Monday, 27 September 2010

HHCC vs Ivinghoe & Pitstone

Matt cuts loose

What with my absence from the last match of the HHCC 2010 season, the club's honourable President has taken it upon himself to spread his lies and Stalinist propaganda against your dedicated correspondent. Here it is in full below:

This week you have a bit of a treat. Rather than the ethanol-withdrawal induced reporting you know and love, this week there is a cold-blooded, factual, unbiased, sober (well almost) view of events on the “Heath”. No tales of vicious phantom leg-spin bowled at mere children – actually, we might have done better if there was. Just tales of my last game as Chairman, a chance for the team to achieve the highest number of wins in a season, a chance for five people to avoid the Duck Award, a chance of making enough runs to win the batting prize, enough wickets to take the bowling prize, a fielding performance to take the Fielding Cup, sandwiches to influence the awarding of the Captain's Cup, or even behaviour sycophantic enough to influence the President’s Cup (the Prix d’Or of Hyde Heath).

Right, so much for the scene-setting, what about the cricket? Charlie walked to the wickets, and promptly lost the toss in a timed game. Now my esteemed correspondent doesn’t like limited overs cricket and I can sympathise. However, once we lost the decision and were put in, the excellent pitch produced by Mike O’the Common became a handicap: make 200+ and you struggle to prize batsmen out, score too few and it’s a cakewalk. We achieved the former. However, the battle for Cups took over.

Henry and Dom walked out to impose themselves and, allegedly, both were in “the Zone”. Dom needed a small task of 250* to take the Batting Cup but thought he would take Henry out as his first task. “Come one” is always a frightening call, particularly when the ball is lodged in gulley’s hands. Apparently Shrimpy, in the pavilion, was out of his seat in no time to greet Henry back and stake his own claim for glory, thanking Dom on the way. Could he take control? Could Dom make the 250? Well, not really, but both batted really well. The score ticked along. Shrimpy decided to give one fielder (their captain, no less) catching practice and after four close calls was taken at mid-wicket by the same man, with an excellent catch in spite of very sore hands, for a good 34. Dom missed his target by 224 but was unlucky to pick out deep mid-wicket.

Enter Nick Burgham who just loves Iving and Pitstone’s bowlers. He really got stuck in with some violence and made 49 with an array of shots to make Ian Botham jealous. However, avoiding buying a jug seemed more important than ever and he perished on 49. Viney and Sims took over, both scoring freely. Viney had the unique experience of being called back by the bowler of all people, after being caught off a head-high full toss. Dom, umpiring at the bowlers end and fearing another challenge to the batting cup, (only 600 short) wouldn’t call “no ball” and Brad at square leg sympathised. Would Jeremy have been so generous with the Bowling Cup at stake? Reprieved, Viney pushed us up to 226 for 6, helped by an excellent 15* from Spencer

Bad news for Tom and Jeremy, however; an innings with no ducks (not one!). The Duck Prize (probably the ultimate end of season reward and usually achieved with 6 or 7 ducks by someone called Tim Nutman) might just be traveling in to London with Tom’s first and second ball ducks beating Jezza’s first and a few balls. It only needed one slip-up from any of three players, but…

Tea and cakes next with the stirring sight of the President, who has not been in the best of health recently, arriving chauffeur-driven to a standing ovation which even brought a dampness to the Chairman’s eye, to sample the fare. Great to see him back! Needless to say tea did not disappoint and the Heath took to the field with possibly (certainly) too many runs and far too much cake as well.

Hahaha - best drop ever!

Jeremy and Shrimpy were neck and neck in the race for the Bowling Cup with little to choose between them. Both bowled well although the opening bat seemed to be a bit impatient, hitting Jeremy particularly severely around the ground. Little did we know that he had to retire to return to college but not before he had been dropped in consecutive balls. The second of which ruined a run from Champagne Charlie, 'El Capitano', who had looked invincible under the high ball in the last few matches.

Unfortunately after the openers' exits, the other batsmen failed to shine; in fact they were truly pedestrian. In the past at Hyde Heath the odd shooter or ridiculous movement off the seam could still have won the game for us but Mike is far too good a groundsman and the pitch played true – too true! 123 for 7 but no chance of winning, particularly against I & P’s canny league players. There were several bright spots however: Sohail bowled beautifully with only 9 runs off his 7 overs, Shrimpy, 11 overs, 2 for 28 and Brad, bowling what one of my old cricketing friends would describe as declaration bowling. Can you tell me why half of Hyde Heath who bowl fairly well off five paces feel they are Swann’s half-brother? Stand up Brad, Austin and Barnsley (spot the odd one out). However Shrimpy has proved me wrong with excellent bowling all season. Maybe some bowlers might reverse the trend!

Right, on to my reason for taking this write-up on. Timed games are good fun and when we were weak and with winning out of the question, achieving a draw against far better players by batting second was a bit of fun. But the boot is on the other foot now. We would have walloped this side by either batting second or playing overs. We can’t rely on other sides’ naivety or Charlie winning the toss with his double-sided coin. Not convinced? Neither am I totally!

Still, what a real pleasure to see HHCC's great spirit in this rather negative game. Was it that they didn’t have to retrieve the ball from the woods time and time again as our previous correspondent “bought” a wicket? Was it that the season was ending? Was it that the match started an hour and a half earlier and therefore we were in the pub much earlier? I don’t know and, really, I don’t care. What I did notice was a really enjoyable time for me is coming to an end. Tom Hicks might have to buy his team to enjoy their performance but this Chairman has just sat and watched eleven players time after time who have played cricket on the Common and loved this great game we all share. What great value!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Abbots Langley vs HHCC

The penultimate match of the Hyde Heath 2010 season, and sadly the last for your humble correspondent – thanks, family. I'm aware that this blog is perhaps becoming more about my burgeoning drink problem rather than the cricket, so I'll try and stick to the point this time. What was the point again?

Oh yes, cricket. For the first time ever we paid a visit to Abbots Langley. Apparently we always play them at the Heath because they love our teas so much. Well, it's understandable, but theirs was truly excellent too. I wouldn't ever presume to advise our tea-making committee, but the onion bhajis and samosas did go down extremely well. Just a thought...

