Round two of these matches on the very last Sunday of
cricket for Hyde Heath in 2011 took place on the 18th
September. Ivinghoe and Pitstone are the only team we play on a home and
away basis, which gives this fixture a bit of spice, particularly as we
won the first game this year with something to spare. It also means that
we play their rules for the first fixture and ours for the second. This
allows us to compare the difference between the forms of Sunday afternoon
cricket, “limited overs” with them and “timed” with us. Last year, I & P
held on for a draw in the timed game having batted second when we had won
comfortably at their ground (limited overs). Could they beat us this year
This time Charlie won the toss and inserted the
opposition to bat. When the pitches are good (and dry) this means the side
batting second should usually be looking at a win or at worse, a draw.
However, the Mighty Heath had struggled badly in the last game against the
Bank of England, probably playing the worst cricket for several years and
losing batting second. Since the next two games were lost to the weather,
perhaps our confidence was not high? To add to all this the pitch was a
bit damp from the overnight rain despite our groundsman’s best efforts.
Perhaps, we would lose, perhaps we would struggle to save a draw, perhaps…
The joy of friendly Sunday cricket!
Being the last game of the season meant there was one
other little matter of importance, the “Duck” prize. The batting and
bowling averages were probably sorted before this match but the “Duck”
prize was not. Jeremy was the clear leader with two ducks, including a
“Golden” duck, but there were several other contenders who had one and
could not afford a second. So we had a contest within a contest for the
prize of a trophy presented at the Annual Dinner with several potential
winners choosing to sit this game out – Spencer and Tom to name but two.
First things first, I & P were strangled in the first
20 overs, mainly by Jeremy with 4 maidens in the first 5 and overall
figures of 11 overs for 15 runs (1 wicket) and Andrew Viney, 2 for 6 in
his first spell of 5 overs. The score was 41 for 3 and the Heath looking
good, when Charlie’s natural generosity led to a bit of a revival. 22 runs
from one end and 18 from Richard Austin at the other in 3 overs led to a
bit of a crisis. However, Richard came back and took 5 wickets for 29 by
the end of the game. None of I & P’s batsmen were able to get going with
no-one scoring over 27 runs. Andy came back with 4 for 19 off 9 overs and
Henry took 3 catches without juggling one!! 141 all out felt slightly too
many runs as the pitch was a bit “sticky”. Batting was not easy.
Tea, however, was excellent, thanks to Jemima Haddock
and Anna Barnsley. A point of interest, here, in that I & P pulled out all
the stops for their match tea to try to match our offerings!! Perhaps we
should encourage other teams to take note!
When Hyde Heath batted, they were faced by spin and
more spin with the odd burst of medium pace. In spite of this, we
struggled. The pitch required care and slow accumulation, not attributes
our openers are renowned for! Both perished for 20 odd when we needed more
steady stuff. Matt Sims and Tim Barnsley came together next. Both showed a
bit more application but Matt must have misjudged Tim’s speed across the
ground, running him out comfortably. This was not the first time Tim had
departed in similar fashion this season so one might have thought he would
have been used to it, but it was just as well the home dressing room has
no windows (Matt Prior!).
The “crowd” thoroughly enjoyed this whole episode,
especially as Tim was rushing back on as umpire for revenge!! Too late, as
Matt departed for a 19 ball 2 followed by Ben with a 21 ball duck, Sohail
a 2 ball duck and then Richard Austin who had, dangerously, been a little
critical of Ben’s slowness, for a 5 ball duck, interestingly his second to
a “golden” duck achieved earlier in the year. Those of you still awake
will realise this tied Richard and Jeremy in the duck league, and I wonder
whether Jeremy was thinking this as he arrived at 74 for 7 with 18 overs
of the last hour’s play to go and 70 runs to win – or 18 overs to
At the other end during most of this was Andrew
wondering what was happening. At long last there was some really good and
exciting cricket (from our view). Jeremy, judiciously missing all but the
straight ones and Andrew, playing very patiently, ticked the runs off.
Jeremy started with care, probably trying to avoid a third duck but
growing in confidence. It was a great partnership with Jeremy playing some
great shots later on but mainly from Andrew who played a classy innings of
69 not out leading to a 3 wicket win with 6 overs still to go.
So, a really enjoyable second win over I & P was
achieved for us, although far too close for comfort. I would say that this
timed game was more exciting, although with a less tricky pitch this might
not have been the case. Interestingly, the “oppo” managed to get a bit
heated about the odd 5 minutes here or there but probably from
frustration. The Heath can take a positive feeling of a good win in our
last game with 12 wins out of 18 during the season with only 3 losses
overall, of which one was the result of a fixture mis-match, one because
of a cheat and only one when we were, frankly, awful.
I feel rather sad writing this knowing there are no
more Sunday outings to watch the cricket and enjoy the company. The whole
day has a certain something which seems to add to the attraction of
cricket alone. Whether it’s hoping that each and every one performs up to
their ability and knowing the enjoyment they get from this or the feeling
of a team gelling and playing well because of this or even seeing a bit of
skill or effort from someone possibly less talented which they can take
pride from, who knows. It could be having a word with your son, even if
it’s “not out”! It could be envying the actual playing of the game
although playing when we were 3 short was a huge mistake… Whatever the
truth, dark evenings and no cricket seem so unattractive. Still it’s only
another 7 months before the next game!
So who won the “Duck” competition? There are two
people competing for the “honour” and it will be a tense result. You will
have to wait until the Annual Dinner to find out. We all hope this year’s
“winner” won’t behave like last years – having not played a game since!
Which form of cricket is better? Certainly I & P seem
better at our game and we at theirs. How odd!
Haha oh dear. What a hilarious match. Never, I don't
think, have I seen Hyde Heath – the mighty, noble Heath – collapse
in quite such dismal fashion as we did against Bank of England this
Sunday. Never though, it must be said, have I seen the Heath
fielding such a weakened team – with both the batting and the
bowling looking extremely thin, and, indeed, the fielding. But we
can come to that later...
Will Cousins defends
First, the main event: 43 all out. Truly dismal. The
rot started with a potentially dubious LBW decision against Dom, who
had made 13. Henry then played down the wrong line (or received a
vicious off-cutter, depending on who you ask) to get bowled. Spencer
was also then bowled, missing a swipe at a low full toss, resulting
in the tantalising prospect of the two Cousins – Richard and Will –
batting together. Despite some stout defence however it was not to
last long, and then we really fell in a heap. Matt clipped to
mid-wicket, Jez was caught behind first ball and Liam was bowled,
also first ball. I strode out as last man (at number 10) needing to
survive the hat-trick ball in order to give Fergus (borrowed from
the oppo to give us at least a semblance of a cricket XI) the chance
of facing a delivery. Sadly it was not to be, as the ball pitched on
a length, shot along the ground and I too registered the dreaded
that a full toss? Probably...
In the end I took four wickets and Jez returned to
bowl full and straight and mop up a tail-end in pursuit of quick
runs. The Bank finished on 180, a total which turned out to be well,
well beyond us.
On the plus side, Sunday saw the first time Hyde Heath had served up
a hot tea – a delicious chilli con carne made by Janet – which is
definitely something we could look to add to our repertoire,
particularly as the cold and grey of September closes in.
