Head-scratching time…

This was always intended to be a diary of a season, reporting “all the highs, lows, retirements, rows and kit-burnings” (as was the mission statement last January).

However, while I’ve been happy to report on some occasional ‘highs’ and undoubted ‘lows’, I came to realise that it was better not to report or comment on anything else for fear of making things worse.

Believe me, though, there have been the occasional moments.

Still, the Race Night came-and-went and our Treasurer did indeed run to the bank with around £650 in profit, but also with a few choice words ringing in his ear. As remarked above, we’ll leave it there.

So as we prepare to adminster the last rites to the season, the year and this blog it’s interesting to look at the site statistics.

After an understandably slow start, well over 3,500 views of the blog so far. However, the way prople have found it does cause some head-scratching.

The statistics reveal that most have searched on ‘Wymeswold Cricket Club’, ‘Cricket in Wymeswold’ or ‘Plodding On’.

However, by far the most popular search to direct the unwitting reader to this blog has been by simply keying two words into Google : “Barry Chuckle”.

Not quite what we expected back in January but, then again, this is Wymeswold Cricket Club.

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Season’s end…

Regular readers of this blog (yes, both of you) may just have noticed a distinct lack of activity since the last league game on 3rd September. The truth is that, for once, the end of the season couldn’t come fast enough for me and I’ve been enjoying a two-month ‘sabbatical’ since from all things cricket.

That doesn’t mean to say that nothing’s been going on. Following the last league game we brought the final curtain down on the season with a friendly between our U17 squad and their counterparts from Old Dalby. This particular gang of lads have been about six years in the making at Wymeswold CC, turning up originally for some Friday evening cricket practice sessions before embarking on proper games at U15 and then U17 level. With several of them now over-age now and off to explore the delights of the real world at university (as if!) this was a last chance to celebrate them together as a group.

As the golden sun set all-to-early on that September evening Jason and me were the last two standing at the ground, having stayed on to tidy up. As we departed we shook hands on a job well done, not only on the development of the U17 squad over the years but also on the season as a whole. I think the phrase ‘Thank f**k for that’ may well have been uttered too.

The sightscreens, shorn of their summer plumage, return to their winter quarters for hibernation.

By 10am the following day a man called John was scarifying the square and starting the process of ‘putting the square to bed’ for the winter. This involves lots of treatments, seeding, top-dressing and swearing – all at a cost of around £900. The swearing is included in that cost, and is something of a specialism for John. It’s a shame there’s no gold medal  profanities at next year’s Olympics as it would be shoe-in for him, or perhaps even a ‘f**king’ shoe-in.

The sqare - scarified, seeded, fertilised, top-dressed and roped-off - is put to bed for the winter

A week-or-so later we held a committee meeting at the Treasurer’s house to go through various pressing matters. During the course of the meeting I learnt that my plans to effect a repair on our ailing roller were ‘a waste of time’ and that the wickets I had painfully prepared during the season were ‘no good’. That particular problem was quickly resolved, though, when I informed those present that they could find someone else to prepare the wickets next season.

The Treasurer presented a financial report, indicating that we are on-course to make a loss of around £180 for the year. Whilst not disastrous, it was considered that, as usual, we should have ‘some sort of do’ to raise some cash.

So I sit today with the prospect of another club ‘Race Night’ this evening in the local hall. Whist this sounds like a great night out for the Ku Klux Klan or even Tiger Woods’ ex-caddy, it actually involves racing wooden horses along the floor of the hall and betting on the outcome. We’ve done it before and it’s a good money-spinner as there are precious-few overheads.

The end result is that everyone will get drunk, one of the women will end up in tears, there’ll be general agreement that it’s been ‘a good night, boy’ and the Treasurer will gleefully head to the bank with perhaps £600 in his pocket.

Whether or not this will be enough to pay for a new roller or find someone else to do the ground next year remains to be seen.

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Chasing down Belvoir, young man…

The last round of league matches for the season saw the first team play a ‘dead rubber’ at home to Newark 2nds, drawing lots for the batting order – which is  something of a tradition for the last game of the season. It’s usually followed with a now-traditional batting collapse so it was no surprise when, chasing down a score of 128, they were 3 for 4 at the end of the second over. Sanity was restored (and that’s a tall order in itself for the first team) and the target was soon reached for the loss of eight wickets.

In the meantime we mere second-teamers travelled over the cracking ground at Knipton where champions Belvoir 3rds were in wait to inflict another victory on lowly Wymeswold.

Action from Belvoir's picturesque ground at Knipton.

