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Saturday 13th August

Fen Ditton II Vs St Ives Town IV

Fen Ditton beat St Ives Town IV by 2 Runs

SCORECARD

We Can Bat, Bowl and Field!

Apparently the Ditton podcast’s avid listener lives in Brisbane. Now, whilst this may tell you something of the lack of cultural stimulation in SE Queensland during their winter months, it has prompted thoughts of a pre-season Australian ‘Friendly’ tour by Ditton. So, in honour of them and in the hope of meeting them soon, I’ll start with a ‘Pom Bashing’ quote.

It was said of the England team at the start of the 1986 Ashes tour that they were a fine XI (after all, their middle order was Gower, Gatting, Lamb and Botham) lacking in only 3 respects: they couldn’t bowl, they couldn’t bat and they couldn’t field. Well, 3 weeks ago (when this correspondent last played), should our Brisbane friend have taken the Quantas flight back to the Mother Country, their realistic, ‘postcard home’ assessment could have said the same of us - ‘No worries Mates: the Poms can’t bat, bowl or field’. However, during August our form has improved out of all recognition. (Some might also say, so has the quality of the match reporting. A common, causal thread there I fear.)

Judging by the (excellent) reports, our much improved form owes quite a lot to our discovery of a new, young, rising star with the bat. Surprisingly mature in his approach (and appearance) for his tender age, Andrew Hayward – or ‘H’ as he prefers to be called (it is the arrogance of your modern youth to turn up with a ready-made nick-name on his shirt) - is a left hander of some promise who, assuming he stays fit, could potentially have a long future with FD ahead of him and is already due to get his chance with the Firsts next week. He’s racked up c200 runs in his first 3 innings for us and the reassurance of knowing he is there has also brought out the best in some of our other higher order batsmen – Gav and Gilo have got back amongst the runs for the first time in a while in recent weeks. It’s been such a change that last week we posted 300, a total which hitherto we’d have needed 3 or 4 entire innings to have reached and that only if we were touring Queensland and facing the Bellara Bongaree Blind Girls’ School 2nd XI. Now, armed with an H, we know ‘we can bat’.

Happily, today’s team news was that H was with us again but, sadly, not our other new batting find, the even younger Tom. Several of the other regulars were also missing – Sameer and Daniel (both on holidays presumably?), Jason and Mani (both called to the Firsts), Amelia, Phil and Sam – so we said ‘Hello’ to ‘Leo’, Louie, Adrian and Loukik. All in all, we were a new look, rather youthful team (4 of us were under 15) and also a team of just 10 versus the full 11 from St Ives. However, such is the new-found confidence, whilst St Ives IV’s at home at one time looked like another David (us) versus Goliath (them) battle, even if we had 11, suddenly we were mid table and above them, albeit separated by just one bonus point.

I won’t waste time wondering where/who MVS was – or Gilo for that matter: in the Seconds, captaincy now happens by default/committee given their weekly absences. Today, as Fowler arrived last he was ‘chosen’ to captain: he promptly lost the toss and St Ives asked us to bat (which we would have done anyway, so no great problem). It was a little overcast but the Friday had been scorching so the pitch resembled concrete.

Having said we can now bat, following a brief conflab in the changing room it transpired to Fowler (i/c of a team half of whom he’d never met) that we had just 4 proven batsmen – and, for the benefit of Jo Miles (perhaps our only other regular reader), I must explain that I use the word ‘proven’ there in anything but the Scottish, legal sense. In 2nd XI terms, pre-August ‘proven’ means ‘they might be OK for double figures on a good day, with a following wind, going downhill and if they’re lucky’. So it was a brief discussion when it came to sorting out the batting order, all the more so as Master Hayward is such a Prima Donna/talisman that he chooses his own batting position – ‘I’ll go in at 3’ (and there will be ‘no discussion about it’, apparently). Mick, mentally scared by having batted for 4 hours and 32 minutes for 1 at Barrington in late July, nominated himself to bat at 11 last week and tried the same avoidance tactic again this (but was talked up by Fowler to Number 4). Thus, by dint of being ‘the other 2 of the 4’, Fowler and Gav went out to open the batting against a St Ives opening pair whose combined ages were almost certainly numerically smaller than Fowler’s waist measurement.

The Young Turks of St Ives, Zak and Callum by name, bowled fast and got prodigious lift. To visualise this, younger readers need to Google Brian Close (like Mick and Fowler, another competitive, stubborn Yorkshireman – are there any other kinds?) In 1976, ‘Closey’ was called into the England Team to face the West Indies. He opened alongside John Edrich: the other England batsmen couldn’t play the ‘short stuff’ of the young Holding, Roberts and Daniel. At Old Trafford, with England almost 600 behind, having been bowled out for just 71 in their first innings, Close (aged 46) and Edrich (39) faced bowling that was described as ‘unacceptably hostile’ in that year’s Wisden and was shown live on TV. Both took innumerable hits on their bodies, ended up losing but became heroes. It was nowhere near as bad today but we’d not seen it’s like all year at our level. Fowler took one on the right hand thumb (the nail is black as I type), there was a fair amount of ducking from both of us and Gav spent much of the first 10 overs grinning inanely, having played and missed or having walked off to leg in the hope of not being hit (‘grinning’ = happy to simply survive). Still 30 for 0 after 10 overs achieved the usual target of ‘let’s not get out and see what their change bowlers are like’.

Now, giving the ending away, this match would turn out to be a very, very close affair and, in such matches, almost anything can be seen as ‘the turning point’. I can identify at least 8.

