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Match 17 (24th scheduled), 2016: September 25

Hawridge & Cholesbury CC vs Pimlico Strollers CC

Strollers close season just shy of victory
posted: September 25, 2016

Hawridge & Cholesbury CCAnd so to Hawridge and Cholesbury, a sylvan idyll in the Chiltern Hills, on an afternoon of golden late summer light, for the final fixture of the 2016 season.

This ground rivals Chippenham as the prettiest at which the Strollers play. The boundary slopes gently towards trees on one side while the other is ringed by red tile roofs and a quiet lane along where horses clip clop at a sedate pace and cyclists tear along at a slightly less sedate pace. The little wooden pavilion and scoreboard look over the vista benignly and, with generous and friendly hosts, this was an afternoon on which to contemplate the timeless beauties of our game as the long winter months of perma-Grey and incessant Premier League soap opera hysteria beckon.

Although the afternoon became one of warm sun, there was a sudden, fierce shower minutes before it began and skipper Gav decided to take advantage of the good bowling conditions by fielding first. Of course, there were less than 11 Strollers at this stage. Simon, trailing round the M25 from distant Teddington, was caught in traffic, and Dickie didn't know he was supposed to playing. This confusion arose from a farrago involving missed emails, overseas travel, a shortage of cars in the Betts family, and a ballet class. Or was it ice skating? Dickie did explain at length during the tea interval shortly after he did turn up, but I lost the will to live halfway through and some of the details might have escaped me.

Ghosh and Maitra opened the attack and within three overs the openers had been removed, both bowled. The ball was doing a bit, off the pitch and in the air, and the four man seam attack of Ghosh, Maitra, Simon and Mashkoor bowled generally excellently well. Simon and Mashkoor conceded only 37 runs off their combined 14 overs.

However, they were not always backed up by the most efficient out cricket. In the first 20 or so overs, any catch that went to hand was put down. George shelled a couple at mid off and then backward point, Davey grassed a couple and Tim failed to hold onto a sharpish chance at slip. The first five wickets to go down were all bowled. Haris' first wicket bowled the oppo skipper Mutt for only one, and we were later informed that this was his slower ball off cutter. It is perhaps the first time a Strollers bowler has thus described a ball he has delivered non-ironically.

Wickets fell regularly but with about ten overs to go it seems likely Hawridge might get away from us. Sam and Kashif were a little more expensive and there were too many extras. That they didn't, however, was due to a sudden and unexpected burst of brilliant catching. After being unable to hold on to a thing for the first 25 over, we miraculously turned into proper fielding side for the last ten overs. The skipper began the trend (yes, I did write that, that's right) when he safely, indeed, coolly, pouched a skier at mid on to dismiss Hames. Shortly thereafter he nonchalantly held onto a sharp chance at backward point to get rid of top scorer Cath. What was going on?

Meanwhile, in the deep, Tim was performing all sorts of heroics. Shead lofted Ghosh high towards long off. It looked as if it would elude Tim but at the last moment he flung himself forward to catch the ball at full stretch inches off the turf, to high acclaim. Even a nearby motorist felt constrained to signal approval, wildly honking on the horn as Tim arose clutching the ball. Reading was run out after smart work from Mashkoor and David, and then off the last ball on the innings Tim pulled off another great catch at long on for the final wicket of the innings to leave Hawridge 170 all out.

This was a pretty good effort; but it could and should have been even better. If a couple of the early drops had been taken and if the ground fielding had been a bit sharper, we would have had them out for 140-150. This was to be crucial, as has happened several times this season.

But before the Strollers could begin the innings, there was tea. And what a tea. This was the non-pareil of cricket teas, the standard against which all others must be judged and found wanting. There were sandwiches of dizzying and mouth watering variety, there was a dip, there was chocolate gateau and, most gloriously, there were scones with jam and cream. The skipper bore a slightly troubled expression, however. While this tea gladdened his heart and brought tears to his eyes and was the stuff of gastronomic fantasy he also knew he had to go out to bat, for the last time in 2016, within a few minutes. So he could not indulge with complete abandon; very rarely has a cricket captain demonstrated greater self restraint and commitment to the cause. Dickie, who had turned up barely minutes before, was batting in the middle order, so could afford to go hell for leather.

One would like to say that Gav's self discipline was rewarded at the crease. However, after spanking a cracking back foot cover drive, he played all round a straight one from the impressive Crane and was bowled. At the other end, though wicketless, Sammy Richardson bowled very tightly and scoring was not easy.

George edged Crane behind for six and Haris, unable to back up his great bowling with batting, was bowled by the same bowler for four. We were now three down for a little over 20 and in trouble. Tim and David began to consolidate, which was what innings needed. Both batted very well, but the score mounted only relatively slowly. Crucially, Shead bowled a seven over spell of off spin that went for only 22 runs. It was this spell that put the target increasingly out of reach.

Not that the game was over yet. Both Tim and David were batting with increasing confidence and began to sense the need to attack the bowling. Tim was eventually bowled for an excellent 44, but David was still there, batting as well as he ever has. It is the opinion of this writer that he has never batted better, picking up anything a little too straight with characteristic, sweetly timed clip over midwicket. In the last few overs he savaged the bowling a succession of boundaries and the target appeared tantalizingly close. Hawridge began to get a little nervy and tetchy with each other, several overthrows being conceded after frantic shoes at the stumps.

Alas it was not to be. David was eventually run out for a superb 67 and with him went the last hope. The Strollers innings petered out to 156 for six off the 35 overs.

Again, we had come close but no cigar. We had batted and bowled pretty well. David's innings was the best of the day and all four seamers had bowled superbly. But deficiencies in a few areas had cost us.

The day ended with a barbecue provided by our generous hosts, as the late summer light faded over the sight screens. The end of another season of some risible cricket, occasionally some competent cricket, and, more importantly, laughter and friendship playing this most beautiful of games. Stroll on.

Simon Boughey


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