycock.  On the one hand, I took heart from the fact that we were putting out a very strong Chigs side with plenty of batting and bowling and some solid fielders to back us up.  On the other hand, 3 Caps were challenging for the top spot in the league and we were, by contrast, challenging for the wooden spoon after a difficult first season. 

Winning the toss, and with the drizzle turning to heavier rain, I felt bowling would be the solid option.  Having learned from previous games where we have had a tendency to give away early runs, I decided to start with Russell and Nick in an effort to keep things as tight as possible.  Russell bowled well and was unlucky not to get any reward after finding the edges of the 3 Caps’ openers on a number of occasions.

With conditions continuing to favour slower bowling, I was keen for Nick to see out his overs. This was one of the easier decisions of the day, given the doctor had kept the 3 Caps batsmen in his pocket, ending his master class on guile and containment by conceding only 15 runs and picking up the wicket of the opener for good measure.

Joe was keeping on the pressure from the other end and was doing well in his opening spell, bagging the number three along the way.  As we approached the 20 over mark, 3 Caps were still scratching around the 100 run mark and it was felt that the game was very much ‘on’.  The fielding was sharp, and the policy of youth on the boundary and experience in the ring was paying off.  Having Imran back in the fold truly felt as if we had 12 men on the field and at times he mustered a passable impression of Walthamstow’s finest as he tore round the off-side boundary on numerous occasions to turn 4’s into 2’s.

As spin was clearly working, I brought on young Platt to do a job at one end with the king of the contacts at the other, on instructions to ‘give it a tweak’.  Dan extracted both turn and bounce out of the damp track, the batsmen poking and prodding their way to 33 runs off the allotted 8 and neither they, nor I, can tell you how Dan failed to put any bunnies back in the hutch.  With the Highbury panther back on the prowl, nobody felt safe and Tim duly sent back three of the middle order to complement the scalp of the other opener that was taken earlier in his first spell.

Things were going very well indeed but having intimate knowledge of what we are capable of doing to ourselves, I was becoming increasingly anxious as we approached the final 15 overs where I felt the game could either be won or lost.  3 Caps also seemed to sense this was a crucial period of play and steadily moved through the gears.  I turned to the Dominator to see how the 3 caps bats would fare against a bit of pace.  As with Russell’s opening spell of the day, the pitch still offered bounce and the ball continued to come through despite the inclement conditions. 34 runs came off Dom’s 6 overs and he was unlucky not to be more wholesomely rewarded.

The 40 over mark arrived with 3 Caps finishing on 234.  We had let them get away from us in the close but all told, it could have been a lot worse.

Tea was as expected, and the Chigs batsmen looked forward to making an impression on what was a difficult but attainable target.  However, to cut a long story short, the 3 Caps bowling was more than decent, with each change of bowling bringing in another accomplished young player.  With an air of inevitability, we unfortunately collapsed and it was again a matter of setting our sights on the batting points where we also fell short, finishing on 109. 

The standout performances of the day were those of Dan Platt, who complemented his impressive bowling with a well constructed 56 and Nick’s bowling, which was accurate and miserly.

August 04, 2008

Jerry’s Jurassic Coast Home

Jerry Hayes’s Jurassic Coasters recorded an exciting victory against a strong Chigwell side in the opening match of this year’s Lyme Regis tour.

There had been a number of mishaps in the arrangements for the day already and defeat at the hands of the Coasters completed the set (writes match skipper, Nick). Well, it was Friday 13th. First the eagerly anticipated gig featuring The Wilsons and Airport Contention at Jerry’s local hostelry, the Talbot Arms, was double booked with a teenage disco and then the original venue for the match, which is adjacent to the pub, became unavailable due to a strop by Bayleaf the Gardener - or whatever the Uplyme groundsman’s name is.  However, Axminster Cricket Club came to the rescue with an offer to host the match at their splendid ground, which nestles amongst gentle hills on the outskirts of the Devon town.

