The first weekend in June can only mean one thing at Holkham Hall - The Philanderers tour and all its trappings; Stomper pompously striding around in a wig, pre-game pints of Adnams in the Victoria, Laurence Bailey walking Jasper and Hammond attempting to quash a rebellion. Except this year it didn’t, The Fuhrer’s austerity regime having suspended all touring frivolity, this was simply a regular fixture.
Once again Phil was absent for the start, sending instead his assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary with strict instructions to score The Philanderers book. Captain for the day Dodson controversially chose to have a bowl, leaving the assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary with the chance to catch up with old Holkham friends. Jon the Norfolk Soap-man was first to stride over, floppy hat and under-armour neatly in place. He was typically enthusiastic, excited about the sparkling new Holkham Pavilion, complete with clock tower but no toilets, and full of stories of recent on-field successes and apologies for having a slightly weaker side out today. On the latter two the assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary felt a touch of deja-vu, but immediately put these impure European thoughts behind him and sharpened his pencil to concentrate on some good old British scoring.
Next to the assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary in the scorer’s chair was Holkham regular Dennis - sports jacket and bucket hat resplendent as ever. Dennis enquired as to who was opening the bowling. From the War Memorial end it was Davidson, bowling quickly and tightly despite struggling up hill and into the wind. From the Hall end was Burnett, fired up by a rogue parking attendant who for some reason didn’t believe JB was actually playing in the cricket match.
“Nine for none from three do you make it?” Asked Dennis. The assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary did. A ripple of applause amongst the Holkham faithful followed, as their opener hit a big six from Burnett in the fourth over. The assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary sensed steam was starting to rise emerge from Burnett’s ears at the cheek of a fourth over six. The next ball fired in found the edge and assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary took great pleasure in telling Dennis the catcher, at second slip, was Dodson.
This being one of two marquee fixtures for The Philanderers, the other being at Holkham in August, we were treated to one or two esteemed guests. None more so than Professor Siddle who dropped in to survey the action. “Who is that new wicket-keeper with the blue shoes?” he asked the assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary, “The Fuhrer will not be pleased”. “Shaw”, the aassistant-administrator-brackets-temporary replied, another of Rory’s Bristol university wankers acquaintances. The Professor tutted.
Sherwin replaced Davidson and bowled quickly and tightly, two maidens in a row Dennis pointed out. Immediately Jon rushed over recognising a recruit to the side and asking for his backstory. For some reason, he didn’t believe the stocky, receding Sherwin was fresh out of University.
That’ll be Burnett done then remarked Dennis, eager I sensed for the opportunity to correct the umpire if Burnett were to bowl a ninth. Sadly, for Dennis and indeed the assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary, he didn’t and Coteman entered to bowl the 18th over.
Phil eventually arrived, his booming voice breaking the concentration of Dennis and the assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary as they tried to keep track of the constant stream of dots. “Yes, we’re quite weak this year” Phil said, to everyone and no-one at the same time. “Though we do have one or two more recruits this year you know” he said, sensing a captive audience. “Yes, I try to be a lot like the successful Liverpool teams of the 1970s, always have the same team, with one or two new faces you know”. The assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary looked around to see if anyone else was finding Phil quite so objectionable. It appeared they didn’t, but just in case things turned nasty and Desperate Dan told him where he could shove his “best looking cricket team in East Anglia”, as Phil later expanded, said his goodbyes to Dennis and hurried to the middle for a spell of umpiring, the score now 69-1 from 21.
“HOWAZEE”enquired Coteman to the assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary, optimistically questioning firstly if a ball had taken a thin edge through to Shaw and secondly if a bowling thumping into the oppositions pads was hitting the stumps. “Not Out” the assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary replied. “HOWAZEE” he asked again, but no need for the assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary to adjudicate, as the batsmen tucked his bat under his arm and headed back to the pavilion. A sharp take up to the stumps by Shaw.
Next in, a strongly build powerful batsmen, who dispatched with glee anything that Coteman dropped short of a length through the legside. Coteman admonished himself “They’re only scoring off your bad balls”. Coteman snuck a few past the edge and the assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary found himself witnessing quite a duel.
The batsmen advanced down the pitch looking to be aggressive, but pulled out of the shot and patted it back to the Coteman. With the batsmen out of his ground Coteman first shaped to throw at the stumps, then went again and let fly. The batsmen kicked the ball away. The atmosphere became a little too heated for the liking of the assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary who sought to calm the situation down with what he felt was a schoolmasterly “Thank you gentlemen”. Eventually Coteman was to get his man, clearly riled by the intimidating atmosphere, running him out before sending him to the pavilion with a gloriously unnecessary “on your way then”. Competitive stuff.
Rutt and Pearson entered the attack to bowl the death overs, both taking a wicket clean bowled. With two overs to go the score was 171-7 and the assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary felt two big overs were required to set The Phillies a challenging score. Dan agreed the need to go big, but disagreed there were two overs left, comically running his partner out on the final ball of the 39th over, believing it was the last of the innings. To make amends he attempted to hit Charlie back over the Hall, but only managed to connect with one of five mighty swipes to leave Holkham at 178-8 from their 40 overs.
Following the usual excellent tea, the assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary found himself amongst the waiting batsmen watching Patel and Sherwin head out to open the batting. Patel had the misfortune to fall early, and Rutt joined Sherwin at the crease. The two batted well together, putting on a fifty partnership.
On the boundary the assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary listed as Hesketh and Pearson competed with each other to be more grumpy and unenthusiastic about batting next. So unenthusiastic was Ed Dodson, carrying a hamstring strain from his fielding efforts, that with typical insouciance he put on his jeans and headed to the car, his parting words “Just off to have a bath chaps”.
The captain hadn’t even nominated his preferred batting order yet, and with stand in captain Hesketh now dragging himself to the wicket as Rutt fell for 19, the assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary enthusiastically sensed his moment. In a great tactical masterstroke he called Shaw in from the his umpiring spell and told him to strap his pads on in case of a collapse.
Sure enough desperate Dan suddenly took two wickets. First getting Sherwin for a composed 68 with a pea-roller, then bowling Charlie Pearson for a depressing duck. Shaw strode out to join Hesketh (63*) and calmly saw The Philanderers home.
“Philanderers win by six wickets” Dennis noted in his scorebook.
“We’ll have a stronger side in August” said John the Norfolk soapman.
“I hate cricket” sighed Charlie Pearson
“More bubbles, please” Ed Dodson asked his spaniel.
“We’re bloody excellent” puffed Phil, through his celebratory cigar.
George assistant-administrator-brackets-temporary Dean