What was the point again? Right, yes, sorry. We won the toss and elected to field first in a 40-overs per side game, and I have to say I've never seen the Heath field as well as we did today. It really was exceptional – highlights included Nick's catch at backward square leg, Brad's at cover, and Charlie's (yes, Charlie's) at mid-off. But the outstanding performance was by Spencer, who with catches, chases round the boundary and brilliant diving stops must have saved a good 20 runs on his own. It was really pretty impressive. Even I only misfielded once, I think.

Jez and Shrimpie bowled well early doors to keep Abbots Langley pegged back, but they began to find their range when Nick and myself came on to bowl – their left-hander hit some massive sixes off both of us. But the drinks break brought a change in fortune as I picked up two wickets in the over. One – Brad's catch to remove the destructive leftie – was particularly impressive as Brad had only just arrived at the ground, having landed from America that morning.

Ordinarily at this stage we would have closed in for the kill, but because it was limited overs we held back a little. That's when the game becomes boring and I'm so glad we normally play time games where the emphasis in the field is always about wickets and not maidens. Nonetheless we did well to keep them to around 180 and were pretty confident about chasing down the target.

Unfortunately our innings never got going, and despite a classy 50 from Shrimpie, a sensible supporting role from Spence (whose batting is beginning to get there) and some late fireworks from Sohail, we fell well short.

Of interest coming into the final match are various awards, still very much up for grabs. The Bowling Cup is very tight between Jez on 30 and Brad with 28, although Shrimpie could stage a late bid if he takes 7-fer. More important though is the Duck Cup. Half the squad it seems have got two this season but, with a golden duck each, Jez and I are tied for first place on count back. The fact that my other duck was a second baller might see me in trouble if nobody bags a blob in the final match. Fingers crossed – I don't think I could stand the humiliation.

HHCC vs Rising Stars

Apologies for the tardiness in writing up last week's match – it's been a bit of a hectic week or so. Anyway, I'll try and remember what I can – my memory rarely stretches to anything more than a week ago, and for reasons that will become clear I wasn't quite at my sharpest that day.

According to the fixture list we were due to play away at Cublington, but all did not quite go to plan. On the way to the ground, Charlie got a call from Shrimpie – apparently another team were already encamped in the away dressing room. Oh dear, some kind of mix-up had clearly occurred. Apparently we never confirmed the fixture and Cublington had arranged for a team to fill in for us at the last minute. Oops.

Assuming cricket to have been cancelled for the day, we all adjourned to The Plough and prepared to settle in for the afternoon – to be honest this was a rather welcome turn of events, as the evening before has been rather, um, lengthy. Unfortunately – for me at least – Charlie manageed to contact Chesham's Rising Stars, who agreed to play a 30-over game. By this stage I'd had a good five pints I think, including one before even getting out of bed, but we won't get into that.

Anyway, to put it succinctly, Rising Stars gave us a bit of a pasting. My first ball – surpsingly, given that I could hardly see – was a fairly well-pitched leg-break. Excellent, I thought. The batsman deposited it into the trees over long on. Bugger. It didn't improve much as my 3 overs went for 50-odd and they racked up a pretty hefty total (I really can't remember what now).

We never really got going, and despite a characteristically pugnacious 40-odd from Nick, and a bit of a lower order recovery, we fell rather short. Oh well, at least the match won't count for the end of season averages. Thank the Lord.

Coincidentally, the match took place in the midst of the Pakistan spot-fixing crisis, and whilst I was umpiring in the middle, their left-arm quick started to bowl no-balls. I called him, and prepared myself for a diplomatic disaster. Fortunately everyone thought it was hilarious.

One other amusing note – that President John Capper was keen to point out several times – was that the match took place during Ramadan. Imagine the result if the oppo has actually eaten anything that day. It doesn't really bear thinking about.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

HHCC vs Bank of England

Oh dear. A 24-hour binge beginning at Lord's at 11am on Saturday, continuing with dinner with one's alcoholic uncle, thence to a Bethnal Green house party and back home for breakfast lagers, is perhaps not the ideal preparation for a cricket match. Two quick pints at the Plough seemed to perk me up somewhat, but not for long.

I snooze; Nick mows

The opposition were Bank of England, and with the absence of Dom (on holiday I think) and Henry (being unspeakably lame) I was asked to open the batting. Fortunately some heavy rain meant the game was reduced to 30 overs per side, and I got time for a quick pre-match snooze. It didn't help. I was dropped twice on my way to a painful 6, before being stumped having a mow.

I'm out; there's a fly-by to celebrate

Unsure quite how to bat (not quite normally, not quite all-out 20/20 hitting) Hyde Heath rather collapsed and it was thanks to Jez with 30-odd, Atif and Spence that we got up to a roughly par 134 for 9.

Jez opened up with an extremely tight opening spell of 6 overs for 15, but it was only from the boundary that he managed to hit the wickets – sending in a throw of pin-point accuracy to run out one of their openers. In fact by the time I came on to bowl, we'd only taken two wickets, both to run outs, but that was all to change.

Jez cuts loose

I'd like to say I bowled amazingly, but it would be a lie – the usual array of full-tosses and long hops were all in evidence, but fortunately the batsmen weren't good enough to capitalise, and they also weren't good enough to keep out the decent deliveries, of which there were also some. Anyway, I finished with 4 for 20 off 6, and with Nick and Shrimpie also keeping things tight we closed the game out to win by about 20 runs.

All of which meant we could amble back to the pub. Thank god for that.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Ivinghoe & Pitstone vs HHCC

A clinical performance from Hyde Heath away against Ivinghoe & Pitstone made 2010 a record-breaking year for the club. We've now won 14 out of 18 completed matches to record, apparently, our best victory tally of all time. And with another four matches still to go, 2010 could well come to be hailed as Hyde Heath's annus mirabilis.

Winning the toss, Charlie elected to bowl first despite this being a 40-overs per innings game and the team being rather light on bowling. After Ivinghoe & Pitstone got off to a flier in the first three overs, it looked like we might be in for a long afternoon of leather chasing. But Jez and Shrimpie – taking the new ball with his off-spinners – clawed things back, and as wickets fell, a talented but fatally gung-ho batting line-up failed to adjust their tactics and ended up in a mess. Jez plugged away to pick up two wickets, but it was Shrimpie who did the bulk of the damage with six for 26.