The other positive was that at least it was the Bank of England
against whom we collapsed in a heap. They're always a splendid bunch
and there's certainly something rather nice about getting to the pub
before 6 in the knowledge that the next day is a bank holiday. Good
old booze – the universal healer.
A scintillating return to form
for yours truly this weekend, as I managed to bowl no less than six overs
for less (just) than a run a ball. I didn't take a wicket, and in the
context of the match that was actually really quite expensive, but hey ho.
At least I managed to land a few, and two even turned quite sharply.
The game was away against Ivinghoe and Pitstone, the scene two years ago
of Nicko's brilliant unbeaten 90 in a losing cause, and as it's their
ground, it means their rules – ie limited overs. Urgh. We lost the toss
and were put in, and after Dom was caught behind by their juggling keeper,
Shrimpy and Henry put on a monster 2nd wicket stand of 149. It was by no
means plain sailing though, on a very green pitch, that not only offered
plenty to seamer and spinner alike, but was also slow and therefore
attacking shots were hard to time (or at least, that's what it looked
After seeing off some accurate and threatening bowlers, both batsman grew
in confidence and flourished against some average change bowling. Shrimpy
battled away for an unbeaten 74, whilst Capper made an excellent 86,
during which both batsmen had to work (and run) hard for their runs, due
to both the size of the ground and some clever fielding set by the oppo.
Although quite why they insisted on trying to block Capper's non-existent
square cut I'm not so sure. Towards the end of our allocated overs, Harry
McHugh came in and belted a couple of big sixes in his run-a-ball 32 and
we closed on a highly creditable 216 for 2.
At this point, a quick word on ringers. After a fearful rant a few weeks
ago about the use of a semi-professional cricketer by Chesham 'whipping'
Bois, I should mention the use by Ivinghoe of a ringer of their own. This
time, however, it was less of an onfield scandal as an off-field
revelation. Clearly threatened by the strength of the Hyde Heath tea, I&P
brought in their heavy artillery in the form of a crack tea-making unit.
Coronation chicken sandwiches, egg and cress (clearly home-made), scones
laden with jam and clotted cream, sausage rolls, strawberries: truly, this
is what cricket is all about. And on behalf of the Heath, I urge the use
of such ringers by certain other clubs we play against, mentioning no
names of course...
Anyway, back to the field (a stone or two heavier). The Heath were very
light on bowling, something which can be badly exposed during limited
overs cricket. Fortunately, we were saved by three key figures: the first
was Jez, our only full-time 'pace' bowler, who took two wickets in his
opening over to put the pressure firmly onto the oppo. The second was Ben,
who getting movement both ways, and hitting a niggardly length, proved
practically impossible to score off, and bowled all his eight overs off
the reel for only ten runs, with the one wicket too. (It would have been
more had Capper not dropped one of the all-time great howlers).
And the third was Charlie, who deftly juggled his bowlers (I was first
change!) and set some well-balanced fields in order to prevent Ivinghoe
from ever really settling. Apart from their tall 'keeper, Daniel (I think)
who made 70, nobody else was able to get going, especially as Spencer
destroyed their middle order with three wickets, including two in two
balls. A bit like Stuart Broad, he stopped with the long-hops, located a
fuller length, and reaped the rewards.
From there, the match rather petered out – as is the way with limited
overs when one team has no chance of winning. The last ten overs saw both
teams rather going through the motions and it all became a bit dull
(despite Tim Barnsley and Dom Haddock both taking a well-earned wicket)
and we all left thanking the Lord that we play proper time-based cricket
Michael Simkins in his book on Village cricket (The
Last Flannelled Fool from Telegraph Books, please can I have a free copy?)
asserted that the game of cricket’s soul abides on our village greens.
However, maybe not in the middle of August when our Captain is arranging
the composition of the side from Croatia, the best batsman is away,
camping (enough said), the purveyor of spin and insight is unavailable
(?camping) and everyone else seems to be away with Mummy, Daddy and Ryan
For the first time for a long
while, the Heath were a bit short not just from Stanley Burgham making his
debut (and a very good one, too), but because of a few late drop-outs. In
all honesty, most of the players are very good at phoning an apology, but
it must be said there is nothing more frustrating than expecting someone
who doesn’t appear and keeps his phone switched off. Anyway, 7 originals
plus the afore-mentioned Stanley, the Captain’s brother-in-law and the
ex-chairman who only came to report the demise of the mower, made up to a
creditable 10. Ben Sonley kindly stood around as eleventh man, didn’t bat,
had his tea and left for his radio show at 5.00!
Peter Cox won the toss and
inserted the Heath, never a good thing for us. Mike, the groundsman, came
back early from his holiday to present a very good pitch and we were off.
Shrimpy and Dom looked very good, hitting several boundaries until Shrimpy
was out to a “pearler” even Anderson would have been proud of, and Dom
followed soon after. To the wicket strode Nick, father of Stanley, and
murderer of short bowling. Firstly Liam and then Spencer gave him support
as he laid in to their bowling. Liam, one short of his best score, and
Spencer with a solid 20, led to the ex-chairman battling to survive up one
end, while Nick treated the same bowling with disdain. Maybe by fate, a
severe calf injury left him anchored to the crease with a runner but just
as brutal. 89 runs with 3 sixes was a great return. Next in was Jeremy who
again made the bowling look easy and scored a fine 50. Up the other end,
the bowling seemed much more difficult, although 27 not out, gives the
senior Capper a better average than junior but slightly less runs (609
236 for 5 off 37 overs was a good
score but the tea was even better. Excellent sandwiches, dreamy chocolate,
ginger and fairy cakes, melon, strawberries and sausages, hopefully, would
dull the Gamecox’s batting. Thank you ladies.
Down to 9 fielders, young Josh
agreed to help us out and later took a stunning catch at mid-wicket, well
done. After a fast start from the opposition, Jeremy bowled really well
and accurately as did Richard Austin, our Captain for the day.
Richard, then, rang the changes
with Liam, David and Spencer all bowling creditably. Gradually the score
crept up with a good second wicket partnership and with 6 an over needed
off the last 17 overs it could have been a close game. However an
excellent catch by Liam and some great bowling by Jeremy (4 for 48),
Richard (2 for 40) and Shrimpy, slowed things down and at the end Gamecox
were struggling. 209 for 7 and a tense final over saw the game to a close.
Actually, after the struggle for players at the start, there was some very
good cricket. The fielding was very good indeed with Shrimpy, Spencer,
Liam, Dom, Josh and Stanley the main men.
Simkins says “Faith is what’s
required in village cricket, faith that the sun will come out, faith that
the opposition will turn up (or all of the agreed players for our side),
faith that their best batsman will nick an edge (and walk!) and faith that
the game won’t disappoint” This game was, actually, of a high standard,
in spite of being a tricky time of year and Josh, Stanley and Ben should
be congratulated for making a game out of what could have been could have
An account in bullet points, courtesy of Richard Austin:
1. Charlie won toss. With light drizzle
threatening we agreed a 35 over game and fielded first.
2. Jez and Shrimpy bowled a tight first 6 overs on a difficult wet bouncy
track. In Jez's last over Tim B dropped a sitter at first slip. Jez was
then immediately taken off (to save his remaining overs for later) but he
wasn't best pleased!.
