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Cambridge University Crusaders v The Philanderers, Sunday 28th April 2019 at Fitzwilliam

Ruthless new mind-set sees Philanderers cruise home in toughest ever University examination

Three and a half years unbeaten (on a weekend) is a long time. Perhaps it suggests The Philanderers have become a pretty good side. Maybe it suggests Phil has insisted on both selecting too strong teams and playing mismatched opposition. Perhaps the likes of Hesketh and Pearson should simply not be playing friendly Sunday cricket. Either way, this is the season Phil has promised to “find out how good his weekend boys really are” with the toughest ever Philanderers fixture list.

In addition to last year’s marquee fixture against the Free Foresters, the fixture list has been further strengthened by the additions of Cambridge University 2nd XI - more often known as The Crusaders - and two of the oldest wandering sides in the country the Buccaneers and the I Zingari. With such a strong fixture list announced some wondered aloud if The Philanderers could keep their spirit of fun, and laissez faire attitude, or if the increasingly tough fixtures would force a new mentality?

The first clues came with selection. Rumours swirled over who was in and who was out for this opening game of the season. One unnamed veteran was apparently told he was in the initial squad of 13 (whoever thought The Philanderers would be naming 13 man squads?) but unlikely to make the final XI. A week to go and the line-up was announced, and the un-named veteran was back-in, ego bruised, but excited by the upcoming challenge.

Returning to the ways The Philanderers’ know, and Phil loves, the eleven became ten with just four days to go, the whereabouts of the unselected members of the 13 man squad now suddenly unknown. Panic ensured in the Fuhrers’ bunker. The other 52 signed up playing members of The Philanderers were either unavailable, uncontactable, or, so rumour has it, deemed unselectable, and it was left to captain for the day Ed Pearson to cast his net far and wide for a suitable replacement. (Un?)Fortunately Pearson’s net has never been too far or too wide, and a replacement was found close to home, in the form of fellow former Crusader Sir George Pearson, who may well have wondered why he hadn’t been selected in the first place.

To the day of the match and no sign here of the Philanderers’ mentality changing, the squad arriving on mass just 8 minutes before the start, long after the opposition had completed a vigorous group warm-up followed by “individual time to focus on their skills”. Though the match had been billed as an all-day declaration affair with lunch and tea, yet, much to Sherwin’s obvious disgust, turned into a 50-over a side game with just the one meal included.

The Crusaders batted first and were watchful against the new ball pairing of Sherwin and Rutt on a damp wicket. In the sixth over Sherwin claimed the first wicket, clean bowling the excellently named Pyman for 14.

After the first 10 over ‘Power Play’ the Crusaders were 32-1 and Pearson decided it was time to introduce debutant Ryan Stephens, a business associate of Rory Davidson who has recently moved to London from Perth. (Ed: Traditionally a networking club for Cambridge based solicitors or estate agents, this is another sign of the changing yet ‘staying the same nature’ of The Philanderers). Ryan began with a solid maiden before bowling the other opener Collings-Wells for 20.

Davidson then replaced Sherwin to bowl in tandem with his intern, and whilst both bowled well, the Crusaders began to rebuild. The opposition skipper Johns, batting at 3, looked intent on playing a long innings. With no sign of a wicket. Sir George entered the attack shortly before drinks and immediately began to make things happen, but he too failed to take a wicket, and at drinks the score was an ominous 117-2. This though is the sort of situation Jamie Rutt is made for, and recalled to the attack, he made the break-through, removing Cheveral for 31 in the 27th over and then Waldcock soon after for 9, the score now 147-4 after 30 though the skipper still at the crease and now past his 50.

More used to playing 35 over cricket, and hardly being famed for fielding at the best of times, the challenge for The Philanderers now was how they would cope with another 20 overs in the field. Whilst dropped catches were several and missed run-outs plentiful, yet there was a sense that this was a big game and the endeavour didn’t once dip, despite being in the field for a full three hours and 21 minutes.

This fielding effort, combined with a fiery spell of 8 overs from Hammond, in which he repeatedly clashed with the opposition skipper, who suddenly found his voice after passing 100, ensured than neither side really got on top in the final 20 overs. That said, the Crusaders must surely have taken tea in better spirits, having posted 286-6, and laid down the challenge of their highest ever successful run chase to The Philanderers.

