2015 Match reports
Barrington II Vs Fen Ditton II
Saturday 23rd July
Barrington II Vs Fen Ditton II
We are entering into the final stretch now and it’s become clear that the fixture computer has given us an unbalanced season. We played the top 3, Longstowe, Wilburton and Whittlesford - who collectively, even at this stage, remain more or less unbeaten – early on and duly got (to be honest, demoralisingly) thrashed. The Ditton Selection Committtee (DSC) had, apparently, met last week and, no doubt sometime late in the evening in the King’s Head and in a rare lucid but harmonious moment, collectively concluded that we’d dramatically ‘under-estimated the strength’ of even this, the lowest league in Cambridgeshire. To date we’ve played 8, won 2 and lost 6, so to deduce we were below the required standard was hardly remarkable thinking! Sadly, it’s still undeniably true – we had imagined it would be a lot easier than it has proved to be and, as just one example, whilst we play a couple of under-14s in every match (as ‘blooding’ the younger ones is the main reason the seconds got going this year) we’ve seen just 1 other such youngster in the opposition’s ranks all season (and he was a rather useful left arm opening bowler and number 3 bat for Royston who Fowler tried hard to recruit). Today’s opposition ‘youngsters’ were both in their mid-late teens – ours in their early ones and, at that age, it’s a big difference. However, August and September will see us face 3 of our peers in the bottom 6 so in principle we have an ‘easy’ run in. Maybe judgements should be reserved until then?
Mind you, another factor in our poor run – we went into today’s match having lost 5 on the trot, 6 counting last Sunday’s heavy friendly defeat to St Paul’s – has been that, despite the size on paper of the club’s squad, the DSC have faced weekly selection headaches. Today, we’d lost our stalwart VC Gilo, our new found batting superstar Darren and George Colwell to the Firsts – who understandably felt they needed them as they are pushing for promotion, another factor we hadn’t allowed for – and we were yet again facing a far stronger team in Barrington. We could only hope that the school holidays factor had denuded the Barrington XI as much as it had ours as, on paper, this was going to be a tough, warm afternoon. Barrington began the day 5th from top – and, symmetrically, we were 5th from bottom.
Team news was that Skipper MVS was with us for a record ‘second league match running’ (but, as Pippa Middleton – or ‘Sweet Cheeks’ as MVS probably calls her - has announced her engagement, we can presumably already plan not to see him next spring/summer). We also welcomed Amelia for her second match and, as it transpired, her first catch/bowl/wicket of her hopefully long Ditton playing career. No Ed as he was away seeing his Grandad in Yorkshire so Jason took the gloves, and no Sameer but otherwise it was largely the same faces who had played all year (and it is worth noting that we have produced an XI every week so far, unlike a number of other clubs!) The team sheet suggested it’d be Mick and Gav to open the bowling, Fowler, Phil, Mani and Amelia to turn their arms over too – and that is how is turned out, with a little help from Sam (whose bowling has improved no end since he first played).
But all year our real problem has been our batting. As the Chairman of the DSC had said in a pre-match interview with your correspondent on the matter, ‘You need the top 4 or 5 to all get the 20s and 30s of which they are capable – and one to get past 50’. Undeniably logical as, from what we’d seen so far, our ‘tail’ is long and, unless put under the sort of training regime seemingly favoured by Russian Olympians, unlikely to wag vigorously and certainly not against the sort of bowling we’ve seen to date. But it is also true that the same bowling poses problems for even our top 4 or 5. That was the case again today. The loss of leading batsmen Gilo and Darren looked likely to be highly problematic but, as it transpired, although capable they both are with the bat, the margin of defeat was much more than those 2.
Still, Barrington is a lovely spot: it is always nice to literally play ‘on’ the village green as we did today. Barrington have been playing there for 127 years: the pavilion contains some intimidating Edwardian scorecards showing them chasing down 400 in a day to win a Cambridgeshire cup of some kind and sepia coloured photos of moustachioed heroes. If they won the toss and batted, 127 years is what 40 overs might have felt like under today’s hot sun. MVS, probably more aware of our batting frailties than he was in possession of some sort of prescient meteorological information, won the toss and still decided we’d field, arguing to was due to be ‘2 degrees hotter in late afternoon’ – the sort of random precision in a forecast you should always distrust. In time, the clouds came in and the temperature dropped like a stone but that had nothing at all to do with the outcome and, speaking for myself, it was in fact a pleasure to be captained by ‘The Real Thing’. Mick and Gav duly opened the Ditton bowling and, whilst tidy, frankly got nowhere much. 30 and a bit for none off the first 9. Then, a change as Fowler replaced Mick which produced a quick flurry of wickets – first for Fowler (thanks Amelia!), then Gav and then Phil as Barrington ‘slumped’ to 30-odd for 3. This brought the Russell Brothers to the crease. As your correspondent has written before, you just know when someone isn’t really a Minor League player. Both these 20-somethings had been warming up in the nets at 12.45 when the first Ditton player arrived and the younger of the Russells caressed Fowler’s first ball through a straight-ish Point for a stylish 2. We all knew this was to be the key partnership. MVS spotted it and in the blink of an eye brought back the opening pair of Gav and Mick – but somehow they managed to lose their mojo along the way. Mick never regained his line while Gav struggled for pace.