3. The sun came out as Ben and I then came on and kept things fairly
tight. Longwick were 76 for 3 after 20 overs (my figures were 7-3-10-3).
Henry (cymbals) Capper having taken a sitter off me and having dropped a
couple more off both Ben and I; something he admitted he has been doing a
lot of lately.
4. Nick and Fiddy came on to bowl as the Longwick middle order started to
try to up the ante. Nick took one wicket (unlucky not to get more), Fiddy
bowled a horrible long-hop first ball which resulted in a brilliant
over-the-shoulder running catch from Harry McHugh (Luke's mate), after
which he settled down and bowled much better.
5. With the weather now sunny, Jez and Shrimpy returned to finish their
alloted overs. Jez bowled well without much luck although he got an LBW
with last ball of innings to finish on 7-1-22-1, with half the runs
against him being wides! Shrimpy unfortunately lost the rythmn he'd had in
his earlier spell and finished with 7 overs for 38.
6. Longwick ended on 144 for 6 off 35 overs – a testing target but one we
were confident of getting, however when we emerged from the depths of the
Longwick Village Hall after tea we were greeted with torrential rain – cue
abandonment of match and general sense of anti-climax, although I sensed
that our openers didn't much fancy going out on a wet-again track (Henry's
comment of “That pitch will be an average-killer” might have been a
7. After standing in the rain outside The Red Lion of Longwick waiting in
vain for the pub to open (this was at about 5.15pm and the pub normally
doesn't open until 7, but their skipper had phoned up the landlord and
asked him to open early apparently), 'bugger this' was the collective
sentiment and we repaired to The Plough for much needed refreshment.
Traditionally, the Bourne End fixture is one of the hardest of the
year. It's miles away, it's not the most attractive ground in the
the oppo are usually pretty strong, and – significantly – it's
right after tour and everyone is usually exhausted.
But with tour cancelled this year (nothing to do with the London
riots I hasten to add – although if the Oval test match gets
cancelled I'll be livid...) it was a chance to show what we at
Hyde Heath are made of.
It was also a chance for me to practice what I preach. After a
season that's so far featured more opinions from yours truly than
wickets (and indeed runs) I had a chance to lead the side in the
manner I've espoused on Tragics (thanks to Henry's last minute
decision to hand over the baton of authority).
Unsurprisingly I largely failed in my bid to ensure that everyone
got a game, as Spence, Liam, Tim Barnsley and myself didn't bat or
bowl, whilst even Shrimpie only bowled the solitary over. In part
this was clearly my fault as captain, but it was also in part due
to some unexpectedly cavalier batting from the Bourne End top
order, and some impressively resolute batting from our own.
Bourne End won the toss and strangely elected to bat on a spicy
wicket. They came out, as they often do, with all guns blazing,
but thanks to some excellent bowling from both Jez and Brad (and
some shrewd captaincy I hasten to add...) we swiftly scythed
through their line-up. What was so pleasing was the way in which
both bowlers hit consistent lines and lengths, meaning that
captaincy decisions could focus on how to get the batsman out,
rather than how to stop the boundary off the rank ball. This is
the fun part of captaincy – working with the bowlers, analysing
weaknesses in the batsmen and manoeuvring the troops as
And clearly it worked. Jez bowled splendidly – full, with a bit of
movement in the air and some bounce of the pitch to finish with 4
wickets, whilst Brad also bowled with some fire to unsettle a
couple of their batsmen. He took two, despite a couple of drops
off his bowling by Dom (although one of them was pretty bloody
tough). With the oppo's top order in tatters it would have been a
good time to turn to those who don't get much of a bowl, but with
Azhar still in and looking strong (after being dropped by Capper,
standing up to Jez) I was reluctant to risk having to chase too
many runs – particularly on such a tough pitch.
Then, just as Azhar was removed and I was preparing to loose the
second string (by which I mean me) the lower order collapsed in a
heap to some impressive bowling from Luke (and a run out) and
Bourne End were all out for under 100.
Ordinarily this would have been a cake walk, but the pitch was a
tricksy one, and Bourne End had a potent new bowler called Saj. We
lost Capper early, yorked by Saj, and it was left to Dom and
Luke's mate Harry (batting at 3 after Shrimpy very kindly said he
could take his place) to see off the threat. Dom, modelling a new,
more upright technique (for which Johnny Capper claimed much
credit) looked far more secure than usual, and played the
situation extremely well – leaving what he could, blocking the
dangerous deliveries and then whenever the bad ball came lashing
it to the boundary with customary force.
At the other end Harry took his cue from Dom. After receiving an
absolute cracker first ball – that jagged back through his
defences and went over the top of off stump – he displayed solid
defensive technique and temperament. It was like Trott and Cook
out there! Until the lesser bowlers came on and Dom thrashed them
all round the park to cruise over the finish line and secure
victory by 9 wickets.
A satisfying victory then, in terms of the cricket played, but a
less good one for acting upon one's theories. Oh well...
We had two cricket matches to consider last
weekend…the first, unusually, was on Friday. In previous years we had been
on tour in Kent, with the Friday fixture at Petts Wood. This year the
situation was reversed, and they came to us, setting brother against
brother…Touring Toby versus Masterly Matt. Sims, who skippered for the
home side and promptly lost the toss. Hyde Heath scored a very respectable
230 for seven wickets, with Henry Capper notching a classy 100 not out.
The other main score came from Alistair Richards, enjoying a rest from his
bowling duties, with an entertaining 54. Matt tried all his bowlers, but
could not completely break the visitors, who closed their innings on 150
for five wickets, with two of their batsmen injured. A draw...
It was back to winning ways on Sunday at Bourne End
(the Hertfordshire one). They were all out for 92 with Jeremy Stevens
taking four wickets and Luke Brennan three. Dom. Haddock lead the victory
charge to 93 for one wicket with a pugnacious 46 not out…a win by nine
wickets. This Sunday’s match is at Longwick (2.00)
A glorious day at a glorious ground saw Hyde Heath administer something
of a thrashing to an opposition side that never really got going. After
Charlie won the toss, we elected to field (as ever) and got off to the
best possible start, courtesy of a probing and incisive spell from Jez,
who finished up with four wickets to shatter the oppo's top order. Two
wickets in his opening over set the tone of the day – one rankly scythed
to Charlie at mid-off and one full and straight and missed completely –
and, from there, Cublington never recovered.
Of the other bowlers, Brad was a touch unlucky and Luke hostile but
perhaps bowling a little too short to take wickets, whilst in the field
we also did our best to "make a game of it" with Henry dropping at least
three catches of various degrees of difficulties behind the stumps.
At least Charlie made up for it, taking a second catch - this time back-pedaling
smartly from a deepish mid-off. That gave Richie one of his four
wickets, garnered through a combination of off-breaks and well-disguised
arm balls. Your correspondent was once again relegated to third spinner
and, sadly for those wishing to make even more of a game of it, didn't
even get a bowl on a pitch offering occasionally extravagant turn.
Oh well, Cublington were dismissed for 129 and I got a chance to bat at
number 4, albeit with only 20 or so runs needed, after a solid 20-odd
from Matt and an increasingly assertive innings from Capper, who
finished unbeaten on 80. Naturally I was out for 2 playing over a
straight one. What a season 2011 is turning out to be !