He varied his pace well and the young batsmen didn't seem to have the patience to play him at all as they all succumbed to recklessness. That's not to take away from an excellent bowling effort, but the fact that the oppo were bowled out for 81 on a pitch that did nothing but keep occasionally low suggests poor thinking on their part.

One highlight was Dom bowling his first spell for the Heath in some years, and picking up two wickets. That one of them was caught (excellently, running backwards) by his brother Oli was particularly entertaining. Caught Haddock, bowled Haddock – what a way to go.

With such a small target the result was never really in doubt, although we did contrive to lose three wickets en route, including Shrimpie controversially given out caught behind by Charlie. Anyway, Oli Haddock came in to finish things off in style and a thorough pasting was completed. Splendid.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

HHCC vs Gamecox

An absolutely brilliant game of cricket down at the Heath on Sunday, witnessed in part by none of other than England captain Andrew Strauss, again. I have to say I think I bowled rather well, and by all accounts the second spinner's berth is wide open for the forthcoming Ashes tour to Australia – coincidence? You do the math...

Anyway, to the cricket, and it genuinely was one of the best games I've played for the Heath in, ooh, probably about a decade now. Reassuringly returning as captain, Charlie won the toss and we elected to field. Gamecox made a quick start, after a speculative and expensive solitary over from Ben Sonley, but were then pegged back by the accuracy of Jez and Brad, who also picked up two wickets.

From there, Charlie turned to the spinners – myself and Richard Austin, and we proceeded to wheel away for pretty much the rest of the Gamecox innings. After a poor start, Henry suggested that my right arm was getting too low, and thereafter I found a decent rhythm and a level of accuracy that had been markedly missing for the past few games. I got a couple of deliveries to really zip and turn, and picked up two wickets off a nice, long 11 over spell – of course these were off the rankest balls I bowled, but then such is the way with leg-spin (it could have been four were it not for two dropped chances at mid-off...).

At the other end Richard bowled tidily and also found some turn to pick up two wickets himself, and at the tea break, Gamecox were 183 for 6 – a gettable target, although it would have been nice to take more wickets. We were thwarted here by a gentleman of no less than 71, who made a composed 40-odd.

Capper and Haddock started the Heath response in solid style, putting on yet another half-century opening stand. But when both fell in consecutive balls from the oppo's unlikely-looking medium pacer, and then Matt and Napes followed soon after, we looked in some trouble.

Fortunately Richard and Ben strode to the rescue with a partnership of sensible accumulation. Even though Ben took some time to get going, Richard was aggressive against the Gamecox spinners, and runs began to flow. During their partnership there was a nice moment of controversy as I wided their off-spinner (the captain's son). Both were none too impressed (although the ball was pretty rank) – my guess is that Capper's shout from the boundary of “great decision, Tom!” probably didn't help too much... Just as Ben looked set however, there was a bit of a mix-up and he was run out in slightly ignominious fashion.

But Richard kept on going to reach his half-century off just 35 balls, and some big shots from Brad and Spence brought the target down to an eminently gettable 4 an over from the past four. But when Richard 'the finisher' Austin departed, the dots agonisingly mounted. When the opening bowler returned, things were still in the balance. Until Brad smote him over the trees for a colossal six. Surely the game was in the bag?

Well, no. Brad was bowled with 2 needed and it came down to the final over. Fortunately, Jez ran a single off the first ball, and on the third, Spence chipped one just, just over the heads of the infield and the batsmen scampered through for the winning run. Victory! With two balls and three wickets to spare – a brilliant match. And perhaps, in the end, that wide proved crucial. Guffaw.

Monday, 9 August 2010

HHCC vs Longwick

Probably the biggest shambles you could imagine preceded Sunday's game against Longwick.

First we had 12 players, as Richard Austin and a friend of Brad's were due to play in addition to the list of ten names sent to me by Charlie. This then dropped to 10, as Brad's mate was told he was superfluous to requirements and then Amala failed to arrive on the train (and failed to notify Caroline Capper who was waiting at the station to collect him). Thankfully Hyde Heath Chairman Mr J Capper stepped up when the club needed him most, and we managed to field a full eleven.

But this was just the tip of the iceberg. With half of the side well on their way to Longwick (and some already there) the Longwick skipper showed up at Fortress Heath with the rest of his team following shortly behind. I explained that we were playing at Longwick. He explained that we were playing at Hyde Heath. Neither side had a pitch prepared or (more importantly) teas to eat. A right bloody shambles.

Thankfully at a moment's notice our brilliant groundsman Mikey zoomed across the outfield and proceeded to cut and roll last week's wicket. In a frenzy of action we painted the boundary line, put out the flags and benches, set up the clock, and put in the stumps. Cricket, despite everything, would happen. We made sure of it.

In all this confusion I went out to toss – I was skipper by the way – and, despite my earlier tirade against limited overs cricket, conceded to Longwick's captain who wanted a 40 overs match. Anyway I won the toss and, just like Charlie, elected to field – mainly because I had no idea how the pitch would play. It turned out, as Mikey's pitches always do, to be perfect, if with a little more spin than usual.

Jez and Brad opened up and kept things tight, before Nicko replaced Brad at the Plough End. Continuing his good bowling form from tour, he bowled a full length and attacking line and was rewarded with three wickets from his allocated 8 overs (although it probably should be noted that two came from rank long hops, but hey ho). Shrimpie also wheeled away with accuracy, loop and a good bit of turn. He was more expensive than he should have been – party due to some bad fielding and partly due to some pretty bad field placement on my part.

Anyway, he took three wickets, including two in two balls, I bowled their left-hander through the gate with a sharply spun leg-break and we were well on top. From there I rather let things drift and from being about 80 for 6, Longwick eventually scrabbled up to 171 all out., partly aided by about 25 extras. A lot of credit though to Jez for the outstanding figures of 1 for 7 off 7 overs.

