Write about what you know said the grizzled writer as he sank another Dacquiri. Write only about what you know. Apologies then to papa Hemingway for this.
22 men made their way to a patch of green bordered by trees inaptly called Newfound. Being right next to the long populated metropolis of Basingstoke it surely had been discovered an age ago when the fathers fathers fathers of these men were themselves playing.
The men, for they were all men without women, divined a method by which one team batted and the other bowled. A technique passed down from time immemorial. So it was that Bentworth, visitors to these parts, had the honour of batting first.
Mr Cole and Mr Edwards both veterans of many summers like this began in steady style. Mr Edwards (3) was bowled in the 4th over and it was first blood to St Mary’s.
Mr Cole was joined by Mr Hill. They blunted the attack well on an increasingly capricious surface where neither bounce nor velocity could be trusted. Working ably the pair pushed the score towards 50 before Mr Hill was bowled for 27. An innings of some promise with two mighty sixes and two fours was cut down. It wasn’t the only death that afternoon though.
JP entered the fray, a man known only by his initials. He was a free spirit a biffer and a basher but this time the bell tolled too soon and he perished, bowled, an ignoble death.
Cole the bedrock of the innings, obdurate and steadfast continued to accumulate. His next partner Mr Blake set about the task with uncommon circumspection and the pair spent 11 happy overs nudging, nurdling and blocking till Mr Blake too succumbed with 11 runs to his name. He too was bowled by a ball that refused to obey the basic laws of physics.
Then there was a flurry, a torrent of wickets as this seeming Garden of Eden witnessed a succession of cruel endings. The 31st over saw both Knight and Thomas S fall. The changing room was a sudden hive of activity as pads were donned and men readied themselves for the challenge.
Mr Cole so long the north star of our innings perished, hooked in the deep, for a meaningful 41. An innings of stature and worth. Your author joined the skipper and having lofted a ball so high it returned encased with snow was run out chasing a tight second run. It was no picnic. The skipper added a very useful 20 before he too perished and St Mary’s were set 138 to win.
Weighted down by a fine tea, the best this season by far, 11 men took the field ready for the second act. No other game conspires to generate such prolonged periods of tension and this one did not fail.
The first wicket fell to K Thomas seaming into the unprotected off stump of the St Mary’s opener in the first over. Five overs later S Thomas returning piratical and triumphant from the Balkans got amongst them and both openers were gone.
Lives were provided to batsmen by fielders missing catches. Dodgy depth affecting contacts being cited by one and hands still covered in cake be another. The half century came and went then breakthrough dawned as the third wicket went down ably caught by Mr Blake then the glove man. Three became four within 5 runs as St Mary’s became becalmed.
The rebuilding lasted for eight overs as the target was reeled in one run at a time, patiently and watchfully. Ninety two for four became ninety seven for five then one hundred and eighteen for six as St Mary’s batsmen gave in to the pressure of runs and the net was drawn in by the Bentworth bowlers and fielders.
Mr Hill took two with accurate bowling and S Thomas struck again. The fielding was tight, the squeeze was on.
Tensions ratcheted up as wickets seven and eight fell and runs dried up. Six runs were scored from eighteen balls. Then the denouement. S Thomas took the ball for the final over. St Mary’s needed three to win. Dot, dot, dot a scrambled bye, dot. Then pitch, step and smack the final ball was sent to the boundary for four. It was over. It was done.
The result says St Mary’s won by two wickets but this game was more than that. It was a wrestle, a tussle, a competition between evenly matched teams and it was a cracker.