My usual serene pre-match routine was somewhat ruined by a massive hangover, the taste of cigars from the night before, and having to pull together a tea. I will have cut a very sorry figure meandering around Sainos at around 11.30, but that would have been nothing to the desolate soul that you would have found in Belmont Parade at around 20.30 picking up a forgotten bag of salad for the evening tea. What happened in the intervening nine hours will stay with me for a long time and this is that story below.
Having won the toss and inserted our visitors, Cudham, our spirits were sky high. The Stone Jukebox was set to play, our favourite mix tape inserted and with Bestest Bum Chums Mario and Ruggy opening up, we knew that Cudham were in for a torrid old time. The combination bowled some very good stuff, with both fairly luckless picking up two wickets from the combined 14 they bowled. With so many balls beating the bat and catching the edge only to fly safe, it had the feeling of one of those days. Whilst they may have not gotten the wickets they deserved, they were both tight as ducks butts with Ruggy particularly miserly. Mario’s wicket was one of my faves of the day with their opener having been set-up by a concerted over of clever mental disintegration before he succumbed in fine style.
One rather sour note arose when their Number 4 blatantly edged behind. As big an edge as the big U2 lead guitarist you could not wish to see. Their skipper was later heard to say that they heard the edge from the boundary so how the umpire didn’t give it or that their fella didn’t walk is difficult to fathom. I am proud that we play with a level of honesty in our decision making, if only our opponents shared this ethos…
Following The Bum Chums we had Glenn and the man looking for Redemption, young Scrappy Do. Having gone for 37 in two overs the previous week, this was a significantly improved spell. Both bowled tidily enough but again we must have seen 5-6 aerial shots fly into gaps that bore no resemblance to where the batters were trying to hit the ball… One of those days…
Looking for a bit more penetration, we turned to our Team Admin and our Leading Covert Ops Man to turn the screw. Both again gave us excellent control with Matty G bowling that “classic Matty G” line and length that doesn’t take any wickets (ever) but doesn’t go for many runs. 1-10 from eight overs was a terrific return, mind, and whilst Dino was a little more expensive (five overs going for 29), his three wickets showed great mental fortitude at a time when the Cudham bats were looking to get after him. I hadn’t realised that he was a former Cudham player but this can be the only explanation for his refusal to celebrate any of the wickets he took.
Anyway a cheeky over from Jordan saw Cudham reach 145-7 declared from 39 overs so restricted to little more than 3.5 per over which with sharper catching, better field placing, some honesty from the oppo and a little bit more luck could have been much less. Still it was a very very good effort nonetheless where 180 plus has been the par score this year.
Having been responsible for tea, it is very difficult to comment. However what I will say is that one cup of tea in 30 mins for the skipper is unacceptable. Dartsy is a tremendous mum and in his absence I will in future need to appoint a replacement. With legends everywhere it was a thoroughly enjoyable tea with Stumpy being bigged up to such an extent it is a little surprising that England’s chairman of selectors wasn’t at the ground to check out his form in the run-up to this week’s Ashes test.
With all that praise swirling around, it will come as no surprise to learn that what is commonly known as “the commentator’s curse” struck with Stumpy back in the hutch for a Diamond Duck as the first of eight players to be clean bowled on the day. With the opportunity soon working out that straight bowling might be Stone’s nemesis, Jordan was back in the pavilion the very next ball and it was at 0-2 after two balls that I found myself strolling out to the crease unable to even start my second cup of tea.
It would be fair to say that what followed from myself was not a captain’s innings and I was back on childcare duties a lot quicker than I would have liked after a six-ball 1 and when Matty G followed soon after, we were 8-4 and in all kinds of bother. Matt Adair and Free Willy hit some lusty blows, as is their style, but were both back with their increasingly concerned team mates with little more than 20 on the board. When Glenn and Scrappy failed to fair much better, we were on the ropes somewhat at 36-7 and playing for pride at this stage.
It was at that point that the new Dungfunnellers came together for a rescue mission that, had it come off, would have made a great Hollywood Blockbuster. Answers on a postcard for who would play either Ruggy and Mario in this epic tale?! A backs-to-the-wall story first, we saw the pair digging in, First World War style, to see off the Cudham onslaught before then coming out all guns blazing to take the fight to the unsuspecting oppo. In the meantime, the love interest in the film, the new Mrs Mario is seen fending off all manner of suitors as her man bravely fights on for the club he loves. Roger Dine, as you would expect, comes closest to stealing her away with promises of a new life in pensioners playground, Eastbourne.
Longing to be back in the arms of the woman he loves, Mario’s struggles become increasingly desperate as he moved into the second hour of being apart from her. However, by this stage, Stone had reached 100-8 and foolishly talk had moved to not only saving the game, but actually going on to win the thing. The inevitable twist however followed and, having almost reached the promised land, Mario succumbed for a fine 32 and having lost his best mate (lending a slight Brokeback Mountain feel to the film) Ruggy could go on no longer and fell for 23 shortly after, with Stone on 107 and 38 runs back from an unlikely victory.
Fair play to Cudham – they bowled full and straight, particularly early on, and that found a good number of us out. As Ruggy and Mario showed us, though, a lot of the teams we play have very little after their opening bowlers and a little more patience and resilience in seeing off those early overs would have comfortably seen us home. It was however just one of those days with the victory that follows this guaranteed to feel all the sweeter when it comes.