With everyone now back from their summer holidays we were able to field a stronger team than usual, although you wouldn’t have thought so as the home side rattled up 245 for 4 from 45 overs.

Having lost only one game all year our hosts were pretty confident of wrapping it up quickly, but 14-year-old Tom had other ideas as he opened the batting and hit a rapid 47. He was joined by Harry B and the pair kept the run-rate at around the six-an-over mark.

Early on in the run chase.

The home side became distracted by events on the adjoining pitch where the club’s 2nd XI, having already hit 349, had their visitors at 27 for 7. All this was good for us, not only because the 349 had relegated our own 342 for 1 concession at Thurgaton into 2nd place in the league’s scoring records, but also because our own hosts didn’t notice that Harry B was quietly piling on the runs.

Harry B plays a textbook straight-drive for four.

At 128 for 5 we were looking a bit dodgy, but James B joined Harry at the wicket and the pair put on 110.

The bowling side by now was a little less chirpy and a bit more desperate. Out in the middle umpiring was The Major, our Club Chairman. He’s played a bit of cricket over the years at a decent level and knows his stuff. When some young lad appealed wildly having hit the pads with one that was clearly going a long way down leg, The Major had no hesitation in announcing “Not Out”.

“Why not?” asked the young lad. With his blood pressure suitable raised, The Major was having none of it: “Because the ball was going down the leg side and, if you knew the laws of cricket, you would know that was not out. And, furthermore, I don’t have to explain myself to you – YOUNG MAN!”

A wonderful but slightly over-blown relic from another age watches over the cricket action. Meanwhile, as the The Major umpires, Belvoir Castle lurks majestically in the background.

The young man in question was suitable unimpressed and the home side got quieter and quieter as Harry and James took us to within eight runs of victory.

Then James was out, Rick was run-out without facing a ball and suddenly we were seven down. I think it’s called ‘squeaky-bum time’.

All it needed now was an experienced old head to guide the ship safely in, especially as the home team had suddenly re-discovered their interest and chirp in the field.

Unfortunately the old head on his way to the crease, batting at no 9, was me. Still, it was only seven to win so it shouldn’t be a problem, should it?

Three balls later my leg stump was out the ground, we were eight down and our hosts were honing in on a sensational victory.

Luckily the change of over put Harry B back on strike, but under pressure in the fading September light. However, two boundaries later it was all over and we had done it with five overs to spare.

In fading light, Harry B hits the winning runs in a memorable innings.

Harry ended unbeaten on 129 and became the only Wymeswold player in any team or competition to make a hundred this year. Not only that, by chasing down 246 to win batting second he had helped to create a new club record.

A new club record! Our highest ever score to win a game.

So that, as they say, was that.

The last league game of the season was done and we now face some challenges next year with a couple of lads off to university, while a couple of us a bit long-in-the-tooth know that realistically it’s time to pack it all in.

The Major’s already indicated that he’ll be umpiring and not playing next season. He said the same thing this time last year.

I asked him if he’s going to dispose of his kit. “Not straightaway,” was his reply, “I might need it if we end up short.”

That’ll be every Saturday next season then, young man.

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A surreal afternoon at Sutton.

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”.

So begins L.P. Hartley’s ‘The Go Between”, but perhaps this could also be applied when playing at Sutton-on-the-Hill CC. They’re to be found in deepest Derbyshire (so that certainly ticks the ‘foreign country’ bit) and, in many ways, it really is like a journey into the past. As for doing things differently, well – read on…

Sutton's ground with the Hall in the background.

Their idyllic ground sits within view of the castellations of Sutton Hall, only being reached by parking in a quiet lane and then yomping over a field. It’s an oasis of calm with no roaring traffic and very few distractions from the cricket.

The pavilion is of a bygone (and perhaps much better) age being wooden with hanging baskets and a white picket-fence. Cups of tea are served from an urn, in cups and saucers. There’s not an ‘energy’ drink in sight.

Similarly the club, and lads themselves, are from a different – and perhaps much better – age in terms of the way the game is played.

They’ve steadfastly refused to join any sort of league in all the years we’ve played them. On top of that, not for them an ‘overs’ match or (and I suspect that a few of them would wince at the thought) a  dreaded ‘Twenty-20’. 

Similarly, the prospect of “Clubmark accreditation”, “Cricket Force”, CRB checks, Juniors Sections and Welfare Officers would make most of the lads grab their hats and head for the nearby hills. Their idea of a ‘club development plan’ is to agree which pub they’re drinking in after the game.

No, these lads play cricket they way it should be played. Competitive on the pitch and then plenty of beer (and mickey-taking) afterwards.

Connor smashes one for four.

