2015 Match reports
Royston III Vs Fen Ditton II
Saturday 28th May
Royston III Vs Fen Ditton II
Was this the first competitive ‘overseas’ fixture for a Ditton team? It was certainly as good as overseas as, on paper, we were venturing across the county border to play Royston, itself nominally in Hertfordshire. In the old days – which some of the Ditton squad (ie, the author) can remember - a 6 week-long sea passage to Australia, New Zealand, India or South Africa gave time for an English touring team to bind together and get fit by jogging round the deck: these days, of course, international travel has become much more slick, even if some of the glamour has gone, and so, despite the A505 being effectively closed for a Duxford air show, we arrived at Whaddon, Royston 3rd’s temporary home, on a warm if cloudy afternoon, all in plenty of time. Indeed, there was hardly time for a mint from the tin in the glove box, let alone a game of deck coits.
On paper the stats weren’t promising. Royston (population 15,781), had played 2 and won 2 whilst Ditton (population a meagre 747) were coming off the back of having come a rather distant second in run ‘chases’ for each of the 2 games in the past fortnight. Admittedly it was their 3rds against our 2nds but no less than 20 Ditton players had declared themselves unavailable for either the 1sts or the 2nds – that’s almost 3% of the entire village population and so the equivalent of 471 members of Royston CC crying off to give you a sense of the selection headache this posed A Wilson Esq. Equally, to suggest that, on paper, our batting might be a bit fragile was perhaps an understatement. The pre-match averages showed that, between them, 7 of today’s Ditton 2nd XI had batted a collective 11 times this season and amassed a mighty, combined total of 13 runs, including no less than 6 ducks. We were all probably quietly hoping we wouldn’t be asked to bat first. Given the 1.30pm start, if we were put in we’d probably be back home in time to surprise our wives/mothers, be asked to mow the lawn and decorate the spare bedroom all before settling down to watch the pre-match build up to the Championship playoff final (kick off 5pm and won by Hull should you be interested).
So on paper it was Men against Boys, or Lions against Mice if you prefer. And if you know your Aesop’s Fables you’ll know the outcome of that one.
MVS, who tops up his paltry teaching salary by being some sort of polyglot, Rent-a-Stag/Wedding guest, was away yet again (Germany this time by all accounts): Giles, his deputy, seems to have retired, perhaps to protect his season’s average/reputation. So it was all down to Skipper Mike. The first sign that not all would go to form was that he won the toss! We elected to bowl, Mike from the pavilion/downhill end and Sameer from the bottom end. At first, to be honest, your correspondent feared the worst. The young Royston opening bat skied 3 pulls onto the leg side, 2 of which fell to no-one. However, one (off Sameer) went straight up in the air. It was the kind of chance that Sir (aka Saint) Geoff Boycott would have said his Mum could have caught in her pinny, with or without the aid of a stick of rhubarb. Young Master McCann, unusually sober this week, not suffering from food poisoning and restored to his rightful place behind the stumps, was armed with gloves as opposed to pinny or rhubarb but he still contrived to let the chance go to ground. ‘Oh dear’ we all said (honestly! We treat our Mc Cann with rather more respect than the 1sts). Nevertheless, Sameer, aided by the pitch which was playing ‘badly’, bagged a couple: Mike, who bowled well, enjoyed no such luck but was more than tidy (5 overs for just 4) and got lively if unpredictable bounce. The hosts reached 31 for 2 after 10: Ed’s dropped catch apart the fielding had been as solid as Dave Shah’s shins (which won today’s fielding prize).
At this point we welcomed George Cowell for the first time this season. OK, technically he was dropping down from the 1sts but he hadn’t batted or bowled for them in his 1 appearance so we’ll say this was his real ‘debut’. George is a young man from fine cricketing stock who, on this day, was no doubt dragged kicking and screaming from his GCSE Physics revision to bowl from the pavilion or ‘bouncy’ end. With Fowler at the other, ‘keeps low’ end it posed the question - has there ever been a greater disparity in age between two first change bowlers (exactly 40 years)? But this was to be George’s day. Varying between the frighteningly wayward (especially to the young Royston left hander) and the deadly accurate, he took 3 for 15 bowling unchanged for 8 overs. Fowler plugged away, took a wicket and bowled a decent line and length until he was replaced by Hugh. Shortly after drinks Royston were 60-odd for 6.
There then followed a rather scrappy 10 or so overs in which, whilst Hugh got his first ever Ditton wicket, we gave away rather too many extras (they eventually top scored on 28), another young Royston lad (roared on by his overly enthusiastic, if chatty Mum) amassed 24 thanks to his ‘strong bottom hand’ technique (learned from his ice hockey pedigree: he plays weekly at Alexandra Palace, a fact told to the author by Mum whilst he was waiting to bat) and 100 was approached. A ‘senior’ players’ conflab then occurred between ‘Please Don’t Call Me Skipper’ Mike and Fowler. They each decided to return as bowlers and, within 3 overs, the tail was mopped up by Mike who ended with 3 for 11 off 7, including a ‘face saving’ but still ‘nicely done’ first ever catch behind for Ed (who really must not wear that Mc Can’t shirt any more).
So we were chasing 109 to win. In conversation, at tea (which featured a nice, cricket themed home-made cake) Royston reckoned they were 40 or 50 short but, with the pitch giving the impression of being full of demons and our ‘mongrel’ batting pedigree, nothing was certain, was it? We’d be happy to reach drinks at 40 for 0. Fowler told Sameer so. ‘Play within yourself’ was his advice: Mani quietly told him otherwise.
So it was that ’Boom-Boom‘ Sameer completely ignored Fowler (as so many of Fowler’s wives have done in the past) and promptly broke the fledgling Ditton 2nd XI batting record, notching up 44, 38 of which came in boundaries (3 sixes and 5 4s). Did Royston bowl a little too full, not allowing the pitch to do its bit? Perhaps the pitch lost its bitterness as the sun came out? Either way our opening pair of Sameer and Mike put on 70 before Sameer swiped leg-side at a straight one. Fowler wandered out, was promptly strafed by a passing Typhoon from Duxford, played and missed at a few, apologised a lot, but we reached 109 with what might be termed ‘ease’, Mike ending 36 and Fowler 22 Not Out.
A win! You had to feel for the extremely pleasant chaps from Royston but all the score book shows is Lions Nil, Mice 1.
So what about next week? Will either the Skipper or his Vice get their places back? Will they even be available? George is ‘grounded’ due to exam pressures so at least one change is inevitable. But we’ve played 4, won 2. Confidence is high again, so high that Mani unwisely took a photo of the winning eleven. Thus Hubris now no doubt awaits in the form of Willingham!