Believers vs Butterlords, Battersea Park, 26th May 2013
Believers 144 All out
Butterlords win by 3 wickets
“The crimes latent within us, we must first inflict on ourselves”
JM Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians
There are few activities in the world that test the character quite as much as cricket. And certainly no sports that require the same balance of serenity, generosity and violence. Certainly golf and tennis, being individual sports, can expose individual character flaws and psychological weakness as easily as a pub local propping up the bar peels the spine of his walkers crisps and exposes all its innards for the gobbling. But only cricket requires that special blend of selfishness and kindness that tweaks the soul (and the nerves between the shoulder blades).
So it was that the butterlords arrived at the exquisitely parochial battersa park ground on a sunny bank holiday sunday to play the believers - fresh from a double insult - a horror show a fortnight previously at the Trevor Bailey ground, where we had thrown away our wickets like Konstantin Dimitryvich Levin cast seed in the Muscovite spring, and our fixture here last year, where we naively batted too short, and bowled even shorter against a lower order who wore the memory with the equal pride to our own prickly shortcomings. We were all extremely keen to avoid such lassitude again, and there was a gentle bubbling of ferocity under the surface as the team arrived - no drop outs for the first time ever, and only 3 players late to start the game.
Another first - Hildebrand won the toss, and on a pitch that was oh so spicy, decided to have a bowl, figuring that the sun would bake out any nonsense later on. JM Coetzee knew a thing or to about barbarity, and from one Saffer to another this knowledge was past. Luke Grob stepped up, his 14 overs from last year still aching in that right shoulder, and if i may be so trite, came to the party. And what a party it was. The figures speak for themselves, but the victims of the figures no longer speak. Eight consecutive overs, five maidens, two wickets for eight runs must be the most astonishing of all our time in the maroon of the butterlords. He bowled consistently at the stumps, making the batsmen watch every ball as it jagged off the chewy pitch, rising off a good length or darting away without warning. Ed Trotter, reminding us of the days of Voce and Larwood, took one on the chest and did a good impression of an upturned beetle. Grob, showing great awareness followed up with a slower ball that very nearly took a wicket as Trotter bumped balled into mid off. Henry Trotter and fowler both had their middle stumps ripped out, while at the other end, Cooper continued with his glorious medium pacers, arcing each ball like an a-level binomial graph. It was a site to behold. The opening spells revealed 14 overs, 3 wickets down and only 27 runs scored. Trotter fell to a terrific slip catch by Boyne, taking the ball after it had passed him and clutching it to his chest as he fell. The believers key batsman, Hale, thinking he would now get an easy ride, had to change his game plan when he realised our first and second change were Dev and Ridley, who both showed great discipline and fire. Dev passed the bat at will, while expert field placements, with four fielders between gully and cover point, prevent hale scoring on his favourite back foot. He eventually fell to Dev, caught at mid on trying to force a shot that wasn’t really there. Ridley’s “heavy ball” induced a flying edge that was put down at slip and twice saw the batsmen play on to the stumps, misreading the extra lift that he naturally generates.
Hildebrand took two quick wickets as the middle order tried to hit out and at one stage the believers we 73-9. however, the final pair put on over 60 runs for the last wicket, aggressively taking on the spin and connecting. Knight, uncharacteristically, was the chief victim as the ball gripped and turned prodigiously. Evans, a new and welcomed man behind the stumps, put down a difficult chance after hildebrand fizzed in a wrong un, the one blot on an otherwise outstanding performance behind the stumps. His keeping up to Hennessey and Cooper gave us an extra level of control and a perception of genuine class.
And so to the batting. 144 was the ask. Digby and Boyne opened, and in rememberence of faults past, played carefully and diligently, knowing we had 50 overs to knock off the score. Despite some testing bowling and a pitch that never let any batsmen relax, the two played with due care, picking off the bad balls and keeping the score ticking over. we accelerated to 70 without loss before Ahmed came on to bowl and hit the stumps and took an LBW. Scores in the 30s for both openers and for Evans, in at 3 and playing beautifully despite a considerable hangover, took us wheeling toward victory. It was a platform that even we couldn’t have messed up, or could we. Or could it? Knight, McGill, Hennessey and Hughes all fell cheaply in a flurry of wickets, taking us to 103-6. This showed two things, the spicyness of the pitch, and the dodgy umpiring of Ridley, who was showing some intriguing decision making protocols. Hennessey can feel particularly hard done by for his LB decision. At this stage, the only man who could stop the rot was Will, the wall, cooper, who has come to define the term batting time. Tavares was watching overhead somewhere, nodding approvingly.
When suddenly the wickets tumbled again and Grob, a few beers down having not expected to bat, there was a distinct “oh no, not again moment”. However, when the sun shines, you have to make hay, Grobby smacking two sixes and a four to move us over the line, taking us home with a spectactular on drive for the maximum. In the end, we had made the total in under 30 overs and we returned to the Albert Pub for a well earned pint of six feeling like we had finally lived up to our billings as a tight outfit.
In particular, the fact that we only put down 3 catches, of which only was was a dolly, and fielded beautifully, particularly with fields that were set for catches or boundaries, and nothign really in between, meant that the pressure was never off. The batting was also extremely encouraging, showing that when we respect the pitch and the opposition, there are very few attacks that can stop us from scoring freely.
Man of the match
Lots of people on the podium here. Dev for bowling the ball of the day, a fizzing ball on a length that jagged back 30 degrees off the pitch to tickle the bail off off stump; Digby for an extremely watchful knock. Evans for a great contribution with the bat and some superb keeping down the leg side, which allowed us to play with an extra attacking fielder. Hughes for some excellent work in the field and Ridley for containing their best batsmen. However, there is only one winner. Luke (bruce) Grobelaar, for his outstanding opening spell Our taxi driver that morning had been a Jamaican, reminiscing about his early days being peppered by the local tyro “Big Billy Brown” - Lukie had definitely brought fire to battersea today. Quite frankly, it was Marshall-esque
Muppet of the match
Not that many to choose from. Knight had an off day both with bat and ball, but his excellent field placements saved him from a first razzer. Boyne was kicking himself for not getting his 50, but when you’ve seen off the openers and scored 34, you can’t really be too unhappy. It’s a toss up really, between Ridley’s shocking LB decision and Hennessey, for putting down a lollipop at square leg. In between some interesting stares, there was an acknowledgement of who was buying first rounds at the pub. As i said, nothing tests the balance of anger and generosity like a good game of cricket.