As mentioned, not for them the horribly new-fangled idea of an overs match. They always play a ‘time’ game, which sometimes takes some explaining to our younger players:

“They’ll bat first and tea will be taken at 4.30pm” our volunteer skipper for the day Pete explained after the toss,  “and then 20 overs will be taken at 6pm”.

“That’s a long tea break – and not many overs for us to get them!” pleaded one of ours.

Those of us who have been around the block a bit will know that it’s how games were always played before the advent of leagues and overs matches. The first side bats until tea and declares, the second side bats after tea and then a minimum of 20 overs will be taken in the last hour. Easy.

Our ramshackle side was taken to the cleaners in the field as Sutton reached 215 for 7 at tea, and then it was our turn.

Top-scorer Jason shows us how it should be done.

It was all a bit ordinary up until the 17th over as we reached 75 for 3, with Jason leading the charge.

Jason cracks one off for four.

As mentioned, Sutton like to do things properly and nobody personifies that better than a chap we’ve known for 20+ years called John B, who had kindly offered to umpire.

John B also holds a position with a county side, so had already mentioned that he could only umpire until 6pm as he had to be off to keep his county appointment the following day.

It doesn’t matter whether the game’s a Test Match or Sunday friendly (in our case), but John’s values are that it should be played ‘correctly’ and that the laws apply at all times.

Ollie sends one down under the watchful eye of umpire John.

So when young bowler Ollie was no-balled for the third time (each time for a waist-high full-toss), John had seen enough. He simply turned round and informed both Ollie and skipper Steve that he was being removed from bowling.

A few moments of confusion and words reigned but, as the umpire’s word is final, that was it. He was off, and a rather exasperated Ollie decided that, having been been removed from bowling, he would remove himself from the field too and headed back to the pavilion.

We sat in stunned silence (and perhaps the odd titter of amusement) as events unfolded.

As it turned out, it was now 6pm so umpire John also removed himself from the field to travel to his county appointment. We were then treated to the sight of John the umpire heading across the adjoining field to his car, followed by Ollie who was now on his way too, both hotly pursued by Club Chairman Bryan, who was either trying to appease the situation, or relieve Ollie of his Match Fees before he disappeared into the sunset.

Perhaps the worst-formed conga line in history. Umpire John leads the charge, with Ollie the bowler next in line. Bringing up the rear is Chairman Bryan, probably trying to chase Ollie down for his match fees.

Anyway, the game continued with a replacement bowler called Rob and a replacement umpire.

We remarked among ourselves that in all our 35+ years of playing village cricket had we seen this happen before. The umpire may perhaps have had a ‘quiet word’, the skipper may have been advised to take the bowler off or something, but we’d never actually ever seen a bowler be removed from an attack before.

But then, just like buses….

Three overs after taking over from Ollie, Rob sent down his third no-ball and his third waist-high full toss. As previously reported, Sutton like to do things ‘correctly’ and, to be strictly consistent, the umpire had no option but to remove Rob from the bowling too.

You wait 35 years for it to happen, and it happens twice in six overs.

All of these diversions meant it was difficult to remember that there was supposed to be a game going on, and we were now well into the ’20 overs at 6 o’clock’ bit.

As we continued to lose wickets we realised that the draw was always an option, after all this was a ‘time’ game.

With just 12 overs to see out we were 116 for 9 with our two most experienced batsmen, Pete and Chas, at the wicket. Pete had made 37 in yesterday’s first-team game, while Chas hat hit a near game-winning 66 for the seconds. Both were in good nick so it was just a question of seeing out the overs and shaking hands on a good old-fashioned draw.

Pete cracked a square cut boundary-wards and set off. Chas didn’t. It just happened that the guy fielding the ball happened to have a tracer-bullet like throw. Chas was out by a mile – without even facing a ball.

Thus, somewhat bemused, confused and slightly amused by the events of the last hour we packed our kit, headed across the field and went over it all again in the pub. Did all that really just happen?

The first bowler to be removed, Ollie, joined us in the pub as we went over the events of the day. One-by-one his team mates disappeared as they were “off to a barbeque”. Soon there was only Ollie left standing, when he let onto us that it was actually a barbeque at his place – and it was his barbeque. Quite what the others were going to do he didn’t know – he was remaining in the pub.

Sutton's ground, as we started our eventful reply.

As said our good byes for another year, somehow finding our way back to the A50 and speeding home back to the real world, we could only remark – and laugh – among ourselves that at Sutton they certainly ‘do things differently’. 

I hope that never changes.

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Touching moments at Caythorpe.