After tea – generously put together by the kind folks at the Plough – it was our turn to bat. I have to say I was a little nervous after we'd collapsed the week before chasing a similar target. But a century opening stand between Capper and Haddock effectively sealed the deal. Dom was dropped four times on his way to 60 but in between times played some great shots off the back foot. Several pull shots were particularly withering, and it was amusing that Longwick continued to feed the stroke.

Capper started sedately and was content to push the singles while Dom hit the boundaries at the other end. When he was out though, Henry started to find his timing, and although things got a little tense towards the end as we got a bit bogged down with the total in sight, he drilled two consecutive boundaries to swing the match decisively our way. All in all his unbeaten 83 was a measured and mature innings, that showed exactly how a run chase ought to be paced.

After the embarrassing lead-up it was a well-earned victory and, with everyone chipping in just to even get a match, it once more demonstrated the great spirit that lies at the heart of the Heath.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Hyde Heath Invicta Tour, Kent 2010

The Hyde Heath Invicta Tour – the 2010 incarnation of the club's annual foray away from leafy Buckinghamshire – lasted precisely one match. It then swiftly became the more aptly named Victa tour, during which, ironically, we won both matches, thus returning to the Invicta state in which we'd so presumptuously begun. Kind of.

Before we begin in earnest, a quick apology: I was drunk for most of the first match, exhausted for the second two, I tend not to pay attention to what's going on unless I'm personally involved and I have a terrible memory. So what follows is only hazy recollections at best (aided by Matt's tour notes). If I've got anything badly wrong or missed anything out then do please comment in the box at the bottom. Ta very much.

Anyway, enough wittering – to the cricket already!

Cobham vs HHCC
This year the first village to bear the brunt of the mighty Heath was not, as is customary in Kent, Meopham, but another village named, similarly, Cobham. But before the match, Tour Manager and Skipper Matt Sims rallied the troops with Gladiator-inspired speeches (“If you find yourself alone, sitting in a cool room with a cucumber sandwich in your hand, do not be troubled! For you are in the pavillion! And you're already out!”) and tour-themed gifts: Clark Kent-esque specs and super hero t-shirts, courtesy of tour sponsors Primani. Alas they couldn't help us play like superheroes. Yet.

No shows from Spencer's imaginary friends meant we were down to nine men and despite loans from the opposition, our fielding was poor. Swinging it at will, Jez and Brad bowled extremely well but I dropped around three catches, Capper one, Angus one, and our inspirational skipper one of the all-time howlers at mid-off. All this helped one of the oppo batsmen make it to 98 before he was sharply stumped by Capper off me. I've now forgotten what their total was but once we collapsed horribly the draw was our best bet. Batting at number 6, I was last man standing for 8 not out – the once mighty Heath had been bowled out for 88. Invicta no more.

The main controversy of the match surrounded, as so often, Atif, who after not being given a bowl decided to limp off the field with a “groin strain”. The fact that it seemed to recover in time for him to chase Brad round the park with a cricket bat suggested that it might – just might – have been feigned. It did, however, return the next day with a vengeance – more of which later.

The evening was then spent enjoyably making up for the loss by boozing our way round Maidstone. We kicked things off in the Wetherspoon's (yeah, it's all class with the Heath) before the party split in two – the oldies (oh god, that includes me) going to some late bar, and the young folk to what I hear is these days referred to a “night club”...

Harvel vs HHCC
Nobody wants to read about what went on at either location, so it's on to the second day of tour against the strong and highly competitive Harvel. After a solid opening stand between Matt Sims and Richard Austin, the latter really began to find his feet, eventually scoring an elegant and classical 80 – his highest score for HHCC. Studded with authoritative cover drives and signature pull strokes, it was a classy backbone to the innings. Jez kept up the momentum with a quick scoring half-century, before which I suffered the ignominy of a second ball duck by padding up to a fairly straight delivery and getting bowled. Nice.

So we eventually made 240 off our 50 overs and Harvel set about their chase in their customarily belligerent fashion. But a brilliant reflex catch at slip by Spence removed their talented ginger opener, and Brad again bowled well to peg back the top order. Their middle order began to flourish against a succession of rank full tosses from yours truly, until Nicko decided enough was enough. Bowling the best he's ever bowled for us – on a full length with a bit of pace and nip – he removed both set batsmen and the dangerous Wakeman (I think that's his name) who'd apparently scored a ton the day before. The ball he got their top scorer with – nipping back off the seam through the gate and into the stumps – was an absolute cracker.

The inspired Sims then turned immediately to Richard Austin who decisively beat their Australian overseas player with a bit of flight and guile (and a horrible mow) and it was all over bar the shouting. We'd beaten Harvel. Again! They're certainly the strongest team we play all year and to beat them – even if they do give us a few runs to make a game of it – is really rather satisfying, and shows the commitment to the cause that marks the Heath apart.

That evening we all went for a well-earned curry (something the Pett's Wood changing room would come to regret the next day) and there was much booze-related rejoicing, despite everyone's exhaustion. One notable omission from the evening's revels was Atif, whose groin strain/strop had flared up again to such an extent that he decided to bugger off home in his van. There's precedent for this (cf. the case of HHCC vs Nutman 2007) and Asif, in absentia, was fined the standard penalty of £1.3million.

Pett's Wood vs HHCC
The final match against Pett's Wood always sees Hyde Heath below par (it's probably all that team spirit) and again our fielding and bowling were lacklustre – although credit again to Brad for a long and accurate spell. Without his bowling this tour, we could have been in serious trouble. On a flat wicket though and with the outfield like lightning, wickets were hard to come by and Pett's Wood declared at tea on about 220.

After tea, Jez and I strode out to open the Hyde Heath riposte, knowing that a quick start was imperative. Luckily – because I have literally no shots – Jez kicked off in some style, slamming their bowlers back over the heads with impressive timing. When he was out cutting for a quickfire 34, he'd given us the impetus we needed. But when Shrimpie continued his run of poor form and I was splendidly caught behind down the leg-side for 30-odd, the innings faltered. Luckily Brad kept things together, scoring quickly but sensibly on his way to 60, ably supported by an increasingly confident Angus. When Brad fell though (I gave him out LBW!) it was still all in the balance – especially as we only had nine batsmen – but Richard Austin guided us home in style to cap an excellent tour for him. It was a tense, but ultimately well-paced run chase and a fitting end to another brilliant tour.

