The story of this week’s fixture begins on the preceding Wednesday evening when, during a net session at Hesketh Park, we are observed by a tall West Indian lad whose church group are having a ‘meet and greet’ event in the DCC pavilion. He pops in to the nets introduce himself – Dari – and to ask if we play for a local club. He also takes the opportunity to bowl a few balls at Dino and I think it’s fair to say that Dari looks a very useful bowler. Skip promptly asks if he is free to play on the weekend and gets his details – another new recruit!
Flash forward to Saturday and another scorching day on which to welcome another new opponent – Sherwood CC 3rds – to Oakfield Park. We are joined by Dari and another newcomer, Ian, a friend of Slates. Our captain’s tossing skills remain impressive and once more we ask them to bat first. Slates and Dory open the bowling and the breakthrough comes with the latter’s second ball, snaring one of their openers for a golden duck. The oppo regroup and double down, adding another 55 runs before Dino makes the next breakthrough, removing the other opener for 41. Dari comes on at second change and bowls at a very decent clip, but to no avail. The outfield has become faster with the dry weather and anything the batsmen lay willow on is heading off to the boundary. The sweltering conditions are also taking their toll on everyone, with both Dory and Dari having to leave the field for short spells in order to shelter and rehydrate. While the latter is off, our glorious leader steps up to bowl – despite a slightly wayward radar, he induces a very loose shot from their number 4 in his third over and Edd holds the catch. The final 12 overs or so see a remarkable flurry of wickets and it’s very much a family affair. Rich Pusey starts things off by getting rid of their well-set captain with the fourth ball of his first over. At the other end, George returns for his second spell and, a few overs later, takes two wickets in an over. Not to be upstaged, Rich does exactly the same in the next over, but off one fewer balls. The young pup’s blood is up and he gets another wicket the following over, but he’s out of time to claim any more (a ten-over maximum has been agreed in the conditions) and the elusive 5-for is not to be his, alas. Rich and Slates concede just three runs from the last three overs, with Sherwood finishing on 136 for 9 off 41 overs.
Tea – a Rich special, complete with scones, closed cream and jam. During the break, Skip decides to try something new and asks goes around everyone asking at what position they would like to bat, gradually reducing the options as they are taken. Bold, confident leadership and surely not likely to backfire…
Suitably refreshed, we begin our reply with the new opening partnership of Slates and Dari, who promptly put on a decent partnership of 27 before Nick is caught. Stumpy joins our new chap and they take things to 45, when Dari ventures down the track a bit and is stumped for his troubles. The dread Stone wobble is almost upon us. Within six overs, the score goes up only ten runs for the loss of four wickets, all at the hands of the same bowler. Stumpy is clean bowled for 11, with the score on 50. Jez goes next, caught having made a 13-ball 1, and Ian gets a golden duck, leaving us on 53 for 5. I come in next, planning to dead-bat things for a while to steady the ship, but fall to a very athletic catch at midwicket for a five-ball duck. Ed manages to get a few runs, but is then bowled too, leaving things precariously perched on 65 for 7 with 16 overs remaining. The wheels haven’t just come off – they have burst into flame and disappeared into a pile of manure. The only bright spot in this period is Dory, who bats sensibly and thrashes anything wide or short to the boundary. He is joined by the Skipper, batting at number 9 as it was the only one not picked earlier. Together they rebuild and share a partnership of 33, taking the score to 98 before George too is bowled by the pick of the oppo bowlers, Norris, who also claims Rich for 1 in his next (and final) over. Norris ends the day with 7 for 7 off ten overs, with seven maidens. I learn from my fellow scorer that their captain hadn’t bowled him in the previous game, despite his taking a 6-for in the midweek fixture prior to that! Anyway, Dino joins Skip and they see things through to the end, with our final total 115 for 9. Match drawn (yet again).
To the Tap Room at the Malt Shovel, because of a birthday party in the main bar and garden, where the performance and the awards are debated extensively. Suffice it to say, the batting order will not be done again by volunteering in the near future.