Last Saturday morning a lad named Matt was enjoying a lie-in and looking forward to an afternoon on live footy on Sky, followed by the chance to earn a few quid baby-sitting – money which will no doubt be p****d up against a wall when he starts university in a couple of weeks time.

And then at 11.30am the phone rang.

I had already been on the field for an hour-or-so, getting it ready for Saturday’s 2nd team home game when the first team skipper Jumbo arrived and announced that he was missing a player for the first team. The next 45 minutes saw frantic activity in terms of phone calls, texts and even driving around the village in the hope of catching some unsuspecting target bravely walking the streets. All to no avail.

Then I remembered my friend Nigel’s words from a few weeks before: “If you’re ever short of players then I’m sure my Matt would turn out for you”. Cue the phone call to Nigel and, recounting his words, I asked him to guess what my next question was going to be. Nigel didn’t need to guess, he just went straight to Matt.

45 minutes later a rather-bemused Matt was being introduced to his new team mates in advance of the first team’s trip to Caythorpe.

Caythorpe CC is a big set-up with teams in the Notts Premier League and they also host various representative games  as well as Notts 2nd XI games. There was no danger of our motley crew finding our way onto the main pitch as we were playing their third team, who haven’t been having such a good time of it this season. We were therefore on the second pitch, but still with dressing rooms and facilities to better our own by long way. They even had individualised paving stones and long-standing supporter Sharon was delighted to find one just for her.

Sharon was delighted to find a paving stone with her initials on it.

(We wondered if there was a paving stone with our Treasurer’s initials on it, but to Jason’s relief there wasn’t one with the initials ‘F.C.’)

Pete S and Big Rich put on 105 for the first wicket.

The game itself was pretty mundane as openers Pete S and Big Rich put on a hundred for the first wicket, and Extras was ticking along nicely too.

Pete S offers some catching practice behind the stumps. Needless to say, it went for four.

First team skipper Jumbo was so enthralled that he just sat watching and concentrating – on the other game.

First team skipper Jumbo contentrates on the game. Unfortunately, he was watching the wrong game. We hadn't the heart to tell him...

When Jumbo did drag himself back to our game and out to bat he offered his usual textbook display of forward defensives…

First team skipper’s first attempt at a forward defensive….

Have another go…

First team skipper's second attempt at a forward defensive. Getting better...

..and another go…

First team skippers third - and textbook - attempt at a forward defensive. He can do it!

Luckily Rob P was there to add a bit of class in his unbeaten 80 and with Jumbo adding 37 we ended on a whopping 286 for 4 from 40 overs. Even ‘Extras’ was keen to get in to the act, notching up a first 50 of the season.

Long-suffering scorer Adele hides in the potting shed, otherwise known as the scorebox.

After consulting our long-suffering scorer Adele, she confirmed that it’s the highest score since she foolishly became involved in the club. However, her pristine scorebook also records an incident which sadly has become prevalent in modern cricket and needs stamping out – the ‘touching gloves’.

We just don’t do this sort of thing at Wymeswold so, after Rob hit a big six he was met in the middle by a dewy-eyed Jumbo and the two of them shared a tender moment as their gloves kissed. Worse was to come as, not only did they repeat this shocking act a few balls later, but at the end of the game they had their clothes off and were in the showers almost before the umpires has drawn the stumps.

An appalling act of depravity on the cricket field. The star-crossed lovers in a touching moment while batting. I dread to think what they got up to in the showers...

For the record, the first team were now assured of safety after a poor start to the season. Seven consecutive losses from the first seven games saw the club rock-bottom of the league table, but six wins from the next nine games has seen safety clutched from the jaws of relegation.

Perhaps that’s why we took the foot off the pedal in the field (ie – we were poor) and the home side ended on 195 for 6, with occasional bowler Jason taking 3 for 31, droning on about it for the rest of the evening.

Never one to miss out on a networking opportunity, Jason impresses one of their guys with how his company could look after the fielder's investment, taxation and financial matters. The fielder was later spotted going for a long walk in the woods. With a revolver.

By this time I’d long gone. I’d left Jumbo and Rob to enjoy their time together in the showers and whisked Matt back to his baby sitting appointment. He appeared to have enjoyed his day, having made 8 not out at the end and bowled a few overs too.

As I dropped him off for him to take up his duties reading bedtime stories, he must have reflected on his afternoon which involved paving slabs, forward defensives which went for six, a not-inconsiderable amount of swearing and some tender ‘glove-kissing’.

Perhaps uppermost in Matt’s mind was exactly why a bunch of guys he’d never met before spent the entire afternoon calling him “Dobby the house-elf”.

It’s a long story, Matt. Welcome to Wymeswold CC.