The one moment of controversy came when Matt laid out the HHCC flag with pride upon the table, only for Pett's Wood to later lay their tea upon it – the sacrilege! But we'll get over it. After yet another wonderful tour, Matt deserves a whole heap of praise. It must be a bit of a bloody nightmare sorting the whole thing out, but Matt always does it so well, and in addition, his on-field captaincy was genuinely first-rate. To Kent again next year? Or pastures new? Who knows...

HHCC vs Bourne End

Tour hangover strikes again as a rather inept batting performance sees Hyde Heath felled at home by a nine-man Bourne End team. We should really play someone really, really bad immediately after tour.

We won the toss and, as usual, inserted the opposition. Brad and Jez bowled well to nip out one of their openers and a rather one-dimensional number three – at one stage we about six fielders between the keeper and point until he popped a leg-side catch to the keeper.

But from here problems arose as their number four – a semi-pro ringer from Portsmouth – announced his intentions by slamming his first ball, a full length delivery from Brad, back over wide mid-off for 6. At the other end Azhar interspersed sweetly timed lofted drives with frequent and frustrating air shots, and the pair proved rather hard to bowl at. The ringer hit one particularly memorable straight drive back over Luke's head before drilling a long hop from Shrimpie to Brad at deep midwicket for 53. After that they folded to 186 all out with Shrimpie finishing with four. On a flat pitch with a fast outfield the game was in the bag. Surely?

Well, no. Nicko opened up with Shrimpie, but both departed early, followed by Nick's mate Travis to a horrible mow (he'd looked pretty good before that). So it was down to Luke's mate Harry (who'd earlier kept wicket tidily) and Tim Barnsley to steady the ship, which they duly did in some style until Harry received a brutal lifter from the Portsmouth ringer, bowling off-spin.

From there, we lost Spence (although not until he'd hit a colossal six over the trees), Brad and Luke for very little and the innings was in tatters. When Tim was caught on the boundary for an elegant half century, Jez and I were too late to salvage anything and we were bowled out for about 130. A pretty dismal display. Thank god for skipper Nick's chicken tikka sandwiches at tea.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

HHCC vs Turville Park

Turville couldn't raise a team and cancelled. So we had a rather nice net session and a barbeque. Some timely practice before Tour this week.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

HHCC vs London Dragons

Charlie's absence this weekend meant that the great honour of skippering the mighty Heath fell into the grateful hands of your humble correspondent. If the naysayers are to be believed however, it was an honour towards which I rather neglected to show the requisite respect. But if only these naysayers had realised quite how horrendous I felt when I woke up they'd have realised the necessity to drink four pints before leaving London.

One side-effect of this was that I arrived only 20 minutes before the start of play; the other that I was a tad hazy about what was going on. No matter though – erstwhile vice captain Capper sorted out all the pre-match bits and bobs (including finding in Spencer's mate Liam a last-minute replacement for Amala who'd phoned in sick).

The oppo were the London Dragons, a new fixture with an intimidating name. We lost the toss, were sent into bat, and things quickly fell apart. Capper was out cutting to point for zero, Shrimpie edged to 1st slip, and when Haddock was out too, it was left to Jez (promoted to number four by his confident/drunk captain) and Ben to steady the ship. Which they largely did, until disaster struck. Four wickets fell for the addition of not a single run (including myself for a rather humiliating second ball duck and Richard Austin contentiously given out LBW by Capper). We were suddenly 100 for 7 and staring down the barrel.

Enter Brad and Spence who both batted superbly to rescue the innings. For probably the first time ever, Spence not only realised that the forward defensive is actually a real shot but also actually managed to deploy it, in between some clean strikes to the boundary. When he fell for a mightily valuable 28 it was down to Ali to support Brad, which he duly did rather well: the two put on an unbroken 49 for the ninth wicket, of which Ali made a doughty 2. Brad's innings of 76 off 60 deliveries was quite brilliant and rested the match well and truly our way. After starting cautiously, his last 40-odd runs came from just 20 balls as he took the Dragons' attack to the cleaners in a calculated assault. There were some great shots, none more impressive than a pulled six that seemed to require no effort but still sailed miles into the trees.

So having secured an ultimately impressive total of 214, it was now a case of seeing what our bowlers could do. And thankfully they didn't let me down. Jez and Ali bowled excellent opening spells, with Ali in particular causing all sorts of problems for a top order that looked potentially pretty strong on a fairly flat pitch. By bowling at middle and off and hitting an impeccable length with the odd variation in pace, he made captaincy easy, and the wickets duly came along in a rush – four were bowled and one excellently caught by Shrimpie. Apparently I dropped a bit of a shocker, but I'm still feigning ignorance.

Ali's five wickets broke the back of their innings and then the spinners mopped up – Rich with two, myself one, and then Brad wrapped things up when the last man chipped a catch to Ali to give the Heath a satisfying 99 run victory. All in all an excellent match, that I feel rather vindicated my controversial early morning captaincy decisions.

Monday, 12 July 2010

HHCC vs Chesham Bois

Another blindingly hot Sunday afternoon at Fortress Heath and another sub-standard match from yours truly. But a clinical performance from Hyde Heath resulted in a very comfortable victory against a not particularly strong Chesham Bois side.

Capper scores through the leg-side.

Having said that, things didn’t start exactly as planned. Apart from Jez’s opening wicket – a full delivery that enticed the drive only to result in a nick to Richie Austin in the gulley – we bowled and fielded poorly in the sweltering heat. This allowed Chesham Bois to rattle along at almost a run a ball. Brad, Nick and I were expensive (although Nick at least picked up the second wicket) whilst Capper, Danny, Nick and I all dropped catches (Nick’s admittedly was a bloody toughie). By the drinks break, Chesham Bois were ominously placed at 110 for 2 and it was looking like we’d be chasing something like 250.

