2015 Match reports
Fen Ditton II Vs Willingham II
Saturday 4th June
Fen Ditton II Vs Willingham II
After the annual, cold and wet End of May Bank Holiday half term week, we welcomed Willingham to the Rec. Our Prodigal Son, Giles, was back and, as (unlike Wilburton) we didn’t have a Fatted Calf to hand to kill in widespread celebration of this fact, instead we immediately and unanimously elected him Captain. MVS (Mostly Vanishing Skipper) was away yet again (I’m not sure where but will check the Continental Society Marriages Announcements in The London Times later for you), but Gilo’s return alone meant that, on paper, we were a stronger batting line-up. Gav was back too, both to bat and open the bowling, so we were a couple of steps closer to what we would probably/laughably call ‘full strength’ (apologies to those who stepped down). George Colwell (who had added an ‘l’ by deed poll to his surname in the 7 days since last week’s report…sorry George/Paul!) was enslaved by his GCSE revision as expected so we also welcomed Amelia Edwards, not just for her debut but as the first ever woman in a competitive, senior match for Ditton CC.
So much for Ditton: what of Willingham? Well, our opponent’s village Wikipedia entry proudly announces that it is 23 feet above sea level at its highest point. ‘Interesting’ altitude facts aside, the village’s historical highpoints include that there was, apparently, a male witch living there in the 1920s, easily identifiable as a witch as he kept mice (NB, a gag about ‘a load of worlocks’ has been deleted here). Apparently, a German spy also then parachuted in there in 1940: it’s not clear what he was hoping to find other than a rodent-owning wizard with no head for heights to assist the Fuhrer’s war effort. Presumably he then decided to make the most of his ‘Willingham Highlight of the 20th Century’ celebrity status as he promptly turned a double agent and stayed. However, there’s no mention of the cricket team in all this so, based solely on this research, it seemed fair to assume they wouldn’t be a match for the ‘sporting hotbed’, ’talent factory’ that is Fen Ditton. In fact, all we knew was that today’s opponents were on a losing (actually it turned out, mainly a ‘not even turning up because we couldn’t raise a team’) streak. As we were brimming with confidence after last week’s (unexpectedly easy) win, the general feeling was that surely we couldn’t muck this up, could we? Even Giles noted that Willingham ‘Didn’t sound confident’ as we chatted to them.
But wait, Dear Reader!
You’ll recall Mani decided to close proceedings last week with a celebratory team photo and that, as a result, I mentioned Hubris would be lying in wait. The forecast suggested warm sunshine later so, under the grey skies of 1.30pm, Giles won the toss and we asked Willingham to bat on a damp, low bounce wicket. ‘The Bowling Plan’ (yes, we don’t make this up as we go along you know!) was to bowl our regulars until we had them 5 or 6 down for not a lot and then give others a go. Gav duly opened from the Pavilion end, with Mick from the Playground end. Sadly, Mick was a bit off colour today, his first 4 overs going for 17, but Fowler managed to run one opener out with a direct throw, he then replaced Mick and got the other opener with his second ball (plumb LBW although the batsman assured everyone it was missing leg) and we were on our way. Indeed, in the next 3 overs another couple of wickets fell (one to Gav and another to a direct throw run out, this one by the recovering Mick) and so, at 32 for 4 after 11 overs, we all probably felt ‘The Bowling Plan’ was working.
Now, as a bowler you just know immediately when a batsman has dropped down from another ‘level’. He looks at ease, even your ‘OK’ balls are despatched and you begin to mentally ask the Good Lord for a little luck as you feel there is nowhere you can put the ball to stop him scoring. Today, that was the feeling engendered by Mr Tom Cowley. He had, in fact, come in at number 3 but given the way the strike and wickets had fallen, it felt to your correspondent as if he’d suddenly appeared at an unlikely number 6. Whatever, he greeted Fowler’s third over with two rather handsome square cuts for 4 through the offside…and sadly he didn’t stop there. 5 of his first 6 scoring shots were 4s and, at drinks, Willingham were 72 for 4, with almost all of the intervening 40 runs having gone to Mr Cowley, who didn’t offer a single chance in the best part of 30 overs of batting. Perhaps we were too unimaginative because, as the innings developed, we did try to defend against him and attack the other bat? One of us said we should have rotated the bowling a bit more – which was a fair point and was actually what we’d wanted to do. However, it might also have simply exposed our occasional bowlers to a confidence-sapping ‘Cowley-ing’. And anyway, for a time, we took wickets at the other end and Mr Cowley’s partners didn’t really score. They were 6 down for just 97 after 26 overs and, from there, you’d expect to wrap the innings up, hopefully with overs to spare, and look to chase down c130.