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A series of unfortunate events.

Hmmm. Where to start – if at all?

Back in December 2010, the very first post of this blog read:

“Having been Secretary of the club for 26 years, I thought it was time to chart the 27th with a blog to highlight the ups and downs, highs and lows of a small village cricket club. All our wins, losses, rows, retirements and kit-burnings will be charted here”.

It’s fair to say that the ‘ups’, ‘highs’ and ‘wins’  part of the above didn’t really feature last weekend.

We’re a small village club and, if you include the juniors, U13, U17 and senior sides, we have around a hundred players on our books with around seventy fixtures to fulfill. Those of us helping to make that happen do so in our own time and without remuneration.

With all that to consider it’s inevitable that at some point there’s going to be disagreement over a particular decision. It’s up to us, as officers of the club, to try to work towards resolving it, learning from it and moving forward. All in our own time and without remuneration.

For Saturday’s 2nd team game – and for the first time this season – the Silver Fox wasn’t faced with the prospect of trying to persuade, harangue or cajole reluctant players to turn out and make that lift indicator reach the eleventh floor. For once, the lift was already on the roof garden.

A series of events unfolded between Thursday afternoon and Sunday evening. Whether it’s resolved yet, we don’t know. However, we hope to learn from it and move on.

For the record, the first team missed out in a competitive game at Elleslie 2nds, while Elleslie’s 3rd team inflicted a 122-run defeat on our seconds in the home game.

2nd team skipper Silver Fox has his stumps "feng shui-ed" for nought in Saturday's crushing home defeat. It just about sums up the weekend.

Just to compound a pretty miserable weekend for me, it looks like the moustache may have to make a re-appearance. Even Barry Chuckle would have struggled to raise a titter over the last few days.

Hmmm.

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A big stride to the celebrity life.

So what do ex-footballers Brynn Gunn, Mick Vinter and Bill Brindley, ex-cricketers Paul Todd, Kevin Evans, Peter Such and Rodney Cass, Nottingham MP Graham Allan, local TV reporter Dennis Coath and the ex-captain of the English basketball team all have in common?

The answer is that, over the years,  they’ve all played cricket against our motley crew at some point. A veritable who’s who of stella names, I hope you’ll agree.

On the other hand, we can trump that with our own dazzling line-up of A-list celebs who have, at some time, turned out for Wymeswold CC.

Firstly we’ve had a guy who played obscure Norwegian folk songs and the sounds of the Amazonian rain forest on local radio. Usually at around 1.30am – on a Monday morning. You may, perhaps, just have missed it.

Secondly, BBC athletics and boxing commentator John Rawling played the odd game with us until he wisely saw the light and moved on from the village.

However, there’s no doubt that our brush the world of celebrity peaked in the late 80’s when we were graced, for a few games, with that legend of comedy Mr Duncan ‘Chase Me’ Norvelle. His act appeared to consist of just repeating the words ‘chase me’ ad nauseam – which I’m sure we would all have done willingly, provided it was over the top of a very high cliff.

Now we are touched by fame again as a bloke called Pete also plays the odd game with us. Pete played county cricket for Sussex and coached them for a bit before moving on to the England set-up – until a rather spoilt KP nut ruined things.

Pete is now steering his county side to the championship and, when they are without a game, returns home to his home and family in the village to snatch a few precious hours away from cricket.

That is, until Jason and the first team skipper pour too much wine down him on a Friday night and harangue him into turning out for his village side.

So last Saturday, rather than gracing some of the finest cricketing venues in the country, Pete found himself at the glamorous ‘Burton Lane Playing Field’, facing 45 overs in the field against Underwood.

First team skipper Jumbo opens the bowling.

Having just returned from holiday I didn’t get to play, but enjoyed a walk round the boundary sporting a rather poor tan, and an even poorer moustache (don’t ask), much to the bemusement – and amusement- of our guys in the field.

It was pointed out that it looked as if yet again we were being touched by celebrity, as I created an image not unlike one-half of those legendary kings of comedy the ‘Chuckle Brothers’. But which ‘Chuckle’ was it? Barry – or the other one? More importantly, could he play for the seconds next week?

The club secretary reveals his new 'tash.

The visitors ended on 165 for 8, and then it was our turn. 19 for 3 was not the best of starts, and 50 for 5 was little better – but we still had our ‘star man’ Pete waiting in the wings.

Big Rich gets a good stride in and belts a straight drive for four in his knock of 44.

Big Rich got us back on course with a blistering 44 in 42 balls, so when he was caught it was time for Pete to show us how the professionals do it.