So the first test against India starts today at Lord's, weather
permitting, and we at Cricket Tragics are pretty bloody excited.
Not only is this a series (of a decent length) between England
and the world's number 1 side, but it also features some great
players: VVS, The Wall, Sachin, Viru (if he recovers from
injury) and, for England, err Graeme Swann. And we reckon this
could be a big one for Ian Bell. Although we have been saying
that for years. We just like watching him bat.
Our reporters will be at the Home of Cricket on Friday and
Saturday reporting assiduously, so fingers crossed on the
weather front. Otherwise it'll just be two days of boozing.
Oh, and if all this wasn't exciting enough, we're also off to
hear a talk from none other than former England Captain,
curmudgeonly leader of men he didn't like much, atrocious
handler of the media turned incisive media pundit, gambler,
dodger of bouncers despite a bad back, and all-round bloody hero
- yes it's none other than Michael 'Iron Mike' Atherton,
talking about something or other (cricket, we assume) at the
LSE on Wednesday night.
Here's some little treats for Atherton fans, because it's not
just about how many you get, it's how classy you look whilst
For cricket fans, the release of
Fire in Babylon
was probably the most exciting piece of cinema news in the past
decade or so. Finally, a film about cricket. Sure, there have
been others in recent years –
meant to be quite good,
Out of the Ashes (that one about the Afghanistan team) is
apparently excellent, and there’s always the hilarious sounding
slasher/village cricket movie
I Know How
Many Runs You Scored Last Summer – but Fire in Babylon
promised something else entirely.
Most cricket films – and indeed cricket books – fall into two
main categories: those for cricket obsessives that nobody else
could possibly be interested in; and those that aren’t really
about cricket at all, but instead use cricket to discuss
something else. These tend to appeal to the broader audience but
suffer from the problem of not showing enough cricket. Fire in
Babylon, however, does both.
For the non-cricket fan it tells of the fascinating and at times
genuinely disturbing fight for equal rights that has been one of
the defining racial issues of the twentieth century. Some of the
footage is truly shocking, both in terms of the violence it
contains, and in terms of how recently much of this took place.
Frankly, it’s appalling to think how recently racism was still
not only acceptable but institutionally approved: apartheid in
South Africa only ended in 1994. For context, that’s the year
Brian Lara scored 501 against Durham and the year Stephen
Fleming made his Test debut. I was 9 at the time. It’s that
What Fire in Babylon does so well is to depict the emergence of
the world-conquering West Indies team of the 1970s and ‘80s
through the eyes of those that were there. There’s very little
narration; instead it’s left to the likes of Michael Holding,
Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Colin Croft, Andy Roberts and Gordon
Greenidge to tell their stories. All are insightful speakers,
and the sense of destiny and of being driven on by something far
bigger than cricket is genuinely fascinating, if in places it
drifts towards cod-spiritual nonsense. The presence of various
Rastafarian pseudo-philosophers and contemporary musicians is
entertaining, but in places rather clutters the narrative.
One of the other downsides of this 1st person approach is that
you only get one side of the story. It would have been good to
hear more from the batsmen who had to face these four-pronged
pace attacks, and it certainly would have been interesting to
hear what Tony Greig has to say about his infamous ‘grovel’
comments all these years later.
This, however, is more than made up for by what Fire in Babylon
offers to the cricket fan: cricket. Lots and lots of cricket –
cricket at its most brutal and gladiatorial, its most violent,
dangerous, confrontational and terrifying. None of which are
words one usually associates with the sport. There’s great
footage of batsman getting hit, of Viv Richards nearly
decapitating an umpire, and of Holding’s silky smooth run up.
Much of it is footage I’ve never seen before – and as a cricket
DVD obsessive, that’s something rare.
Whilst I love cricket primarily for its nuances – the trickery
of the leg-spinner, the delicate late cut, the inspired
captaincy decision – there’s no question that, as depicted in
Fire in Babylon, cricket is also a thrilling spectacle. Or
rather, it was. I always despise those washed up has-beens who
lament the birth of the helmet as the death of cricket (what
kind of idiot would think that?) but something has certainly
been lost from the game now that batting is such a safe and
comparatively simple task. Gone is the concept of batting as
grim survival. And consequently gone too is the sense of the
batsman as brave, embattled hero: from Brian Close to Mike
Atherton. Partly because of the pitches, partly because of the
workload, and partly, probably, just down to luck, no batsman
these days has such challenges to overcome.
Fire in Babylon may be a flawed film – one that’s at times
unwilling to take a step back, analyse, and examine complexity
or contradiction – but it is a brilliant one. Funny, genuinely
exciting, brutal, shocking, and enlightening: a triumph.
So it turns out that Chesham Bois' ringer was a certain Scott
Myers, who at the age of 22 has already played for Essex 2nd XI
and is therefore rather good. Here's his
Cricinfo profile. Further stats are available on the
Essex Cricket Archive.
own website jokes, "did he edge the ball or did he not? Who
knows!" before going on to conclude, "Only our second win of the
season, but very satisfying to win so well." "Very satisfying
huh?" Somehow I doubt it...
Nonetheless, after re-reading Monday’s polemic on the correct
spirit in which to play village cricket, and after lengthy
discussion with various cricketing luminaries, I’ve had some
further thoughts on the subject.
1. Perhaps we had it coming.
In 2009 Hyde Heath played 22 and lost only twice. In 2010 Hyde
Heath played 20 and lost only 5 times (twice on tour), with a
record number of 14 victories for the season. The last two times
we’ve played Chesham Bois at Chesham Bois, we’ve won by 10
wickets. Perhaps it was only a matter of time before a team got
tired of being steamrollered by Hyde Heath.
2. Fielding a weakened team?
In the previous piece I mentioned how at village level captains
often negotiate prior to a match about the relative strengths of
their teams in order to try to ensure a balanced contest. Perhaps
we ought to field a weakened team against opposition who we know
to be consistently inferior. Perhaps we could do things like
reverse the batting order when we’re only chasing a hundred or so.
That would not only make the game closer, but also give valuable
experience to the middle and lower orders, and perhaps help to
prevent the collapses we see so often.
This of course is easier said than done: it's all very well to say
what a captain ought to do or ought not to do, but the balance is
bloody hard to achieve. How many matches have we lost after trying
to 'make a game of it', thereby taking our foot off the
accelerator and then being unable to regain the upper hand?
3. We could have taken it in
It’s all very well to take the moral high ground when a batsman
doesn’t walk, but the best way to do so is to continue to play the
game in the manner that we advocate – namely, hard but fair, and
with a smile and a laugh. Descending into a strop for the rest of
the match perhaps doesn’t reflect that well upon us.
None of this is to say that we shouldn’t try to win every game
– Monday’s piece explains why if you’re not trying to win, the
game quickly becomes pretty pointless. Just that at village level
winning isn’t everything: in the same way that a batsman not
walking can ruin the day for everyone, so can a very good team
consistently thrashing a pretty poor one quickly become tedious.
