Suddenly we’re into September, and a late summer fixture against old foes Tonbridge Foresters at an Oakfield Park that looked more like the Western Front during World War One in some parts, due to some bunch of goons armed with metal detectors digging a ton of dinner-plate-sized holes (albeit small dinner plates, according to some) all over the ground. Christ knows what they were trying to find. I hope they dug up the bubonic plague. Nevertheless, with the usual overcast and now slightly chilly conditions around, and a very strong Stone line-up boosted by a returning Beef after two years on the missing list, we threw them into bat in a timed affair, with the promise of a mini royal tea from Rossington once we got them out. What was he buttering us up for…?
Walkie and Muttley opened to their usual high standard. Indeed, the pair combined to get rid of the first wicket, with Walkie shaking off last week’s catching nightmares by snaffling one at midwicket with the Tonbridge score still on zero. The second wicket proved trickier to dislodge, with one chance bursting through the hands of some bloke at backward square leg (can’t remember his name…) and a tricky chance shelled at short cover by Vice. Dino came into the attack and took an over or two to settle before he and Gracie combined to remove their well-set number 3 for 44, with the score at 60/2. That man Dino would add another wicket to his ever-growing pile for 2021 as Vice held on at cover nine runs later, before the Binman got in on the wicket-taking action with a great yorker removing wicket number four. Vice was unlucky not to get at least one more as a great effort from Dino didn’t quite stick, and a swirly, loopy, horrible chance went over the shoulder of that bloke at backward square, who could only get a fingertip to it. The Muttley and Walkie show returned for the fifth dismissal, with the former brilliantly holding on to the catch despite Gracie almost careering into him at high speed. Walkie almost sent one of the bails into the graveyard at the far end next ball to set up the hat trick, which was barely denied him by a late block from their next batsman. Tonbridge’s other opener hung around at the other end for 20 off 110 balls – a very handy innings, in the circumstances – and they finished their allotted time on 127, despite us steaming through 42 overs – Walkie again the pick of the bowlers with figures of 9-5-7-2.
The royal tea duly appeared and seemed to go down extremely well (I am assuming, as I didn’t get a bite of it) with both team and random dogs who just happened to sniff out the sausage rolls on their way past. With a decent supply of beers working their way into the viewing gallery, Vice and I walked out to the middle to begin the run chase. Skip advised us to have a look and take our time, but when the first ball is a lopty half tracker Fray Bentos coming down at 30mph who am I to turn down such an offer? it was sent to the fence for four, which set the tone for our innings. Vice and I ticked along nicely, with boundaries (nice straight drive in there, if I say so myself) and runs (including another fackin’ three – please no more I beg) aplenty. Our first wicket fell with the score on 41, and was another to add to my ridiculous dismissal list – the ball kept low, I played and missed, ball hits keeper’s pads who had no idea what was happening, ricochets onto the stumps and the off bail dribbles off pathetically with me out of my ground – “stumped” for 19. Chungy came in next, doing his usual job of playing gorgeous shots straight to the oppo fielders. He soon remembered that hitting it away from the fielders can mean many runs, and hit some lovely boundaries himself. Vice eventually edged behind on 32, bringing Beef in at four. He and Chungy added another 30 to the total with good shots and sensible running before Beef plopped one up to mid on and was on his way for 12. Gracie came in with the intention of finishing the game quickly and brought out his Snodland tactic of larruping everything through leg before crashing one through cover once the fielders had all been moved to the other side. Chungy eventually went for a fine 30, before Muttley chopped one to point for a duck three balls later. Was the Stone Wobble™ upon us? With Walkie in next, anything was possible, but with some inspirational heckling from his captain echoing around Oakfield he clubbed the winning runs to the fence, and we had secured a five-wicket victory with ten overs to spare.
On to the post-match analysis and beers at the ground, with the usual insults and chat interrupted by Skip announcing that 2021 was to be his final season at the helm of the good ship Stone. After the hip-hip hoorays, the only way to react was to demand that he buy us even more beer at the pub, for which he got a rousing round of applause from all present, and Gracie was awarded the company of Big Pat for the week after a close vote for a fine fielding performance and 13 not out.