However, that’s not what happened. Mr Cowley was joined by a Mr Haynes. I hope he won’t mind me saying but whilst Mr Haynes is perfectly nice fellow, he probably isn’t a regular high-scoring batsman – indeed, with spectacles and a wispy beard he’d make a decent living as a kindly Trotsky impersonator, should you need your party enlivening with a little good humoured, left-wing, political rabble rousing. However, today he batted well, even if he modestly admitted that he rode his luck a little. And it was now that the game slipped away from us. We conceded 70+ runs in the 27-37 over section and, by the time these two holed out, Mr Haynes had hit 38, Mr Cowley a more impressive 81 and we were chasing 180-plus. Gav ended with 4 for 30 odd and at one point was on a hat-trick: he and Giles had averaged only 3 and a bit an over. Ed had probably kept his best 40 overs of the season but, otherwise, it all felt a bit flat.
No matter! Our Week 1 talisman Gilo was back to open the batting with last week’s hero, ‘Boom, Boom’ Sameer! Giles had been away so, in the dressing room, Fowler quietly brought him up to speed. ‘Sameer likes to play his shots’, ‘Beyond our top 5, the batting is unproven’ but, ‘If our top order bat long and assuming Willingham don’t have that many good bowlers, we’ll be fine’. It is his stock, dour, Yorkshire line, of course – he’d probably offer this advice to Chris Gayle at the start of a 20-over IPL, Big Bash - but Fowler also said to Giles ‘Try to hang around: don’t do anything daft! If you are there after 30 overs, we should win’. With that, out Giles went. Enter, once again, Mr Cowley. He opened their bowling from the pavilion end to Giles. Giles would later offer the opinions that he’d ‘Played a great shot’ and that ‘The ball was there to be hit’. The fact was that he drove his very first ball to mid-off who caught it, albeit as he was falling backwards – it was hardly ‘hanging around’! Sadly, it was the first of 3 or 4 rather good catches that Willingham held but the difference between the sides wasn’t the catching, it was Mr Cowley. Getting prodigious swing away from our right handed batsmen and generating no little pace, he bowled 10 unchanged overs, 7 of which were maidens (mainly to Fowler who either watched the ball go by or occasionally groped for it), taking 2 wickets (including a blinding caught and bowled to get rid of Sameer), all for just 6 runs. After 8 overs, the cream of our batting (Giles, Sameer and Mick – the latter had hammered one to short midwicket where, sadly, it had stuck) had returned to the pavilion and we had just 15 on the board. This left Fowler and Gav out there and, caringly protective of the remaining batting line-up (as you’d expect of a Grandfather-to-Be and one who works for the NHS) and mindful that there was still a long way to go in terms of overs, they elected to first see off Mr Cowley and then discover what lay beyond, in the world of Willingham’s change bowlers. So it was we reached just 39 for 3 at drinks, leaving the small matter of 144 to get from the last 20.
Happily, Mr Cowley apart the Willingham bowling was, like their team, all rather friendly. Giles (now umpiring) ruefully told the non-striker Fowler he wished he could be out there batting (which Fowler couldn’t help thinking had been The Batting Plan!) Through the time-honoured process of only going after the bad balls, 60 or so were added in the next 10 overs and the 100 came up: there were plenty of bad balls to hit even if neither Gav or Fowler could really claim to hit them regularly and certainly not as far as the boundary (AB would not have approved), hence the required rate crept up to 8 from each of the last 10 overs. Gav would later say that he was, for a time, hopeful of glory but, in the 32nd over with the total on 109, he thrashed over the top of a straight one from Mr Haynes. It isn’t easy to describe Mr Haynes’ bowling action. In part, it’s as if an octopus were trapped in a blender. Or, if you prefer, in the delivery stride he resembles a multi-sailed windmill in a hurricane, the sort you might imagine finding on a 1930s Soviet collective farm and of which Comrade Leon therefore might once have been proud. Whatever, that was the breakthrough wicket and Gav was gone for a gallant 45. Fowler followed a couple of overs later, nicely caught one-handed at the wicket for 46, and thereafter our unproven batting was exposed. We added just another 22 in the final 8 overs and were bowled out for 131. Three fledgling 2nd XI batting records (highest innings total - 131, highest partnership - 94, highest individual score - 46) had been broken but it had all been in a losing cause. So on this day there was a distance between the teams, one that could be measured at about 5 foot 9. It went by the name of Tom Cowley.
Nil desperandum! If we leave aside his videoing of our batting whilst he was supposed to be umpiring (In heaven’s name, why? Still, if anyone wants footage of Fowler wafting airily at some ordinary bowling and then running, despite not knowing where on earth the ball had just gone, contact Mr Natarjan!), this week Mani took no team photo. Thus Hubris should not have been angered and the Gods may smile on us in a fortnight when we all gather again to play another of our overseas fixtures, this time in Essex at Newport.