Having reached 8, he was rapped on the pads and the fickled finger of fate went up, probably before the bowler even started appealing. The umpire in question happened to be our own James – nursing a knock and therefore not playing. James also happens to be our opening bowler and therefore he’s fully-paid up member of the fast bowler’s union. If it hits the pads you’re out and it doesn’t matter who you are.

Pete trudged back to the pavilion muttering something about ‘getting a big stride in’. Unfortunately for him, there is little sympathy at Wymeswold CC – especially when there is photographic evidence of the ball in question, with his claimed ‘giant leap’ being more like ‘one small step’. All evidence suggests it was plumb LBW and a great decision by James, but perhaps not the best should he be pursuing a contract with Lancs CCC.

Peter M allegedly gets a 'big stride' in to the ball that trapped him LBW. Let the evidence speak for itself...

First team skip batted with his usual, err, textbook style making just four, leaving us 8-down and needing 37 to win.

First team skip yet again treats us to his full range of Geoff Boycott-like textbook shots. The ball went the other way.

Luckily, young Dan was able to show us all how it should be done with a superb unbeaten 38, leading us to victory with six balls to spare.

Dan B gets a big stride in to cover-drive a four and seal a nervous win.

During the second innings various shell-shocked members of the second team turned up to watch, and slowly we gleaned details of the horrifying events in their game at West Bridgford. Due to the many and various holidays they had travelled with only ten men – and of those only three were adults.

Batting first, we reached the remarkable position of 7 for 6, which was actually 7 for 7 with only the ten men. A late-order recovery meant we were all out for a massive 27, of which Mark D made 9, with the Silver Fox and ‘Extras’ both making 7.

Keen mathematicians would probably be able to work out that the remaining eight batsmen added a total of four runs between them, and indeed a glance at the scorebook reads more like binary code, in the form of 1, 0,1,0,0, 1 and 1. (Ever the pedant, Mark D helpfully pointed out to me that if it had have been in binary, it would have been an impressive score).

With the game all over by 3.30pm, they played another 18-over a side game just to make it through to tea-time – and lost that one too.

Individual highlights included Andy M ‘going in on a hattrick’ twice in one afternoon and Alfie D almost batting through the entire innings – for nought.

Luckless Josh F was not only stung by a bee, but also managed to bag a ‘king pair’, remarkably being out to the last ball of the first game, and then the first ball of the second.

All in all, the senior members among us reckon that 27 is the lowest score ever recorded by a Wymeswold side, so that’s two records broken in a season.

A search party is dispatched to flush out shell-shocked members of the second team hiding in the undergrowth.

The first team’s win, remarkably, makes it five wins in the last seven games, and the side now sit precariously just outside the relegation zone.

The victory would definitely count as a ‘small step’ to safety, although Peter M would no doubt claim that it was a ‘big stride’.

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Normal service to be resumed shortly…

Regular sufferers of this blog may have noticed a distinct lack of activity since the Hucknall debacle in July. You wouldn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to guess that a family holiday caused an interruption to the proceedings, but I was back last Saturday afternoon to catch up with things and will report shortly.

For the record, Saturday 30th July saw our first team record a win at home to Fiskerton, where we chased down 184 to win by three wickets.

Unfortunately the same day saw the proverbial elevator going haywire in the Silver Fox’s attempts to get eleven men for the second team game that day. By the Friday night he had ten men, but the lift plummeted when no less that three of them dropped out on the Saturday morning leaving him with no option but to concede that day’s game at Chilwell 2nds.

The following Saturday – 6th August – saw both sides winning with the first team bowling out Hickling for 88. The home side were seemingly well-placed at 88 for 5, but after one guy snapped his Achilles Heel and had to retire, Big Rich then took a quadruple-wicket maiden to end matters. We knocked them off in 21 overs for the loss of two wickets.

Meanwhile the Silver Fox  managed to get a side out and also chased down a total of 192 to beat Farndon 2nds.

So, onto Saturday and a day of dropped catches, big strides, another unwanted club record and an appearance of Barry Chuckle.

All will be revealed…

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Ten men went to Hucknall…

As soon as the schools break up we always have a couple of nightmare weekends when everyone is either going away, already away, or on the way back. The biggest challenge for us is to find 22 players to populate our two teams. If we can do that then it’s a bigger achievement for us than anything that happens on the field of play.

Last week saw The Major (stand-in 1st team skipper) and the Silver Fox (2nd team skipper) trawling through our player lists, knocking on doors, leaving messages (usually unanswered) and dragging people out of pubs to play.

One consequence was an unexpected elevation to the first team for yours truly, and in a phone call to The Major at 11.30am on Saturday he was ‘pretty sure’ we had eleven.