In reply Wright and Hammond opened the batting. Hammond took the opening over for 12 and bringing up The Philanderers 50 off just 30 balls; with Wright scoring just four of them. Hammond’s own 50 came a few balls later from 32 balls, and when Wright played a beautiful on-drive to the fence for four to join the party, it looked like The Philanderers were cruising. Sure enough a wobble followed, Wright caught for 9 and then Pearson bowled for four.

2nd XI captain Gill then came to the crease in the pivotal number four slot. It’s been claimed in the past that Rob can only score runs against weaker sides or on poor pitches - a microcosm of the game itself - could Rob score runs at this level of Sunday cricket? Predictably, he wasn’t about to alter his ways, his trademark fast hands throwing themselves at his first ball, wide outside off stump, which flew away high over point before landing safe. He kept swinging, he kept hitting the ball in the air, it felt like surely he wouldn’t be around for long against a side of this quality playing like that. After 10 balls or so however things changed. Now Rob was timing it like it was the Jesus Long Vac XI not the University seconds. He hit some audacious shots, including several glorious faded drives over the off-side. Perhaps the students hadn’t seen the like of Gill in full-flow before, but they certainly had no answer.

Mysteriously though, just as Rob began to accelerate, Will, who had gone off like a train himself, started to slow up. Several of the senior men on the boundary muttered that “Rob was actually a very difficult man to bat with”, which seems counter-intuitive to this correspondent, who would be quite glad having a man dismantling the bowling attack at the other end and capable of running, rather than spending his Philanderers batting career at the lower end of the order with Messrs Pelham and Burnett, who though being unarguably better company than Gill in the middle, simply do not score at his rate. We digress.

As Gill got going it looked like this might in fact turn into a cakewalk for The Phillies, but with Hammond falling for 79 and Gill 77, there was still 97 runs to get. This bought the middle order heavy weights of Sherwin and Cassels together, with pressure building on their sizeable frames. Sherwin played a typically Sherwin type innings, that is highly attractive and promising of so much more, before falling for 24. Cassels, true to his reputation as a poor man’s Rob Gill, played some Gill-esque shots before being out skying one for 19 just two runs later, and 45 more still to win.

Suddenly we were into the bowlers, Davidson and Rutt together, and the Crusaders openers bought back. The remaining three batsmen were promoted 12th man Sir George, a very nervous looking debutant Ryan Stephens, and famously awful batsmen George Dean. The pressure was thus on for the senior pros to get the job done. In another first for The Philanderers a crowd gathered of fellow club men. Ed Dodson was joined by Lawrence Bailey, John Burnett, ‘Big’ Rob Hammond and others. Their support was needed at this critical time.

Thanks to Gill and Hammond, Rutt and Davidson at least faced no scoreboard pressure, and took full advantage. They blocked out the next six overs, the score advancing by just 10. With their eyes in though, they started to accelerate. They took the 38th over for four and they were away. The 29th went for three, the 40th seven and 41st 5. With less than 10 to win Ryan at last began to relax. The 44th went for 12 and the job was done, two Philanderers’ legends at the crease, in surely one of the most impressive victories of the clubs illustrious 34 year history. One day not long from now these two will surely be talked of in the same breath as Burnett and Redmayne, reliable opening bowlers and tough competitors, friends on the surface, but clearly with a barely concealed sense of competition bubbling just beneath the surface.

And so victory came with 7 overs to spare and 4 wickets in hand, a comfortable win in the end, despite this being The Philanderers record ever run chase. And all this without runs from our batting supremo Ed Pearson and the withdrawal of Leary earlier in the week. Three and half season ticks another game closer to four unbeaten. As the Philanderers sat sharing a beer in the sheds in their mismatched whites and laughing about the shambolic fielding effort, it did seem to your correspondent like the laissez-faire attitude of the club has not yet changed, but rest assured your correspondent will be keeping a close eye.

Meanwhile in a move straight out of the Sir Alex Ferguson school of management, who famously came in at 6am the day after winning a league title to start planning for the next year, Phil immediately began preparation for a game against the University first team to bring the boys down to earth…

…final word however to John Burnett; “Gone are the days (not that many years ago) when a Phillies team old enough to be their grandfathers used to be regularly beaten by the Gonville and Caius college team. We never needed to be brought down to earth - we were already six feet under, but proud to think (or imagine) we are the bedrock that has brought success.”

Thanks Phil for getting the fixture and putting together a strong side to win it.

George Dean

George left his name off the original copy but after such an amazing journalistic effort I have decreed that his name should be appended to the piece in recognition of his talent - The Fuhrer

The victorious XI

Jamie Rutt & Rory Davidson striding in having seen the team home

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