Another overcast afternoon greeted us as we welcomed Gravesend V’s down to Oakfield Park for this week’s battle, albeit half an hour behind schedule. Well, ten of us did, as Sashi couldn’t navigate the Sashbus through the poxy Dartford traffic in time for the first half hour of play. With our leaders back in town and lining up with a strong bowling attack, I thought we were a good bet for a victory against a pretty youthful-looking Gravesend side. I haven’t won a bet since Euro 2016.
Gravesend were inserted to bat as we began play rather late due to the aforementioned traffic aggro, their openers making a good fist of it until Walkie created the first chance when he got one to edge just past me at first slip. Shortly after there was a HUGE appeal for a snick behind which wasn’t given despite everyone in the world hearing it. Not that it mattered too much as Walkie got some movement going two balls later to get rid of their number one. Enter Risabh Pant at three, who proceeded to absolutely destroy everything our strong bowling attack threw at him for a good few overs. Then the comedy began as Slates and Vice were thrown the ball in a bid to get rid of this bloke, who was clearly batting miles below his usual level. First opportunity off Vice’s bowling was in the air for a good ten seconds before it agonisingly dropped over Dino’s outstretched hand. A few balls later, matey hit one that bounced off the International Space Station, a deflection which evidently put Walkie off as he shelled the chance. Chance number three also fell to our man Walkie, who must have been enjoying the batting barrage as he threw this one on the floor as well. Vice then dropped one at long off to make Walkie feel better about his day, and I’m sure there was another drop somewhere but they’ve all melded into one big cloud of failure (all of these off Slates’ bowling, I might add). Sash came on and decided enough was enough, so he did the whole job himself and the slugger was gone caught, bowled for 68 off just 31 balls.
In the aftermath of this madness, Buckets Boyling again lived up to his name by holding onto a couple of catches in the covers, Gracie took a one-handed loopy catch at short midwicket that only a bloke of his stature could, and bar their lunatic number three there wasn’t much else to show for the Gravesend innings by the time Walkie finally held on to one – the final wicket – helpfully encouraged by Sash screaming “PLEASE WALKIE” as it sailed towards him at mid off. Gravesend were dismissed 25 minutes inside their time for 166, with Dino grabbing four wickets, Sashi three and Walkie two – poor old Slates was left with a solitary wicket after all the drops. Someone owes him a Moretti.
Slightly shell-shocked and/or pissed off, the reply began with Skip and I utterly failing to get the innings going as the first 16 or so runs featured at least 12 extras, mostly byes. Gravesend’s opening bowlers kept it tight and offered barely any width or bad balls, with the ball seaming around off a surface that was the same colour as the outfield. They eventually got Rossington with one keeping a bit low getting through the gate. Gracie came in and started conducting an orchestra for a few balls until he settled and dispatched a clubbing drive to the fence for our first boundary. We were looking good and running well for a couple of overs, including a three that almost killed us, until he too was bowled for 7. Stumpy didn’t last long as he lofted one into the covers, which brought Vice to the crease. At the other end I had been busy playing air shots, had a pretty good LBW appeal turned down (thanks Walkie) and belted a no-ball full toss in the air straight to mid-off, who promptly dropped it. The Binman began his innings by almost running me out on his first ball but I made it home by not very much at all (thanks Skip). After an apology and a customary whack to the boundary, Vice top edged to point and was on his way for nine. Soon after I edged one straight into second slip’s tits but he had been studying our fielding efforts closely and dropped it after a spot of juggling. Slates came in and asked for batting advice which he promptly ignored and played his usual attacking shots, including a lovely sweep to the rope, before he was bowled for seven.
Mr Drop-a-lot joined me in the middle with Stone 90-odd for 5 and about 20 overs to go, so I decided to try having a go at their lesser bowlers now their excellent openers had been seen off. This tactic didn’t last too long as firstly I edged behind off a no-ball (ha), before the luck finally ran out as a bit of a top edge found its way to mid on and I was gone for 38 off about a million balls. Sash was skittled by their 70-year-old skipper for not very many before Walkie played down the wrong line which left Buckets (0*), Lil’ Will (2) and NAAOO RUNNNN Dino’s extravagant helicopter leaves to close out the final three overs. Stone ended on 113/9 which, if we take their ringer out of the game (or hadn’t dropped him four times), could have won us the game. Admittedly we were helped mightily by them gifting us 31 extras, but the draw was the final result.
No official awards this week as everyone scarpered lively after the game and only three of us ended up in the pub, but a big shout out goes to Ed ‘Buckets’ Boyling for bringing us into the 20th Century with his new scoreboard (plus two catches and a not out – we’ll let the fielding slide this week…). Turd Trophy contenders were Walkie for his hate crimes against catching, and Sash for rocking up late and amusingly strolling round the outfield and back to his car while getting changed in absolutely no hurry whatsoever.