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.