Basically, what all this shows is that cricket is awesome - by far
the most intricate, involving and consistently intriguing sport
there is - and that village cricket is perhaps its greatest
What is the point in village cricket? One might just as well ask what
the point is of sport more generally, but village cricket – free from such
influences as money – is arguably sport in its purest form. By pure
however I don't mean necessarily honest or fair or friendly or 'pure' in
that rose-tinted Neville Cardus image of cricket that was always already a
myth. I mean 'pure' in the sense of exemplary. People play village cricket
for a variety of reasons: as an escape from the children, as an excuse to
start drinking at midday, as a way of making friends, getting some
exercise, or simply having fun. But almost everyone, at least for the
duration of the match, wants to win. That is the point in sport – the
assumption when you agree to take part in a game is that you will play by
the rules, and that you will try to win. Otherwise there's no point at
But there's also the spirit in which a game is played – you play to win,
but you play not only within the rules, but also according to that
nebulous chimera known as the Spirit of Cricket. The Spirit of Cricket has
many grey areas. It's acceptable, for example, to appeal for an LBW even
if you kind of know there was an inside edge, but to claim a catch you
know not to have carried is intolerable. But the basics are that you want
to havea drink with the opposition afterwards and a laugh, and you want
them to play you again next season.
And this is where two issues come in: walking, and ringers. In
professional cricket you don't walk (unless you're Adam Gilchrist and he
only did it when it suited him); but in village cricket you always walk.
It's as simple as that, and for two very good reasons: 1. The umpire is
not a professional – he's probably a member of your team, maybe your dad,
maybe a twelve year-old who doesn't really know the rules, maybe a 90
year-old who can't remember them – and it's unfair to put the pressure fo
the decision onto such shoulders. And 2. Because it's village cricket.
Nobody's livelihood is at stake. The spirit is as important as the rules,
and certainly more important than winning.
And so to the issue of ringers. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with
village teams enlisting the help of players who are very good,
particularly in the case of Chesham Bois who routinely get hammered by us
and therefore quite understandably sought to bolster their usually fairly
ordinary XI. Ringers have been used since time immemorial – even HHCC have
been known to field the odd one – so it's not that they are a problem in
themselves, but rather that they pose two potential problems. 1. is if
they are so good that the match simply becomes a joke. Yes, we play to
win, but what enjoyment can be taken from a ten man team who contribute
next to nothing to their victory? The ideal village cricket match is
evenly contested – that is why village captains will often speak to each
other to negotiate the relative strtengths of their own XIs: everyone
wants a close match.
Problem number 2 is that ringers often play in a very different spirit
from the one associated with village cricket – however complex and
indefinable that spirit may be. It's therefore the responsibility of the
village club to ensure that their ringer plays in the right spirit,
something which Chesham Bois singularly failed to do this weekend.
You may by now be aware that Hyde Heath were not particularly enamoured
with the oppo this weekend. During their chase, Chesham Bois' opener – who
plays Grade cricket in Australia apparently and is currently training with
Michael Carberry – was clearly caught behind trying to cut James Shrimpton
early in his innings. The umpire wasn't sure and the batsman – guilt
etched across his face – refused to walk. It did not go down well. And was
made worse by the fact that he proceeded to destroy our bowling en route
to a brutal 130-odd, before he was caught on the boundary of Ben Sonley –
who bowled extremely well. There was even something of Bob Willis'
Headingly '81 heroics in his glassy stare between deliveries.
Earlier, we'd compiled what we thought was a respectable 239 on a pitch
with tennis ball bounce, thanks to a painstaking and gutsy 70 from Henry
Capper and some seriously impressive lower order fireworks from Nick the
Kiwi, Andy Williamson and Bradley Holt.
But it was all to no avail, as the oppo's ringer demonstrated both his
class and his infuriating lack of class.
Fear thee not! We haven't gone the way of the News of the World.
Yet. Rest assured, not one but two independent inquiries are being
set up to investigate the lethargy of Cricket Tragics in recent
weeks. Some say it's something to do with a leaked pot of tea;
others cite a series of controversial LBW decisions, influenced by
local politicians. We're not so sure.
But be certain, the truth will out. Rumour has it the corruption
reaches right to the top...
Ballinger is always a challenge and engenders a fair
degree of rivalry. The Heath have been on the winning side for the last
few years but Ballinger have more resources to call on and had a strong
team. Hyde Heath didn’t have the strongest fielding side either with a
positive rush to field at slip for the first over, bowled by us fielding
first again. Despite some good bowling their opener, Humphreys, made 81
perhaps with a bit of luck here and there, while the rest of the side made
runs here and there to total 205 for 8, a total increased by a crucial 10
off the last over before tea which seemed to be infringing on overtime!!
Perhaps we need a bigger clock! The score was inflated by the fastest
outfield we’ve had for some years so it was “gettable”.
An excellent tea as ever from Mrs
Cousins and Mrs Barnsley received with thanks by 22 players and 2 dogs.
Our innings started brightly on a
tricky pitch with Henry and Dominic putting on 50 before Dominic gave some
catching practice. Henry and James looked very composed, with Henry
hitting some glorious straight drives. James was a trifle unlucky to be
out LBW but Henry kept on going, reaching 81.
Cue a collapse against some fairly
ordinary leg-spin bowling. Does it remind you of anything? In spite of
suggestions of Warne-like turn (there wasn’t) the next 6 wickets fell for
20 runs, mostly by batsman who should be making appointments at
Spec-Savers. From looking like winning, we looked like losing again, until
Jeremy and Alastair came together with 9 wickets down. They batted
beautifully together and scored 39 runs between them and almost sneaked a
win, being exactly 10 runs short! Honour saved. Hyde Heath always enjoy
the “third” result and, by 9.00 in the Plough, it was heralded as a
definite “Winning Draw”.
One little plea from me about
umpiring and it’s not about LBW decisions. I do think it’s very difficult
to ask youngsters to officiate and it might be better if they don’t get
subjected to pressure from their own or the opposition players, but the
decision causing the most irritation is regarding wide balls. It seems
youngsters and some older players call a wide for a ball that could be hit
“by a normal cricket shot”, presumably because they only watch 20/20
cricket. Bowlers have a rough time as it is and wides irritate! Even
worse, it makes retaliation inevitable, “They gave them, therefore I
will”. Obviously, be honest in all your decisions but 2 inches outside leg
isn’t a wide, even Charlie Samuels can hit those, depending on the
definition of “normal”.
Phoenix cricket club was a fixture
from the exchange and not a regular foe. They were very pleasant on and
off the field but slightly too good for us on this occasion.
Hyde Heath took the field on a
very warm and humid afternoon. Despite having most of the top bowlers
playing, Phoenix made us struggle in the field. Jeremy had four maidens in
a row after a wayward first few overs, but the pressure lifted with some
loose deliveries once the opening pair of Jeremy and Alastair came off. It
wasn’t a great day to be fielding and their opener and captain made a
century off tiring bowlers. One inspiring moment came when Tom Jefferys
produced a snorter to pin his man, LBW; not a typical wicket for our
answer to Ian Salisbury. Let’s hope this is the start of a resurgence of
form as one must question where the snarl and grunt of previous seasons
Phoenix took a very pleasant tea,
thank you Mrs Shrimpton and Miss Morgan, with 196 runs for 8 wickets, a
score made better by a very slow outfield.