But Charlie rallied the troops and made two canny bowling changes. Recalling Jez at the Pavilion End resulted in the immediate removal of the oppo’s chief run-scorer, sharply stumped by Capper as he overbalanced on the drive. From the other end, Charlie turned to Shrimpie’s part-time off-spin, and it proved an inspired decision, as he combined accuracy, changes in pace, and a bit of occasional turn to roll through the Chesham Bois middle order. He finished with five wickets and Jez four as they collapsed horribly to 137 all out.

Haddock collects 4; JC looks enthralled...

Against a pretty ropey bowling attack such a total was never going to be a problem, unless we really decided to balls it up completely. Which we didn’t. Dom and Caps batted with calm aggression and Chesham Bois were quickly demoralised. A ten-wicket victory was no less than we deserved – if anything, simply for the quality of the tea alone. It was probably one of the all time great Heath performances in that department – I mean, smoked salmon sandwiches! Sheesh. Let’s never play away again

Monday, 5 July 2010

Ballinger vs HHCC

Not the most exciting game of cricket I've ever played in, but nonetheless a strong win for the Heath away at Ballinger. Things started badly as – with Charlie picking up Amala from the station and Spencer running late – we took the field with only 8 players, no captain and only one opening bowler. The first few overs were terrible as Jez and Shrimpie bowled repeatedly short and wide and Ballinger motored along at 7 an over.

But Charlie's return saw a marked improvement in discipline from the bowlers and enthusiasm from the fielders and we were soon right back in it. Jez bowled splendidly on a pitch with a bit of pace and bounce to scythe through Ballinger's powerful, if a little cavalier, top order. To take six wickets after an expensive start was a great effort – the highlight probably being the uprooting of the middle stump on no less than three occasions.

After some tedious resistance from Ballinger's tail – during which time I struggled to find much rhythm – we eventually bowled them out for 168, an eminently gettable target.

Tea – as so often when we play away – was distinctly below par. It made one yearn for the home-baked cakes of Hyde Heath and Nick's signature chicken tikka sandwiches, which I inexcusably forgot to mention last week.

Anyway, to the run chase, and against some disciplined bowling we didn't start well: Capper was caught and bowled, Shrimpie edged a drive to 1st slip, and Napes had his off stump removed. But Dom was still there and playing with increasing fluency, and he was joined by Brad who helped to steady the ship. When he was out, in strode Nick who – probably in an attempt to prove a correlation between quality of sandwiches and quality of batting – proceeded to destroy Ballinger's bowling attack.

With Dom and Nick in full flow we cantered along towards the target, and although it all must have been very entertaining, I'm afraid to say I spent more time concentrating on our own little game in the net with a half-width bat. But Nick made 40 with a couple of sixes and Dom was last out for 75, and in the end we won pretty comfortably. Back home next week – thank God.

Monday, 28 June 2010

HHCC vs Southwell Ramblers

A scorching day of unrelenting sun was matched only by splendid game of cricket in which Hyde Heath came out on top, eventually. The match started early so that an extended tea break could coincide with some other “sport”, and in the heat, we won the toss and opted to bat.

All of our top order looked comfortable but contrived to get themselves out in a variety of ways. Only Nicko capitalised on his start, making 40 before being bowled cramped for room on the cut – he really must stop playing that shot. But he looked very classy nonetheless. One cover drive was particularly memorable – not only was it classical, but it was hit so fiercely hard that the ball seemed almost to scorch the earth on its way to the boundary.

But with our strongest top order so far this season largely failing, it was left to Ben and Brad to drag us up to a competitive total with an enterprising half-century stand. We finished on 194 for 9 – about 50 short, we thought, but it actually turned out to be something of a blessing.

After a couple of early wickets, Southwell started to put together some partnerships, and with 140 needed from the last 20 overs it was anybody's game – especially as I (bowling from the Plough End for the first time in years) started expensively. But when things were looking like they might slip away, I lobbed one up on leg stump which the batsman crashed straight down Jez's throat at deep backward square. The ball seriously flew and it was a very good catch, but even better was to come.

They say catches win matches, and Hyde Heath took three absolute screamers to swing this one decisively our way. Shrimpy got everyone going with a brilliant one-handed leap at cover – his fielding there all day was outstanding. Then, as Southwell continued to go for their shots (encouraged both by my erraticism and our sub-par total) Jez took the catch of the season so far. Another ball from me lobbed up on leg stump and smashed flat and hard towards square leg. A flat six? No! Jez hurtled round to his right and leapt high, to pluck it one-handed out of the air. An absolute bloody blinder.

I then removed one of their dangermen (he'd just smote me for a massive six) with a flat, ripping leg break which knocked back his off-stump, allowing the Heath to close in for the kill. With two overs left, Amala zipped one in, it took the edge of the bat and flew fast and low to Dom, diving forward at 2nd slip – another brilliant catch to seal a hard-fought and highly entertaining match.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Hyde Heath President's Weekend

A whole weekend of cricket at the Heath – what could possibly be better? Well, it's always nice to take a few wickets or score a few runs I suppose. And guess who did a bit of both? Only bloody me of course.

Saturday saw the Heath take on The President's Invitational XI who this year were a particularly strong outfit. We 'won the toss' and fielded first, but with Ali playing for the President's, Richard and Luke still not at full fitness and Amala unable to make the journey, our bowling was a little light, and it showed. They racked up an impressive 217 on the back of a hard-hitting half-century from Oli Haddock. I took a bit of a pasting early on but then settled into a rhythm to take 6 for 50 as the middle and lower orders perished in the pursuit of quick runs. And that was despite four dropped catches, although one – Nicko diving full stretch at mid-wicket – would have been the snaffle of a lifetime.

Unleash hell; Tim Nutman strikes again

Anyway, it looked like being a tough task, particularly as without Dom Haddock, James Shrimpton, and Amala we were pretty light on batting as well. We needed a good start. And didn't get it. Tim Nutman hit a good length and bowled straight and that seemed to be enough as our top order crumbled. Some were blaming the booze, but Tim did bowl well and, at 30-odd for 6, a draw was all we could hope for. And despite Luke's best efforts, with support from Ben Sonley, we were bowled out with an over to go. A pretty convincing defeat.

