Skipper smashes unbeaten 78 to raise spirits in face of loss to the boys of Theydon
posted: June 24
After a celebrated winning start to our season, recent weeks have been blighted by bad weather, numerous absences – often owing to attendance at an intervening World Cup – and an injury list to rival any Premier League manager’s worst nightmares.
As such, following our chastening midweek defeat to the HICCs, it was a somewhat forlorn side comprised of only nine Strollers – including the welcome return of veterans Simon ‘SiBo’ Boughey and Bruce ‘The Count’ Marcus – that took to the field at Theydon Bois. We were aided by the oppo who kindly lent us two fielders who duly ran and retrieved the ball as much as anyone could have asked, but there was little to disguise our frailties.
Having won the toss and chosen to bat, Theydon’s openers looked in good touch from the off although Small received a sporting reprieve early on after being given run out when Tom expertly hurled down the stumps from midwicket. However, Spencer’s follow through had obstructed Small's way so Dave kindly called him back in. Naturally such sportsmanship was duly punished as the young opener went on to hit 79.
On his way to that score, Small had managed to somehow evade the clutches of those standing behind – the returning Paul Murphy deputising with the gloves (our version of the Irish backstop? – Ed) possibly standing a little too far back and numerous snicks finding their way either between or over the slips.
Our hopes rose when, upon reaching their 50, Spencer finally made the first breakthrough by yorking Theydon’s skipper Ahmad. Shortly after though, Spencer popped his hamstring in his run up and had to switch to one-legged off spin.
Simon too, nursing a sore back, made matters worse when he overstretched to stop the ball and aggravated his already loathed lumbar region. Withdrawing himself from the field of play for the next hour or so, Boughey remarked that this felt like the Pimlico Old Pals falling en masse on first day at the Somme.
Indeed, with Theydon’s batsmen spraying the ball around with ease, it didn’t look good although Dave and Rohit thankfully managed to exert a little more control after drinks. But, with the score now well past 200, it took the possibly belated introduction of that Mad Dog, George Brown to make the next breakthrough to finally see off Small. Simon gamely returned to turn his arm over (a two over spell that included a customary drop behind), as did Bruce. Nonetheless Theydon marched on and closed on a mighty 276-3 with Spall the only further wicket to fall to Spencer.
Over a typically generous Theydon tea we reflected that such a score would have been a tall order for even the best of Strollers sides to overcome and with our limitations – both in terms of numbers and fitness – all too apparent, our hopes of an unlikely victory weren’t high.
Our aspirations took an immediate dent with three successive ducks blotting our scorecard – George, Paul and Rohit all failing to trouble the slightly deaf and bewildered scorer kindly marking his book on the boundary.
Tom looked in better form, unleashing a couple of powerful drives through the V, but was cut off in his prime when he was well caught at long off, having stopped on a lofted shot.
Opener Gav remained at his post though and mounted more in the way of resistance, combining solid defence with a smattering of attractive shots through the offside boundary. The big man survived a couple of loopy leading edges but, having made it into the twenties, was next to fall when off spinner Tunks expertly got one to turn sufficiently to get through the gate.
However Gav’s was our last wicket to fall as a limping Spencer (with the aid of Tom, who kindly returned as a runner) and skipper Davie G frustrated the oppo with what became a fluid and free-scoring run-fest. Borrowing Gav’s blade (the aptly-monikered ‘Zeus’) Gorton bewilderedly found himself in something like batting nirvana as he repeatedly and expansively drove the ball back over the bowler’s heads.
The penny dropped that not only might he surpass his highest Strollers score (his previous best being 35) but he could go on to notch up a first-ever fifty. This he managed with ease, batting like a pro and much to the delight of his onlooking team mates who applauded and whooped merrily from the ropes.
Spencer, unusually relegated to a supporting role, continued to bat with trademark panache and, before we knew it, the pair had piled on another hundred, taking us past 150 – a total in itself more than we could have hoped for at the start. The frustration of the Theydon fielders was all too clear, for although their total was never in serious danger, frequent wides and no balls were met with howls of derision, particularly from their vocal keeper who, Tom remarked, was in danger of losing his match fee if he kept at it.
Having notched up his own well-deserved half century, Spencer saw us over the 200 mark before proceedings came to an end, Dave joyously closing on a superb and unbeaten 78. Between them, Dave and Spencer had put on a staggering partnership of 171! Such was the elation of those watching that one might have been forgiven for thinking that we had actually won the match when in fact, what we had done was record a more than honourable defeat in the face of ominous odds.
So it is with renewed optimism and with warm congratulations to our captain we look forward to another busy week ahead with a return to winning ways hopefully not very far away. Stroll on…