As May draws to a close, the weather conditions have improved considerably and the Wok strip has finally dried out. This week’s opponents are old rivals Foxbury Exiles, while Ross has volunteered to provide the first home tea of the season. The Skipper has had to withdraw at the last minute, but this enables Tom P to stay in the side and continue his promising start to the season with the ball. The Candy Man makes the train journey to make his season debut in a strong side. Billy takes the skipper’s armband for the day and promptly wins the toss, meaning that we will bowl first in a 40-over game. We are also joined by several of our team’s families, which means we have excellent support throughout the day.
Walkie and Sashi open the bowling in a very disciplined fashion, going for only 20 runs in the first ten overs. Sashi thin makes the breakthrough, trapping their Number 1 in front of his wicket for a successful LBW shout. Chungy, who has replaced Walkie at the Roger Dine End, then gets the other opener thanks to a good low catch by Ryan. The run rate improves thereafter as the oppo start to find the boundary more regularly, although Sashi gets their Number 3 for a duck with another LBW. Their Number 4, who has battered us around previously while batting at their place, hits a quick fire 41 (including a towering 6 which I have to fend away from the pavilion windows) before Chungy clean bowls him, at which stage they have reached 80/4 off 21 overs. There is no joy for Ryan in his eight-over spell, despite some chances, and the next wicket falls to Richard, bowling their Number 5 for 32. Tom P then joins the attack and takes a wicket in his first over, taking the off stump of Russ Palumbo (he of oppo song fame). The Candy Man removes their other well-set batsman before he can reach his fifty, with a caught & bowled, leaving them 161/7 from 34. Tom isn’t finished yet and takes two more wickets, including a caught & bowled, to finish on an impressive 3-11 from his four overs. Foxbury see out their allotted overs for a final total of 171/9.
After a long stint in the field, His Lordship’s Royal tea is demolished in short order by the two teams.
There is a change to the opening partnership this week – Mike and Stumpy are charged with leading our reply, with Billy moving down to Number 6. Although their opening bowler (their skipper) has difficulty with his radar (a total of ten wides from his five overs), he and his partner strike in the fourth and fifth overs – Mike is bowled and Stumpy is adjudged LBW. The opposition scent blood and, despite a steady knowck by Ross, the wickets fall on a reasonably regular basis. The aforementioned Russ Palumbo is the pick of their attack, taking 4-29. Ducks for Dan and Walkie, while Billy is stumped and Ross is beaten for our top score of 21 – we have subsided to 56/7 in 21 overs. Sashi and Richard mount a welcome recovery of sorts, adding 35 runs in our eighth wicket stand, then Sashi plays around a straight one and is given out LBW for 20. Richard follows not long after for 15. This leaves our (largely predictable) fate in the hands of Tom P and the Candy Man. Both have been discussing a Buttler-esque “fuck it” approach in the build-up to their oilfield partnership, and so it proves. Freeing up their arms and taking on the field, they add an entertaining 16 runs together before an optimistic call for a second run leaves Tom short of his ground. Both finish on 8 apiece and we are bowled out for Nelson.
Beaten by 60 runs in the end and our first defeat of the season, but with some highlights to celebrate all the same (albeit not the unnecessarily complicated struggle with the rope around the square), we crack open the post-game refreshments and discuss the awards. There is a belated presentation of last year’s batting award to Stumpy, then Tom P wins the vote for Big Pat with his bowling performance (honourable mentions for Ross, Sashi and Chungy). Walkie wins the Golden Shite (again), to no-one’s great surprise. Plus ça change…