On Sunday the Heath took on the might of the Plough (reinforced by Jez as skipper, Henry Capper and Luke). We bowled first (as ever, it seems) and with Brad and Ali finding some swing, they were quickly in trouble. It was left to Capper to grind things out, whilst at the other end Luke played with a combination of class and power to finish unbeaten on 82. There was one back-foot straight drive that was particularly sweet. I dished up two overs of filth (rather resting on my laurels I think) and dropped two catches. The second – a spiralling top-edge off Nutman – involved some rather unsportsmanlike behaviour from Stevens, who yelled “DROP IT!” just as I was about to do so anyway. Really, Jez....

No pain, no gain - cricket literally happens

Anyway, the Plough were all out for 154, and James Shrimpton and I strode out to open the batting. A couple of hours later we wandered back in having knocked off the runs without the loss of a single wicket – an opening stand of 154. Shame it doesn't count for the avergaes.... Shrimpy batted beautifully for his hundred – there were some scorching cover drives and imperious pull shots and it was really ratehr pleasant to simply watch him bat. I pootled along at my usual dour rate, getting to 50 just in time. I managed the odd boundary here and there with a cover drive or a late cut, and that was it. An impressive ten-wicket victory.

A splendid weekend then – good old cricket.

Monday, 14 June 2010

The Misfits vs HHCC

Much discussion has of late been afoot at the Heath. The corridors of power have been abuzz with intrigue. Nothing less than the very fabric and future of the game has been at stake. The issue? Some – yes, some even from within the mighty Heath itself – have been suggesting that we play limited overs rather than time-based matches. The outrage!

Well hopefully this Sunday's match – away against the Little Missenden Misfits – will put paid to such nonsense. It was an excellent match that neatly showcased the diversity that time-based matches will always have over limited overs. Cricket, perhaps more than any other sport (although probably not), has always had room for different shapes, styles and characters – the dashing aristocratic opener, the dour Durham stone-waller, the lanky paceman, the chubby leg-spinner, the wily old village pro – and it is only in time-based matches that this diversity is truly given the space to express itself.

And Sunday's match demonstrated this nicely – predominantly it has to be said during the Misfits' attempt to save the match. First things first though, and having lost the toss, we racked up a rather hefty 254, thanks in large part to an excellent unbeaten hundred from Henry Capper. Never at his most fluent against the Misfits' slow bowling and slow pitch, Capper nonetheless maintained a sufficient run rate to set up an intimidating score. Nick Burgham also looked in fine touch before being bowled for 35.

At the time the worry was that we'd scored so many that the Misfits would only ever seek the draw and we wouldn't have enough time to push for victory. Such considerations just don't come in to limited overs cricket, where the role of the captain is more formulaic and reactive. In this kind of game, captaincy can win matches, and Charlie's was quite brilliant.

After a brief opening burst with the seamers in which Ali removed one of their openers (and as last week was unlucky not to take three or four wickets), Charlie turned to my leg-spin and asked Brad to bowl his chinamen. The reasoning was that even batsmen dead-set on blocking can't resist the occasional hoick against a well-flighted delivery. And so it proved. Bradley varied his pace and gained appreciable turn to take 5 wickets – his first for the club, and the first time he's bowled spin in a match. Perhaps a future as a spinner beckons? I was less threatening but managed a jammy wicket when the batsman had a heave at a wide long-hop and top edged to Amala who took an excellent running catch at cover.

Talking of excellent catches... I took what can only be termed a screamer, one-handed diving forward from gulley. I don't need to blow my own trumpet (not all the time anyway) so I'll give you instead Tim Barnsley's description. He said I looked rather like a dotty old dowager stumbling desperately forwards so as not to spill any of her vintage champagne. And succeeding. Thanks Tim, you old twat.

Anyway, with the batsmen beginning to look comfortable against the spinners and with time running out fast, Charlie made an inspired decision by telling Amala to resort to pace. In four balls he took the last two wickets, detonating the stumps each time, and the match was won with an over to spare. Tactical, intriguing and showcasing far more than just tidy line-and-length seam-up boredom with a ring field, this was village cricket at its best. And we won – which made it all the better.

Monday, 7 June 2010

HHCC vs The Misfits

Usually Cack Awards are awarded to an individual on the basis of an individual balls-up – an embarrassingly easy dropped catch for example, or being called Atif – but yesterday's match against The Misfits made a persuasive case for the awarding of a Cack Award to the entire team.

With the exception of Captain Charlie, Dom Haddock and Henry Capper, our fielding was universally diabolical. The Misfits batted first, and out of a total of 170, I reckon we gave away about 40 runs through appalling ground-fielding alone. I dived over two that went to the boundary, Ali barely moved for anything, Will and Ben let numerous shots through their legs and Brad gave away four overthrows with a shy at the stumps that went horribly wild. Basically we were terrible.

Dom places one through the leg side

After a really stodgy start – in which Jez was tidy and Ali unlucky not to take more than a solitary wicket, so often did he beat the bat – the Misfits' innings began to gather momentum. Richard Austin's off-breaks were expensive (mainly due to our shocking fielding), I didn't bowl very well and Ali's return spell was costly.

But with a flat old pitch and against a fairly average bowling attack, 170 didn't look like too much of an ask, especially if we got a decent start. Which we did. Haddock made a quick-fire 44 before skying one to long-on, and Capper batted through for a sensibly aggressive 73. I made 27 quite calmly before getting bored and having a hoick, and Brad finished things off in style with a six. We won by 8 wickets. Job done.

Me blocking

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

May at the Heath

Gosh it's been quiet on Cricket Tragics recently – my sincere apologies. I spent 16th May gorging on Michelin starred food and living like a lord at the rather splendid Brocket Hall, while back at the Heath it rained a bit and we won.

30th May I was in Hay-on-Wye pretending to be clever by going to the Hay Literary Festival, and in between times I was controversially rested, in accordance with the Hyde Heath rotation policy. Although it's been in effect for some years, the 2010 season is really seeing a step up in the implementation of this strategy. As we all know, player burn-out is a serious issue affecting today's village cricketers, particularly with the the increased schedules and the intensity with which the game is now played (I can't believe I'm no longer allowed to sit and smoke on the bench at the backward point boundary).

