My boys did it again. Wallingford Crcket Club's second eleven has now played two, won two. And won two by six wickets. On Saturday it was the turn of Princes Risborough to face the Wallingford juggernaut. Proving what many have suspected for years, that I am indeed a master tosser, I won the toss, and inserted the visitors in to bat. We started well, knocking over the two big hitting openers who had in the past caused us grief. The first one bowled by Rich Hadland and the second caught by big Bennie Denton, in an absolute screamer of a catch. The ball was seemingly struck past Bennie who was fielding at point. The boy stuck out his right hand, realised he wasn't going to make it, decided to leave the ground, caught the ball in his right hand, rolled it down his arm and with a thump landed cradling the ball in his belly. I wish his dad had seen it.
We kept the good work going, and at the half way mark had limited them to 47-4. But, as always happens, a mid-innings malaise kicked in. I don't know quite how it happens, but I get the feeling that most of us (ok, maybe it's just me) would have happily curled up on the field and had a kip. It happens every game. We lose a bit of focus, we let catches go, we misfield, and we Let the Opposition Off the Hook. The exception was the unshaven Darryll, who, despite suffering a back spasm while keeping wicket, would still call out incessantly "Come on Wallingford, Keep it going!". To demonstrate his alertness, he took a good hard catch, bending low at mid-wicket. Back spasm? What back spasm? It was during this malaise, that I first let a ball slip through my hands for runs (sorry, Tim) and then used my thumb to stop a ball with the tip of my left thumb. Today is the first day I can bend it beyond about three degrees. Finally the end came, when, aside from lusty hitting from Risborough's Daly (he managed to panel beat a car, putting alovely seam mark on the bonnet of a foolishly parked Mazda), Princes Risborough were restricted to 157-7. Rich had three wickets, Smithy, had three and I had none. I had decided to experiment with bowling myself for a couple of overs, as I thought that if I were bowling I wouldn't have to use my thumb to catch. The experiment lasted two overs, after I had gone for 16 runs, including five wides off one ball and had had the piss resoundedly (and deservedly) taken out of my run-up by Smithy who was standing at mid off. Sorry lads, that was a dumb thing to try and we won't be doing it again. Till next week. Or maybe the week after.
In reply, I demoted myself to number eleven, and sent Mark Cox and Chris Stubbs in. Chris started well, not looking like getting out, then had a swipe and was on his bike. David Max quickly followed in a dreadful mix up between him and Cox. Mark Searle came in, swiped 21 in no time before chopping on. Darryll was next in, and decided to 'keep himself going'. He was nearly out very quickly when, lofting a ball down the ground, had it pitch either directly in front of, or on top of a Risborough fielder's foot (who happened ot be the only woman on the field), who then caught it on the rebound. I was watching from the sidelines with Mark Cox's fiancee and we both thought it was a half volley (we figured that if it had landed directly on top of her foot, she would have screamed). Some of the fielders thought it was out. Some of them were sure it wasn't out. However, the sole discretion lay with the unfortunate David Max, who was umpiring. He decided, to some debate, that he was not sure, so therefore Darryll was not out. How crucial this turned out to be is debateable. A little while later, Mark C had quietly knocked up his 50 when he was hit full on the leg. From our completely askew position on the sideline, square to the wicket, it again looked not out. David Max was forced to make another contentious decision. This time, he decided Cox was out for a well compiled 51. Time for an aside.
Aside: The way I play sport is firstly to enjoy myself, then to win, and secondly to play the game in a good spirit and with integrity. Without the third thing, I cannot expect the first thing, which makes the second thing irrelevant. Part of this is to make sure that the people I play with are enjoying themselves and to make sure that they too are playing in the spirit of the game. One of the roles my players is to do the odd bit of umpiring. Umpiring is damned hard work, and very stressful. Whenever I umpire I always question my judgement, what exactly it was that I saw, and I don't particularly enjoy it, but it I know it has to be done. What I expect from my umpires and from myself is to be as honest as they can. If they think someone is out, then they should be given out, even if they are on 99 and we need one run to win. That is just how it is. Likewise, if someone knows they are out, then they should walk. Maybe I'm an idealist, maybe I'm a puritanical wanker, but that is what I like to see in my team. On Saturday David Max did exactly that. One went in our favour and one didn't. I have respect for him for calling it exactly how he saw it. I hope that the next time I get into such a situation I too am as honest. End of Aside.
Darryll, fresh from his reprieve and now joined by leaping Bennie Denton, decided to enjoy himself and finish things off in a hurry. I believe he was supposed to be somewhere at 8pm. Out came the big hits, and inevitably the reverse hook shot that is part of his compulsory repertoire. With twelve overs to spare, Darryll (44*) and Bennie (17*) had seen us home, and for the second saturday in a row, poor Tim Treadaway and Smithy were waiting, padded up, for a turn at bat that never arrived.