Saturday 2nd July
It seems like every time I play for the Thirds, it’s against East Mardon. I turn up at their ground this morning to be greeted by our ex-captain Andy, who smirks nastily at me and tells me that for once it will be Mardon that have the “ringer” in their side—him!
Dredge wins the toss and sticks them in, and it’s Andy that opens the batting. 45 overs later, he’s made it clear why he was in our Firsts as he walks off undefeated on 150, having helped his new side put together a daunting total of 233-7. I pick up four for 50, but not before I get put back over my head twice by my former teammate and taken out of the attack.
We put up a good show in reply and are 200-5 when Andy convinces grumpy skipper to let him have a bowl. He’d never been much of a bowler for us, but his gentle left arm spinners put a panic amid our middle order, and after he buys four quick wickets I find myself coming out to face him with the score on 231-9 in the last over. The game is on the line!
I unerringly block the first two deliveries, generating snide comments from the ever-closing fielders and jeers of derision from my own teammates fifty yards away watching from the grass bank. The third ball’s a wide, and Andy glares viciously at Dredge, who’s umpiring, but it was well wide.
The next ball is a snorter of a Yorker. I barely get a corner of the bat on it, and I watch it trickle away to square leg. Two balls left—two needed to win.
Andy bowls a full toss, and I take the opportunity to smash it as hard as I can. The only problem is that it’s straight back at Andy in his follow-through.
Unbelievably, it ricochets off his wrist and out into the off side, and we scamper through for a single to tie the scores.
Andy is down on his knees cradling his left wrist, and it’s clear he’s in some considerable pain. He leaves the field with one ball remaining—we later find out it’s a break and he’s done for the season!
This leaves the Mardon skipper to bowl the final ball of the match, and young Marky smashes a full toss over midwicket’s head for four to win the game.
By the time we get into the bar at Mardon, Dredge has already relayed the happenings to the second team scorer back home, and we return to the ground to a heroic reception—seems that Andy wasn’t that popular after all!
Saturday 9th July
Apparently East Mardon made another complaint to the league about me playing against them, but it got short shrift. All three teams picked up good wins this week and things are starting to look a little more healthy.
The Seconds seem to have unearthed some real prospects, who bowled them to a win over Boreham Nomads, so the chances of me getting back in the team seem remote. Still, at least this year I’m not spending each week in a different team. No wickets today, but we beat Ayscough Wanderers handily for the third time in a row, with Marky, Smithy and Dave all getting wickets, and Dredge finally scoring his first ton for the club.
Somehow he convinced me into captaining next week while he’s on holiday. Nothing good can come of this!
Saturday 16th July
Turns out I was wrong—something good could come of it! It rained all day!
I’ve never been more pleased to hear our groundsman ringing me up to tell me that the wicket will be too wet and we’ll have to call a game off!
Good job too, really, as I think we only had eight players!
Here’s to Dredge’s safe journey home and some decent weather next week!
Saturday 6th August
Three good wins in a row have put the Thirds back into contention for a promotion spot! We finally seem to be operating like a team (and indeed a club) that knows what it’s doing!
I picked up 6 for 22 against Brigglesworth on a damp track, and that was more than enough to get a win over the bottom side; then the following week we stuffed Hampton Taverners with Dredge making his second century of the season.
Today we faced top-of-the-table Atcham, who are a fierce batting side, and we weren’t sure that our 210-8 would be enough, but some sensible bowling from yours truly (1 for 12 from 12 overs) put us in a good position, and although the Atcham batsmen tried to slog their way towards the target, with Dredge bringing Colin on to toss up some grenades, the ball just kept finding the fielders’ hands. Eventually we bowled them out for 188, and Colin finished with 5 for 40 from six overs!
Meanwhile, the Firsts have been quietly pulling themselves out of the relegation mire, and have gained a draw batting first against Old Kingstonians, with Simon leading the way with his top score of the season (88) and Bondy finally getting into things on his return with 52 and four catches. Bondy and Kabir even shook hands after the game, and I had got to thinking that would be one of the first signs of the apocalypse.