Anyway, we also beat Warner's End (whoever they are) and I assume we beat Ley Hill (but I'm still awaiting confirmation). Needless to say, I'm bloody raring to go for this Sunday's grudge match against, um, TBC.

Nicko plays through the, gasp, off side.

Monday, 10 May 2010

HHCC vs The Lee

Cancelled because The Lee couldn't raise a team. Pathetic.

London Exhibitions.


Tuesday, 4 May 2010

HHCC vs Chartridge

Rained off. Nice one, weather.

Monday, 26 April 2010


Ah cricket. Ah England. Two weeks of solid sun, and when it comes to the much anticipated curtain raiser to the Hyde Heath 2010 season, what happens? It bloody rains. But we're a tough breed down at the Heath and a wee bit of second innings rain was never going to stop us getting our cricket on.

With the final of the third IPL being screened in the evening, there was definitely a sense that some of the glamour of that tournament had rubbed off on the Heath. Everyone arrived pretty much on time, Jez, Richard and Napes were all nursing injuries (just like Sachin Tendulkar), and we even had a couple of overseas players in the form of Tim's Australian friend (whose name at this moment escapes me) and hotly-tipped Sri Lankan all-rounder Amala (exact spelling to be confirmed).

Me batting

The format of this match is always a slightly unusual one. Two teams of ten Heath players aside face up to each other. In one corner Charlie's Spitfires (captained by stalwart Heath skipper Charlie Samuels) and in the other, Capper's Cavaliers, led by Henry “MS Dhoni” Capper, in a particularly smart retro HHCC baggy blue, dating from Robin's playing days some years ago. The match was to be 40 overs per innings, with a maximum of 8 overs per bowler. Batsmen were allowed a life until they reached 10, and had to retire at 50.

Richard Cousins takes a low catch at 1st slip

And so to the cricket. Somebody won the toss, and we (the Spitfires) batted first. Haddock and Simms got us off to a good start, and Amala continued the good work, driving wristily and picking the gaps at will. If we can get over the fact that it really is quite a trek for Amala to travel from Walthamstow every Sunday, we could have a pretty serious top order this year.

And then, the moment they'd all been waiting for: I strode to the crease, feeling in no form at all. After using up my life top edging a first-ball mow off Richard Austin (bowling off breaks today) I Settled down to score a pretty scratchy half century. Mistimed drives for one were interspersed with the odd pull shot and edge to third man, in a characteristically dour innings. In my defence, Ali, Nick and Rich all bowled extremely well and I was pretty pleased just to battle it out until told to retire. Shame it doesn't count for the averages...

Captain and President survey conditions

After some powerful striking by Brad at the death, we made it up to 193, a competitive total we thought. Rain, however, brought reduced overs and target and it all got a bit confusing. But suffice to say that I bowled rubbish, Capper and Nick both made runs in quick time, and we lost fairly comfortably.

Hey ho, it was nice to get the season started, see everybody again, and to be told by Richard Austin that my new haircut apparently makes me look like George Orwell. Ah the Heath.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

What the Mighty Heath could learn from Team England

Two apologies are due: firstly for the extreme quietness of Cricket Tragics over the winter. We've been in hibernation. And secondly for taking a month to post this piece. It comes from Mr J Capper, Hyde Heath Chairman, umpire, and stalwart buyer of rounds in the Plough, so really our tardiness is inexcusable. Sorry JC!

I have been lucky enough to be in Johannesburg watching the 4th and final Test between England and the “Proteas”, as they are now called, from the first ball on Thursday, 14th January to the last on Sunday, 17th. It’s the first game for many years, other than at Hyde Heath, that I have watched from first ball to last and there were a number of rather interesting comparisons. I just wondered whether any of the differences could be the catalyst to the Heath turning into the team they would like to be – or maybe not.

First thing: as we were getting up for breakfast there was a wailing of police sirens, the like of which suggested, at the very least, a major bank robbery, and reinforcing our concerns regarding crime in Jo’burg. Actually it was the England team coach and the escort heading to the ground, crossing all the red lights, and arriving 1 ½ hours before the scheduled toss. Now Atif might have mistakenly jumped a red light, but probably on his evening job, delivering pizzas rather than arriving in a rush to be early, but certainly no-one, other than Charlie, our captain, ever arrived that early before a start. Actually, Jeremy, who lives closer to the ground than anyone else – his house could be used as a boundary marker – usually arrives some time after the teams have taken the field. Not that useful if we’re fielding, as he is one of our opening bowlers! So, the England team arrived early and then started stretching and “warming up”. Not usually seen at the Heath, but there was some familiarity in practicing slip-catching before the game, different only because there was no delay looking for the ball in the nettles every three attempts.

Once the match starts, the teams run (yes, run) onto the pitch with the captain leading (and, even he was running, not hobbling) everyone else following closely, no-one is still smoking and they all seem to go straight to their correct fielding places – they all even seem to know from which end the first over will be bowled and. they don’t have to re-adjust the clock for a delayed start.

Once the game is under way there are a lot of similarities. Probably, the way the ball seemed to be bowled so much faster was down to being so high above sea-level and not any reflection on the fitness of our opening attack. The players on the boundary remember to stop signing autographs in time to walk in for the next ball. Everyone remembers to walk in apart from some excessive players who ran in – every ball. The ball kept on being thrown back to the keeper – not, however, to the left, right or high above him. Each throw was backed-up – and usually stopped. There was an interesting ploy of catching the ball as it traveled back to the bowler, I had always assumed our tactics of dropping it as it was passed round, caused one side to get roughened up slightly quicker...

Strangely, there was no sign of sulking or throwing toys out of the pram when a bowler was taken off, nor did we see any bat-throwing despite some strange decisions. None of the players looked like they were only picked because their wife was making the tea or because their dad was Chairman, Alright, the Barmy Army did make a lot of noise but the WAGs at the Heath aren’t that quiet, particularly as the evening wears on. The only other unusual detail – no-one wore black socks!

Could the “Mighty Heath” learn from this? Probably not; after all, in spite of the early arrival, the keenness in the field and the correct attire, they still lost. Badly.