Hyde Heath have an uncanny knack
when batting of looking at one minute, unbeatable and, at the next, like
rabbits. This was a disaster of a performance. After Dominic was stumped
while closer to the bowler than his own crease, Henry and James played
some sublime cricket. Both have looked in very good form this season and
were taking the score along with ease. Henry, then, missed a straight one
and James tried out the catching of the deep field. Normally, the Heath
would have batted with some care and either crept over the winning line or
held on for a draw. Unfortunately, there was 20/20 batting at one stage.
Andrew seemed to have a hot date waiting and Nick was in a bit of a rush
too. Spencer, however, made a patient 10 off 31 balls – the 10 being hit
off two balls in the middle! Bradley seemed to be playing French cricket
with his second ball chipped back to the bowler after Liam, again, was
chasing that hot date.
Normally, “9,10, Jack” in the Hyde
Heath team bat with more technique than anyone. However, Tom did have a
hot date, although with the good manners to wait around for 18 balls,
leaving Jeremy and Alastair to hold out for the draw. This they did for 28
balls until Andrew, umpiring this time, remembered his assignation and we
had LOST, for the first time this season!
Phoenix played well and deserved
their victory, but it was a bit frustrating as Hyde Heath had looked to be
cruising in the early part of the innings and looked well set to save it
at the end.
President's Weekend: the glittering jewel in the
burnished golden crown that is the Hyde Heath fixture list.
The three-day feast of sporting prowess and booze kicks off
with the annual beer festival, which by all accounts was
another triumph this year – alas I was reviewing some
dreadful hotel restaurant at the time – before the serious
action commences on the Saturday.
The President's game consists of Hyde Heath's mightiest
pitched against an assembled unit of hired mercenaries and
rag-tag cricketing talent – in short, the best of the
opposition from throughout the year hand-picked by HHCC's
all-knowing President. This year saw us up against a
particularly strong side, but as so often with the Heath, we
somehow found a path to victory. Playing 30 overs a side,
Henry and Dom put on a rapid-fire opening partnership,
dominated by Capper at his aggressive best. At one point
he'd raced to 16 before Dom had even faced a ball. In
uncharacteristic fashion Dom played the supporting role,
before being dismissed for 35. This precipitate something of
a drop in run rate as James Shrimpton, our usual number 3,
was absent, and his strokeplay was rather missed. With the
runs drying up, and the overs running out, our middle order
threw caution to the wind (and their wickets away) in a
rather desperate attempt for quick runs. Fortunately
Capper's classy 85 secured a total of around 150, a
defendable but also a gettable total.
Fortunately some accurate bowling from Jez and some tight
fielding prevented the oppo's top order form ever really
getting going. And although once Jez had been bowled out the
run-rate started to rise (my solitary over went for more
than Jez's entire spell) wickets also tumbled, with Larry's
mate Will mopping up the lower order. Ali and Airdy were
left to achieve the impossible and despite a few lusty blows
it never quite materialised and Hyde Heath won fairly
comfortably in the end.
Afterwards, rather bizarrely, we all swiftly departed for
home in order to change into black tie and return to the
pavilion marquee for a right old shindig in celebration of
Hyde Heath's 40th or 45th anniversary. Nobody seemed quite
sure which. What was clear is that everybody was feeling
more than a little ropey for Sunday's now traditional HHCC
vs Plough 20/20 grudge match.
I face up bravely to some vicious opening bowling.
For some reason, I was elected pinch-hitter and opened
the batting with Shrimpy. We actually got off to a flier
until I ran him out (for scoring too quickly I think).
Shrimpy had his revenge though as Nick (no doubt operating
under instructions) ran me out shortly afterwards. Oh well.
Thanks to some lusty hitting throughout we managed a pretty
impressive total (of I've totally forgotten what).
The Plough's chase never really seemed to get going. And yet
thanks to a rapid half-century from Capper they actually
only needed 10 to win off the final two balls. Fortunately
for the glory of the club it was not to be and HHCC remain
unbeaten this season. The highlight of the weekend for me?
An astonishing reaction catch by Nick at very silly mid-on
off my bowling. Not only was it one of the best catches I've
ever seen – the ball was hit seriously hard and he was
fielding pretty darned close – but it was also the third
wicket in a hat-trick for yours truly on the way to a long
awaited five wicket haul. Just thought I'd throw that little
snippet in there - shame it's in a match that doesn't count
for the averages. Balls.
It's been pointed out that various things were
missing from the Tragics report of this year's
President's Weekend. Given that we almost always seem
to miss out the most important aspects of any match,
we're unsure why this seems to have come as any sort
of surprise. But anyway, in a concession to our many
devoted readers across the world, here are some
1. Mike Thompson.
HHCC's erstwhile groundsman took to the field of play
for the Plough on Sunday, and surprised all and sundry
with his cricketing prowess. Who knew? Not only did he
take three wickets with his well-flighted deliveries,
but proved a thorn in the side of the Heath when
batting too. Scoring heavily in the V (although not
the usual V, it must be said) his obduracy was only
ended by a lethal delivery from a certain leg-spinner
on the way to his hat-trick.
2. Charly Capper.
The first girl to take the field at the hallowed
Heath? Quite possibly. Not content with a stint of
dynamic fielding that put many of the menfolk to
shame, Charly also batted with panache against the
canny talents of Hyde Heath's leading leg-spinner.
3. Tom Jeffreys.
Took a hat-trick. Did we mention that? Gosh, he bowled
This was going to be the first Sunday of the season
playing without our leg-spinning all-rounder and usual correspondent Tom.
It would be mighty tricky indeed for the mighty Heath to remain unbeaten
without their talisman. There was a few suggestions where he could be,
ranging from the Hay Literary Festival to “twelfth man” at Lord’s vs. Sri
Lanka (probably helping out with Kevin Petersen’s lack of confidence
against spinners – a few overs batting against his bowling does seem to
cheer people up). The truth, apparently, was a trip to Venice, in the
cricket season!!, and possibly for romantic reasons!!! Where is his
reality, the mighty Heath appeared remarkably strong in the absence of
“our man”. Ali was back to bowl, Bradders returned after missing last week
for a family party, Austin had sorted out his child care (by buying a
kitten – novel!), Nick from half term and “Senior Pro” Barnsley on
Opposition were an unknown quantity, always a worry in case they had 4
nasty fast bowlers. Mishearing the name of the team I thought they were
from a pub and, therefore a team of heavy drinkers however a very pleasant
and amusing group, complete with strong female support, turned up, based,
I believe round a journalistic background. Perhaps a good thing our
correspondent stayed at home!
Charlie, back in charge, won the toss and inserted the visitors. Ali
bowled very well and accurately, with little luck, while Brad, at the
other end was a bit wayward but quick, nonetheless. Jeremy who, unusually,
arrived at the ground almost in time for the start, took over and bowled
with his usual reliability. 2 wickets for Jeremy and 3 for Ali was a fair
return for both of them. After this the batting looked a bit thin and the
spinners lined up to finish things off. Shrimpy taking 2 for 9 and Austin
grabbing the last 2 wickets at the end of a tidy spell, aided by yet
another good catch from Tim Barnsley. 113 all out, in 32 overs was not a
high enough score on this pitch which was a belter thanks to Mike
Thompson, the grounds-man. Possibly, a few overs from our man in the
Gritti Palace Hotel on the Grand Canal might have produced more of a
target but there you go!
the tea interval, courtesy of Mrs Shrimpton and Mrs Haddock (2 choices of
melon, chicken tikka wraps, salmon rolls, hot sausages, cheese and pickle
sandwiches, 4 different cakes and no tuna in site – heaven and I’m sure
I’ve missed something out) who was going to open was a strong topic of
debate. Capper and Haddock were the lucky pair and gave a chanceless
performance, unbeaten on 114, with Henry on 61 and Dom on 43. An
excellent 10 wicket win against a team who were charm personified
despite under- achieving on the field.
always difficult when, like Nick Burgham Tim Barnsley and Spencer North,
you’ve not bowled or batted and still are expected to pay the match fee.