When we all met 45 minutes later for the trek to Hucknall, even The Major’s considerable skill at ‘creative accountancy’ couldn’t disguise that fact that there were only ten men present. ‘Neil must be going straight there’ mused The Major, perhaps a little optimistically.

We hit the road and I was tasked to phone Neil, just to check where he was. The ring tone was something of a give-away as it was not our usual tone, and sounded distinctly foreign. Neil answered. ‘Hi Neil – where are you?’ I enquired, desperate that he may reply ‘On the way to Hucknall, of course’.

Indeed he was ‘on the way’: only on the way from bar to beach in Tenerife. ‘How quickly could you get back?’ was to be my next question, but under the circumstances it seemed futile.

With ten of us in the three-car convoy it was tempting to summon up one from the second team to join us except that, due to a combination of traffic in Bristol and bafflingly necessary haircuts, they were starting their home game with just eight men.

So we arrived at Hucknall ten in number and, mercifully, batted first. All was going well until the first ball of the match, which uprooted Graham’s middle stump.

By the end of the first over we were 5 for 2 (although in reality 5 for 3 with only ten men) and at least the pleasant prospect of an early tea was looming.

Graham B

Having bagged a golden duck from the first ball of the match, Graham B has to sit out the rest of the innings wearing an outrageous floral head dress.

Luckily The Major is made of sterner stuff – he likes to earn his tea – and he dug in with his son Harry to drag us out of the brown stuff.

Harry B fustrates the field as he nurdles one down to third man.

They put on 72 between them with The Major himself making 66.  A late flourish from James B with an unbeaten 33 helped to make the score look respectable, and approaching 160 we were in danger of pinching a third batting point.

The umpire's arm says it all. Another no-ball and Hucknall's left-armer's response was to smash down the stumps at the non-striker's end. It's a pity he couldn't hit the stumps at the other end as James whacks him again.

We’d had to drag veteran Andy T (or ‘Spooner’ to some) out of retirement for his first game in a year, and in the last over he managed to inflame Hucknall’s tempestuous left-armer by turning him round the corner for four. This meant we collected three points as we went past the 160-mark, and we ended on 162. Respectability almost achieved.

Spooner show resilient defence against Hucknall's feisty left armer.

Of that, ‘Extras’ had weighed in as third-highest scorer with 29, including no less than 15 byes.  Whilst doing my scoring stint I had revealed to their scorer (and fellow-Secretary) that I was due to keep wicket for us, on the basis that The Major couldn’t really think of anywhere else to hide me.

‘Have you kept here before?’ he asked. ‘I’ve only kept once in 35 years’ I replied, to which he cautiously responded ‘Well take it from me, it’s not easy on this ground’.

With those words ringing in my ears I donned the pads and gloves and strode out for my first ever appearance behind the stumps for the first team.

As we took our positions I could immediately see what he meant as their ground is on a considerable slope. The square is level, but the two ends are not. Predictably all fast bowlers will bag the chance to bowl downhill, and James B was already marking his run-up.

To be on the safe side I gave myself plenty of yards, crouched down, looked up and then realised that I couldn’t see the track – it was virtually below eye-level. In order to see the ball pitch it was necessary to adopt a position akin to a peeping-tom, peering over his neighbour’s fence.

As it turned out, not many balls actually beat the bat anyway as Hucknall’s batsmen dispatched our bowling to all parts. I noticed a step-ladder leaning against the fence at the far end of the ground and considered  asking for it to stand on when the bowling was downhill. However, it’s true purpose shortly became evident.

Beyond the fence (and step-ladder) was a field containing a couple of horses, and Hucknall’s batsmen were treating themselves to a bit of equine target practice. The step-ladder was used to hop over the fence, although it would probably have been quickly merely to station two fielders in among the horses. It was a close-run-thing whether this represented more cruelty to the horses or the bowlers.

The winning target was reached within 27 overs, but not before Spooner was given a few overs to re-find his line-and-length in advance of his inevitable run in the side. Sure enough, he dropped it on the spot from first ball and ended up our leading wicket taker with 2 for 16.

With more people away next weekend Spooner’s ‘Indian Summer’ and extended run in the side is assured. With the first team skipper (and opening bowler) returning next week, it also means that Spooner’s fate of 12-overs into the wind is probably sealed too.

Hucknall's recent entry to the Chelsea Flower Show. There's a scorebox in there somewhere.

Did I just hear Spooner mentioning something about a hasty late booking to join up with Neil in Tenerife?

