And so after a mild, unremarkable winter, cricket returns to Temple Grafton. As ever, reassuring yet slightly sad that nothing has really changed…lives not moved on. Have we got 11? Yes, just. Has anyone had a net practice? Nope. Who exactly is doing the tea? (that perennial passing of the baton of responsibility). Unsurprisingly (thankfully, actually, if you value vitamin C and have an aversion to processed ‘value’ meat) captain Killian had ducked it because he had a bad leg or something. The fact that Tom Thompson had his right fist wrapped around a puce coloured smoothie suggested that he too predicted a vintage Killian tea and was making a robust attempt at avoiding scurvy. For anyone who knows Mr Thompson, this would suggest a) highly usual forward-planning and b) some sort of lobotomy. It was, therefore, highly re-assuring to spot the can of Carling in his left mit. Nothing has indeed changed after all.
Anyway, briefly to the cricket. No toss, that’s how professional it all was, as the captains simply agreed that neither could be bothered to wander out to the middle. Stanway wanted to bat. Grafton didn’t. As ever, the slip cordon was chosen by weight rather than ability and so unfolded 20 of the most excruciating overs you could expect to watch. A slow, damp pitch, the usual array of risible dives in the field (Wright looked sharp, but everyone else seven shades of appalling), regulation dropped catches (Kirk held one off his own bowling, but that was as good as it got) and Stanway agonisingly nudged to 55 for 1. Holt (who had taken one whiff of the wind strength and direction) looked after himself in terms of choice of ends very nicely, leaving the world and his wife to labour into a force 8 from the other end. A frigid afternoon indeed, although the strategy paid dividends for Holt who bowled his spell of 8 overs straight off conceding just 8. And then, after drinks, all hell broke loose. 2.5 an over became a dizzying 10 an over as Green put Grafton to the sword in a magnificent, bludgeoning 81. There was no real answer as bowlers, now from both ends, were butchered – Killian shuffling his fielders like deck-chairs on the Titanic. And as the Grafton side collectively developed knee problems, limps, shoulder issues – anything that would excuse them a bowl – the runs racked up. I’m not quite sure about the self-satisfied looks when Green was out (nearly a six, incidentally) and the tempo dropped to a mere eight an over. 236 for 5 off 40 overs (including an excellent 67 from opener Haines) was almost certainly going to be a bridge too far for Grafton.
And so to tea. With Killian’s name on the tea rota one would expect a meat based, carb-intensive affair with the predominant colour being beige. It was to the collective good fortune that Mark Onens stepped up and provided a mixed and plentiful bag. A medley of sandwiches, pizza, a cheeky tomato or two, some meat things and an eclectic mix on the cake trolley. And it was not his fault that the urn failed and it was cold tea all round. I think the expression is ‘village’.
To say that Grafton set off with what appeared to be a game plan (we didn’t) would be to credit us with the skill, wit and collective ability to pace a run chase. As it happened it did look like Grafton did indeed do that. 34 off 10 overs stepped up to 83 off 20 as Harvey and Young gradually got into gear. Drinks (usually taken at the half-way point but a shambolic showing in the kitchen ensured another over was bowled before the slightly discoloured water was brought out) marked the end of Harvey who managed to psych himself out to Green’s spin and it was left to his successors to keep upping the tempo and therefore the risk with which they played. Kirk made a useful contribution – one lovely six into the fledgling crops – Young was eventually run out for an increasingly fluent 80 (after desperately trying to run all of his partners out, again), Onens perished in the slog for 30 as the score reached 147 off 30 and 188 off 35. It was the control from Stanway’s O’Brian (7-1-11) and Clark (7-0-28) that really put the brakes on. If there was any hope of winning it would need to come through Biltcliffe (50 not out), who was merrily thrashing away like a medieval farm-hand, and the injured Killian, who wasn’t. Needing 21 off the last over and then 15 off the last two balls, the climax was not particularly exciting nor, given how cold and dark it was, did anyone really care that much. Suffice to say, Stanway – deservedly so – won by approximately 14 runs. One is never entirely sure as the two score-books seldom tally and I can’t for the life of me imagine there are many GCSE passes in Maths on the Grafton team.
And this friendly wasn’t even on a Sunday – but they normally are. So. If you have maybe reached middle age, you’re a bit bored – particularly on Sundays, you played cricket at school but with no real talent and you want something to do where you cannot fail to make a contribution amongst such dizzying mediocrity, then you, my friend, should come and join us. Anyone, literally anyone, welcome.