Sun sets on super season sadly without win at Hawridge & Cholesbury
posted: September 24, 2017
The sylvan setting of Hawridge and Cholesbury, in the Chilterns, has become the traditional finale to our season, and, as such, this game is always a little bitter-sweet. Sweet because it’s a lovely ground alongside a bridle path along which horses and horsey people gently clip-clop, red-tiled houses with mullioned windows lie close by and our hosts are charming while also furnishing a peerless tea; bitter because, of course, it’s the last game of the season.
It’s often been a bit rainy on previous visits to this ground. Once we had to sweep rain off the square like the spectators at the Oval in 1968 just before Deadly bowled out the Aussies. But on this occasion, while not warm and sunny, it was at least dry.
The pitch had clearly taken a lot of rain lately, however, and seemed likely to be low and slow.
With that in mind, Viral won the toss and elected to field. Simon opened from the top end and, with the third ball of the innings got one to lift against opened Simon Lister who played a pretty ugly cross bat swipe and lifted the ball to Harsh at cover who took a comfortable catch.
The old boy likes bowling at Hawridge and over the next six overs conceded only 10 runs, before age and decrepitude took its toll and decided he’d done enough for the day. From the other end Viral bowled at his usual lively pace and two overs into his spell induced a false leg side flick from Barker and a swirling catch was taken by Davey G at square leg.
It’s worth noting that this was the highlight of a first rate afternoon in the field by Dave. He’s taken his cricket seriously, made big improvements and is a superb fielder. He flung himself about in a way other Strollers can’t do because they’re too old, too un-athletic, or can’t be arsed. Or all three.
On one occasion he took off like a swallow to almost snare an uppish cover drive. If he had taken it, it would have rivalled Sean Ward’s worldie to dismiss Gavin at Chippenham. But he didn’t; he’s not Sean Ward after all.
Anyway, Hawridge were two down inside a few overs for not many runs and things looked good. Unfortunately this was to be the last wicket for a long while. Young Felix Maintzer had some luck early in his innings but played with increasing confidence, while Cath (second name, not first) played confidently.
The game never got away from us, but there were a few overs in the middle of the innings that went for more than they might. Dave was unlucky to see George shell an awkward catch over his head, while the same bowler was dismayed to witness a high swirler drop harmlessly about ten yards in front of a motionless Gideon. But, in general, it was not the horror show fielding performance we have sometimes seen. Tom, Ronak, Abhik and Gideon all bowled accurately without being punished too heavily.
Both Maintzer and Cath passed their 50s, before Cath advanced several yards down the wicket and was bowled by Viral and Tom got a deserved wicket when he bowled Hames for a duck. After the 40 overs, Hawridge had amassed 187. At only 4.5 runs per over this was eminently gettable.
But we had reckoned without the Hawridge secret weapon: perhaps the most astonishing cricket tea seen this season. Chippenham is very good; very good indeed. But Hawridge might just have out-Chippenhamed Chippenham. I’m unprepared to give a definite judgement on this most pressing and thorny of questions. But it’s very close.
The jewel in the crown of the Hawridge tea was a plate groaning under the weight of scones with cream and strawberry jam. Gorton had four. Boughey hoped to stop at three and failed. How many Gavin had would be impossible to calculate without sophisticated electronic equipment (it was three, OK? Three – Ed).
So, feeling a bit heavier, Gavin and Gideon opened the batting. Interestingly, Gid seemed to feel the effect of the tea more than most. He had seemed to be the most abstemious of any Stroller, but maybe not. Perhaps he surreptitiously emptied the contents of the microbiotic flask onto the grass and secretly scoffed about 15 scones behind the nets.
Whatever the provenance, he got off to a pretty sedate start. Rumour has it he was on four after 13 overs. Both opening bowlers- Drane and Barker – bowled accurately but such a glacial start laid in problems for later batsmen. Gav cracked a back foot cover drive for four but was bowled off stump for only six.
Harsh set about remedying the deficit in his customary style, and if it had not been for his innings then we wouldn’t have even come close. Hawridge did their level best to help us out, dropping a shedload of catches at various parts of the field.
We didn’t help ourselves either, however. Tim called for a run that probably wasn’t there, Harsh sent him back with admirable sang froid and Tim was run out by a distance. Tom managed to get bowled by a full bunger while Abhik missed a straight one. To lose three such powerful batters cheaply after a slow start was a hammer blow.
Harsh sailed on serenely, passed his half century and then threw caution to the winds in pursuit of the rapidly receding target. He was eventually caught on the long off boundary by Reading for 73 – a considerably more difficult catch than the many that had been dropped.
Viral did his best but was stumped for 23 and at that point our hopes of a win expired. We were all out for 147 – 40 runs short of our target.
It was a shame we couldn’t go out on a win – extending the winless streak even further. But it’s a lovely ground, the weather fair, the sides were well-matched and the tea simply wonderful. We stayed for a couple of beers, mourning the end of another season but raising our glasses in tribute to a season of wonderful captaincy by Viral.