The Seconds continue to go strongly without being contenders. Wonderkid Adam picked up another five-for (and his Dad’s insurance picked up the bill for getting me a ‘new’ car) and his mate, Jimmy, scored his first fifty for the club last week in a draw with Stovold.
Sunday 7th August
I’m really NOT feeling good. Mrs. H thinks that I picked up food poisoning from the teas at Atcham yesterday. That’s the last time I try the Coronation Chicken sandwiches.
Saturday 20th August
And just like that, things change again.
Just four weeks after being made captain and being urged to get some youth into the Seconds, Billy Doyle quits the job because too many of the parents seem to think their darlings should be opening the batting and the bowling every week.
It all came to a head today. I was finally picked for the Seconds again, after picking up six wickets last week, but the track looked about as batsman-friendly as it has been all season.
Billy won the toss and chose to bat, which immediately annoyed Wonderkid Adam’s dad, who had come to see him open the bowling (before disappearing down the pub for a couple with his mate as normal). So, when the opening batsmen came out and Adam wasn’t among them, Mr. Wonderkid started having a go at Billy.
Thirty overs later and the chap is still ranting, because we’ve made 150 without loss, with Colin going very well indeed, and the chances of seeing his ickle kid bat today is becoming more remote by the over. He pulls Max aside and tells him to get out there and umpire and give a couple of people out, but Max basically tells him where to stick it. With that, Mr. Wonderkid takes his blue-eyed boy home and says that the kid isn’t playing anymore unless he gets to bat and bowl every week. No clue as to how Wonderkid himself feels about it, but chances are he’s the one that’s wound Dad up on the subject.
We post 295-1 including an unbelievably chanceless 155 from Colin, which draws the usual gripes from #4 about being padded up for 50 overs, but it’s all good-natured, since a score that large should be more than enough.
After tea the Wonderkid’s still not there, so we take to the field with ten. I open from one end and Billy takes the ball at the other. We keep things tight for twenty overs and pick up a wicket each as opponents Winteringham make 50-2. By now, Wonderkid’s mate, Jimmy, is grousing that he’s not bowling, having opened a couple of times this season, and that I’m taking overs away from him.
Eventually he gets a chuck, but his form’s all over the place and after three overs in which he bowls as many wides as legitimate deliveries, Billy decides that’s enough, and brings Max on.
It turns out to be one of those days where Max’s leg cutters get some bite, and we end up bowling Winteringham out for just under 150, now safe from relegation, and with just the slightest chance of promotion.
However, Mr. Wonderkid is waiting for Billy after the game, along with Jimmy’s Dad, and they give poor Billy a right ear-bashing about how he’s supposed to be helping the development of the juniors in the club and that their boys should be the focus of the team, not broken-down old fogies (glaring angrily in my direction, for some obscure reason).
Billy quite rightly points out that Adam would have batted No. 5 and opened the bowling, and that Jimmy was first change, but none of his points make any dent into the righteous fury that has been apparently building up in Mr. Wonderkid over the last four or five pints, and Billy gets the full blast. Needless to say, he’s not chuffed, and basically tells both the parents to stick it where the sun (son) doesn’t shine, before storming off home.
Saturday 27th August
Last game of the season. Almost as eventful a season as last year, and in the same way we seem to have been through the mill six or seven times.
It’s been damp this week, as expected given the forthcoming Bank Holiday, an my ankle’s been giving me a bit of gyp, so I plead injury, and watch the Seconds take on Strensham from the warmth of the bar.
Just as well, since with Billy quitting and neither of the two youngsters being allowed to play, the Seconds have little-to-no bowling, and the ankle would have been completely done after 25 overs from one end. As it is, Max bowls 20, and picks up 5 for 50, which is enough to win him the bowling cup, though not enough to stop Strensham from overhauling their target of 150 with relative ease. Colin picks up his second batting title, though he’s out first ball for the Firsts today as they lose the reverse fixture and only just scrape enough points to avoid relegation.
Simon’s up for captaining them for another season—and he’s about the only one guaranteed a place!
Dredge’s thirds finish mid-table, but he’s not carrying on next year and gives me several earfuls about taking over the Thirds from him next year. No chance of that happening!