1. Candidate 1 for the ‘Key Moment’ was when the St Ives skipper, a nice chap called Steve, bowled a tidy first 4 balls, almost all Yorkers, to Fowler but promptly pulled a knee ligament and retired to the slips. St Ives’ bowling was suddenly much more playable and we set about it in our ‘nurdle one here’ (Fowler), ‘flat bat four there’ (Gav) style. 71 for 0 at drinks – a very sound platform.

2. With Mr Spectacular at 3, Fowler, not known for his expansive style and nursing yet another poorly leg (so sad when they get to his age), tried to move things along and promptly went for 42. This was a Turning Point as it allowed H in. He only needed 10 or so overs to knock up another 50 before an oddly false shot brought proceedings to a halt.

3. Gav (35) and Mick (12*) both chipped in but, arguably, the next Turning Point was the cameo of Dave Shah. Dave is still learning the game but no-one works harder (he’s gets coaching every Friday from Michael McCann) or cares more than Dave. Today, he faced 2 or 3 overs of pace but deftly placed/edged a couple of fours through what would have been the slip cordon but was, in fact, St Ives’ Steve on his one good leg. Today, those 8 runs would prove to be the difference between the sides.

177 for 3 at tea – a tea which, by the way, St Ives voted ‘Best in the League’ (where else do you get smoked salmon blinis?) and which was also enjoyed by 2 car-loads of OAPs (3 nice Ladies and a Gent) who had turned up to watch. They were served, sitting in their cars, by Fowler who argued on the grounds that he was by far the closest in age terms to understanding their delicate needs and that he was ‘in with a shout’ with one of ‘the girls’. So we’d shown we could bat (and put on a match-winning spread) – 2 of the 4 key requirements of a satisfactory Saturday afternoon. But what about the other 2?

4. The next key passage of play was our opening bowling. Mick took his usual Mark Jackson Memorial, Playground End and would bowl 10 overs for just 27 (in itself a match winning effort). But ‘Leo’ was the real star. This young man was asked to open the bowling from the Pavilion End (‘asked’ by Fowler because H muttered he bowled ‘straight’): he took a wicket in his first over, bowled 6 overs for just 22 and showed remarkable patience in both recovering from bowling the occasional (very wide) wide and putting up with Fowler’s constant nattering/advice. A great achievement of which he can be proud!

5. He was replaced by Gav who, whilst not really ‘on form’ with the ball today (1 for 45), was nevertheless at the centre of the next ‘Key Moment’. Shortly before drinks, 50 odd for 1, with St Ives behind the rate but with Ditton not looking like they could ‘buy’ wicket, Gav bowled what was admittedly a ‘too full’ ball which the St Ives opener bottom edged down into his stumps. Out! No? Wait! Both batsmen complained it should have been called a No Ball on grounds of height: both St Ives umpires consulted and agreed, changing their decision. Cue some unseemly Ditton grumbling and not a little in-fighting within the St Ives team (a long story, apparently). But no matter. The phlegmatic Gav walked back, turned, ran in and sent the off stump cartwheeling in the direction of 3rd man with his next ball. Drinks was reached at 75 for 2 – St Ives still behind the rate and needing 5 an over thereafter.

6. Which brings us to Key Moment 6. We’d said to Louie and Adrian that they’d both get a bowl if we could engineer it. Louie replaced Gav from the Pavilion End. Not only did he chip in a couple of key overs for just 10 (‘key’ as they were mainly against the well-set Mr Stevens Senior, who went on to make 51) but he set up Adrian to run out the young St Ives number 4. Adrian, Ed, Louie and Leo – our 4 under 15s – all fielded exceptionally today, at times under great pressure in what was to be a very tense finish. Collectively they could easily be dubbed the Men of the Match but as Turning Points go, although sadly he didn’t get a bowl, Adrian’s run out from behind square on the leg side deserves special mention.

7. Game over? No, back came St Ives, led by Stevens Senior, and despite Fowler bowling a couple of their middle order, it came down to the last 5 overs with 30 odd needed and plenty of wickets in hand. Mr Stevens (who claimed to be 45 years of age but passed for half that and had the looks of a male model) had been joined by his son, the speedster Zak. Dad called for a run to midwicket that, to be honest, wasn’t there: his (brave) son refused. Fowler and Mick combined and Dad was gone. Zak set about trying to make amends (a couple of hard hit straight 4s) but the pendulum had swung back to us.

8. Which brings to us the moment of truth. There’s a reason Fowler doesn’t captain – it’s because he’s ‘no bloody good at it’. With 4 overs to go he realised he’d made a mess of ‘counting’. Mick had one to bowl but there were 2 left from that end. Loukik Kudarimoti not only has a name which would surely win any game of Scrabble but today showed he has match-winning nerves of steel. Fowler quietly offered to switch ends and so be available to bowl the last over: Loukik, who’d bowled tidily and would end with 31 for 0 off 7 overs, was having none of it. So Fowler closed out the Pavilion End leaving St Ives needing 12 to win off Loukik’s last 6 balls. 8 from the first 4 and we went deathly quiet in the field. Then a single: 2 to tie and 3 to win from the last ball. Loukik’s roar said it all as the St Ives bat played and missed!

So we’d all played our part and won by 2 runs. A great game! You’d hope St Ives see this as a draw just as we would have done if we’d lost (which we could easily have done). It was very, very close but we won because, at last, we’ve shown we can bat, bowl and field.


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