So it was that, thanks to Les Russells, Barrington progressed steadily (the run rate was always 4 and a bit and none of our bowlers went for much more than that) to roughly 130 for 3: both the brothers began to approach well earned, chanceless 50s and a century partnership. Then the younger of the two was unlucky to sweep a leg-side ball from Mani onto his own stumps and was gone for 41. The elder made 58 but, having lost his brother, went into his shell, trying too hard to protect the other bat, and our confidence rose again. Amelia bowled 4 really good overs, including an unplayable ball which castled the young Barrington Number 7 and, despite a late flurry, we had them all out for 188 – only the 3rd time this year we’ve actually bowled out a team! Hurrah! An unexpected (certainly when they were 130 for 3 with over 10 overs left) 5 bonus points!
But could we bat? We knew that once we were 3, let alone 4 down, given our long, lemur-like tail we’d struggle. So the real question was, could Barrington bowl? Sadly, yes they could and they proved far too good for even our top order. Their opening pair were, frankly, too quick for Mick and Fowler who opened our batting: however, whilst they were quick and could get the ball to move in the air (how do they do that?), they were also short and wayward. Far too many balls proved either impossible/unnecessary to play shots at (2 feet outside off stump and shoulder high) or were genuine wides. Neither Mick nor Fowler can play the upper cut over the slips, nor the sort of brutal, offside, flat batted smash AB excels at, so there were a lot of dots. Indeed, wides were probably the highest scorer as we reached 20-odd for none off 10 and waited to see what their change bowling was like. It came in the form of Mr Beattie, a wily old (apologies) spinner, who, whilst he bowled a bit short, crucially could turn it both ways. This is rather the problem we’ve faced all season. The opposition’s bowling may not be great but it does ‘stuff’ with the ball that we can’t! Mick, who’d faced 40+ balls by this stage and was evidently boring himself, let alone the watching ‘crowd’ (ie, Gav’s Mum, Mrs Gav, Mrs Jason, 2 minor Jasons and Amelia’s Dad), got frustrated (Fowler predicted to Jason, who was umpiring, that Mick was ‘going to do something daft’) charged a straight one and duly succumbed, bowled for 1 with the total on 24 in the 16th over – by which time Mr Beattie had bowled 3 maiden overs and taken Mick’s wicket.
MVS joined Fowler, they chatted, set their sights on 120 (Yes, before half way we knew the game was up and were in ‘face saving’ mode) and the scoreboard ‘ticked’ along – that’s ‘ticked’ in the sort of way a digital clock ticks, very silently. 30 overs approached, the score was all of 52 and by now the crowd had resorted to visiting the ice cream van, which arrived and did a brisk trade, or mucking around in the nets. Finally, even Fowler got bored (and that takes a lot), decided to try fooling Mr Beattie by stepping out of his crease as he ran up and, lacking all ability to do that sort of thing, promptly skied an easy catch. Fowler was gone for a ‘mighty’ 13 – in what felt like an innings that lasted 2 days, 13 hours and 34 minutes but was actually (at least according to the scorebook) only something like 60, albeit truly mind-numbing balls. MVS gamely stayed on, top scoring with 33, but as feared, the Ditton tail never wagged. Phil made an impactful cameo 8 – during which time he ran out Dave, tried hard to run Sam out (but, armed with years of experience from the garden no doubt, he wisely refused his father’s suicidal call) and then Phil ran himself out. No-one else reached double figures and, whilst we batted the full 40 overs for once, we made just 84.
So we’ve lost the last (far from Magnificent) 7 heavily, today by 104 runs. We didn’t play badly today and 7 bonus points was not a bad haul in such a heavy defeat. It should keep us towards the top of the ‘Also Ran’s Mini-League’ with Elmdon, Thriplow, Linton and Willingham below us, 2 of which we have yet to play. It was a very nice day but, sad to admit, we were again just not good enough in the batting department.