Si Thorpe and I caught a train from Waterloo at O’Christ.00 and were disembarking in Axminster by 11.00am.  Despite the gig being cancelled, Si had decided to come along for the ‘craic’. I swiftly recruited him to the team, as we were one short, which gave him an excuse to give his very smart golf shoes a run-out.   Others of us began to gather at the ground by about 12.30 and the Jurassic Coasters too gradually turned up. They were a couple short so some local lads, practicing in the nets, were quickly recruited.

Jerry had deputised the captaincy to his work colleague Mark and I went out to the wicket with him to toss up. We had pre-arranged that the touring side would bat, but went ahead with the toss to please the photographer.

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I had been led to expect that the Jurassics would be a little uneven in batting and bowling talent, so the swaggering Londoners were to dictate the pace of the game. This is indeed how it turned out – to begin with.

Rob Allum and Owen Evans opened the Chigwell innings. The idea was for us to very slowly build a prehistoric  sediment of our own, on which numbers three and four, dashing blade James Laycock and, err, me, would build at a quickfire pace later in the afternoon.  The first over was bowled by our old mucker Mark Jefferys. Owen was bizarrely off the mark in this first over.  That alone was bizarre enough, but the fact the he opened his account with a 5 was probably a first.  When Owen duly closed his account after being bowled by the useful skipper Mark, James was next in, being watched from the grandstand by his proud WAG, Cindy.  No doubt wanting to impress, the Wandering Fox nervously scratched around the Jurassic chicken-shed while Rob started to poach boundaries.  As both James and Rob upped the pace, Jon Hunn was brought on. It was good to see his action in action again, and the batsmen thought so too.  A wide was followed by a bouncer that Rob flat-batted to the long-off fence.  Three overs later the spell was finished, having produced 30 runs.

When Rob reached 50 he dutifully ran himself out as I had given orders that it was to be a ‘50 and out’ tour game. When James reached his 50, he too made every attempt to get himself out, banishing all defensive shots from his repertoire. In doing this, he suddenly began to time the ball brilliantly and didn’t manage to fall on his sword until he had amassed 39 more runs. Meanwhile, I was caught out by someone who appeared to be no more than 8 years old. However, Rob Orange, Dominick and Richard all gaily biffed away, and I was able to declare the innings closed at 4.20pm on 220-5, foolishly before the very excellent tea was quite ready. From snatches of overheard conversation, the Jurassics didn’t seem to be hopeful of victory, and I must admit to being quite confident that we were well and truly in control of the match.

When a director wants to disown the cut of his movie that the film studio releases, the pseudonym ‘Alan Smithee’ is always found in the credits. I can only assume that Nigel too was happy for history to attribute his spell of bowling to someone else.  The scorebook records a ‘Mr Bathwood’ opening the bowling for Chigwell when play resumed. 

Mr Davis was his partner and, with fields set in attacking style, the Jurassics were allowed to score freely for the first hour.  With more than 50 on the board and no wicket, I turned to Tom Wiskin and Rob Orange who both bowled tidily but without success. Now seriously worried, I turned to the big guns.  Regular opening pair Dominick and Rob Allum could do little to stem the flow of runs although wickets began to fall. Even Jerry managed a boundary from Rob’s bowling. I fared no better and quickly reinstated Dominick to the attack.  With three overs left in the match, the Jurassics needed 13 to win, with 5 wickets still in hand.  We weren’t going to win, but a draw looked vaguely possible.  When Rob had Jurassic’s opener caught, by now with a fine century to his credit, things began to get interesting. Or so we hoped. In the penultimate over, though, we gifted the Coasters a boundary at fine leg. That 8-year old again (who turned out actually to be 14). So with the final over to be bowled by Rob, 2 runs were all that was required. They were collected without fuss with four balls to spare.

So, one could say that we stage-managed a close match for the opening of a great tour, and that cricket was the winner... but I suppose Jerry might see it differently...!