|Veronica Hartley presents the trophy to the two captains.|
As bad light prevented England from what would have been an historic 4-0 series victory over the old enemy, Hyde Heath marked our own long-standing fixture with a touching tea-time ceremony in memory of the man who originated it, Brian Hartley. A couple of hours later, and the newly inaugurated Brian Hartley Trophy (a rather nice silver tankard) was held aloft by the captain of the Bank of England, as we recorded our sixth loss of a disappointing season.
Chasing an arguably below-par 165, the Bank cruised home with 3 overs to spare thanks to a monumental effort by one of their young batsman who saw them home single-handedly with one of the most clinically inevitable centuries I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness. We didn’t bowl badly – I was reasonably accurate, as was Sohail, Spencer was steady, and new man Usman bowled with pace and swing away. We did probably have attacking fields for too long (Usman still had two slips, a gulley and a backward point when he was past 70), and I think we could have tried a few more bowlers. Charlie was limited by the attack at his disposal, but Sohail should have bowled more than just 6 overs, and I probably would have given Dom a couple just to see what happened on a stodgy wicket.
But in the end it probably wouldn’t have mattered: he was simply too good for us. To underline the chasm between him and the rest of us (by ‘us’, of course, I mean ‘them’), when his hundred was brought up, the Bank’s total was only about 120. When he hit the winning runs off Charlie (batting and bowling in the same match for the first time in years) the next highest score was just 23.
Earlier, we’d got off to a poor start as Henry cut the fourth ball of the opening over straight to point. Dom and I then steadied things with a careful 50-run stand. It was slow going, but the opposition bowled accurately, found a little swing, and the pitch made all but the rankest of long-hops difficult to time. As we began to grow in confidence, however, Dom skied to mid-off and I gloved a silly sort of late cut / dab shot to be caught behind for 38. After doing all the hard work I was bloody fuming.
The customary clatter of wickets which followed was halted by Matt Sims, who played several rasping shots through the off-side, and Usman, who – despite some ropey calling – looked very solid for his 50. On a pitch with a bit more pace, he could be very dangerous.
There was one moment of genuine concern when one of the Bank’s fielders slid round the boundary to avert a four, collected the ball and hurled it in, only to buckle and remain on the ground. It turned out he’d inadvertently slid along the rubber matting surrounding a new children’s climbing frame that had earlier this season been placed inside the boundary by some half-conscious dunce. The poor fellow in question was taken to hospital with a cut so deep that witnesses said they could see bone. Fortunately, although hobbling visibly, he returned to the ground later in the day. But it’s about time somebody moves that bloody thing.
Anyway, enough local-issue griping. In the end we scrabbled up to 165, which I thought was probably just about enough. With their young centurion in the ranks, however, I think they could have chased many more.
PS. I've been told off for neglecting to mention tea. It was excellent. And there was bloody loads of it! Which is almost as important.