“Better late than never” provides the perfect tagline for Saturday’s performance with a Stone-record nine players all receiving fines for lateness with young Jack Rogers suffering the ignominy of arriving after the game’s start time. With the effects of Operation Yewtree still being felt through the club for its previous questionable “youth” policy, it was another Operation, this time Stack, that saw Stone’s great and good spread all across the Kent countryside trying to find a route into far-flung Borden.
With our regular pre-game 30-minute warm up curtailed, it was a surprise that we got out of the blocks as well as we did, especially given the noises coming from the camp when I decided to put Borden in to bat in the heat of the day without an area of shade in sight. Opening with the new classic seam and spin combination of Dino and Mario, we were in Borden’s faces from the get-go. Mario extracted significant bounce to pick up two wickets in two balls in the seventh over and was denied the hat-trick when the Borden umpire decided not to raise his finger to one of the better lbw shouts I have seen. A shame for young Mario, but where in the past the “Why always me” T Shirt would have been out, the young tyro showed great maturity to put this behind him to continue to bowl a very tidy eight-over spell for 30 runs.
This wasn’t Dino’s kind of pitch and with little turn available and slow predictable bounce making him easier than normal to play, he was removed for Slimline Glenn Foster to enter the attack. Like a slimline tonic matched up with its old sparring partner gin, Robocop bowled a good solid spell but lacked the effervescence of his old full fat self and he has been encouraged to get back on the diet favoured by many club members, in order to help rediscover his old form. Glen’s seven-over spell went for a tidy enough 28 runs and bowling in tandem with Ruggy whose seven overs went for 27 it was a quiet period of steady accumulation for Borden, apart from a match-winning turn (for us) from their skipper and match-changing piece of fielding from The Stig.
With a quick, fast and lively bouncing outfield, gathering the ball cleanly was a challenge all afternoon with numerous bounces foxing both the Stone CC and Borden fielders. That didn’t matter to the Stig and with their best batsman and opener well set in the 30s and showing no signs of getting out, he threw himself feet first at a ball that he had no real right to stop. Sensing this, the Borden Skipper called his batting partner through, only to stop in his tracks and sell his playing partner down the river when The Stig cannoned the ball to Mario who had the simplest of tasks to get the ball to ‘keeper Dartsy (nothing that guy cannot do) to whip off the bails. If the opener had gone on to bat for longer, we could well have been chasing 220 plus so Stig’s contribution cannot be underestimated.
Borden then rebuilt with the skipper taking responsibility for his previous actions and going about his business with a highly effective nudging and a nurdling style. This married with the unorthodox methods of their Number 5, who (while definitely not a batsman) had a way of getting the ball away, with a top edged 6 over the wicketkeeper off a good length Ruggy ball a highlight. This meant that a combination of Ruggy, Slimline, Jack and myself struggled to pick up wickets, until the tiring skipper was another run-out victim with the score on 158.
It was left to myself and new man Slatesy on debut to see the innings home which, despite my bowling action seemingly having been possessed by Tom Rogers, we did, restricting Borden to 176 and picking up a couple of wickets in the last two overs between us.
Having spent 150 minutes in searing heat it was to some surprise that Mario and I emerged from the changing room to find the team that had already picked up their tea sitting slap bang in the middle of the searing sun. Again, Mario (demonstrating more sense than his old man) showed the team the way and found a lovely bit of shade for us to try and enjoy in between the Darts dogs trying to knock over our tea and steal our rice crispie cakes (a tea highlight along with onion bhajis).
After 30 minutes of procrastination I finally settled on a batting order and, having tried my best to avoid opening, decided that if anyone was equipped (dull and round of belly enough) to try and become a Dave Bateley tribute act at the top of the order it was myself. So it was with young Jack Rogers, a song in our hearts and a skip in our steps, that we strode out to tackle the experienced Borden line-up.
It would be fair to say it was not the best of starts for Stone CC, losing a tentative Jack and Walkie Talkie inside four overs with only 13 runs on the board. With Dave Darts then joining me at the crease we knew we had a battle on our hands. But battle we did – faced with a good spell from a wily left arm medium pacer and some hittable spin, we both channeled Stumpy to steadily accumulate and broadly keep us in line with the required 4.5 per over run rate.
Through 50 we went, then 75 and then it was 100 and then all of a sudden it was 125 and with 12 overs remaining and just over 50 needed the good ship Stone was sailing serenely along when trouble hit.
First it was COLLAPSE, with Dartsy departing first for a jug avoiding 48 (a fine vice skipper’s knock), then Slimline for a Golden Duck, and then myself to a low bouncer that saw me castled for 57. When The Stig also departed for his own golden quacker, we were in all sorts of bother, having used up a couple of overs and all of a sudden staring down the barrel with six wickets down and 130 on the board.
However then came THE BANG in the mighty form of Free Willy and his responsible playing partner Mario. Let me tell you there is nothing quite like the sight of a big killer whale eagerly feasting on some not too shabby bowling and smashing some poor unsuspecting soul for 6, 6 and 4 in an over but saw it we did on Saturday and it was a thing of beauty. Another match-winning contribution, this time from Kelv but when the big man went for 24 and the score in the mid 150s, there was still work to do, needing 20 from 7 overs with 3 wickets in hand. When this soon became 2 wickets after a breakdown in comms between Slates and Mario (whose 3 was much more valuable than it sounds as he allowed the big Killer Whale to flourish), the game was in the balance.
Amidst chatter of whether we should now play for the draw I took a sip of my Fosters (thanks Stig) and said no, it’s now time for the WALLOP. OK, I may have not been as direct as that and said something about playing natural games and seeing where that took us but the WALLOP soon followed nevertheless. With Ruggy a calm assured figure at one end playing some of the best shots for none you will see and Slatesy finding gaps in the field like a young, right handed Neil Fairbrother at the other, they comfortably saw out the game for a memorable win by 2=two wickets with 16 balls to spare. Slatesy notching a match-winning contribution in his first Stone game has shown he is a man ready for the battle.
I’ve name-checked a good number of people through this very long match report, but this really was a crackerjack team effort with everyone doing something that put us on the path to victory. It always helps when you score a few runs yourself (I owed the team some), however Saturday again epitomised the spirit in which we have played in all season and I am enjoying every moment of being your skipper. Hats off to Dartsy, whose support as vice and stand-in Skip is hugely appreciated.
Another good turn-out at the pub afterwards saw everyone head home in fine sprits… Onto next week Stoners!