Tim’s catch was a high-light and so, apparently, was Spencer’s. He had to
tell me about it in great detail as I was searching for saw-dust at the
time. Yes, it drizzled all afternoon but don’t tell Tom.
It's now over two weeks since Hyde Heath drew their first match of the
season, at home against Ley Hill, and with the passing of time has come,
inevitably, the fading of memory. Fortunately, Chris' excellent photos on
the Hyde Heath website have done a little to prompt my hazy recollections
of the match. I think the one of Matt's satisfied admiration of his own
scorching cover drive is probably my new favourite cricket image. “Dare
thee challenge me, bowler?” it says. “I laugh in the face of your bowling,
and dispatch it to the boundary with ferocious elegance, thusly.”
Matt's blistering strokeplay came after a very slow start (I think he took
16 balls to get off the mark), and after our openers had failed, he helped
to put on an increasingly confident partnership with Shrimpy, who's in
belting form at the moment. While these two were at the crease, the target
– about 180 – looked eminently achievable. But as so often, the fall of
one wicket led to a clatter, and I ended up having to block out the last
couple of overs to secure the draw, some 30-odd runs short.
Earlier, I'd been relegated to third-choice spinner (hardly surprising
given recent form) as our severely depleted bowling attack toiled hard
against an unthreatening but combative Ley Hill line-up. Jez bowled an
extremely long and tidy spell, but only managed the solitary wicket,
Shrimpy and Rich both bowled well, but I was again expensive (although I
did manage a wicket and, would you believe it, a run-out) and the oppo's
total was 30 or so above what it might have been. With more seamers at our
disposal (no Brad or Ali today) or a less profligate leg-spinner, perhaps
it could have been 5 wins out of 5.
Some are born great; some achieve greatness; and some have greatness
thrust upon them. Sitting quietly outside the Plough at approximately
1.15pm this Sunday past, I, your ever-so humble (and, of late, with good
reason) correspondent, had greatness unceremoniously thrust upon me. And
when I say greatness, I do not use that term lightly – no; for what post
could be greater, what role more noble and esteemed, than the hallowed
captaincy of the mighty, all-conquering Hyde Heath Cricket Club ?
Yes, with Charlie away, the gilded baton passed to Henry Capper, who,
selflessly and in the interests of this fine and illustrious club,
decided that he’d be better off nursing his still-broken finger down at
fine leg and would therefore not be in an ideal position from which to
marshal the troops. What selflessness! What gallantry! And so I,
ever-modest, ever-humble, assumed the crown of leadership.
The toss was lost – no surprise then, as the now subordinated Capper had
taken it upon himself to call the toss. Well, what cheek! Anyway, no
matter – we were in the field first, as ever, and under my confident,
direct, near-imperious leadership (softened of course by the
understanding smile, the comforting arm round the shoulder...) things
got off to a flier.
Ali found a perfect length immediately to gain some bounce and a little
movement either way of a very green pitch, while Jez did extremely well
to bowl with any degree of control into a ludicrously strong wind. Soon
the opposition were four down with less than twenty on the board, as
their talented but inexperienced top order never got going. We never
quite pressed home the advantage that we might have done – and, besides,
village cricket isn't really about burying the opposition into the
ground – but still dismissed Chartridge for 118, and that despite a
frustrating last-wicket partnership of 40-odd.
I took my first wicket of the season (finally! So what if he was ten ?)
which was nice, but the highlight of the innings was two excellent
reflex catches by senior pro Tim Barnsley at 1st slip. The first was a
cracker, taken sharply to his left as the batsman tried to cut Richard
Austin's bouncing off-breaks; and the second an excellent juggled,
diving effort off Ali.
And then it came to the chase. And although we didn't exactly cruise
home with authority, it was never really in doubt, with us batting all
the way to 11. Henry anchored the top order with 30-odd, and, in
something that is becoming a rather reliable double act, Brad and Spence
put on 40 or so (including a monstrous 6 from Brad) to see us home with
five wickets in hand. Victory was mine! I mean, ours...
Oh dear, Cricket Tragics really have been letting their
readers down of late. We apologise wholeheartedly, but it's been a busy
week wading through the usual combination of death threats and fan mail as
well as some particularly pointed correspondence from a certain
“Disgruntled of Hyde Heath”. Sorry! Please don't cancel your subscription
to Cricket Tragics – it's the only way we can raise enough money for our
daily diet of linseed oil and scotch eggs.
The other reason is that our esteemed editor seems to have rather mislaid
his cricketing form... Yes, 'tis true, three matches into the season and
I've yet to take a wicket or score a run. And I'm probably going for about
8 an over. Such stats don't make for good reading or fond reminiscing.
So let's focus on the positives, as professional cricketers like to say,
and Sunday's match away at the picturesque ground of Great Missenden
Pelicans will stand out in the memory for one reason: an unbeaten innings
of 116 by James Shrimpton, his first hundred for Hyde Heath (not counting
the one he scored against the Plough back in 2010 – putting on an unbeaten
150 partnership with a certain Tom Jeffreys. Oh happier days of yore!)
Anyway, to the point, and apart from a dropped chance on the deep
midwicket boundary when he had about 85, this was as near a flawless
innings as you could expect from village cricket. Everyone here has always
known that James is a seriously quality player, and this innings was
replete with his usual array of dismissive pulls and corruscating cover
drives. The difference though was that at no stage did he get bored,
over-confident or lose concentration. He just kept going, and dragged Hyde
Heath to a comfortable victory.
Earlier we'd dismissed the Pelicans for around 170, with Bradley taking
four and Jez two in a very long and accurate spell of swing bowling.
Shrimpie also took four wickets to lay down a pretty strong claim for
2011's Outstanding Performance award.
They say that with the truly great
sporting teams – and I'm thinking of the 1970s West Indians here,
Bradman's Invincibles or Australia under Steve Waugh – it's not about
never making mistakes, for that would be impossible. It's about learning
from those mistakes and avoiding them in the future. Well if the speed at
which that lesson is learnt is an accurate indicator of greatness, then
Hyde Heath have just etched themselves into the history books.
Last week you may recall, our middle order crashed horribly in pursuit of
an eminently gettable 150. This week, in pursuit of roughly the same
target, history looked like repeating itself. But no! Hyde Heath stood
firm, and despite a mini-wobble, Ben Sonley played sensibly and James
Shrimpton (40*) with customary élan to see the team home with consummate
Earlier, stand-in skipper Bradley Hoult had won the toss and fielded
against what was a decidedly youthful Lee XI. To make up for it, it
seemed, The Lee decided to opt for some dubious umpiring tactics and wided
everything in sight. Jez kept things tight and picked up a couple of
wickets, but Brad was a little wayward early on. I came on, and once again
got the treatment, although in fairness I did bowl better than last week –
I just kept hitting a middle and leg line against a batsman whose one shot
was the sweep. Not ideal.
