Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Cricket in the Wilderness

While the past week has seen London awash with Olympic fervour of cultish proportions – blanket media coverage, garish uniforms and tourist columns of wide-eyed enthusiasm – true sporting greatness was being contested not in the billion pound stadia of Stratford but in the exquisitely idyllic surroundings of Cornbury Park, just outside Charlbury in Oxfordshire. Two incompetent teams of cricketers slug it out in gentlemanly fashion. A swelling crowd gaze on intent, drunk on Pimm's and the picturesque. A commentator rumbles on in tones of slurringly clipped precision. A man in a tutu charges in to bowl. The umpire is asleep in the grass. Welcome to Wilderness.

Click here to read the full review on Spoonfed.

Monday, 13 August 2012

HHCC vs Bourne End

Phew, what a match! They say you learn more in defeat than in victory, and certainly Hyde Heath's excruciatingly narrow defeat at the hands of old foes Bourne End this Sunday was instructive in many ways. That we got so close was down to some inspired batting from Luke Brennan whose brilliant, occasionally brutal, valiant but ultimately futile unbeaten innings of 81 took us much closer to the opposition's total than we probably deserved to. Coming on the back of Capper's sensibly aggressive 60-odd, it was nearly enough to see us home. But not quite.

As Peter Moore's might have said, it all came down to the one percenters: over the course of the match we made several small errors which, when totted up, were sufficient to entail defeat as opposed to victory. Despite conceding a fairly colossal 222 off just 30 overs in a rain-affected match we actually weren't that bad in the field. We dropped a couple of tough chances and some mistakes were made on the boundary. I bowled a few too many full tosses, Spence was possibly given too long a spell against some seriously hard-hitting batsman and Jez's closing overs were sent unceremoniously to the cleaners. (So much so that he actually finished with a worse economy rate than me! Not that I mentioned it repeatedly or anything...)

But we actually didn't do that much wrong; we simply came up against a couple of very clean hitters having a good day. Anything they timed went for six and anything they top-edged found the gap. It was immensely frustrating at times, especially as a bowler. The figures at the halfway stage did not make for good reading...

Chasing that kind of total we needed a quick start (which we got) and we needed to maintain it. We couldn't afford the required rate to steeple, but nor were we ever likely to get well ahead and coast. The top order all scored quickly but apart from Henry we lost wickets too frequently. With quick scorers Dom, Nick and Harry all perishing in slightly anti-climactic ways, it always looked an uphill task. That said, with 90 needed off the final ten anything was possible. Unfortunately Henry's dismissal brought Tim Barnsley to the crease, who struggled to give the strike to Luke. Two quiet overs (including the first maiden of the match) meant that, realistically, our hopes were dashed.

Luke was not to be beaten however, and as Tim and then myself struggled to do much more than push singles, he reeled off a flurry of sixes that took us, in the end, within to ten runs off Bourne End's intimidating total. It could have been even closer, had we not done a South Africa and misread the opposition's score...

So what did we learn? Well two things. Not lessons as such – I'm unlikely to actually change my behaviour on the back of this newfound knowledge – but interesting things nonetheless:

1. When things are going badly, people (by which I mean me) will seek to place the blame anywhere they can. Example: after my second and third deliveries – both rank full tosses sent dismissively to the boundary – I turned to Charlie and asked him to change the field (the implication being somehow that a lack of 1st slip had caused these two shockers). Quite rightly, he told me to shut up and bowl. Then, after the umpire had turned down a plum LBW shout (with the sheepish reply of “bowl another one of those and I'll give it next time”) I bowled another rank delivery that was pummelled into the leg side. Ali's tired-looking effort in the deep led to another smattering of grouchiness from yours truly.

2. Conversely, you can tell a side feels they're well on top when they start making generously sporting gestures. For evidence, think of Australia's self-righteous sermonising in the 1990s: it's easy to preach about the Spirit of Cricket when you know you're going to thrash the opposition by an innings. Sunday saw a more entertaining example, when Bourne End recalled Tim after it emerged he'd been caught behind on the first ball of the bowler's seventh over (the 30 over innings reducing each bowler's allocation to just six). Given that the next man in was your notoriously fast-scoring correspondent, perhaps it was a strategic move. In the end though, it didn't make much difference.