This is our first away game of the season and we head to Tonbridge, although not to play Tonbridge Foresters as planned (as they only had six players), but to play instead a hastily cobbled-together Dartford 6ths. The game was to be played at Tonbridge as neither of us were able to host. Not entirely sure who was the designated home side – I presume it was us, as we seemed to do all the setup. After picking up Nick and Skip en route, we set off for our away day. I was so distracted by their riveting chat about Excel spreadsheets that I missed the turn-off for Tonbridge and ended up taking a slightly longer, less scenic route there. All arrived and ready for 12.15-ish.
The designated start time (1pm) arrives, only one problem – no oppo. Eventually a collection of enthusiastic youngsters and dads turn up, but only ten in total, so we kindly take turns in fielding for them as Skip negotiates the toss and we bat first on a pitch that frankly looks like a cabbage patch. As Billy and Rossington set about getting us off to a decent start, to say the bounce would be inconsistent would be putting it mildly! After a few sumptuous drives from Billy, Rossington does well to sweep an attempted pull shot off his ankles for 4 as a short ball threatened to go below sea level, whilst at the other end Billy did well to get out the way of one that spat up from nowhere. All was going well and both openers remained relatively untroubled. Halfway through our innings, the legend that is our Club President Martin Hallett turned up to watch a most unlike Stone performance as we reached a century opening partnership. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long as Ross cut one to the ‘keeper to fall for 28. Newly-promoted Number 3 Tom came in and then went out for a six-ball duck, having been padded up for nearly an hour and a half – not sure he will be volunteering for Number 3 again anytime soon! Skip came in and bashed a couple down the ground, before attempting a rare defensive shot which ended up back in the hands of the bowler for 14. Gracie came in and played a couple of elegant shots before slicing one to point for 10. Billy carried on bashing and nudging away to a fine unbeaten 72 to carry his bat for the innings and Stumpy finished on 3* for his first game this year. Stone closed on a decent 169/4 from the allotted 35 overs.
After a quick pep talk and team photo with El Presidente, we set about defending our score. Walkie opened the bowling in search of his 100th wicket for the club, so we started off with two leg slips, three slips and two gullies! It nearly came off as the third ball went flashing past Nick’s fingertips at first leg slip. I had the dubious pleasure of opening the bowling at the other end and managed to get two wickets in two balls as both batsmen were beaten by the sheer slowness of my deliveries and departed bowled. The hat-trick ball was just about kept out by the incoming batsmen. After the double wicket maiden, my next over got carted for 10, obviously, but it contained the third wicket to fall as Gracie took a full-length catch at gully. A couple of dead eye run outs followed as the remaining opener sold both his partners down the river. Firstly Nick Slater ran out their skipper for a duck with a direct hit from mid-wicket followed in the next over by Sash who followed suit with a direct hit from mid-on as Dartford self-destructed. Luckily I was able to claim a fourth wicket as another batsmen walked past a slow delivery – this was getting silly now frankly. With the whiff of a potential jug in the offering, I was kept on. You could taste the beer – I could see myself offering the jug around for a five wicket haul… But then Walkie dropped it. But it’s okay – these things happen. Then another chance came, this is it… No, drop number 2 as Tom spilled it at mid-wicket! It’s not going to happen, is it! Then, one final chance to get that elusive 5th wicket… No! That hit the deck too, as Tom Juggled one to the floor… Ah well, saved some money, every cloud and all that.
While I brooded at fine leg, Walkie suddenly remembered how to catch as he clung on to Paul’s first delivery, a carbon copy of his effort off me, but without the resultant ball hitting the floor. Paul then sneaked another one through the batsman’s defences to claim two wickets in the over. Sash then trapped another batsmen plumb LBW to get in on the act as well. Generously we allowed Dartford to use one of the poor run out victims to bat again as they were a man down. It made little difference as Walkie eventually came back on to claim his 100th wicket for Stone as he got his old coach caught behind. Dartford 6ths eventually succumbed to 67 all out, giving us victory by 102 runs. I managed 4-31 from seven overs, Paul 2-4 off his solitary over, and Sash claimed 1-9 off his three.
After getting changed in a changing room that was inexplicably as hot as Dubai in July, we headed outside for refreshments courtesy of Rossington who had duly bought the supplies. Luckily Tom was able to redeem himself a little as he provided the bottle opener.
Big Pat went to Billy for carrying his bat for a fine 72 and generally put the game beyond Dartford. Shitbag was selected by myself – it was a choice between Walkie (dropped catch) & Tom (two dropped catches & a duck). The decision was made all the easier by the fact that Walkie can catch, but only off certain other members of the club (yes, I looked it up – 3rd June 2017 was the last time he decided to catch one of my bowling). Congratulations and Happy Bloody Birthday. Hopefully I didn’t come across as too bitter. A trip to our local followed where Billy plonked himself down with a couple of Morrettis and looked ready for bed, a cake was presented to Walkie for his birthday (which he managed to cling on to), and a few club members invested in Sky bet hoping to win a small fortune on the Ashes later this year. In the end, it was a tiring but victorious day for the good ship Stone. Same time again next week…?