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It’s raining :-) …and it’s junior training :-(

For the first time this season we were greeted with torrential rain on Saturday morning, thus putting into motion the cat-and-mouse game between opposing sides over whether to call the game off or not.

Under the league rules,  a game can’t be called off without the agreement of both captains. In such circumstances some want to play and others want to call it off.

For us, it’s often based on whether we’ve in fact got a decent team at all, and now that we are into the school holiday period it’s even more of a struggle.

So on a rainy Saturday morning if you phone the opposition too early – looking to call the game off – they may smell a rat and ask to “leave it for a couple of hours”.

Having celebrated my 50th birthday the night before and having done no preparation work on the ground, I was only too keen to call the first team’s home match off, but decided to leave it until around 11am.

As it happened, just as the clock in the hall dinged eleven the phone rang and it was Farndon, today’s opposition, asking if we could make an early decision to save them having to sit in a traffic jam on the A46.

It turned out that they were just as keen to call it off as we were, so common sense prevailed and it was ‘match cancelled’. No such problems for the second team as we didn’t have a game anyway.

That left the only cricket for the weekend to be the Under-13 game at home on Sunday morning – and ‘Junior Coaching’.

‘Junior Coaching’ is a loose term to describe the longest ninety minutes of one’s life, every Sunday morning at 10am. As John Barnes once described it in a drinks advert, it’s more like “going through ninety minutes of sheer hell”.

With our 15- to 17-year-olds now playing on Monday evenings and therefore lying in bed on Sunday mornings, and our 10-13-year-olds playing in the Under-13 games, what’s left for our Junior Coaching is around fifteen youngsters aged between 6 and 9, all intent on creating chaos for an hour-and-a-half.

For their parents it must be a welcome relief that, for the paltry sum of just £15 for the whole summer, they can off-load their hyper-charged offspring every week to a usually hung-over coach and then enjoy an hour-and-a-half with the Sunday papers. (If not something else more interesting…)

At 10.05am last Sunday morning I thought we was onto a winner. With the onset of the school holidays only three lads had turned up, so my thoughts were to abandon the session. This was music to the ears of Alex, a local lad who has just completed his ECB Level 2 coaching course and had foolishly offered to help with a few sessions to get some experience under his belt. Alex was looking a little ‘worse for wear’ having admitted to having had a few too many beers the night before. For him, the prospect of abandoning the session and returning to bed was a gift from heaven.

Just as it was looking good another couple arrived, and then one more, and then two more and before I knew it we had eleven kids eager to be entertained.

Alex’s eyes rolled around as he realised there was no escape and I sent the group off round the field for a warm-up jog. With some running, stretching and lunges we can usually make the warm-up last around 15 minutes, which means we only have a mere 75 minutes to fill.

Alex set them up with a game called ‘intercept’, all based on their skills (or lack of them) of attacking the ball, picking up, throwing and running. This rather predictably degenerated into chaos as balls were returned into the undergrowth, much to our mutual despair.

A rare sight - a decent throw making its way into Alex's hands.

 

With a couple of balls lost in the undergrowth the whole group went in on a retrieval mission and found it was much more fun to play in there instead. Suddenly me and Alex were onto a winner. One lad briefly re-appeared, dismantled the metal netting fence and started dragging it in to the bushes.  “What are you doing?” I asked, “Making a den” was the reply.

As tempting as it was to leave them to it, we did feel duty-bound to provide some cricket coaching. Alex and I decided to “give them a few more minutes in there” as we watched the U13 game and chatted generally about the great game.

A game of 'intercept' taking place, before we lost them all into the undergrowth.

By now there were only just over thirty minutes to go, so it was time to persuade them out of the bushes and start a game of Kwik Cricket, or as it more usually played here ‘Khaotic Cricket’.

Team captains were selected and the bat was the instrument for the toss.  Seasoned cricketers will be aware of ‘humps or hollows’ as a way of settling a toss: the bat is spun up into the air and if it land face down, it’s ‘humps’, while it land flat-face up it’s ‘hollows’.

“When the bat’s in the air” I explained to one of the captains “I want you to call ‘humps’ or ‘hollows’”. The bat looped into the air and he dutifully shouted “Humps or hollows!”.  At least I suppose he was listening to my instructions, which is very rare on a Sunday morning.

The game dragged on until half past eleven point and, somehow this happens every week, just happened to come down to the last ball. A tie – just to try and keep everyone happy.

With that it was all over and the various parents collected their offspring. Ninety minutes of hell for us, but an all-too brief respite from the on-going bedlam for them.

Then I realised that 11.30am is now my favourite moment of the week – 166 hours and 30 minutes until we have to do ‘Junior Coaching’ again. Can’t wait.

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