Thankfully Shrimpy wheeled away with impressive changes in pace to pick up
four wickets, Jez returned at the end to mop up the tail (and earn him the
privilege of buying a jug), whilst a run out accounted for the other
dismissal. In between all this I managed to take a catch – amazing! It was
a bloody dolly though.
And then it was our turn to bat, and with the top order all contributing
it was a walk in the park. Almost literally
Apologies for the delay in getting the first match of the
season written up. Regular readers have been emailing in threatening to
cancel their subscriptions if I don't get a move on, and I had promised
that the much-heralded new direction for Cricket Tragics wouldn't alienate
our existing audience. Sorry!
And so to the cricket, the long-awaited first match of the season.
Surprisingly, the day dawned bright and fair, and Charlie won the toss,
and we fielded, of course. I can't remember all that much of what took
place, other than rather predictably – after the amazing net sessions, and
the promising warm-up match – I dished up a load of old tripe and got
panned round the park. The others bowled well though, particularly Brad,
who after an understandably rusty first couple of overs, really found his
length and some movement back in through the air. Some of his deliveries
genuinely looked unplayable and he removed the cream of Chartridge's top
order (ie the one guy who actually looked like he might be good).
At the other end I leaked runs like an incontinent mutt and Chartridge
took tea on about 150, eminently gettable we assumed, and we were right,
At 105 without loss we were cruising. Dom and Henry were batting well,
easing smoothly through the gears and run rate wasn't much of a problem.
But then it came. The inevitable Hyde Heath collapse. I think we lost 7
for 40 on our way to making an absolute meal of an extremely
After a series of misjudged strokes, it was left to Brad and Ali to score
6 off the final over, with just two batsman waiting in the pavilion. Ali
crunched an elegant square cut, and scarpered a single to level the
scores. 1 to win off the final ball, it came down to. Cool as you like,
brad played an immaculate forward defensive. And ran. Ali hared down from
the non-strikers end. The throw was wild and we were home in some style.
Quite what style though, I'm not entirely sure.
A note in passing: I suspect that the reason certain readers have been so
desperate for the Tragics report to be published is that instead of
loyally supporting the mighty Heath throughout the dying moments of a
truly electric cricket match, they elected to pay a visit to the Plough.
And so it begins. The Hyde Heath 2011 cricket season sputters
into life, with the traditional intra-club curtain raiser. In
glorious sunshine, it’s decided that we play a ‘pairs’ match in
order for everyone to get a little something out of the day in
advance of things kicking off in earnest next Sunday. 8 overs
per pair, -20 for every dismissal. Done.
In a slight change of format (to keep things interesting, and
reflect the unusual nature of the match) the editorial team at
Cricket Tragics have opted for a series of snazzy bullet points.
The first outing of the season always makes one thing abundantly
clear: I am horribly unfit. But I’m not the only one. Due to the
format of the match we were all in the field for nearly 60 overs
and, by the end, visibly wilting.
2. The Pitch
Once again, Mikey has excelled. Even with the mower mysteriously
broken, the pitch played pretty true, although there was more in
it for the bowlers than usual. Given that I managed to find
occasionally lavish turn, I’m certainly not complaining.
Cricket is about strategy. And it’s also about strategy going
out the window at the first available opportunity. With the
top-scoring pair only posting a total of 34, my batting partner,
Richard Austin, and I decided to go for a safety-first approach.
Aim for five an over, and keep wickets intact at all cost.
Unfortunately Richard failed to receive his own memo and came
out all guns blazing. Yes, he hit some sumptuous shots, but in
between times he was dismissed three times, and our chance of
victory soon evaporated.
Fielding by and large was pretty poor (although not as poor as
some of the umpiring – how long before the UDRS is seen at this
level?) but there were two notable exceptions. Firstly, a
blinding one-handed catch in the gulley by Henry Capper to
dismiss the cavalier Austin and cost us 20 runs; and second, an
excellent leaping snare by young Matt, who looks like he could
be quite a cricketer.
Shrimpy and Henry both looked very good as ever, whilst Nick and
Rich showcased some impressive strokeplay. I scored surprisingly
quickly (for me) but the batsman of the day, unusually, was
Spencer North, who carried his pair to a deserved victory. If he
carries on the season with this new, sensible approach (combined
with his natural ability to hit sixes with ease) I think this
could be a good year for him, batting in the lower middle order.
Jez was as steady as ever, I got some serious turn, but dropped
too short too often, which is something I’m going to have to
work on. Overall though we looked a bit short on seamers (with
no Ali, Amala, Bradley, Airdy or Luke) but with the pitch taking
turn this early in the season (and several spinners available)
we needn’t get too worried.
Tea of course is Hyde Heath’s traditional strength, and the new
season kicked off in fine style. Nick’s chicken tikka sandwiches
were again the stand-outs, although some egg and mustard
sandwiches were another highlight. The samosas were a nice touch
8. The Plough
The Plough thankfully remains unchanged. As does our
conversation in it. Cricket? Cricket.
With the now traditional HHCC season curtain-raiser to take
place this Friday (not for nothing is it known as Good Friday)
it seems like a good opportunity to keep our many readers up to
date with our plans for the season. There's many exciting
changes afoot and we thought we should keep you abreast of these
things, so the more elderly amongst you don't get to flustered.
Change? Yes, we know.
Net sessions have occurred, and rather unfortunately I bowled
extremely well in the last one. Which almost certainly means
that I'll be getting my hopes up for a killer season ahead, only
to have them dashed against a wall. A wall made of drink, lack
of talent, strops, dropped catches, and hard-hitting opposition
batsmen. A wall known simply as Cricket.
My goals at the start of the 2009 season (I can't find last
year's) were: “to really cement my place as Hyde Heath’s leading
leg-spinning all-rounder under 25. So in concrete terms: at
least one half-century, a five-wicket haul, and less than three
dropped catches. Moderate, but attainable.”
Last year I did score a half-century (two in fact) but neither
in matches that actually counted. So this year the aim is to
score two that actually matter for the end of season averages.
This year, I'm aiming for two five-wicket hauls, and again, less
than three dropped catches. So overall 9and bearing in mind I've
aged two years in the last two years) the aim is to really
cement my place as Hyde Heath’s leading leg-spinning all-rounder
After some extensive reader research surveys and outsourced
market analysis, it's become clear that Cricket Tragics has a
very niche target audience (of about 15). We've decided to
attempt to broaden our readership base – without, of course,
neglecting our core reader(s) – through a series of exciting new
features. Basically, this consists of writing about
cricket-related things outside of Hyde Heath. Yes, it's radical
– like when Yorkshire first picked an overseas player – but we
feel that now is the time to take the plunge.
The other reason is that we're hoping to start being sent free
stuff. Cricket bats, books, match tickets, press trips to India,
one-on-one coaching sessions with Shane Warne: if there are any
PRs reading this, then Cricket Tragics are very much open to new
We'll be kicking things off soon with a review of
Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew by Shehan
Karunatilaka. A copy was sent to us by the kind folks at
Jonathan Cape and it really is brilliant. So keep your eyes