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.